Friday, November 20, 2009

Burnt Almond Cupcakes!

It doesn't matter if you have lived in the same place your whole life or if you've moved often and lived all over like the proverbial "army brat". We pick up special taste memories along the way. I am most certain that if you think about your favorite dish, your mind will go back to that first time you had it and how good it tasted in your mouth. I bet your thinking about it right now! It happened to me the other day and brought back a favorite memory. For no apparent reason I started thinking about a little bakery in the town I grew up in. Dick's Bakery was that cute little corner neighborhood bakery that you went to for coffee and donuts and one other thing - Burnt Almond Cake. We ordered it for birthday's, showers, and even weddings. It was that one delicious cake that you could always count on to never change. I even heard that Dick's is still there and still baking that wonderful cake. Many years ago, I took one of my first baking classes on "fancy cakes" and as luck would have it, the instructor used to work at Dick's. She showed us how to make those incredible caramelized almonds that mounded the pastry cream on top of that lovely white cake. Using that memory as inspiration, I thought I would create my own little cupcake version or that wonderful dessert. What a hit! It tasted just like Dick's and brought me right back to cakes I had as a child - minus the pink box and string. The beauty of this cupcake is that not only do I get to have that delicious taste (to curb my craving) but I also get to pass them along to my friends rather than my thighs! I'm jus' sayin'!

Burnt Almond Cupcakes

Prepare Almonds:
In a large cast iron skillet toast 1 8oz package of sliced (not slivered) almonds. (I used
Then sprinkle 1 Cup powdered sugar over almonds.
Stir constantly as not to burn the almonds.
Once the sugar is melted, add another 1/2 C. of powdered sugar to the almonds.
Your almonds should be brown in color and the aroma should be sweet toasted nuts.
Take off the heat and then spread on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper to cool.

You may use your favorite white cake recipe here and add almond extract to the batter or you could even add almond extract to a box white cake mix (I think this recipe is all about the almonds and icing so as long as it's good cake you should be good) If you don't have one feel free to use mine.

White cake recipe.
* 1 cup white sugar
* 1/2 cup butter
* 2 eggs
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 teaspoon almond extract
* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x9 inch pan or line a muffin pan with paper liners.

2. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan.

3. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back to the touch.

Yummy Frosting:
In a mixer blend the following in this order-remember powder sugar will go every where on high speed so put it in slowly until it is all incorporated and then whip that frosting like mad!
1/2 cup butter (softened)
3 cups of powdered sugar
1/4 cup of vanilla coffee creamer or if you can find an almond flavor coffee creamer use that. (Yes I did say coffee creamer it's my secret ingredient)

Continue to whip until you get your desired consistency, now if it's too thin add more powdered sugar. If it's too thick then add a bit more creamer. Don't be intimidated by this. It's a no-fail icing that gets rave reviews every time.

To Assemble:
Cool cupcakes:
You can spread or be fancy and use a zip lock bag to pipe a large swirl of icing on the top of the cake. Then take your almonds (which after being cooled you should break into little clusters) and mound a good table spoon on top of frosting. If these make it after one day from being devoured I would keep them in the fridge up to 2 days. Doubt that will happen cause these really are yummy! Thanks Dick's

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Pass Along

Have you ever been at a potluck where you place your fork into an amazing dish and, after tasting it, find that you spend the rest of the party on a mad hunt trying to find the person responsible for bringing it? I, myself, have been known to leap over my fair-share of buffet tables and slither through large crowds like a snake on a mad dash through a jungle, and the only words coming out of my mouth are "Excuse me, were you the one who brought this dish??" Detective work was not required for this recipe, however. This recipe came via Facebook and long-time friend Joann Marks, by way of the daughter of one of her friends! Crazy? Maybe. But with the rise of online social-networking, finding and sharing recipes like this has become a lot easier. I love those recipes that arrive by way of "a friend of a friend of the daughter of the second cousin who used to go to school with my Mom".

Usually I find that when a recipe has passed through that many hands, it's either been changed or it is so tried and true that it leaves no room for mistakes. Here's one of those lovely recipes that's also appropriate for this season. Pears are abundant right now, are likely available at a great price and come in many delicious flavors and colors. Holiday get-togethers have already begun and if you want to bring something delicious and different, give this recipe a try. When those recipe detectives solve the mystery of "Who brought that dish?", just remember to pass it along, because after all, it was one of those recipes you got from a friend! I'm jus' sayin'!

Fresh Pear Pie

Crust: You are welcome to bypass this step and use a store-bought pie crust, just make sure you get the ones in the refrigerator section that you roll out and not a frozen pie crust.

1 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C. finely chopped nuts
1/3 C. shortening (such as Crisco)

Combine all the above while slowly adding 2-3 TBSP of ice cold water. Mix until dough pulls away from bowl. Sprinkle a bit of flour on board and roll dough out and place in pie plate. (set aside)

In a large bowl take 4 fresh pears (un-peeled but cored) slice them and sprinkle 2 tsp. of flour over the top and set aside.

In a saucepan heat the following but do not bring to a boil. Then place to the side.
1/2 C. Dark corn syrup
1/4 C. brown sugar
dash of salt
2 TBSP of butter
1 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 C. Brown Sugar
1/3 C. flour
1/2 Tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 C. chopped nuts (optional)
cut butter in small pieces and crumble with your fingers all of the above until it forms small pea like balls. Set aside.

Assembly: Place pears in pie crust. Drizzle syrup all over pears. Sprinkle topping all over pie. Place pie on a cookie sheet and put into a preheated 350' oven. Bake appox 50 minutes until it is bubbling and golden brown. Serve with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream and a dash of cinnamon on the ice cream. This pie is so juicy that you may want to serve it in a bowl like a cobbler just so you don't lose any of those delicious juices.

Additional Ideas: If you have a good apple recipe and you want to try something different, try changing out the apples for pears.