Adventures in homemade, budget aware cooking.

Desserts

Caramel Apple Cake

Summer seems to have finally left us here in Orem.  I say that after only two days of rain and clouds.  Perhaps my judgments are a bit premature, but I really and truly hope that autumn is here.  Why?  Why would anyone hope the sun away?  Well, I love changing seasons.  I can’t help feeling tired of summer and ready for fall.  Plus, my fall decorations look stupid when it’s still 100 degrees outside.  AND… with the advent of fall, I can finally cook fall food.  Here’s a great fall recipe:

Caramelized Apple Cake

(Family Circle)

Makes 10 servings – 2 hours

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup plus 5 tbsp butter, softened and divided
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 375F.

2. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a med. bowl.  Set aside. In a large bowl, cream ½ cup of butter and granulated sugar.

3. Add the eggs and the vanilla.  Blend in the flour mixture.  Blend in the sour cream.

4.  In an oven-proof 10 inch skillet, melt the remaining 5 tbsp of butter.  Add the brown sugar.  Stir for 2 minutes.  Add the apple slices.  Reduce the heat to med-low.  Cook 10 minutes or until the apples are tender.  Let it cool 5 min.

5. Spoon the batter over the apples and spread it to the edges of the pan.  Bake for 30 min.  Cool on a rack for 20 min.  Run a knife around the edge of the pan and carefully invert the cake onto a plate.


Homemade Ice Cream!

Frozen Caramel Custard

Have you ever tried to make ice cream in your freezer without an ice cream maker and ended up with a clump of ice crystals? Well, this recipe is not for that!

When I was five, I asked Santa Claus for an ice cream maker. He couldn’t find one, so I got a Teddy Bear instead. The next year, he succeeded and I got my ice cream maker. Needless to say, the Teddy Bear got lots more love and use that the ice cream maker. Now, I’ve learned that I don’t need one. Neither do you.

Frozen Caramel Custard (adapted from “Simple Secrets to Better Everyday Cooking”)

  • 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 5 beaten egg yolks
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder (available in bulk food sections)
  • dash salt
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • caramel shards for a garnish

Caramel:

In a small heavy saucepan, cook the granulated sugar over med-high heat until the sugar begins to melt, shaking the pot occasionally.  DO NOT STIR.  Reduce the heat to low and cook until sugar is melted and golden brown.  At this point you can and should stir it with a wooden spoon.  Remove the saucepan from the heat.

Carefully stir in the 1/2 cup whipping cream.  If a large lump of sugar forms (it did for me) heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently until the lump dissolves.  This can take 15 min.

Ice Cream

In a medium saucepan, combine egg yolks, milk, dry milk powder, and salt.  Cook over low-med heat, stirring constantly until the mixture coats the back of a metal spoon, or until the it is just beginning to look like a custard.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in the 2 cups of whipping cream.  Add the caramel and brown sugar and vanilla.  Stir until the sugar dissolves.  Cool custard in the refrigerator until completely cool.

Place it in an ice cream machine, or in a large metal bowl.  Cover securely.  Place in the freezer.  Every 40 min, take the bowl out of the freezer, using a spatula or spoon, scrape the frozen edges, and beat with an electric mixer for 30 seconds.  Repeat this every 40 min for 5 to 6 hours or until the ice cream is firm.  Garnish with caramel shards.

Caramel shards

Cook 3/4 cup of sugar in the same way you did for the caramel above.  When it is melted, remove from heat and add in 1 tsp of water.  Immediately pour the sugar on a lined and greased baking sheet.  Spread it as thin as possible.  Let it set up for 30 min.  With the back of a metal spoon, break it into shards.


Oreo Cookies to Die For

Disclaimer: These Cookies are NOT from Scratch!  But, they are really really good!  When my husband sits down to eat store-bought oreos with a tall glass of milk, he usually manages to eat 12 or 13 before he stops himself (or I stop him…).  He came home between jobs today, saw what I was making for a family reunion we have this weekend and declared “Those are MINE!  They are all for ME!”  However, after filling himself up with just one, he reluctantly agreed to share them with his family.    These “oreos” are huge and filling.

Oreo Cookies to Die for (from a family friend)

  • 2 pkgs devil’s food cake mix (I did warn you…)
  • 2/3 cup of oil
  • 4 eggs

Combine all the ingredients with a wooden spoon (I tried to use a whisk at first, but the batter was so thick it was impossible).  Roll into 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet.  Leave lots of space between the balls because they flatten and spread out quite a bit.  Bake for 10 min at 350.  Cool on wire racks.

Icing:

  • 1 oz pkg cream cheese (or neufchatel cheese, which is cheaper and has less fat)
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 3 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Cream together in a medium bowl.  Spread a thick layer of icing on one cookie and top it with another cookie, making a sandwich.  I like these best frozen, like ice-cream sandwiches.  (makes 24 cookies)

I thought, as I was assembling these cookies, that it would be very easy to make them with mint or peppermint extract instead of the vanilla for Christmas, or pumpkin flavouring (as my husband suggested) for Hallowe’en.  You could also easily substitute a white cake for the chocolate.


Ranger Cookies

Yesterday, I gleefully pulled Harry Potter #2 AND #5 off the shelf at my local library.  I was so excited to find these two books available.  Don’t worry that #1, 3 or 4 weren’t available.  I have read the series so many times now it doesn’t matter which book I jump into (it probably wouldn’t matter which chapter either…)  How many times is it okay to read the same book?  Your favourite book?  Seven?

Anyways, the whole situation got me thinking about my cooking philosophy.  I often scour cookbooks in search of new recipes to try and new things to make.  When I find something that the husband and I love, I tend to file the recipe away the same as I do for the mediocre ones I come across.  To me, food isn’t like books.  I really struggle to re-make things!  I think it’s a disease, really.

I made the BEST ranger cookies ever a few days ago.  I need to remember to treat this recipe like one of my favourite books.  I need to make it again.  These cookies were gooey in the middle and crispy around the edges.  The brown sugar and butter gave them a caramel flavour.  And, unlike the last Ranger Cookie recipe I failed with, they were FLAT!  Maybe you don’t like your cookies flat, but that’s how mum’s always were and that’s how I think they should be.  (If you don’t want flat cookie – the horror – refrigerate your batter between uses and avoid putting your batter on hot cookie sheets.)

Ranger Cookies (Makes 4 dozen… don’t worry, they are THAT good.  You’ll eat them all)

  • ¾ cup butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 small eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • ½ chopped walnuts

*Instead of the raisins, coconut and nuts, feel free to put in whatever you like.

Cream the butter.  Add the sugars and cream.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Mix.  Stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Combine.  Stir in the remaining ingredients.  Drop batter onto ungreased baking sheets.  Cook for 8-10 minutes at 375F.  Let sit for 1 minute, then remove them to cooling racks.

I took my out of the oven when the middles were still uncooked.  They firmed up on the cooling racks.


Dim Sum Honey Buns

I promise, I’m almost done with my Chinese cravings… (Tonight we’re having Mexican – see?)  These dessert “Honey Buns” are so good and it took me forever to work out the recipe, so enjoy it!  The husband said about these soft, sweet filled buns “You should make these for my family so they see the delicious things you make for me!”  The recipe makes 24 buns (which is a ton!) but you can freeze them for 3 months.

Baked Bao Dough (traditionally, these are steamed, but I don’t have a steamer.  When I get one, you will get the steamed dough recipe!)   adapted from “Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea”

  • 3 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 sugar
  • 1/4 shortening
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/4 cup lukewarm water, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 cup milk

Combine 2 cups of flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl.  Cut in the shortening (with a pastry knife or two knives).  In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup lukewarm water and yeast.  Leave 5 min.  Put milk and 1/3 cup water in a saucepan.  Heat to 110F (warm).  Remove from heat.  Stir in the yeast.  Add liquid mixture to the flour mixture.  Mix.  Add the remaining flour.  Turn dough onto a floured surface.  Knead 5-8 min.  Put in a greased bowl.  Turn to grease the top.  Cover.  Let rise 2 hours.

Make the filling.

Honey Bun Custard Filling (there is no honey involved here…)

  • 2 1/2 oz butter (6 tbsp)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp yellow food colouring
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the butter.  In a medium bowl, Beat the eggs and the sugar until the sugar dissolves.  Stir in the butter.  Stir in the cornstarch.  Add the milk, vanilla and food colouring.  Heat in a saucepan until gently boiling.  Whisk constantly until thickened.  Remove from heat.  If the custard is lumpy, add more milk and stir well.  Cool to room temperature.

Make the Rolls.

Oil 2 baking sheets.  Punch down the dough.  On a floured surface, pat it into a 8 x 12″ rectangle.  Cut it into 24 squares.  Using one square at a time, flatten the dough into a 2 1/2″ circle.  Fill by placing a heaping tsp of the filling in the center of the dough.  Gather the edges together and pinch shut.  Place pinched-side-down on a baking sheet.  Let the buns rise another 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Brush the rolls with a beaten egg.  Cook for 20-25 minutes.  Serve warm.


Strawberry Fool

Sometimes I really want to be in the kitchen, but the thought of cooking another meal is very upsetting and overwhelming.  I open up my recipe books and my box of recipe cards trying to come up with yet another brilliant idea for dinner and am instantly bombarded with sweet treats and desserts and candies and chocolate.  All I want to make are treats.

Friday night, I attempted Marcus Wareing’s Strawberry Fool – which as it turns out is so easy a fool (aka me) could make it.  It’s a thick and creamy strawberry mousse and was nicely complemented by fresh leaves of mint from my mother-in-law’s garden.  I liked it, my husband liked it, and two siblings liked it too.  4 out of 4.  Pretty good percentages.

Strawberry Fool (adapted from Marcus Wareing’s “Cook the Perfect…”)

  • 2 lbs fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 package of gelatin
  • 1/4 cup ice-cold water
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2/3 cup cream
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • Mint leaves

Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add strawberries, lemon juice and sugar.  Cook 15 min, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat.  Mix gelatin in 1/4 cup ice-cold water until dissolved.  Pour strawberries into a blender and puree.  Pour into a large bowl.  Stir gelatin mixture into warm puree until gelatin is dissolved.  Cover and refrigerate 1/2 hour.  Lightly whip 1 cup cream.  Stir the yogurt into the puree.  Fold in the cream.  Divide among six glasses and chill overnight. Combine cream and icing sugar.  Top strawberry fool with whipped cream and garnish with mint leaves.


Arroz Con Leche

A few years ago, I spent a year and a half in Southern California serving a mission for my Church. I spend that time with the Hispanic population in the area, and came to love their culinary traditions (well, some of them).
I could never quite fall in love with Menudo (a traditional soup made from cow stomach) or anything that involved tongue – but this sweet rice and milk dessert gained a favourable place on my palate. I love the thick, hearty porridge-like consistency and the way the raisins soften as though they are slowly transforming back into grapes.

Rice is such a huge staple in Latin American cooking, but that doesn’t make it easy for us gringos to get right. Growing up, I remember joking about the fact that Mum’s rice was usually soupy. And perhaps to counteract that, my first endeavors to make rice resulted in hard, crunchy grains that my husband and I both pretended were fluffy and, well, cooked… Arroz con Leche scared me for a long time. My food cravings eventually overcame my food fears, and, I’m happy to report it turned out well!

Arroz Con Leche (rice with milk)
– 1/2 cup rice (short-medium grain)
– 4 cups milk
– 1 cinnamon stick
– 1/2 cup brown sugar
– 1/2 raisins
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 2 tbsp butter
– ground cinnamon to garnish

In a saucepan, combine rice, milk and cinnamon stick. Heat on medium-high just until milk starts to boil. Lower heat to low and let mixture simmer, stirring often (scraping sides and bottom of pot) for 45 min. Add the sugar and the raisins and continue cooking on low for another 15 min. Stir in the vanilla and the butter and cook another 5 min. Garnish with ground cinnamon. Serve hot or cold.

I like to eat some when it’s hot, refrigerate the rest and eat it cold the next morning for breakfast. Sabe muy rico!