Cinnamon Apple Cake

     A few weeks ago, we took the boys to an orchard and picked some apples.  By some, I mean a few half bushels. I think our total was around 70 pounds.  I know! What in the world do you do with 70 pounds of apples?  You make things like applesauce, apple pie, and you definitely make this cake.  At least 3 times.  Over the course of 2 weeks.  And then your husband asks you when you are going to make it again.  It's that good. 

     I flagged this recipe as soon as I saw it over on Pinch of Yum (go check it out!) since I was trying to find anything to do with all these apples. A delicious decision to have made.  I topped it with a brown sugar icing, but the cake is so moist you don't need to add a thing.  Butter and sugar are just my "things" so I went with it. 

     Oh, and if you can leave it alone until the day after you make it, it's even better.  But that will probably take super powers.  So go ahead and have a bite, while it's still warm.

Cinnamon Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Icing

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup oil (I used canola)
1 egg
2 apples, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350.  In a medium size bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Mix thoroughly and set aside.  Whisk together buttermilk, oil, egg and sugar in a separate bowl.  Add liquid ingredients to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Stir in apples.  Pour batter into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Cool until just warm before frosting. 

Brown Sugar Icing

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 - 2 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter over medium low heat in a small saucepan.  Add the brown sugar and whisk together.  Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Allow mixture to cool to room temperature and stir in milk.  Beat in powdered sugar to desired consistency.  Spread over slightly warm cake. 

Cake adapted from Pinch of Yum


Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread

     My little brother and I are almost 4 1/2 years apart in age.  When we were kids, I remember wishing two things about him.  One, that he was a girl. And two, that we were closer in age.  Many years later I realize that I was fortunate for having both those things.  I would not have the insight into this all boy world I'm living in today if he were a girl.  Cause let's face it.  Boys are scary.  They do things girls couldn't even imagine doing.  I at least had the advantage of watching one in action before trying to raise my own. I am also thankful I was old enough to create long lasting memories of him as a child.  I can see the mischievous twinkle in my own little boy's eyes that I once saw in his and know where this is headed.

And no, it probably isn't anywhere good.

   Not all my memories of him are the toil and trouble kind though.  I distinctly remember how a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread would make his day. Especially the loaf we would get from a nearby Amish family's store.  It was always topped in a simple vanilla glaze. This loaf comes pretty close to that one.  At least I think so...  I don't remember the bread itself as much as I remember how much he loved it.  If only he lived a few hundred miles closer, I would make it for him to see how it measured up.

     But if memories of your little brother (or sister, for that matter) don't evoke the warm and fuzzies then go bake this bread and let it do that for you. 

Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread

For the dough:
1/2 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup raisins, rinsed and patted dry
3 1/4-3 3/4 cups (16 1/4 to 18 3/4 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour

For the filling:
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
milk for brushing

For the glaze:
1 large egg
2 teaspoons milk

To make the dough, heat milk and butter in a small saucepan  or in the microwave until the butter melts.  Cool until warm (about 110 degrees).

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add warm water and sprinkle with the yeast. On low speed, mix in sugar and eggs. Add salt, milk mixture, and 2 cups of flour. Mix on medium speed until blended, about 1 minute. Switch to the dough hook and add 1 1/4 cups more flour and knead at medium-low speed for 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl. After 8 minutes of kneading add the raisins and continue to knead.  Add flour sparingly if the dough sticks to the side of the bowl, until the dough is smooth and comes away from sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough onto a work surface. If the dough is sticky, knead up to a 1/2 cup more flour to form a smooth, elastic, soft dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. After the rise, punch down lightly.  Turn the dough out onto and unfloured surface making sure not to fold the dough while doing so.  Let rest for 10 minutes to allow gluten to relax.

To make the filling, mix the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.  Press the dough into a 8 by 6 inch rectangle with the short side facing you.  Roll the dough into a 18 by 8 inch rectangle.  Brush the dough liberally with milk.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture making sure to leave a 1/2 inch border on the far side.  Start with the side closest to you and roll up the dough, pinching the dough gently to make it is tightly sealed.  Pinch the seams closed when finished rolling, including each end.  

Place the loaf, seam side down into a prepared 9 by 5 inch loaf pan.  Press lightly to flatten.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until dough is 1 inch above the top of the pan, about 1 1/2 hours.  As the dough nears the top of the pan, adjust over rack to center position and preheat to 350 degrees.  

To make the glaze, whisk egg and milk together in a small bowl.  Gently brush the loaf with egg mixture when fully risen.  

Bake the loaf until it is golden brown and the temperature is 185 to 190 degrees.  Cool on a wire rack until room temperature, at least 45 minutes.  

Adapted from Baking Illustrated


Blueberry Buckle

I love my boys.  They are a constant source of entertainment.

And, a constant source of frustration.

My oldest man child says he likes blueberries.  But not in scones.  No, not in pancakes either (WHAT???).  Or even fresh for that matter. 

Muffins?  That's a different story.  Loves them.  How do blueberries differ in muffins than from in scones or pancakes you ask?  Yeah, I can't figure that out either.  Frustrating. 

I knew I could win him over with this buckle though.  It's basically a giant muffin. Covered in a thick streusel topping and bursting with berries in every bite.  There is nothing to not love about this.  And love it he did.

Blueberry Buckle

For the Streusel
1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, softened

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the flour, both sugar, cinnamon and salt on low to combine and break up any brown sugar lumps.  With the mixer still on low, add the butter and beat until it is completely incorporated into the dry ingredients, about 2-3 minutes - the mixture will resemble wet sand.  Transfer the streusel to another bowl and set aside.

For the cake
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (4 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4 cups fresh blueberries (about 20 oz)

Preheat oven to 350 F with a rack in the lower third of the oven.  Line the bottom of a 9-inch round pan with a round of parchment, then spray the parchment and the pan with nonstick cooking spray with flour.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder together then set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, salt and lemon zest at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Beat in the vanilla.  Add the eggs, on at a time, beating well after each addition.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture, beating until just about incorporated.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to finish stirring - the batter will be very thick.  Gently fold in the blueberries.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan; spread in an even layer.  To top with the streusel - pick up a handful of streusel and squeeze to form a clump.  Break this large clump into smaller pieces and sprinkle over the batter.  Continue until you've used all of the streusel.  Bake for about 55 minutes, or until the streusel is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool for 15-20 minutes.  Run a thin knife around the edges of the cake then invert it onto the rack.  Remove the parchment then turn the cake streusel side up and let cool on the wire rack.

 Adapted from Tracy's Culinary Adventure
Originally from Cooks Illustrated 


Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

I am so happy that fall is finally here. Although with the 90 degree temperature today, it feels like I must have only been dreaming of the cooler weather that we had just a few days ago.  I'm not ready to say goodbye to all the fresh vegetables I'm still bringing in from the garden, but I am ready for the temperatures to be at least below 80.  It is October after all.

The start of comfort food season.

Like a steaming bowl of soup.  With a warm loaf of bread.  Smothered in some honey butter.

Yep, I could eat that everyday during these colder months.

This chicken and gnocchi soup fits the bill for me.  Creamy and full of flavor.  Just as good, if not better than the version it is recreated from. 

It's always fun for me to create dishes we've had at a restaurant here at home.  I'm easily amused, what can I say.

Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

1 cup chicken, cooked and shredded
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 quart half and half
1 (14 oz) can of chicken broth
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1 cup carrots, finely shredded
1 cup onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup spinach, coarsely chopped (if using frozen, be sure to drain thoroughly)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound potato gnocchi, cooked

Freshly grated parmesan

Saute the onion, celery and carrots in the butter and olive oil over medium heat until the onion becomes translucent. Add the minced garlic, thyme and parsley and cook for about 30 seconds.  Add the flour and make a roux. Let the butter and flour mixture cook for a minute before adding 1 quart of half and half.  Once the mixture thickens, add the chicken broth. Allow mixture to heat up and thicken again. Then add the chicken, cooked gnocchi, spinach  and simmer until soup is heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Top with freshly grated parmesan before serving.  

Slightly adapted from CopyKat Recipes