What’s Baking Red Velvet Round-Up

February was my month to host our What’s Baking blog group. I chose red velvet as the theme because it only seemed fitting with Valentine’s Day.  And, I realized, I haven’t baked anything red velvet and it’s about time I did. I just love the contrast of the bright white cream cheese frosting to the red velvet base- whether it be cake, cookies, brownies or whatever.  And, the chocolate flavor is so mild, even my husband can enjoy it and he did indeed.

Whats Baking Badge

My good friend Eva, of Eva Bakes, made these amazing looking red velvet marble brownies.  I almost made brownies too, but at the last-minute went with cookies instead. These look so crazy delicious that I had to put them to the top of my baking to do list.

Red velvet cheesecake brownies by Eva Bakes

Alison, of Sparks from the Kitchen, made red velvet cookie bars with vanilla bean frosting.  Butter cream frosting is always made better by the addition of real vanilla bean and these look delicious. I have never made the red velvet version, but frosted sugar cookie bars are one of my favorite things to bake. Why?  Because they have the taste of soft frosted sugar cookie with much less work and my family absolutely loves them. My husband has been known to eat most of the pan himself.

Red Velvet Cookie Bars - Sparks from the Kitchen

Nicole, of Seven Ate Nine (can’t help but love this blog name), made Red Velvet Cake Batter Squares.  She had these bars at her rehearsal dinner at The Blue Willow Inn almost 5 years ago and was able to recreate them from the inn’s cookbook. I love how food can bring you back to a day and you can almost relieve that memory as you eat it.  And, I also love that these bars have just 5 ingredients.  I mean really, it can’t get any easier than that!

Red Velvet Cake Batter Squares- Seven Eight Nine

Ange, of The Tiny Tyrant’s Kitchen, made red velvet chocolate chip cookies.  Chocolate chip cookies have always been my favorite dessert to eat. I have never had red velvet chocolate chip cookies before but I’m thinking that should change.  Ange had the same problem I did.  Our red velvet wasn’t as red as we would have liked because of the brown color of the cocoa. But, never mind that because these look delicious.

Red velvet chocolate chip cookies- The Tiny Tyrant's Kitchen

Carrie, from Carrie’s Sweet Life, made a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting for her grandmother’s birthday. Until now, Carrie had the same problem I do, and that is finding a homemade cake that she likes. I have found homemade cake to be too dense or too dry. This is the cake that changed all that for Carrie… as it was moist, the frosting wasn’t too sweet..in other words perfection.  I’ll have to give it a try. I have been meaning to make a layer cake so I can use the beautiful and incredibly thoughtful engraved cake server set my husband gave me for reaching a million views in November.  Awww…

Red Velvet Cake from Carrie's Sweet life

And, I made soft red velvet sugar cookies with cream cheese frosting.  In this house, we love soft, frosted sugar cookies.  So, I thought a red velvet version would be just perfect. And, I was so right. These cookies were amazing. They were really soft, with a hint of cocoa, and the most delicious cream cheese frosting.  Honestly, there aren’t too many recipes I make more than once because there are just so many I want to try.  But, I see more of these cookies in my future. So delicious and pretty too.

Soft red velvet sugar cookies with crea cheese frosting

Blueberry lemon cream cheese coffee cake

Blueberry lemon cream cheese coffee cake

Cream cheese coffee cake has been the most popular recipe on Just Baked, by far.  Again, thank you Mother Thyme for a wonderful recipe.  Every time I make this cake, everyone says it is the best coffee cake they ever had and asks for the recipe. It really is delicious with the buttery cake, cheesecake-like filling, streusel and sweet glaze.  As good as it is, I decided to change it up this time by adding lemon and blueberries.  Don’t you just love how lemon brightens the flavor of blueberries?  The changes were simple. I added lemon extract to the cream cheese filling, subbed lemon juice for milk in the glaze  and added lemon zest to the cake.  I pressed about 1/2 pint of blueberries into the cream cheese layer. With a great, basic recipe like this, the flavor possibilities are endless.  I brought the cake to work as a treat for my coworkers and came home with an empty pan.  Empty pan = success.

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Yield: 13 x 9 cake

For the filling:

Two 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened (light or regular)   I used regular

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

1/4 tsp lemon extract  optional

For the cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of 1 lemon

1 cup sour cream (light or regular)

For the streusel topping:

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup flour

3 tablespoons butter, chilled and cubed

For the glaze:

¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 to 1 T lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease/flour or spray a 9 x 13 cake pan. Set aside.

Make the filling:  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together the cream cheese, sugar, egg, vanilla and lemon extract (if using) on medium-low speed until creamy.  Set aside for the filling.  (If you have 1 bowl and paddle, you will need to put this mixture in a separate bowl, and wash them to use to make the cake batter)

Make the cake batter:  In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well combined. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-low speed.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add the vanilla extract and lemon zest.  Slowly pour in the flour mixture alternating with the sour cream until it is all combined.

Spread half of the batter into the prepared cake pan with a spatula.  Spread the cream cheese filling evenly on top. Arrange as many blueberries as you like, I did about 1/2 pint, on top of the filling. Top with remaining cake batter and smooth with a spatula.  Using a butter knife, gently swirl in the batter.

Make the topping:  Add the sugar, flour and chilled butter in a small bowl.  Stir using a fork or pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly.  Sprinkle the streusel on top of cake batter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on a rack.

To make the glaze:  In a small bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice until it is the right consistency for drizzling.  Drizzle over cake.

Source: Mother Thyme; Sweet Pea’s Kitchen

Cinnamon rolls

Cinnamon rolls

Ahhh…cinnamon rolls. One of my most favorite breakfasts.  But, I don’t make them too often mostly because of the time they take to prepare. You know, all the waiting for the rising, makes cinnamon rolls more of a brunch fare. We usually have a light breakfast, while waiting for the cinnamon rolls. But, when I do make them, the time we wait is always worth it.  These rolls are the big, Cinnabon-at-the-mall-style cinnamon rolls.  I  always have a hard time passing them up, but they are so expensive usually I leave with just the Mochalatta chill.  I mean, one can only have so much willpower. Besides, I need the caffeine. So I tell myself anyways.

So, I started these rolls at 7:30am and we sat down to eat them at 10:30am.  This explains why the photo is of a half pan of rolls. NO ONE was going to wait any longer for photos. My husband, Justin, and I loved them.  But, my kids wouldn’t eat them.  They only eat the ones in the blue can, but with my homemade frosting only.  Even they have standards.  I’ll admit, I like those too. I’m no food snob. They are great in a pinch and something I know everyone will eat when I don’t feel like fighting the please-eat-something fight.  Ugh, oh well, more for me.  I ate one for breakfast everyday that week and they were delicious, just 1 minute in the microwave.   These cinnamon rolls bake up tall, with a crisp exterior and tender interior.  The cream cheese frosting is just plain amazing.  It is really thick and cheesecake-like. In fact, my daughter Sammie, after not eating her cinnamon roll, took the frosting bowl and was about to eat it like oatmeal before I grabbed it from her.  This is the same kid who only eats the frosting off her doughnut. Who does that?

Cinnamon Rolls

Yield: 12 large rolls

1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, melted

3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Warm the milk in a small saucepan until ~105 degrees F.   I used the microwave

Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a stand mixer.   Add the yeast and a pinch of sugar.   Stir into the milk.   Let stand until foamy, ~5 minutes.

Add the sugar, butter, salt, eggs, and flour.  Mix well.  Knead with the dough hook on medium for ~4 minutes, or until the dough is smooth.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a bowl.  Cover with a damp towel.  Let rise in a warm place ~1 hour or until dough has nearly doubled in size.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Mix well with a spoon, spatula or even your hands.

Lightly flour your work surface (I used a pastry mat) and rolling-pin.  Roll the dough into a 16×21 inch rectangle,  ~1/4 inch thick.

Brush the dough with 1/3 cup melted butter.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the butter.

Roll the dough up starting with the longer side.  Cut into 12 rolls.   I cut the log in half, then each half in half.  Then you have 4 even pieces to cut into 3.  This way you get even sized rolls.

Spray a 9×13 inch glass baking dish with Pam. Arrange the 12 rolls in the dish.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes.

While the rolls rise, pre-heat the oven to 350F. Bake until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes.

While the rolls bake, make the frosting.  Beat together the cream cheese, soft butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Spread the frosting on the rolls while they are still warm.

Source:  Cate’s World Kitchen; originally from All-Recipes

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

The last few years we have gone to my father in law’s for Halloween because we live in a townhouse and no one really trick or treats here.  We use Karl’s house to get everyone dressed (this year as a ninja, Princess Tiana and a gnome), trick or treat as long as the cold Chicago weather permits, and stop back for dinner and dessert.  I was trying to decide what to bring and then it came to me.  My FIL loves coffee cake (given the opportunity, he could eat the whole thing himself) and I had just pinned the perfect recipe a few weeks ago.  I knew that the kids wouldn’t eat it, but they would be too preoccupied with sorting and eating candy to even notice.  So, coffee cake it was.

Halloween was a super busy day.  We went to Sammie’s parade in the morning and then went back again at 1 for Jack’s parade.  Immediately after that,  I planned on making the coffee cake.  But the problem was I neglected to notice  that there were four steps and a 45 minute baking time.  I took the cake out of the oven just 15 minutes before we had to leave.  It was supposed to cool before glazing, but there was no time for that. So I glazed it anyway.  The pan was too hot to hold so I had to carry it by the cooling rack and put it on the floor of the car.  Luckily, it didn’t burn into the rug.

I couldn’t wait for dessert to taste this cake. I love coffee cake too, especially those without cinnamon.  Don’t get me wrong, I love cinnamon, but I just prefer my coffee cake without.  I save cinnamon for the rolls 😀  I have to say, this cake was so worth the wait.  The cake is moist and buttery, with a cheesecake like swirl in the middle, some texture from the streusel and sweetness from the powdered sugar glaze.  I mean, really, how could you go wrong with this combination?

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Yield: 13 x 9 cake

For the filling:

Two 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened (light or regular)   I used regular

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

For the cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream (light or regular)

For the streusel topping:

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup flour

3 tablespoons butter, chilled and cubed

For the glaze:

¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

1 ½ teaspoons milk

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease/flour or spray a 9 x 13 cake pan. Set aside.

Make the filling:  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together the cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla on medium-low speed until creamy.  Set aside for the filling.  (If you have 1 bowl and paddle, you will need to put this mixture in a separate bowl, and wash them to use to make the cake batter)

Make the cake batter:  In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well combined. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-low speed.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add the vanilla extract.  Slowly pour in the flour mixture alternating with the sour cream until it is all combined.

Spread half of the batter into the prepared cake pan with a spatula.  Spread the cream cheese filling evenly on top. Top with remaining cake batter and smooth with a spatula.  Using a butter knife, gently swirl in the batter.

Make the topping:  Add the sugar, flour and chilled butter in a small bowl.  Stir using a fork or pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly.  Sprinkle the streusel on top of cake batter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on a rack.

To make the glaze:  In a small bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar and milk until creamy.  Drizzle over cake.

Source: Mother Thyme

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

This was not what I was going to blog today. I made this zebra bundt cake, coloring the white part orange, so it would be black and orange striped for Halloween.  Cool right?  Well, it would have been if the whole top of the cake didn’t stick to the pan.  Oh, and then it broke into 3 pieces after that.  Damn, it tasted good and the stripes looked awesome too.  Bundts for some reason always give me trouble.  I have a Nordic Ware pan, I use Pam baking spray plus flour, take the cake out at 15 minutes exactly, and about 50% of the time, I still get major stickage.  So, if anyone has any tips for me I would be glad to hear them.  It is just maddening.

No way I was going to attempt another bundt, so I decided to make cookies.  I scanned through my cookies board on Pinterest and I was stopped dead in my tracks when I saw these Oreo cheesecake cookies.  After reading through the recipe, though, I thought there must be a mistake.  It doesn’t have any eggs and no leavener either.  Weird.  But, I followed the blog trail all the way back to the original recipe and it was correct.  I was a bit hesitant to make them, but they sounded so good (and quick and easy) that I decided to give them a try.  I’m glad I did.  When you bite into them, you get a slight crunch around the outside and almost a creaminess on the inside.  You can taste the tang from the cream cheese and of course, the just plain deliciousness of Oreos.  I mean, really…Oreos, cheesecake, and cookies?  There can’t be too many better combinations.  Okay, maybe chocolate and peanut butter.

So, since I messed up my Halloween themed post, I will leave you with a Happy Halloween from Jack, Sammie and Alex.  Well, maybe just Jack and Sammie.  Baby Alex is not at all happy.

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

Yield: 12 to 15 cookies (I got 14)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup flour

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1 cup crushed Oreo’s (roughly 8 – 10 Oreo cookies)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line baking sheets with Silpat or parchment paper.

In a food processor, process the Oreo cookies until they are fine crumbs. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the softened butter and cream cheese until smooth and well combined.

Add the sugar and vanilla.  Beat until well incorporated.

On low, mix in the flour. With a spatula, stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the dough with a medium cookie scoop.  Place the dough in your hands and roll it into a ball.  Roll the dough in the Oreo crumbs, covering it completely.

Place the Oreo coated ball of dough on the prepared cookie sheet.  Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time. Remove from the oven when you see the edges just starting to brown. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes.  Transfer to cool completely on a wire rack covered with a paper towel.

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Source:  Table for Two (as seen on Brown Eyed Baker and Two Peas and Their Pod), original source: Multiply Delicious

Banana Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

As usual, I got a little overzealous buying bananas.  I mean, the baby likes bananas and all, but come on.  I don’t think I really needed twenty.  Although, this time it isn’t entirely my fault.  My parents gave me some when they visited last week.  Alex ate a bunch, but I still had 8 brown bananas to contend with now.  In the past,  I made some super delicious banana cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  But, they start with a box mix.  So this time I wanted to try to make a cake from scratch.  However, I don’t always have such great luck with homemade cake.  They can often be really dense and dry.  But, I figured with the bananas and sour cream, it should be okay.  So I pressed on… I was determined to succeed after a major cinnamon roll coffee cake fail this morning. 😦

The cake batter was easy to put together and it baked up perfectly.  Oh, this was looking promising!  After letting the cake cool, I mixed up the frosting.  Just 4 ingredients, but holy cow, this frosting is crazy delicious!  I almost said forget the cake, let’s just eat this frosting.  But, against my better judgment :D, I went ahead and frosted the cake.  Yeah, then it would have been a good idea to refrigerate it for a bit to cut perfect slices.  Did I? Of course not.  I just had to taste this cake.  The cake is so soft and tender and just bursting with banana flavor.  The frosting is thick and creamy, with a pleasant tang from the cream cheese and just the right amount of vanilla.  Wow!  I don’t know what else to say.  Hands down this is the best banana cake I have ever had.  I still have 6 brown bananas left.  Heck, I just might make another one….

Banana Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: 13 x 9 pan of bars, about 16 pieces

For the bars:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp banana extract
1 cup mashed ripe bananas  Totally smooth or a little chunky..your preference

For the frosting:
8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar    I didn’t sift and it was fine
1 tsp vanilla extract          I used 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

To make the bars:  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter or spray the bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch metal baking pan.  Place 2 pieces of parchment perpendicular to each other, with overhang, and spray/butter again. (This makes it easy to remove the bars from the pan for nice cutting.) In a large bowl: whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer,  with the paddle, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, ~3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and stir in the sour cream, vanilla, and banana extract by hand with a spatula.  Fold in the flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Fold in the mashed banana.  Scrape the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Tap lightly on the counter a few times to get rid of air bubbles.  Bake for 22-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.  Mine took more like 28 minutes.  Transfer the whole pan to wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar.  Mix on low until combined.  Add the vanilla and mix again. Spread carefully on the cooled banana bars.  I found it easier to frost with the bars removed from the pan (by the parchment handles).

Source: Allrecipes  via Sweet Pea’s Kitchen

Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffeecake

I was looking on Pinterest (where else?) for a recipe to use up some blueberries and I came across this blueberry cream cheese coffee cake.  I really love anything with crumb topping and then you one up a coffee cake with cream cheese?  Now we’re talking.  The cake batter is easy enough to put together.  Then you fold in the blueberries and chunks of cream cheese to complete the batter.  The crumb topping is made by just mashing together sugar, flour and cold butter.  I have tried the two fork method and I even have a pastry blender, but I find that nothing works better than mushing it with your hands.   The cake is so pretty after it is baked with all the bright purple blueberries poking out from beneath the golden crumb topping.  When you taste it, the cake itself is moist and buttery.   Then you bite into a blueberry and it’s sweet and juicy.  Then you hit a pocket of cream cheese and it’s well, as you can imagine, creamy.  I love all the different texture and taste contrasts in this cake.  Another thing I love about coffeecake?  It is one of the few times where it is completely acceptable to eat cake and call it breakfast.  Although, that’s not to say that I haven’t eaten chocolate chip cookies in the morning and called it breakfast.  But that was only me, hiding in the kitchen, stuffing them in my mouth before my kids woke up and wanted cookies for breakfast too. 😀

Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Yield:  an 8 x 8 cake.  I used a 9 inch round cake pan.

For the cake:

1/4 cup (4 Tbs) butter, softened

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla   (my addition)

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all- purpose flour, DIVIDED

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, washed, dried and picked over for stems    I used fresh

3 oz cold cream cheese, cut into small cubes

For the crumb topping:

4 Tablespoons flour

4 Tablespoons sugar

2 Tablespoons cold butter

Preheat oven to 375F.  Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment,  cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla (if using).  Combine 1 cup of flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk.  Start and end with the flour mixture.

Toss the blueberries with remaining 2 Tbs flour.  With a spatula, fold the blueberries and cream cheese cubes into the batter.  Pour the batter into a greased 8 inch baking pan.  I used a 9in round.  I wish I would have put a parchment circle on the bottom so the cake would have been easier to remove and put on my cake stand.

Prepare the crumb topping:  In a small bowl, combine flour and sugar.  Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the batter.  Bake for about 40 – 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Mine took about 35 minutes.

Helpful Hints:

  • If you use frozen berries, do not thaw before using or they will bleed into the cake.  It will still taste good, but it won’t look as pretty.
  • When making the crumb topping, I find just using my hands to work better than two forks or a pastry blender.

Source: Slightly adapted from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen, originally from Taste of Home magazine

Banana Bottom Pineapple Cheesecake Swirl Cupcakes

I had a pile of brown bananas on the counter, teetering the fine line between perfect for baking and perfect for the garbage. So, what could I do, but make some banana cupcakes?  But, not just any banana cupcake would do.  No, these ones have a pineapple cheesecake swirl.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  I hadn’t and it sure sounded amazing.  Besides, the recipe is from Flo Braker.  No doubt it was going to be delicious.  The banana cake batter and the pineapple cheesecake filling are both easy to put together. Just be prepared for lots of dishes.   You then layer banana cake batter, followed by pineapple cheesecake, and top with more banana batter and bake.   Because of the cake flour, these cupcakes bake up super light and fluffy.  I love how you can see the lighter swirl of cheesecake on the outside of the muffin, giving you just a hint of what’s inside.  The cheesecake filling is creamy and when you bite into a tiny chunk of sweet pineapple, you get a burst of flavor.  It is just perfect in combination with the light banana cake.

Are you trying to figure out what to do with your brown bananas too? I think you just found it.  😀

Banana Bottom Pineapple Cheesecake Swirl Cupcake

Yield: 15 cupcakes

Pineapple Swirl Filling:

One 8-ounce (225 gram) can of crushed pineapple
6 ounces (170 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt

Banana Cupcakes:

1 3/4 cups (200 grams) cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (255 grams/9 oz) mashed ripe bananas (2 medium bananas or 3 small)
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature

Before baking:  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.  Lightly coat a 12-cup standard muffin pan with nonstick spray, then flour the cups, tapping out the excess flour.  I used Pam for Baking because it already has flour in it.  Or, butter and flour the cups. Or, line the muffin pans with fluted paper or foil liners.  Repeat with a second muffin pan, preparing only 3 cups and spacing them evenly around the pan. Spacing the cups promotes even baking when not all of the cups are filled.  Have all ingredients at room temperature.

To make the pineapple swirl filling:  Drain the pineapple in a sieve over a small bowl. Press the pineapple against the sieve with the back of a spoon to release as much of the juice as possible. Drain the pineapple further on a few sheets of paper toweling. Discard the liquid.  I put the pineapple into a clean, super thin dishtowel, closed it around the pineapple and twisted it until most of the liquid was gone.  

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a handheld mixer), beat the cream cheese on very low speed until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is smooth. Add the egg and salt, mixing just until the ingredients are blended and creamy.  Gently twist the paper towels around the crushed pineapple to absorb any additional juice, and then stir in 1/3 cup of the pineapple. Save the remainder if you have any for another use.  I saved the leftover juice and pineapple in a container and froze it to put in smoothies for the kids.

To make the banana cupcakes: Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper.  Put the mashed bananas into a medium bowl, add the milk and vanilla and mix together with a rubber spatula.  In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well blended, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg just until incorporated. Add the banana mixture (it will look curdled but that’s okay; it won’t after you add the flour mixture) and beat on medium-low speed until it is incorporated. On the lowest speed, add the flour mixture in two or three additions, mixing just until smooth after each addition.

Spoon 1 tablespoon of the cupcake batter into each prepared muffin cup, spoon 1 tablespoon of the pineapple filling over the batter and then top each with 2 more tablespoons of the banana batter.  If your oven is wide enough, bake 2 muffin pans side by side, spacing them about 1 inch apart. If not, put the second pan on a rack in the upper third of the oven. Bake the cupcakes until they are golden and spring back without leaving an impression when gently pressed, 22 to 24 minutes.  I would start checking at about 17 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Gently tap the pan on the counter to see if the cupcakes release from the side.  If not, trace around each form with a small knife to free the cupcakes.  Invert a rack on top of the cupcakes, invert the cupcakes onto it, and carefully lift off the pan.  Place the cupcakes right side up on the rack and let cool completely.

According to Flo Braker, these freeze beautifully.  Place them in a sturdy covered container, label with the contents and date, and freeze up to 10 days.  Thaw at room temperature for about 1 hour.  I put some in the freezer, so I guess I will have to test this.

Source:  Baking for All Occasions by Flo Braker

Black Bottom Mini Brownie Cups

The only thing better than plain brownies is brownies with a cheesecake and chocolate chip swirl.  Then, you go and bake them up in a mini muffin tin to get the cutest little mouth poppable cheesecake brownie bites. Pretty perfect right?  As usual, this is a super easy recipe.  You make the cheesecake batter in the food processor and the brownie batter is mixed by hand.  Just be certain to spray the muffin wells liberally for easy removal.  I found that a spoon was the easiest way pop them out of the pan.  These do sink in a bit in the middle, creating a perfect cup for ice cream or a rich chocolate sauce.   The author, Nancy Baggett, says she bakes them in a mini muffin pan because they are so rich.  I don’t know, I didn’t have any problem eating 4 in one sitting.   Embarrased smileEmbarrased smile

Black Bottom Mini Brownie Cups

Yield:  24 mini brownie cups

Cream Cheese Layer:

3 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened and cubed

2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1 large egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup (3oz) mini semisweet chocolate chips

Brownie layer:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed (1/2 stick)

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate. coarsely chopped

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour — LESS 1 Tablespoon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 2-12 cup mini muffin pans with cooking spray.  I suggest a spray with flour and spray well!!!

The cream cheese layer:  In food processor, beat cream cheese, sugar, butter, egg yolk and vanilla until smooth. By hand, stir in the mini chocolate chips; set aside.  (Or, in a large bowl, with an electric mixer on low speed, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add the butter, egg yolk, and vanilla, and continue beating until smooth.  Stir in the chocolate chips)

The brownie layer:  In a medium microwave safe bowl, melt butter and chocolate on 50% power x 1 minute.  Stir well.  Continue microwaving on 50% power, stirring at 30 second intervals.  Stop microwaving before the chocolate completely melts and let the residual heat finish the job.

Stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture until well blended; cool until warm. In a small bowl, thoroughly stir flour, salt and baking soda; set aside. Beat the egg, 1 Tbsp of water and vanilla into chocolate mixture until well blended. Stir in flour mixture until evenly incorporated..

Spoon 1/2 tablespoon of chocolate mixture into each prepared muffin cup.  Spoon 1 teaspoon of cream cheese mixture over the tops, dividing it equally among the cups.  Spoon the remaining chocolate mixture equally over the cream cheese mixture.  Take caution not to overfill.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 11 – 14 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs on it. Place muffin pans on a wire rack to cool.

Gently loosen brownie cups with point of a knife; remove from the pan. I found a spoon to be easier.  Store in airtight container for up to 4 days; or freeze up to 1 month.

Source:  The All-American Cookie Book

Cook’s Country Ultimate Cinnamon Buns

I love anything by America’s Test Kitchen, especially Cook’s Country Magazine, so I have every issue.  Why do I love them so?   Well, first off, the recipes always work and the nerdy pharmacist in me enjoys reading the science behind the recipe.  Unlike Cook’s Illustrated (which I also love), it has colored pictures and recipes for everyday food that fits my family’s tastes (well, at least sometimes).  Every once in awhile, I pull them out and flip though them and last week I came across this recipe for Ultimate Cinnamon Buns.  They looked amazing, just like the crazy expensive Cinnabon cinnamon rolls.  I usually don’t make something so involved, not because I don’t like to.  Unfortunately I just don’t have the time or I choose to sleep instead. 😀  But, the recipe said I could prep them the night before and bake them in the morning.  So, I decided to make them on Saturday night after the kids went to bed for Sunday morning breakfast. But, when I went to make them at 9pm, I forgot you have to wait 2 hours for the dough to rise. So, I didn’t finish making the rolls until after midnight!  Not my brightest idea…I just hoped they were worth it.

In the morning my daughter asked me what was for breakfast and I was so excited to tell her homemade cinnamon rolls.  Sammie says “Can’t I just have my regular breakfast?”  Your regular breakfast is cereal, so no.  Geez!  This is another reason I don’t usually make something more labor intensive. 😀  But she ate it and my son did too, mostly because they loved the frosting, eating off the top off the rolls and leaving the bottoms.  Oh, well, I’ll take it.  My husband inhaled it and I thought it was delicious, very reminiscent of a Cinnabon roll. The bun is really tender due to the cornstarch and packed full of gooey cinnamon flavor due to double the amount of filling compared to most recipes.  So, while this may not be a recipe for everyday due to the time and let’s face it, calories, it would be a delicious special treat for a holiday breakfast.

Dough
3/4 cup warm whole milk (about 110 F)  Check temperature with a thermometer
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) rapid rise or instant yeast
3 large eggs, at room temperature
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened

Filling
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft

Glaze
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Put rack in middle position and preheat oven to 200F.  When the oven reaches 200 F, turn it off.  Line a 13×9-inch baking pan with foil, allowing excess to hang over edges.  Grease or spray the foil with cooking spray

Combine the warm milk and yeast in a 2 cup liquid measuring cup and whisk until the yeast dissolves.  Whisk in the eggs.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt.  Mix briefly to combine.  With the mixer on low, slowly add the warm milk mixture in a steady stream and continue mixing until the dough comes together, about 1 minute.  Increase the speed to medium and add the butter, one piece at a time, until incorporated.  Continue to mix until the dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.  (If the dough is still wet and sticky after mixing 10 minutes, add flour, 1 T at a time (up to 1/4 cup), until the dough releases from the bowl.)  Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead to form a smooth ball.  Transfer the dough to a large greased/sprayed bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the warm oven.  Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

To make the filling: Whisk the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt together in a small bowl.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into an 18-inch square and spread it evenly with the softened butter.  Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and press gently.  Starting with the edge nearest you. roll the dough into a tight cylinder and pinch lightly to seal.  Cut the cylinder into 8 equal pieces (or 12 if you want smaller rolls) and transfer the pieces, cut side up, to the prepared pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise in warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Make ahead:   After transferring the cut rolls to the greased pan, the buns can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.  When you are ready to bake the rolls, let them sit at room temperature for 1 hour before baking as below.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Bake the rolls (minus the wrap) for 35-40 minutes, or until they are deep golden brown, the filling is melted, and they are cooked through. While the buns bake, make the glaze by whisking the soft cream cheese, milk, vanilla and confectioner’s sugar in a medium bowl and set aside.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and top the rolls with 1/2 cup of the glaze.  Let cool for 30 minutes then top with remaining glaze and serve. No way we could wait this long, so we ate them after about 15 minutes.  I think they are best warm anyways…

Source:  Cook’s Country Dec/Jan 2009

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I have been tagged by Choc Chip Uru to play a game of getting to know your fellow blogger friends.  Go Bake Yourself has to be the cutest name and her blog is just as cute.  Thank you my fellow baker friend for the opportunity and your support!

The Rules:
1. You must post the rules.
2. Post 12 fun facts about yourself in the blog post.
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create 12 new questions for the people you tagged.
4. Tag 12 people and link them on your post.  12 is kind of a lot, so you can do 6.
5. Let them know you’ve tagged them.

12 Things You Didn’t Know About Me:

1.  I have a pug named Walter Payton.  Named by my die hard Bears fan husband.

2.  When I was in college, I worked with a serial killer. So scary!

3.  I love horror movies.  I am always looking for the scariest movie ever, but I have yet to find one that really scares me. So, the search continues. 😀

4.  I married my high school sweetheart.  Awww…

5.  If I wasn’t a pharmacist, I would have either been a pastry chef or a forensic psychologist.

6.  I love true crime shows!

7.  I am Top Chef obsessed. I have probably seen every episode at least 5 times. Embarrased smile

8.   I don’t like nuts in any dessert

9.   My husband is crazy about sports.  I hate them, though I wish I liked them.

10.  My first concert was New Kids on the Block.

11.  I think I am one of the only people in the world that doesn’t like Nutella.

12.  My goal right now is to find a new job that I love….well, at least like.  I’ll take like.

Choc Chip Uru’s Questions:

1. Why do you blog?  I love to bake and I just really wanted to share some of the amazing recipes I have come across with others so they can enjoy them too.  Also, I have a huge cookbook collection that really needs to be put to use! 😀
2. Are you a social butterfly or do you like solitary weekends?  Solitary weekends with my family.
3. What is your dream job?  Pastry chef
4. If you could have any kitchen superpower, what would it be?  To wiggle my nose and have a dinner on the table that everyone would eat.  I love to bake, cooking not so much.
5. What is your most prized cooking possession?  My Kitchen Aid.  When it was broken for a week, I really missed it!
6. ‘When in doubt turn left’ – do you believe this?  No.  I check my GPS or pull over and get directions. 😀   I get anxious when I am lost, so I avoid it.
7. If you were stranded on a tropical dessert and had the choice 3 dishes to eat for the rest of your life, what would they be?  pizza, my mom’s homemade chicken pot pie, Portillo’s chocolate cake.
8. What is your worst kitchen nightmare?  Burning myself.  I never forgot the time in junior high when I made caramel and stuck my finger in it to see if it was done. I got so burned because the caramel was so hard to wash off. So not smart, but I was 12.
9. Do you think the Oscars were deserved this year?  Before kids, I used to have a party with tons of food and an Oscar pool.  But this year, I didn’t even know they were on until I was flipping through the channels. I didn’t watch because I didn’t see any of the movies.  My how things change..
10. What is your dream car?   I don’t really have one, but what I would really love is a driver.  I hate driving and then maybe I could get a bit extra sleep?
11. Name one wonderful childhood memory involving food :).  Making Christmas cookies with my mom.
12. If you could travel to anywhere in the universe, where would you go?  The Mediterranean.  For our honeymoon, my husband and I went on a Mediterranean cruise and we would love to go back.

My Questions:

1.  What is your favorite thing to bake?

2.  What is your signature dish?

3.  What is your biggest regret?

4.  What have you done that you are most proud of?

5.  What would be your last supper?

6.  What do you find most difficult about having a blog?

7.  If a movie was made about your life, what actor would you want to play you?

8.  What food will you never try and why?

9.  What is your profession?  Do you wish you were doing something else?  What?

10.  If you could eat at any restaurant, where would it be?

11.  Who do you respect the most and why?

12.  Who is your favorite celebrity chef?

Who am I tagging?

Most of the blogs I tagged I discovered through The Nest.  The blogs on the Nest are so amazing and were the inspiration behind me starting a blog of my own.  Thanks ladies!

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