Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Cinnamon Rolls

We have started a new tradition with my new family of having fresh homemade cinnamon rolls each year for Christmas. They turned out so well this year, I think we need to do this more often than just annually. 

Here they are all nicely rolled with butter, brown sugar and fresh ground cinnamon all ready to be baked for our Christmas morning pleasure.

 Fresh out of the oven and smothered with icing. 

My cinnamon roll all ready to enjoy on my favorite Christmas plate with a hot mug of coffee. 
Merry Christmas! 

Recipe for Cinnamon Rolls
Follow Paula Deen's Food Network recipe, but substitute brown sugar and fresh ground cinnamon for the filling

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Salted Caramels

I have to be careful what I sign up for. But, when I sign up for something, I will give it my all.  This is one example of that.  Knowing I like to bake and cook, a fellow parent at school asks if I would like to make something homemade for the teachers (ALL the teachers and faculty in the school).  I later found out that this was 55 people. So, I thought little caramels would be easy.  Make the caramels, pour them in a pan and cut them up. Easy, right?  Well, the "Easy Salted Caramels" recipe that I sourced from Pinterest seemed so, but the overall process to create enough to make cute little baggies of 5 caramels for each faculty member was more arduous than I thought.  Luckily, I had the help of my cousin staying with us and my amazing husband. 

We made over 300 of these sweet little caramels.  The recipe below is for one batch, but we made 4-6 batches total. 

Here is the water and corn syrup boiling. 

Then we added the butter and heavy cream and continued cooking. 

Once our caramel reached about 245 degrees, we poured it out onto a baking sheet covered with parchment. We left some edges to the parchment and it easily came off the baking sheet to be able to cut.  We placed it on a measure sheet and cut them into (almost) equally sized pieces.  The tough part was just keeping it from sticking to the parchment.  

Because we were packaging them for gifts, we cut several pieces of waxed paper and wrapped the caramels individually, which took some time, but looked very nice. We packaged five or more in cellophane bags to give as gifts. The teachers loved them and we also enjoyed a few ourselves :-)

Recipe for Salted Caramels
From Inspired Taste (Adapted from Jacques Pepin)

Yields 35-40 caramels

1/2 C. unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 C. heavy cream
3 T. water
1/2 C. light corn syrup
1 C. granulated sugar
1/2 t. flaked sea salt (I used Maldon)

Lightly oil a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan then measure and cut a piece of parchment paper that will fit inside the pan and come up the sides by at least 1 inch. Next, lightly oil the parchment paper and place into the pan. Set the pan aside.

Cut butter into 8 pieces then combine with heavy cream in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes until hot and butter has melted. Set aside, we will use this later. I don't have a microwave, so we melted the butter in the heavy cream on the stove.
  1. In a small saucepan combine the water and corn syrup. Then, add the sugar, but try your best not to splatter the sugar up the sides of the pan. Now, use a spoon to gently stir the sugar into the water and corn syrup, just moistening the sugar.
  2. Heat over medium heat until the sugar has come to a boil. Then, cover with a lid for 1 minute. This adds steam/moisture to the pan, so any sugar that may have stuck to the sides of the pan melts and falls back into the boiling sugar.
  3. Remove lid then attach a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan. Then, cook sugar for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar reaches a temperature of 320 degrees F (160 degrees C). At this temperature, the sugar will take on a light amber color around the edges of the pan.
  1. he moment the sugar reaches 320 degrees F (160 degrees C), carefully pour about a sixth of the butter and cream mixture then stir, using the base of the candy thermometer to incorporate it. Repeat with the remaining cream and butter (adding a sixth of it at a time then stirring). The sugar will bubble violently as you add the butter and cream - so do this carefully and slowly to prevent the mixture from bubbling over the sides of the saucepan.
  2. By adding the cream and butter, the temperature will drop. Now, continue cooking for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the caramel reaches a temperature of 240 degrees F (115 degrees C). This will create a soft caramel, if you want slightly harder caramels, bring the temperature closer to 245 degrees F (118 degrees C).
  1. The moment the caramel reaches your desired temperature, pour into the prepared loaf pan. Cool 20 to 30 minutes then scatter the salt over the caramel. Then, let the caramel cool 3 1/2 hours.
  2. Unmold the caramel. If the caramel is too soft to work with, place into the refrigerator 30 to 45 minutes to firm up. Then, use a large sharp knife to cut into your desired shape. You may want to run the knife under hot water periodically to be able to cut the caramel easily. We like to cut into 1-inch by 1/2-inch rectangles.
  1. Wrap caramels in plastic wrap or waxed paper and enjoy immediately, or you can refrigerate or freeze for enjoying later.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Meringues to Eton Mess

My inspiration to make meringues again was two-fold. First, my mum was visiting and was dreaming of Eton Mess, which she had last enjoyed on a trip back to England.  The second reason, is that I was recalling this idyllic food stand we visited in Covent Garden in London last summer and the dreamy piles of perfectly pink meringues. So, on a recent visit from mum, we decided that our dessert one evening would be Eton Mess.  

We made the incredibly easy meringue and spooned it onto the Silpats creating the fun little peak.

They bake at a very low temperature and we let them cool and dry. 

The last time I made meringues, we created little fruit bowl nests. This time, we broke up the pretty peaked meringues and made lovely Eton Mess parfaits.

Recipe for Meringues

4 XL egg whites
1/4 t. cream of tartar
Pinch of kosher salt
1 C. granulated sugar or caster sugar, divided
1/2 t. pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. In an electric mixer using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt on high speed until frothy. Add 2/3 C. of the sugar and continue beating on high speed until the egg whites form very stiff peaks. Whisk in the vanilla. Carefully fold the remaining 1/3 C. sugar into the meringue. Pipe or spoon onto the baking sheets.

Bake for two (2) hours or until the meringues are dry and crisp but not browned. Turn off the heat and leave the meringues in the oven for four (4) hours or overnight. 

For Eton Mess, mix with chopped berries (strawberries are traditional, but blackberries, raspberries and blueberries are great) and fresh cream made from heavy whipping cream whipped with a bit of powdered sugar and vanilla 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Birthday Cupcakes

Miss A turned 6. S-I-X. I cannot believe it. She happened to have soccer practice the day of her birthday, so I thought that was the perfect opportunity to celebrate her birthday. We had a fun soccer themed party and these fun cupcakes we made with turf or grass and soccer ball rings. 

Earlier in the day, I took these mini cupcakes with pink cherry frosting and fondant flowers for a class birthday celebration.

We had SO many cupcakes.  In fact, it was enough to feed the soccer team two times over.

We had such a fun soccer birthday party picnic after practice. 

But driving home with the bouquet of a dozen balloons in the convertible was the most fun. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Nutella Pop Tarts

While I'm happy to say that Miss A has never had an actual packaged Pop Tart, she has enjoyed a yummy homemade one. Thanks to Pinterest, I got the idea to make these and thought it would be a fun treat for the kids.  

After making the pastry, they were really quite easy. You just have to be a bit careful putting the pieces of pastry together so they don't tear. 

After you roll out the pastry, you cut out the rectangles, place a dollop of Nutella on each square and then transfer a second square to the top. 

I sealed the edges with a little egg and the tines of a fork, brushed them with an egg wash and sprinkles cinnamon and sugar on top. 

While they weren't perfect, they turned out nicely for a first try and were oh so yummy. 

A grown up pop tart for breakfast. Yes, please. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Peach Sorbet


I used to have an ice cream machine that I ended up giving away when I downsized homes. So, when I found this incredibly simple recipe for peach sorbet in a Martha Stewart Living magazine, I thought I would try it. 

We escaped from DC to the country and enjoyed an amazing day picking peaches at a farm in Northern Virginia.

The peaches were gorgeous and it was such a beautiful summer day to roam around the orchard. 

Miss A loved helping us spot the perfect peaches and climbing up on the ladder to see if she could reach. 

It was fun picking peaches, but even more fun to relax in a nearby vineyard with a glass of wine and a fresh peach.

We ended up with a few pecks of peaches and used some of them to make the sorbet.  Pretty easy - slice the peaches, freeze them and then puree and you're done. I let it freeze more later, but we enjoyed it nice and spoonable with fresh cream.  

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

It's not very often that I have fresh picked fruit to bake with. The fresh strawberries and fresh rhubarb were a perfect combination. 

On a recent visit to my sister, she sent me home with several stalks of fresh rhubarb. Shortly after, we went to pick fresh strawberries in Northern Virginia with Miss A, who loved the experience (and the farm fresh taste testing). 

I referenced a Food Network recipe by Ina Garten that I thought was sure to be fail proof.  The flavor was great, but it did seem a little more runny than I would prefer. 

After I washed and cut up the fruit, I mixed the fruit in with the sugar, cornstarch and flour (I omitted the orange juice). Then, I mixed the crisp ingredients together until they held together nicely and packed it on top. It came out of the oven all bubbly and smelling like fresh jam. 

It was served with vanilla ice cream and resulted in early summer happiness.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Baked Churros

I have been wanting to make churros since I indulged in them (ahem, for breakfast) practically every day on our trip to the Dominican Republic. Not only did I have them as my "breakfast dessert," but I would dip them in a bit of nutella or syrup. (as if a fried churro wasn't enough indulgence before I had even hit 9:00 a.m.).

So, I had hopes of making this a more healthy treat and sought out a recipe for baked churros. And, here we go.

I wasn't sure how this experiment would go, but I was pleasantly surprised. I researched the appropriate pastry tip to use and while my churros were not perfect (a bit squiggly), they turned out pretty good for a first timer. I used Ateco pastry tip #847 with a pastry bag.  The batter/dough was quite easy to make. I filled my pastry bag, piped it on my Silpat and trimmed off the end.

They baked quite nicely and got golden brown after about 10-15 minutes of baking.

While they were still a bit warm, we rolled them in the cinnamon-sugar mix. 

We enjoyed them nice and warm after we rolled them in the cinnamon sugar mix.  However, the next day, we enjoyed them even more with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a drizzle of caramel. There I go being over indulgent again. 

Recipe for Baked Churros:
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen


1 C. water
2 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/3 C. butter
1 C. all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 C. sugar
1 t. ground cinnamon 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray or use Silpats. 

In a medium pot, combine water, brown sugar, salt and butter and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add flour, stirring with a large wooden spoon until well blended.

In a small bowl, combine the egg and vanilla extract. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until completely incorporated. 

Spoon the dough into a pastry bag with a large star tip (I used Ateco #847). It's easiest to spoon it in if your pastry bag is inserted into a large glass.

Pipe dough onto the baking sheet in 4-inch strips and trim them with kitchen scissors. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Let them cool slightly. 

Mix cinnamon and sugar in a shallow dish and coat the churros while they are still warm. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Asparagus and Pancetta Quiche

We sure have enjoyed asparagus several times and continued to get it each week from the farmers market. We steamed it. We roasted it. We put it in pastas. I wanted to try something different and since I also had some extra homemade pastry, I decided to make a quiche. I referenced the Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe for Asparagus, Leek and Gruyere Quiche, but adapted it a little by adding pancetta and I used scallions instead of leeks.


I took off the tough bottom of the asparagus spears, cut it on a diagonal in small pieces and sauteed it with the pancetta, garlic and onion. I could have stopped smelled so wonderful.

I rolled out my pastry and placed the asparagus mixture in the crust on top of a layer of Gruyere cheese.

I mixed the egg and 1/2 and 1/2 together to pour on top of the asparagus mixture.

After baking for about an hour (and wonderful smells wafting through the house), our quiche was ready to take to our picnic in the park. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Rustic Cherry Pie

I had made some appetizers recently with puff pastry and I had an extra piece to use (along with a craving for something sweet). I have made my own puff pastry before, but the store bough frozen puff pastry is so incredibly easy in a pinch. I also had some frozen cherries to use. I started with the idea to make little cherry hand pies and ended up just folding it into one simple rustic cherry pie by folding the edges in. I simply rolled out the thawed puff pastry sheet on flour, made the cherry filling to place in the center and folded the edges in.  I brushed the top with butter and sprinkled it with some sugar. I would prefer using fresh cherries or other fruit, but this was a great way to use up the pastry and frozen fruit and will be an easy go-to dessert option for at home or to take to a dinner party.

It was a lovely spring day and we had all the windows open in the house. While we enjoyed our roast chicken sunday dinner, I displayed the pie in the window sill. This is not always how our weekends go, but we had a particularly wonderful meal planned and it was a relaxing day. We went to the market in the morning also and I decorated many other window sills with poppies and tulips.

Recipe for Rustic Cherry Pie


One sheet of puff pastry
Melted butter to brush on top

Sugar to sprinkle on top

Cherry filling:
2-3 cups pitted cherries (fresh or frozen)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 T. cornstarch
1T. fresh lemon juice 


Roll out the puff pastry sheet on a floured surface. Mix cherry filling in a bowl. Spoon into the middle of the pastry.  Put a few pats of butter on top of the filling.  Fold the edges of the pastry in and pinch to hold. Brush the top of the pastry with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 20 minutes.