Fresh Cherry Crumb Bars Recipe

This recipe can really be described in just a few words: fresh, sweet cherries, buttery crumb cake, and a hint of almond. It’s sort of a multi-occasion treat – served best warm, or cold, or for breakfast, or for a mid-day snack, or even for dessert… and probably amazing with fresh whipped cream, although I didn’t think to make any before we cleaned out the entire pan. (Twice… I’ve made this two times in the month of July already, it’s that good!)

 

Fresh Cherry Crumb Bars

If I were to change anything else, I’d probably sprinkle sliced almonds onto the top layer of the batter before putting it in the oven. I did add a little splash of vanilla extract and almond extract to the cherry filling,, which wasn’t called for in the recipe but was something I felt it needed. I also omitted the orange zest, as we had fresh squeezed OJ but no zest.

 

Fresh Cherry Crumb Bars plated

Fresh Cherry Crumb Bars

Recipe found on Bakeaholic
Yield: 30 1 1/2 inch Bars

Crust and Topping
1/2 cup brown, packed
1/2 cup white
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest of one orange
Cherry Filling
4 cups cherries, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
Zest and juice of one orange

*splash of vanilla extract and almond extract (about 1/2 tsp. each) Optional, but I liked the addition

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

In a large bowl (or food processor), stir together 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup white sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and orange zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter (or pulse mixture if using food processor) to blend in the butter and egg. [I used my hands to gently mix. It was more fun, and achieved the same consistency.] Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, juice and zest of one orange , *and extracts, if using. Gently mix in the cherries. Sprinkle the cherry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

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Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows and a Gift Packaging Template

It’s that time of year – peppermint season!

Okay..peppermint can be enjoyed year-round, but I personally associate it with wintertime. I’ve been so busy with work (for which I am grateful!) that I haven’t had much time to enjoy many holiday festivities, baking and candy making included.

The very first thing on my to-make list when I had a spare moment was marshmallows. Not just any marshmallows – peppermint marshmallows!

PeppermintMarshmallows01

If you haven’t tried your hand at homemade marshmallows, have no fear; they’re incredibly easy to make. The hardest part is the waiting! Last year I made regular vanilla marshmallows, and thought I would switch it up with peppermint. (Oh – I also made some pumpkin ones in October! Those were equally amazing!) I made a batch of these peppermint ones the other day, and shipped most of them off to various parts of the country as part of my Christmas packages to family and friends, but did keep a few to enjoy here at home.

PeppermintMarshmallows2

.. and as expected, they’re absolutely delicious in hot chocolate!

For whatever reason, inspiration struck when I was packaging these for gifts. I made some labels for the packages, and found some adorable red and white striped ribbon in my supply stash.

PeppermintMarshmallows3

It’s not too late to whip up a batch of these yourself for some last minute holiday gifts! To save some time, I thought that you might like to use these labels too..

PeppermintMarshmallowsLabel

You can right-click and save the above image (a .jpg) and print it as you wish, but I also made a high-res .pdf file that you can download and print (it has 6 labels per page.) Click the link to view and save or print the file: https://victoriaallison.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/peppermintmarshmallows-printout.pdf

And last but not least, here’s the recipe I used:

Homemade Marshmallows

Bon Appétit  | July 2008

by Molly Wizenberg

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 3 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (for the peppermint version, I used 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp peppermint extract.)
  • * Optional: 2-3 drops red food coloring
  • 1/2 cup potato starch**
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar**
** I use cornstarch.. I also use about 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/4 cup powdered sugar. It’s PLENTY!
Directions:

Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil.

Coat foil lightly with nonstick spray. Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.

Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over mediumlow heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Attach candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat and bring syrup to boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240°F, about 8 minutes.

With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in thin stream down side of bowl (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk, as it may splash). Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to blend, about 30 seconds longer.

*Optional: I added a couple of drops of red food coloring and gently stirred it into the marshmallows to create a light pink ‘swirl’ effect.

Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top with wet spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours.

Stir potato starch and powdered sugar in small bowl to blend. Sift generous dusting of starch-sugar mixture onto work surface, forming rectangle slightly larger than 13×9 inches. Turn marshmallow slab out onto starch-sugar mixture; peel off foil. Sift more starch-sugar mixture over marshmallow slab. Coat large sharp knife (or cookie cutters) with nonstick spray. Cut marshmallows into squares or other shapes. Toss each in remaining starch-sugar mixture to coat. Transfer marshmallows to rack, shaking off excess mixture.

 

Enjoy!

Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Maple Frosting and Candied Bacon

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you may want to skip this post. If not, allow me to introduce you to my latest cupcake creation..

Yup, that’s bacon. But not just any bacon – candied bacon. If you’re a fan of bacon and you’ve never had this – as I hadn’t before last night – then you’re missing out! It’s sweet and sugary, salty and savory all in one delicious bite. Oh, yeah, and there’s some other stuff below the bacon in these too.. brown sugar cake and maple frosting. I don’t know how to describe this cupcake other than a curious hybrid between breakfast and dessert. Is there a word for that? ‘Bressert,’ maybe? (Okay, that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as ‘brinner!’)

I’d never made any of the components of this recipe before, but I had high hopes that were not disappointed. I started with the cupcake recipe… admittedly, I found this recipe because we had run out of white sugar and I still wanted a cupcake. In typical cupcake-baking fashion, my mind and hands started to meander through the cupboards in search of what else I could combine them with. I had originally been thinking about candied nuts, but we didn’t have walnuts or pecans and I didn’t think peanuts would be a good match.

That’s when the light bulb went off – we had bacon! And maple syrup! The decision was clearly made. I had no idea how to make candied bacon, but was pleasantly surprised at how ridiculously simple it was. I didn’t bother looking for a recipe for the maple syrup frosting, since I didn’t have enough powdered sugar to make a full batch anyway. You can’t really tell from the pictures, but it was sort of a cross between a maple glaze and a maple frosting. I would have preferred a typical fluffy frosting, but the taste and consistency was enough to satisfy the sugar craving.

Okay, I know you’re just scrolling on through for the recipes, so here you go!

For the cupcakes, I used half of the original recipe, which made 6 perfect cupcakes. (I use silicone liners.) I also replaced equal amounts of butter with vegetable oil instead. (So in my case, I used 1/4 Cup vegetable oil.) The cupcakes turned out really moist and delicious, so I can’t vouch for changes in flavor/texture if you use the butter. I’ve been using oil in my cakes/cupcakes since I prefer cupcakes a little less dry. You’ll notice this recipe has no white sugar. I really liked the flavor of these.. they weren’t overly sweet at all, so don’t be afraid of piling on the frosting!

Brown Sugar Cupcakes

[originally from How Sweet It Is]

makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 cup loosely packed brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled (I used vegetable oil)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt, stirring to mix. Set aside. Line a cupcake tin with liners.

In a large bowl, whisk brown sugar and egg until smooth. Add in vanilla extract and milk, again mixing until combined. Slowly pour in melted butter, continuing to whisk. Add in the flour, soda and salt, mixing with a large spoon until batter is smooth.

Using a 1/4 cup measure, add batter to liners. Bake for 16-19 minutes, or until tops are puffy and golden, and don’t jiggle when touched. (Mine were perfect at 19 minutes! Golden brown with a nice dome.) Let cool completely.

Frosting… umm.. no recipe, sorry! I would advise using your favorite vanilla frosting recipe and adding in maple syrup until you’ve reached your desired flavor and consistency. For my 6 cupcakes, I used 2 TB softened butter, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 C powdered sugar, a splash of milk and oh.. about.. 2-3 TB of maple syrup. I needed another 1 C powdered sugar and another splash of milk to get my normal frosting fluffiness, but ran out of sugar, as mentioned above. Honestly, you could make a maple glaze for these and it would still be delicious, or you could make a traditional frosting with the added maple syrup.

Candied Bacon.. this one is super easy! I used a thick cut applewood smoked bacon, which needed a little extra cooking time. Set the timer for a shorter amount of time than you think these will need, and check on them frequently – you don’t want the sugar to burn and in turn burn your bacon!

I reviewed a half a dozen recipes for candied bacon, and the general idea is this:

1. Pour some brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon (if you like cinnamon) onto a plate

2. Coat bacon on both sides with the brown sugar mix

3. Prepare your baking sheet – cover it with aluminum foil, and place a wire rack on top. Spray the wire rack with non-stick spray.

4. Place sugar coated bacon on the baking sheet and bake for about 20-30 minutes until the sugar is syrupy and the bacon has the desired crispness that you prefer. (General oven settings were 325-F for regular bacon, 350-F for thick cut bacon.)

5. Remove from oven and immediately take the bacon off the rack, and allow to cool completely before chopping. (If you can resist eating it all first!)

I used thick cut bacon with my oven at 350-F for 25 minutes. I probably could have put them in another 5 minutes before they burned, but it smelled too good to wait!

Well, there you have it! Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I hear a cupcake calling my name…

Summer Strawberry Cake

Designing collections essentially means that you’re always thinking at least a full season ahead..usually 6 months or more! This happens so often, that I sometimes forget to live at least a little bit in the season we’re in right this moment.

Not wanting summer to completely pass me by without notice, I took advantage of the beautiful weather and went strawberry picking with my guy. I’ve been wanting to do this since May; needless to say, it was long overdue! We packed a lunch and headed west towards Highway 1, to Swanton Berry Farm in Pescadero – a cute little town along the California coast.  Swanton’s has two strawberry fields to choose from. One field is north of the farmstand, and overlooks the ocean. The second field is adjacent to the farmstand itself. We chose the field overlooking the Pacific. Wouldn’t you?

Sadly, I didn’t remember to bring my camera, but we did get a couple of pics on the cell phone.

 

These berries have a pretty amazing view, don’t you think?

Swanton Berry Farm northern field

 

Pretty little strawberry blossoms..

Strawberry flowers

 

We ended up coming home with 6 pounds of strawberries! Not wasting any time, this weekend I made a batch of strawberry jam, strawberry butter, and strawberry cake. We’ll be having strawberries on our salad today, and will freeze the remaining berries for using later on. (Maybe strawberry rhubarb jam?)

The strawberry cake:

Slice of Strawberry CakeTopped with a dusting of powdered sugar..

Strawberry CakeFull cake!

Strawberry Cake close upClose-up – Yum!

My only regret is that we did not have any vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream. Darn. This recipe was ideal, because it only makes one pan of cake – perfect for two people! (Or four, if you feel like sharing…) Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Martha Stewart’s website:

Strawberry Cake

Martha Stewart Living, June 2005

  • Yield Makes one 10-inch cake

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pie plate
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie plate. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl.
  2. Put butter and 1 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, milk, and vanilla.
  3. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Transfer batter to buttered pie plate. Arrange strawberries on top of batter, cut sides down and as close together as possible. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.
  4. Bake cake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 1 hour. Let cool in pie plate on a wire rack. Cut into wedges. Cake can be stored at room temperature, loosely covered, up to 2 days.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies and the Approaching Fall Season

Growing up in New England,  I became a pretty huge fan of the Fall season. It’s hard not to love the beautiful changing leaves, bright orange pumpkins, crisp apples, spicy cinnamon, fuzzy knit scarves and fall boots. Let’s not forget the pumpkin spice lattes! Mmm. Admittedly, I’m not a coffee drinker. I make an exception for those lattes!

Even though I no longer live in New England, I still crave everything that Fall has to offer and typically start looking forward to it as early as August.

I’ve recently become addicted to Pinterest, which has sparked my Fall passion just a little bit early this year, as I feverishly “pin” a billion seasonal decorations and recipes a full 9 weeks before October even arrives.

With that being said, I thought I should share one of my favorite Fall recipes. I can usually hold out until September before I make these tasty little treats, but I make no promises this year!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Decidedly more common on the east coast, I’ve been introducing whoopie pies to my friends here on the west coast.  These are so good, that I’ve had requests to make them every year for the past 9 years and counting. The spiced cream cheese filling is plentiful. Leftovers are also great used as a topping for banana bread, gingersnaps, etc..

Tip: Use a “cookie scoop” (or small ice cream scoop) if you’d prefer evenly sized, round cakes formed in the easiest way possible; Unless you’re a whiz with the double spoon action.. in that case, disregard the tip!

Cake Part:
1/2 can regular sized (14oz) pureed pumpkin (about 1 cup)
1/3 C softened unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 package spice cake mix [this is literally the only recipe I make that uses a box mix! I should convert it to a regular recipe at some point..]
1/2 C milk
Parchment paper for lining the baking sheet

In a large bowl, beat pumpkin and butter until smooth. Add spice cake mix, eggs, milk, and beat at a low speed until combined for 1 minute. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a spoon or mini ice cream scoop to ladle scoops of batter, about 3 inches apart, on the lined cookie sheets. Bake at 375-F until lightly browned around the edges (about 15 minutes.) Cool the cakes on the parchment paper placed on a cooling rack so they do not become sticky.

Filling:
1/2 C softened unsalted butter (you could get away with using less if you want)
8oz package cream cheese, softened
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/2 of a 7oz jar marsmallow creme (you can use fluff if you don’t have creme. Just ‘melt’ it slightly in the microwave for a few seconds first to thicken it)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Mix dry ingredients in small bowl. In mixing bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add cream cheese and marshmallow creme and continue beating. Add the dry ingredients, a little at a time, mixing until smooth and incorporated. The longer you mix it the fluffy it will become.

Once the cakes are cooled, spread filling on the flat half of one cake, and top with another cake to make a sandwich. Enjoy! (Don’t be surprised if you can’t eat just one!)