Oh Yeah!
That's what I'm talking about! Creamy, chocolately, melt in your mouth, holiday goodness.
I have taken on the task of making fudge for my family this year. My Papa used to be the family fudge maker and after he passed away none of us were able to take his place. He made this fudge in secret. Like a jolly elf every December he would start the fudge making process. We would get pounds of fudge and dozens of cookies shipped in old style christmas tins every year. I miss the family tradition and decided I was ready to take on where Papa left off.
I tried to get his original recipe but, sadly no one seems to have it anymore. I poked around on the web and found Hershey's Old Fashioned Fudge and decided it is probably the recipe he would have used so I got my ingredients and began a new/old  holiday tradition.
The Hershey recipe IS exactly like I remember Papa's fudge. Unfortunately for my tastes it was too sweet with no discernible chocolate flavor. The recipe WARNS- do not alter the ingredients. But of course being one of those people who sees warnings as welcome signs I altered, I failed, altered some more, failed etc until I finally got it right. I tweaked the old fashioned recipe a bit and gave it a kick of chocolate flavor that I felt it lacked. The result is a fudge that is creamy, melts in your mouth, and gives a pleasant chocolate flavor.
Some tips for making fudge:
  • Make sure you have a VERY accurate thermometer. You can check the accuracy by boiling water your thermometer should read 212 F. 
  • Use a larger sauce pan than you think you need. fudge boils up then settles back down. It is no fun cleaning chocolate sugar goo out of your burner... trust me.
  • Butter the walls of your saucepan. This helps prevent that stray sugar crystal from finding its way into your fudge and causing crystallization or a brick-like mass from forming in your pan
  • Adding agave syrup will aid in preventing crystallization it works like corn syrup. Sucrose molecules (sugar) like to hang out together and when they get together they bond. Throwing a little fructose (agave syrup) into the mix breaks up the sucrose bonding party and gives nice smooth fudge. 
  • Stir the fudge until you get a full rolling boil then STOP! Do Not Stir! 
  • Rotate your saucepan a quarter turn every few minutes - this may not be necessary if you have an excellent candy making pan or a super nice oven. 
  • Once the fudge reaches the soft ball stage 235-240 F remove from heat toss in your butter and vanilla. DO NOT STIR.
  • Once the temperature reaches 110 F STIR! - but not too much... and not too little I am still working this out but 5 minutes seems to be about right.
Papa's Revised Fudge
(I really need a better name! help!)
Adapted from Hershey
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup
  • 1 ounce piece of unsweetened chocolate  (100%  cocoa)
  • 1 cup of nuts (optional)

1. Line 8-or 9-inch square pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Butter foil. ( Butter the sides of your sauce pan)

2. Mix sugar, cocoa, salt, agave syrup and milk in a bowl until well mixed. Pour mixture into a heavy 4-quart saucepan; add unsweetened chocolate and  cook over medium heat, stirring constantly (use a wooden spoon) until mixture comes to full rolling boil. Boil, without stirring, until mixture reaches 234°F on candy thermometer or until small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water, forms a soft ball which flattens when removed from water. (Bulb of candy thermometer should not rest on bottom of saucepan.)

3. Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla. DO NOT STIR. Cool at room temperature to 110°F (lukewarm). Add your nuts if your using them. Beat with wooden spoon until fudge thickens and just begins to lose some of its gloss. ( This is something I never really saw. The one batch that I beat with a hand mixer (I was lazy but, I learned my lesson!) lost its gloss then turned into a brick, if this happens just melt is down again, cool, then beat- but not too much. It is best to beat by hand. If you beat it until you begin to feel a lot of resistance you should be good to go. There is no fix for under beaten fudge. If it does not set up it will make a good topping for ice cream.) Quickly spread into prepared pan; cool completely. Cut into squares. Store in tightly covered container at room temperature. About 36 pieces or 1-3/4 pounds.

Happy Holidays To All Of YOU!!! Thanks for reading my blog, see you next year!!!!

Cake Slice Bakers: White Chocolate Cake

I was feeling a little rebellious when I read this months cake slice recipe for white chocolate cake with a cream cheese and white chocolate frosting. The recipe just seemed kind of bland... I did not want to skip this months bake along so I started fudging the recipe, just a little- at first. I decided to add some freshly made cranberry and orange jam as a filling. Then before I knew it the whole concept just snowballed and I went from something slightly altered to a completely rogue cake.
Please forgive me fellow cake slice bakers! I just can not help but tinker with recipes... maybe I need professional help. Maybe tea with Nancie McDermott, author of our groups current selection, would reel me back in. Maybe you guys will see my version of Novembers cake and accept it for what it is? 
A White chocolate whisper cake with a cranberry and orange jam filling frosted with a white chocolate Swiss Meringue Butter Cream.

I will just let the pictures plead my case!

To see how the other Cake Slice Bakers decorated their White Chocolate cakes go here.

A food bloggers dilema

Ok. Here is my problem and I need some advice.
I baked this cake for a work party tonight.

I am really trying to control my urge to cut out just a "tiny" slice for a photo shoot. My coworkers know I blog but would it be weird to show up with a missing slice? What if I replace the slice??
It's a chocolate peppermint cake with pink peppermint filling. I don't know aboout you, but, I feel a liitle sad when I see a photo of a gorgouse cake but no slice shot. I want to see the crumb, the filling, and each layer in all it's cakey glory!

What is a food blogger to do! HELP!
Update -2:20 pm Miss Sweets gives in to Peer pressure  and the  "good" advice of other food bloggers and makes the cut! Reasoning no one wants to be the first one at a party to cut up such a pretty cake. I'm just taking the first cut pressure off! I will also be using Moogie"s advice. " huh. that's strange. what do you mean there is a slice missing?"  Here's hoping none of them actually read my blog!
For you my friends...

The Slice!

Where oh where has all my butter gone!

What in the world happened to my butter?
Hmm I left it here on my counter. Need to get it soft enough for my frosting recipe...

Scout? Where are you?

Did You eat my butter??!

Gah! Gross!
Guess I better pull out some more.

Now to finish watching Oprah...

 "Oh boy more butter! Yum. "

Macronage! The saga continues...

The inspiration.


The Good

The Bad

The Ugly

Via con Dios my fellow macroneers!

BYOB Rustic Rye Crackers

I happened to find some really tasty goat cheese at the local farmers market and needed a special cracker to gobble sample it  with. The fancy crackers worthy of this goat cheese would make a dent in my ranch fund (yep I'm house hunting!) so I decided to make my own fancy crackers. The recipe is simple and versatile. Use whatever flours you have on hand combined with your choice of seasonings. I started pretty simple with Rye flour, AP flour, toasted sesame seeds, and salt. I think cracked black pepper would be a great addition for my next batch.

The first batch I made by rolling the dough out super thin then using a pizza wheel I cut into cracker size squares. This was time consuming and I had more dough waiting so for the rest of the dough I just rolled a wedge out super thin, docked it with a fork and baked it as a sheet.

Not bad! Sort of pretty in a rustic-come visit me at my pony ranch sort of way! You won't believe how easy these are.

Rustic Rye Crackers
Adapted from 101 cookbooks

1 1/2 cups rye flour
1 1/2  all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sesame seeds toasted- optional
1 teaspoon  salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup  oil

Preheat oven to 425.
Mix the dry ingredients, then add warm water and oil.  This can be mixed by hand and kneaded on a floured surface or use a stand mixer with a dough hook. The dough should come together and be a bit tacky but not sticky- about 7 minutes with a mixer or 15 minutes if kneading by hand. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil in a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest 30 minutes to relax the dough. This will make rolling the dough cracker thin much easier.
Divide the dough into smaller balls and roll out on a floured surface as thin as you can. Each time you roll the dough pick it up and rotate it clockwise a quarter turn. This ensures even rolling and lets you know when to add more flour to prevent sticking.
Once your dough is rolled out you can poke holes in the surface with a fork or a pastry docker and cut into cracker shapes, or, if your lazy like me, place the whole sheet on a lightly floured baking sheet.
Place the baking sheet in the oven for about 5 minutes. Check for a golden color or slight browning. Rotate your pan and return to the oven. The baking time will vary according to the size cracker you are making. Just make sure to watch your initial batch carefully until you achieve golden cracker perfection. It is better to under bake than over bake.
Remove pan from oven and let the crackers cool completely. They will crisp up as they cool.

Vegan Baklava

This is such an easy dessert to convert to an animal free recipe. I have tried a couple of variations, one with vegan margarine and one with coconut oil. The margarine adds a better depth of flavor and buttery note but, if you are really watching the type of oil or fats you consume the coconut is a great substitution for margarine. This recipe has been tested on my co-workers - food scientists, foodies, and culinary geniuses!- and got a thumbs up so here it is...

Vegan Baklava
revised from my mom's recipe ;)
You can use any size pan you like just cut the phyllo to size. I have used a loaf pan, 9x13 and 8x8 with equal success.
1 box/ pound of frozen phyllo dough ( make sure it is Kosher pareve)
1 pound of walnuts chopped with-
                    2 teaspoons cinnamon
                    2 tablespoons evaporated cane juice
1 lb melted fat- margarine or coconut oil etc walnut oil might be interesting too!
Line your pan with parchment paper.
Phyllo is delicate to handle so read the box. Once you begin building your layers cover the sheets with a dish towel to prevent them from drying and shattering. If you work quickly you should not have any problems.
Layer sheets of phyllo and brushing each one with "butter" to about 6 or 7 than layer nut mixture over top. Repeat untill all sheets have been used. Give the top phyllo sheet and good brush of "butter" . Place the pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Begin the syrup.

sugar syrup
2 1/2 cups evaporated can juice
1 cup water
1 lemon juiced
1 teaspoon cloves
2 sticks of cinnamon
the rind of 1 whole orange
1/2 - 1 cup syrup sweetner - I used agave
Preheat oven to 350

Place everything in a saucepan, stir to dissolve sugar,  and bring to a boil. Once it reaches the boil turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes. once done simmering remove from heat and add 1/2 to 1 cup sweetner. I have been using 1/2 cup agave since i tend to like things a little less sweet. You could also try rice syrup, tapioca syrup, or honey.  Let this cool.

Remove your tray from the refrigerator and cut the baklava. A pizza wheel makes this really easy. If you want you can sprinkle chopped nuts on the top now or after baking. Place in upper middle rack of oven (preheated to 350) and bake for 45 minutes or until you get  a beautiful golden color. Remove from oven and pour the cool syrup - strained - over the warm baklava. Let cool completely before you taste!
This makes a lot of baklava. I put individual piece in cupcake papers and gift them out in little boxes with a fancy bow.

Macarons - Raspberry and white chocolate

After 5  batches of these french cookies I am finally having some fun with them!

Thanks to all the Daring Bakers for your inspiration!

Apples! Apple Tart with Almond Cream

It all started here!
A lonely little tree with the most gorgeous ruby red apples I had ever seen.

This is the kind of apple the witch tricked snow white into eating!
So bright, so red, and so crispy sweet!  (Yes we tasted as we picked!)

These apples called to me. I was out at Deterings Orchard with my friend A to check out the Apple Days Festival and pick some fruit. We could not believe how gorgeous these ruby beauties were. There were no name plates or signs so we figured these must be a very rare heirloom variety! We both loaded up our buckets with these and some spartans and headed back to the checkout area. Piled up with varieties like honey crips, liberties, kings, Criterion Apples, it just goes on and on until we spotted a box of ruby red apples just like our variety... a gala apple! GAH! really? just a gala? LIke you buy at the grocery store! We drove waaay out to the country to hand pick our own apples and we selected gala apples! And you know what? they are delicouse ... especially when you put them in a pastry crust, spread a little almond cream, place in some GALA apples, slather with melted butter, and sprinkle with brown sugar and cardomon!

Just gorgouse! Just Gala Apples!

BYOB: Rosemary Foccocia

 I HAVE FINALLY DONE IT! I have been trying to master foccocia. It seems simple enough. Water, olive oil, flour, salt, yeast and water. Right?  NOT! But I wont bog you down with my failures. But how about a photo?
This one came out like a giant greasy cracker. Even the sprinkle of Asiago cheese did not help :(
Several recipes later it all came together for me!
I just want to share with you a secret! Put in potato flakes for some of the flour! HA! I used about a 1/2 cup and had excellent results. Just look!
So light, so fluffy, so tasty right out of the oven! A big thanks to my neighbor M for the rosemary!

Cake Slice Bakers: Cinnamon-Pecan Coffee Cake

The Cake Slice Bakers' have selected a new cook book to bake from for the next year. Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations by Nancie McDermott. 
I have had this book for awhile and have turned out some pretty impressive desserts like this , this and  this, so I was super excited to have this book become our group baking guide. This is one of those cookbooks that I have  full of bookmarded pages. There are so many great recipes and stories.  If you don't have it I highly recommend it. 

So our first selection is the Cinnamon- Pecan Coffee Cake. I traded out some of the cinnamon for cardomon and apples for the raisons. This is a really moiste and buttery cake. The brown sugar, spices, nuts, and fruit are crumbles in between layers of batter with some butter and sprinkled on top. This cake is GOOOOD! The crunchy sweet topping plays nicely with the cake. I think you could do endless versions of fruit, nuts and spices with this recipe. 

My cake did not come out very pretty... I tried to half the recipe and thought there was not evough batter for an 8x8 pan so I switched to a 6 inch round pan... big mistake! but, still tastey! I don't know why I cant just follow a recipe as is. Most of my middle layer of nuts, fruit, and brown sugar erupted though the top for a massive oven boil over. The rest somehow settled on the bottom of the pan in a sticky pool. 

Keep in mind this did not prevent me from eating this cake in any way! 
This post is being automatically posted since I am visiting family. I hope all your cakes came out beautifully! I can't wait to see them when I get back! Don't forget to visit the other Cake Slice Bakers to view more coffee cakes!

Plum Sauce

I was on my nightly walk through the neighborhood with Scout collecting hazelnuts and such when a neighbor stopped me to ask if I was gathering fruit. When I answered yes he invited me a few houses over to his back yard to pick as much fruit as I wanted... AS MUCH FRUIT AS I WANTED.

The Italian plum trees were overloaded with ripe fruit so I picked as many as I could put in my plastic grocery bag before it got too dark to see. I was invited to come back anytime.
The next week I was busy processing pears I got out at a u-pick farm so I made plans to finish up and gather some more of those plums!

I think I ended up with about 15 pounds! In exchange for my neighbors generosity I traded some pear butter and baklava- home made of course! for his plums.

So what to do with all these plums? I don't know enough about jelly or jam to take that on so I found a recipe for an Asian style spicy plum sauce.

The sauce came out really good! It has about 4 pounds of plums, 1 cup sugar, 2 cups brown sugar, 1 cup apple cider vinegar, mustard powder, ginger, garlic, red chili flakes, and onion. It is sweet, sour and spicy hot. I have made my own Moo Shu vegetables with mandarin pancakes and plum sauce.  I have A LOT  left over... any takers?

Handsome Pear Cake

Pears are ripe in the Willamette Valley so I headed out to Deterings Orchard this weekend to pick apples and pears. 
Some pears were dried.

Some pears were made into pear butter and canned.
And a few lucky pears went into a cake experiment.
Can you see the difference? No? how about a side by side comparison?
The slice on the left is made with butter. The slice on the right is made with pear sauce as a lower fat alternative and to pump up the pear flavor.
I like them both. The one with butter is more cake like.... softer tighter crumb and a little moister. The one with pear sauce has a stronger pear flavor and is heartier like a dense sweet bread. ( I may have over developed the gluten) Both have cinnamon and cardamom and both are disappearing rapidly as I perform my taste tests!
This recipe comes from Nancy McDermott"s book"Southern Cakes".
Here is the recipe with a little commentary
Pear Bread:
3 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon ( and 1/2 teaspoon Cardamon! if you like!)
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup butter softened or 3/4 cup oil (or apple sauce/ pear sauce)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
2 cups peeled and finely grated but firm pears
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly grease and flour a 10 inch tube pan or two 9 by 5 inch long pans.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl, and stir with a fork to mix everything well. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of the flour mixture and combine it in a small bowl with the chopped walnuts, stirring and tossing to coat the nuts with the flour. ( I just did this all in one bowl)

In a medium bowl combine the butter or oil, eggs, sugar chopped pears, and vanilla, and stir to mix everything well. Scrap the pear mixture into the flour mixture, and stir just until the flur disappears and the batter is evenly moistened. (ok both times this did not really work and the flour did not easily combine. I ended up with something similar to chocolate chip cookie dough. I recommend adding the flour/nut mixture into the wet mixture a little at a time until blended. be careful about over developing your gluten so don't over mix here.)

Quickly scrape the batter into the prepared pans, and bake at 350 F for 60 to 70 minutes. (Both or mine were done at a bout 45 minutes so check a little early) or until the bread is handsomely browned and firm on top, and a wooden skewer inserted in the  center comes our clean.

Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack or folded kitchen towel for 10 minutes. Then turn it out onto a plate or wire rack to cool completely, top side up. Serve as is or sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

Additional notes: I found this batter to be really thick and a little dry when I followed the directions to add the wet mixture to the dry and mix. Maybe my pears were not as juicy? This bread is really delicious and could easily overthrow Banana as the top fruit quick bread!  Keep an eye on your pear bread about half an hour into the baking time. Both times my cake was "handsomely browned" way before the suggested 60 to 70 minutes. Hee hee "Handsome"!
Hey there Handsome! Smile for the camera!
This bread makes me realize Fall is really here!


Or as we call them here in Oregon... Filberts!

I have known for years that I live right down the road from a remnant hazelnut orchard. It is sort of strange considering I live "down town". In all this time I never thought about collecting these nuts for myself. Instead I would purchase them for about oh.. some insane amount.. per pound at a national grocery chain. Weird huh. Well not this year! This week the hazel nuts are ripe and ready for harvest. According to the WSU extension page on hazelnuts, they are really easy to harvest. When the nuts are ripe they fall out of the tree and release from the pods. You scoop them up. Check them for bugs.

See the little worm trail right into the top? yuch! 

Place them on screens so they can get air circulating around them and let them dry out.

You know they are properly dried when the nutmeat is firm as you bite it instead of being spongey.

French Apple Tart

I am a member of a book of the month club. My intention was to join for the free books, pay for my 3 required books, and get the heck out! The problem friends, is that it isn't just ANY book club it is a COOK BOOK book club. What was I thinking!?

Well, I thought I was just about done falling for their tricks with big discounts and member only offers when a featured selection ended up at my house. The book is "Baking" by James Peterson. I LOVE this book! I know it was an oversight that it got sent to me but now that I have it and have drooled all over the 100's of photos... well I think it was ment to be mine.

In celebration of the beginnings of apple season AND my newest baking cookbook I have prepared my first ever french apple tart. You know I think Im gonna like this James guy if all his recipes are this good!

I used local apples- a mix of gravensteins and liberty apples. Now that I have made this tart... and I will make it again... and again.

I cant help but notice how many overburdened apple trees are around my neighborhood. hmmm.

As a bonus for this recipe you make 1/2 of your apples into an applesauce to use as your base layer in the tart. This applesauce is really good! I never knew it could taste so fresh and appley .  I can not believe how easy it is. Why haven't I done this before? Geez, I really need to learn how to do some canning.  I will definitely need to make some more home made applesauce.

Not too bad on the pattern, but, better make another just to practice. Yum, Practice!

Classic French Apple Tart By James Peterson
4 pounds apples- tart apples for baking
1/2 lemon
1/2 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon to sprinkle over top of tart
1 vanilla bean- optional- I skipped this my beans are too preciouse!
1/2 cup water
1 recipe sweetened or unsweetened basic tart dough
3 tablespoons butter melted
2 tablespoons hot apricot glaze

Peel, halve and core your apple and rub the halves with the lemon. Squeeze the juice out of the lemon into a wide pan or pot. cut half of the apple halves into 1/3 inch cubes and put them in the pan with the lemon juice. Add the 1/2 cup sugar, the vanilla bean, and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring with a rubber spatula, for about 15 minutes, or until the apples soften and all the liquid they release evaporates. Let cool. Slice the remaining apples as thin as you can.
Preheat oven to 375F. Use a 9-10 inch tart pan. Roll the dough into a round 2 inches larger than the pan and use it to line the pan. Spread the cooked apple mixture in the pan and press the sliced apple halves together in your hands to get them to fan out slightly. Arrange them around the sides of the tart, with the fanned end up against the sides of the tart, fitting extra slices in here and there to make them even. Place some broken-up apple slices- use the small end pieces- in the middle of the tart to mound up the apples that are arranged in the middle. Make another ring of apple slices inside the first but facing in the opposite direction. Use a few apple sliced for the tiny round in the middle. Brush generously with the melted butter and sprinkle the 1 tablespoon sugar over all. bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Brush with the glaze with the tart is still hot.
NOTE- My apples stated to burn in the middle mound so I put a little foil tent over them and continues baking. Just be sure you check after 15 minutes or so and then again to make sure yours don't burn!
I did not include a dough recipe because I had problems- not sure if it was me or what.

and just look at this crust.. I am always so afraid of making my own but, this is pretty good stuff!
Maybe the book of the month club isn't such a bad thing!