Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Funfetti Blondies for the Fourth!

I have to say that we've become addicted to these Funfetti Blondies since I first saw these on Beantown Baker's blog.  Homemade versions of the childhood favorite funfetti/confetti cake have been making the rounds on blogs and I'm a little late to the party-- I've seen recipes for funfetti cupcakes, pancakes, and ice cream and don't ask me what took so long to join in because these bars are amazing!  I love blondies of all types since they are so easy to make when you are short on time and usually stay nice and chewy (In the great debate on whether cookies should be chewy or crispy-- my vote always goes for chewy).

Its easy to make your own funfetti blondies instead of using a box mix by just adding your favorite type of sprinkles to the blondie batter.  Since its almost the 4th of July, I thought these would look cute with the little red, white, and blue star quins I recently purchased.  I usually make these with small round pastel confetti sprinkles but I thought the red, white, and blue stars looked great dotted throughout.  The flavor of these bars comes from a generous helping of white chocolate chips and a small hint of almond extract.  As an added bonus, you can whip these up in no time-- they use melted butter so you don't have to wait for the butter to soften.  And, all of the ingredients are mixed in one bowl-- so no separating the wet and dry ingredients.  Don't you just love easy recipes like that?

Funfetti Blondies

14 tbs butter, melted
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cup sprinkles or quins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 9x13 pan with Baker's Joy or spray with PAM and line with parchment paper.

In a large microwave safe mixing bowl, melt the butter.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes

Mix the brown sugar with the melted butter and beat until smooth.  Beat in eggs and then vanilla and almond extracts.  Add salt, stir in flour and baking powder.  Stir in white chocolate chips and sprinkles.

Pour into prepared pan and use a greased spatula to evenly spread mixture in pan and level the top.  Bake for 24-28 minutes or until set in the middle.  Cool on rack before cutting.

Adapted from Beantown Baker

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Series: Peach Raspberry Slab Pie

Hello everyone-- I'm back.  I took a short breather from blogging and just felt the need to recharge my batteries.  I can't stay away too long, though, before I start missing my blog.  No one told me how addictive blogging would become when I started this venture back in January!  :)

I made this peach raspberry slab pie a few weeks ago.  My theory is that the only thing better than pie is more pie, so therefore I think slab pie is a miraculous invention.  Its definitely pie for a crowd, and very fun and satisfying to assemble this puppy-- you basically line a cookie sheet with pie crust, add the filling of your choice and then top with another pie crust and seal the edges and bake.  There are many recipes out there to convert your favorite flavor of pie into this extra large version, but I really love this recipe and the fact that it combines both fresh peaches and raspberries-- something I'm trying to take full advantage of during these summer months.  This particular version of slab pie reminds me of a giant pop tart in that you can slice this easily and eat the pieces by hand-- no plate is necessary.  That makes this a great option for your summer BBQ or party.  The original recipe called for only about 2 1/4 pounds of peaches (about 9) but I thought that didn't seem quite enough to fill up the cookie sheet so I increased the amount to about 13 peaches.  I'm glad I did as the filling really cooks down.  I will probably add more peaches the next time I make this because I really think this recipe can handle it.

For this recipe you will need to make 2 batches of your favorite recipe for double crust pie dough.  That was an awkward sentence to construct, but another way of saying that is that you need enough dough to make 4 single crust pies.

Peach Raspberry Slab Pie

13-15 peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into thin slices
1 cup raspberries
1- 1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp almond extract (or more to taste)
butter to dot the top of the pie before baking
1 egg mixed with a little water
Turbinado or sanding sugar for topping

Enough pie crust dough to make 4 single crust pies.  I always use America's Test Kitchen "Foolproof Pie Dough" recipe which you can find here with a great step-by-step guide on how to make pie crust.  If you've never tried their ground-breaking recipe to make pie dough, you are missing out! It will change your life.

Prepare pie dough according to instructions and allow to chill.  In the meantime, mix the sliced peaches with about 1/2 cup sugar and pour into a colander, allow to drain for about 30 minutes- an hour.  The sugar will out the excess water from the peaches and prevent your pie from being runny.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Toss the peaches, raspberries, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, almond extract, salt and cinnamon together in a large bowl, taste and adjust the ingredients as needed.  Set aside.  

Transfer half of the chilled dough onto a lightly floured work space.  Roll out dough into a 12 by 16 inch rectangle that is 1/8 inch thick.  Coat a 15 1/4 inch by 10 1/2 inch rimmed cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Transfer dough onto cookie sheet and allow dough to hang over the sides of the sheet by a 1/2 inch.

Roll out the remaining dough into another 12 by 16 inch rectangle.  Pour fruit filling into the dough lined cookie sheet.  Dot the filling with butter ( about 2 tbs).  Cover the filling with the remaining dough Trim edges of dough to hang over the sides by 1/2 inch.  Fold edges of top layer over edges of bottom layer and press to seal.

Use a fork to punch holes all over the top crust, spacing evenly.  Whisk together egg with a little water to make an egg wash.  Use a pastry brush to paint the egg wash all over the top of the pie. Sprinkle turbinado or sanding sugar over the top.  Bake pie until crust turns golden and filling is bubbling, about 1hour 10 minutes.  Use tin foil to tent the pie if the crust is browning too quickly and continue baking.  Allow pie to cool completely on a wire rack.

When pie is cool, drizzle glaze onto the top in your favorite decorative pattern.

Recipe for Glaze
1 cup of powdered sugar
1 to 2 tbs. water or milk

Whisk the sugar and 1 tbs of water or milk together in a small bowl.  Slowly add more water or milk until the glaze is the desired consistency.  You want your glaze to be on the thick side so you probably won't need more than 1 1/2 tbs of liquid.  Use a spoon and drizzle glaze all over the cooled pie.

Makes 16 servings.

Recipe adapted Martha Stewart and Smitten Kitchen 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Whipped Cream Frosting

I don't know about you but I am already enjoying this warm weather so much. While its not technically summer yet, it sure feels like it here in Virginia.  I'm also excited by the produce selection that is starting to pop up.  First strawberries, and now blueberries, cherries, and peaches are starting to make their appearance and we're in that brief window when they are both delicious and inexpensive! I love it! I was able to snag a great deal on raspberries this week immediately started planning what I could bake with them.

I decided to make mine into a fresh raspberry whipped cream frosting for my chocolate cake.  One of my all-time favorite recipes for chocolate cake is Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" chocolate cake.  I'm sure many of you have either heard of it or made it yourself.  Its the old "tried and true" recipe that is on the back of the Hershey's cocoa cannister.  It is so moist and chocolaty (and not to mention easy) -- I absolutely love it!

Instead of making a traditional buttercream frosting, I decided to make a raspberry whipped cream as a sort of "summer" variation.  I used the raspberry whipped cream from the raspberry cream cheese brownies recipe on my blog as a starting point and just increased the quantities to fit a 2 layer cake.  I couldn't be more happy with the results.  The sweet raspberry whipped cream perfectly offset the dense semi-sweet chocolate cake.  I just love the pale pink frosting peeking out between the deep chocolate layers too.  Definitely go grab some raspberries and make this cake.  I am just looking for an excuse to make this again because ours was gone too quickly!

Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour 2 9-inch round baking pans.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed of a mixer for 2 minutes.  Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes and remove cake from pans onto wire racks.  Cool completely before frosting.

Adapted from Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake

Raspberry Whipped Cream Frosting
Note:  It is best to make this frosting and frost the cake right before serving.

2 cups whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1 heaping cup fresh raspberries, plus extra to decorate

Put the cream, sugar, and raspberries in a freestanding electric mixer with a whisk attachment and beat until firm but not stiff.  Spread half of the whipped cream on one of the cake layers, spreading to the edge.  Place the other cake layer on top and top with the remaining whipped cream.  Garnish with fresh raspberries as desired.

Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Slow Cooker Week: Crock Pot Italian Chicken

This crock pot chicken recipe is so easy its almost embarrassing.  Its one of the first recipes I made when I was first working and had moved out on my own into my first apartment. It was easy to throw the short list of ingredients into the crock pot in the morning and head out the door.  Over the years, I've adapted the recipe and played around with the ingredients and to make it more to the liking of my family.  Plus, I almost always have the ingredients on hand so its a good "pantry meal" (with the exception of the chicken of course).

Basically you take boneless chicken breasts (or you could use boneless thighs as well) and simmer it all day in your favorite jarred tomato sauce and diced tomatoes with a mixture of spices.  Then when you get home, you shred the chicken with a fork, boil some pasta and sprinkle some shredded mozzarella cheese on top and some Parmesan cheese.  You could also top with a dollop of ricotta cheese if you'd like-- and just like that dinner is served! The chicken gets really flavorful from cooking slowly all day and the tomato sauce nice is nice and mellow. This recipe can be easily doubled  if you need to make this for more people or you want to have leftovers.

Crock Pot Italian Chicken

4 chicken breasts
1/2 cup light Italian salad dressing
2 cups of your favorite jarred tomato sauce (I like to use 4 cheese)
1 can diced tomatoes
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried parsley
mozzarella cheese for topping

Place all ingredients in crock pot except mozzarella cheese and cook on low for 8 hours. Shred chicken with fork. Prepare your favorite pasta and serve the chicken over the noodles.  Top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

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