donut you wanna bite me?

A few years ago I bought a set of donut pans. I imagined myself churning out dozens of freshly baked donuts, much to my family’s delight. Fresh donuts would become our Sunday morning ritual and on cool Fall afternoons we would sit on the deck among the gently falling leaves and eat warm cinnamon-sugar donuts while drinking coffee and apple cider. It was quite the bucolic vision I had created for myself, all resting on these two little pans. Perhaps it was an attempt to recreate my own New England childhood for my kids, or simply the desire to make something a little more special than yet another batch of cookies. Whatever the initial reason, lovely daydreams were all that ever materialized from these pans.

I made fantastic looking vanilla donuts with chocolate glaze and bakery look-alike chocolate donuts with loads of sprinkles— but they all tasted awful. Too dry, too tasteless, too salty, too oddly textured and almost too frustrating to continue attempting. I had one mild success with an apple donut, but apparently they weren’t delicious enough for seconds because the leftovers sat around long enough to grow fur.

I was truly ready to shelve my donut pans forever, “Perhaps I’ll sell them at my next yard sale” I thought to myself. Then I stumbled upon a recipe for some simple spice donuts that looked easy to make, fairly low-fat (what a crazy idea!) and who’s list of ingredients somehow just sounded right to me. At this point I think my family was tired of being teased with fantastic looking/disgusting tasting donuts, so I didn’t tell I was making another batch. They were out running errands one Saturday morning when I decide to whip some up and surprise them. They would walk in without expectations of warm sugary goodness and would therefore be less disappointed if this recipe was yet another flop.

Ha a flop! A flop my transplanted New England butt! These donuts were fantastic, seriously fantastic! They were light and moist with just the right amount of spices and sugar. They were really and truly delicious baked donuts.

So I’m sure you’re now wondering if these baked beauties have fulfilled all the dreams I had riding on them. If I’m cranking out batches every Sunday morning and praying for cool weather. Well here’s the thing… Sunday is usually my weekend morning to sleep in. And it’s barely Spring, Fall is still a long way off. So I’d have to answer with a resounding no. But now anytime someone in my family says they feel like donuts, at least I can offer to make them a batch of homemade…

Cinnamon-Sugar Baked Donuts
These are not fried donuts, so don’t compare them to what you think you
know a donut to be. These are much lighter than fried which means you can eat at least two before you begin to feel guilty!

3/4 cup cake flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 tbsp. dried buttermilk powder
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. apple juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. plain yogurt

For the sugar-coating:
half a stick of butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, juice, vanilla and yogurt.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just until combined.
  4. Grease or spray the doughnut pan and fill each doughnut form half way. (I find it’s easiest to pour the batter into a ziplock bag, snip off one corner and pipe it into the pan.)
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when they spring back when touched and are just beginning to brown on top.
  6. While the donuts are baking mix together the cinnamon-sugar coating and melt the butter. Set aside.
  7. When the donuts are finished baking, immediately remove them from the oven and brush them with melted butter. Give them a quick roll in the cinnamon-sugar coating and enjoy.

*adapted from king arthur flour

Candied bacon…I’m all shook up!

Over dinner one night many years ago, a friend made an out of the blue declaration that “bacon was the perfect food!” Naturally we all laughed and have continued to joke about the perfect food ever since. But the more I think about it the more I think this friend of ours may have been onto something. What would Quiche Lorraine be without bacon? And how sad would that BLT sandwich be without good ol’ bacon? Not to mention my roasted brussels sprouts or mashed turnips. Yes, in-fact I’m beginning to think that bacon may be just a bit more important (and versatile) than it’s been given credit for.

I recently started planning my Easter dinner menu (yes, I do realize it’s still four weeks away!) So perhaps it was just a coincidence or maybe it was predestined, but while flipping through cook books the other day I stumble upon a recipe for Candied Bacon Brownies. “Candied bacon brownies…” I thought to myself “…that’s a crazy good idea! But way too decadent, too rich and too over the top to actually bother to make.” And so I moved on. Then a few days later the Today section of the paper had a recipe for an escarole salad topped with candied bacon.

Seriously, what are the chances of candied bacon popping up in my life twice in a matter of days? I took it as a sign.

I immediately liked the idea of using candied bacon as a garnish, it would allow you to enjoy the salty/sweet aspects of the bacon but not be overwhelmed by it. Since I had already planned to serve my spinach salad with sliced strawberries and goat cheese on Easter, sprinkling a little candied bacon on top seemed like a no-brainer! Now to come up with a more decadent use… I imagined that a combination of chocolate and candied bacon might literally cause some folks to swoon. But I also thought that it would be so rich that any more than a single bite would be too much. So I decided that instead of brownies or even cookies I would make… fudge. Yup, Candied Bacon Fudge. Sounds like something Elvis would have eaten doesn’t it?

Okay, so let me tell you what I’ve discovered about candied bacon… It’s pretty damn delicious! It was a great addition to my spinach salad (actually I can’t believe I ever thought the salad was good without it!) and it turned already delicious fudge into something a bit more special.

Candied bacon doesn’t belong everywhere, but it definitely has its place in my cooking repertoire.

Candied Bacon
I know this sounds like a crazy idea but it really is delicious, and surprisingly versatile. It kicks a plain old BLT up a notch, is great along side a couple of eggs and tastes pretty fantastic eaten all by itself.

1/2 lb. thick cut bacon
1 cup dark brown sugar

  1. Preheat oven the 350°F. Line a jelly roll pan with foil and place a cooking rack in the pan, set aside.
  2. Put brown sugar in a container with sides (something long enough to allow you to lay a slice of bacon out flat). Add bacon, one slice at a time and dredge in the brown sugar. Put the sugar coated strips of bacon on the rack and repeat until all the slices are done.
  3. Sprinkle a little additional sugar over the top of the strips and put into the preheated oven.
  4. Bake for 15-25 minutes (depending on thickness of bacon), turning the pan half way through. When the sugar has melted and the bacon is looking browned and crispy, remove it from the oven.
  5. Immediately peel the bacon off of the rack and lay it flat on a sheet of waxed paper to cool a bit.
  6. Use the candied bacon as a garnish on salad, alongside your favorite breakfast meal or as the “are you insane?!?” addition to chocolate fudge.

*adapted from lords of bacon

Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Goat Cheese and Candied Bacon
This is a great springtime salad and the addition of candied bacon makes it perfect. Feel free to change the toasted nuts to whichever kind you like most.

8 oz. fresh spinach leaves
2 oz. goat cheese
several slices of candied bacon, crumbled
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

  1. In a large bowl create a bed of fresh spinach. Top with sliced strawberries and toasted almonds.
  2. Pinch off small bits of goat cheese and distribute over salad. Sprinkle crumbled candied bacon over everything and serve with your favorite vinaigrette.

Simple Dark Chocolate Fudge
This is my standard chocolate fudge recipe. If you have a favorite of your own or prefer milk chocolate, feel free to modify the recipe.

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cocoa)
1/2 tsp. vanilla

  1. Line a 8×8 brownie pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan combine sugar, evaporated milk and butter. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the marshmallows, chocolate and vanilla. Stir until the marshmallows and chocolate are melted and the mixture is smooth.
  4. Pour the fudge into the prepared pan and chill for several hours, until it’s firm.
  5. When the fudge is set lift the parchment out the pan, gently peel it off the block of fudge and cut into squares. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator.

Candied Bacon-Dark Chocolate Fudge
I know this seems like a crazy idea but I have yet to have a single person try this say it wasn’t delicious. Rich, extreme and they couldn’t possibly eat more than one piece, but delicious.

1/2 lb. of candied bacon
1 batch of dark chocolate fudge (your favorite recipe or mine listed above)

  1. Place half of the prepared fudge in the bottom of an 8×8 brownie pan lined with parchment paper.
  2. Lay the strips of bacon on top of the layer of fudge, making sure to press the bacon down to eliminate air bubbles.
  3. Pour the remaining fudge on top of the bacon and chill for several hours, until firm.
  4. When the fudge is set lift the parchment out the pan, gently peel it off the block of fudge and cut into squares. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator.

*adapted from the kitchn

My Sweet Valentine

There are many ways to say I love you. To me it’s the little everyday things we do for each other that mean the most.

Run and empty the dishwasher for me… You rock, thanks babe! Clean up the lego explosion in your room without being asked… You’re the best kid, thank you! Stay by me in the store and behave like a sane child, rather than run around like a lunatic screaming at the top of your lungs… Thank you my sweet girl!

My family on the other hand can be won over via a much simpler means—food. If you fill their bellies with something tasty they’ll love you for life! I often joke that they’re like living with a bunch of goats. I can cover just about anything in chocolate or red sauce (homemade of course!) and they’ll eat it. But that aside, what better opportunity than Valentine’s Day for me to give them something truly delectable that will really make them smile.

As you may already know Valentine’s Day is synonymous with chocolate, but I feel like I’ve already showered my family with a considerable amount of chocolate goodies. This year called for something different, something out of the ordinary, something delicious that will make them think back longingly to Valentines Day 2012. But what? Cookies…too everyday, candy…too expected, cupcakes…too easy. Hmmm. What to make, what to make, what to make. Then it came to me; like a bolt of lightning, a light bulb going off or a trademarked “aha moment”… Heart shaped Coconut Scones with a Dark Chocolate Drizzle (okay, so I couldn’t stay away from chocolate entirely).

Here’s where I would ordinarily gush on about how fantastic and easy these little scones were to make. And how my family threw rose petals at my feet and talked about their plans to gold plate my whisk. HA! Not this time my friend. These little babies may look cute in pictures and my family in fact did like them and insisted that I blog about them (while stuffing seconds in their mouths), but they actually did not turn out as well as I had hoped. They didn’t rise up enough to qualify as a scone, yet weren’t quite sweet enough to pass as a cookie. But like I said, my family thought they were great (however I have already established their goat-like status, so take that recommendation for what it’s worth.)

So you may be asking yourself “Should I bother to make them…” Sure, go ahead. They really were easy to make and like I said my family actually did enjoy them. But if you do, feel free to tweak the recipe a bit. And if per chance you should end up with the perfect Coconut Scone with a Dark Chocolate Drizzle… please send me the recipe!

Coconut Scones
I don’t have much else to say about these except “Good luck!”

2 1/3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 1/3 cups unsweetened, shredded coconut
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. coconut milk

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add butter and toss so that each piece is coated in flour.
  3. Rub the butter into the flour mixture until it has the texture of coarse cornmeal. Stir in shredded coconut.
  4. Add in about half of coconut milk and stir together. Add remaining coconut milk as needed until the mixture comes together into a firm dough.
  5. Divide the dough into two balls. Use a rolling pin to form each ball into a 1/2-inch thick circle. Cut out your scones with a cookie cutter and place on a prepared cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, until scones are a light golden brown on top.
  7. Cool on a wire rack before glazing.

Chocolate glaze
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

  1. 
In a medium saucepan, heat the cream and butter over low heat until the cream is hot and the butter has melted. Do not let it boil.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate and let it sit in the hot cream to soften. Add the vanilla and whisk the glaze until it is smooth and all the chocolate has melted. Chill the glaze until it’s thick enough to hold its shape on the back of a spoon.
  3. Drizzle the glaze over each scone and chill until set.

’tis the season…

I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise if I tell you that my creative gears start racing come holiday time. One year everyone on my gift list got a hand knit scarf, another year was homemade fudge in a half dozen different flavors. And then there was the year everyone got baskets of homemade goodies. I made and jarred my own applesauce, bottled my own flavored vinegars and baked like the ship was going down. I even designed and printed my own labels and gift tags, that year almost killed me!

This year I’ve managed to rein myself in a bit, but everyone will be getting one homemade delicious treat from me…crack. Yup you read right, Dark Chocolate Toasted Almond Crack. If you’re not familiar with these little delights then get ready; this is one of the easiest, most delicious and highly addictive treats you may ever eat. And while the name “crack” refers to the crackers you use, I dare you to take one bite and not come back for more! I hope your family (and Santa) will enjoy these goodies as much as mine does…

Dark Chocolate Toasted Almond Crack
I’ve seen this recipe topped with a variety of things; crushed candy canes, crunched up toffee bits and (my personal favorite) toasted almonds. Use whatever appeals to you the most.

1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 4 oz dark chocolate bars
1 cup slivered almonds

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a jelly roll pan with foil and then a sheet of parchment paper. Cover the bottom of the pan with saltine crackers (salt side up) in as even of a layer as possible and set aside. Now for the chocolate… [It seems like buying a bag of chips would save you a step here, but the chips have added stabilizers and won’t taste quite as divine as chocolate in bar form will. Also if you prefer milk chocolate over dark then feel free to switch things up. I used three bars of Ghirardelli, two 70% cacao and one 60%]. Chop the chocolate so the pieces are all roughly the same size and set aside.
  2. Toast the almonds and set aside. In a saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted add the brown sugar and vanilla. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently until mixture is an even color and the butter in no longer floating on top. When the mixture begins to bubble remove it from heat and pour it over the saltines. Use a spatula to spread it out and cover the crackers as fully as possible.
  3. Put the crackers in the oven and bake until the butter mixture begins to bubble, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle evenly with the chocolate pieces and quickly pop it back in for another minute or two, just enough to soften the chocolate. Spread the chocolate with a spatula so all of the crackers are evenly covered.
  4. Sprinkle the toasted almonds on top of the chocolate and refrigerate until all the layers set and harden. Using a sharp knife, cut your crack into tasty little squares and enjoy!

*adapted from serious eats