Sunday, December 8, 2013

Velvet Chocolate Walnut Fudge with Olive Oil and Fleur de Sel

Now that is some title for a post. My first thought was "yichs" but upon further consideration and thought, I decided that I am an open-minded person and the introduction of unusual combinations of flavors is not something I am opposed to. I've experimented in the past with  basil lime macrons - amazing. So off to work.

This recipe calls for homemade marshmallow creme- fluff in layman's terms. Who remembers marshmallow fluff? That sickeningly sweet but delicious spreadable creme that some of us made fluffernutters with.

Marshmallow creme
Marshmallow creme is an American food item. It is a very sweet, spreadable, marshmallow-like confection. Marshmallow creme and peanut butter are used to create a fluffernutter sandwich. Wikipedia

A Fluffernutter is a sandwich made with peanut butter and marshmallow creme, usually served on white bread. Variations of the sandwich include the substitution of wheat bread and the addition of various sweet, salty and savory ingredients. Wikipedia
I love making things from scratch when I have the time and energy. The marshmallow creme recipe is easy and so very different and better than the store bought stuff. I liked the fact that it makes more than the basic recipe for the fudge needs , so having leftovers is a plus. I guess... as long as I use it to make something and not spoon it out of the jar into my mouth!

puffy clouds of marshmallow creme

homemade marshmallow creme

I made the creme the night before and the fudge the following morning. It's a simple process, but you must be right there for the whole time- don't go to the bathroom, answer the phone or the door or else you will have a burnt mess that is almost impossible to clean. Not that it happened to me, but I can see the potential- scary!

my messy work area

The fudge comes together nicely and set up very quickly. The recipe calls for evaporated milk, which is virtually impossible to buy here. The one time I did see it, a small can cost something like $20.00 - uh, no, thank you! So I searched for substitutes and found that combining 2/3 cup of non-fat dried milk powder and 3/4 cup of water  will yield the same results.  Although I have not tried it with real evaporated milk, the results seem to be just perfect.    

scoring the top before the fudge settles so the oil can seep in
 The final step after cutting it into small pieces (the recipe calls for 16 pieces- I cut them smaller since I think fudge is so rich that less is better) is drizzling olive oil and Fleur de sel on top. I have a very special hazelnut oil that is something out of this world, and since the combination of hazelnut and chocolate is a winner, I decided to use that instead. Sprinkle with a touch of the Fleur de sel to counter the sweetness and you've got a delicious and a bit unusual treat.
I also drizzled some of the fudge with olive oil and that, too, is a special treat- different angle of flavor but just as good. Using a good quality olive oil is important here.

If you'd like to give these a try, you can find the recipe here at Baked Sunday Mornings.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Antique Caramel Cake

Sometimes when I'm baking and think everything is going just fine, that is usually the sign that something is going to go wrong.

So it was with this cake. 

Cake- easy and straightforward to make- came out perfect. 

Frosting- a different story. Actually the making of the frosting went fine. The recipe did say that if it seemed a bit loose to use right away, to refrigerate it for a few hours. OK.... did that. When I got ready to frost the cake, it seemed a bit more spreadable , but the minute I started frosting the cake it ran down the sides and wouldn't  hold it's shape. How disappointing...:-(

Now that is not to say anything about the flavor. "A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet". The cake AND the frosting, both separate and together are delicious. What I particularly like about the frosting is that it's not too sweet and because of the cream cheese has a slight tang that makes it special. The cake is light, not over sweet either and the combination is great. I could really see this cake being presented very elegantly, but for me, it didn't work visually. Maybe as cupcakes it could work better. next time.
Try it anyways- have it with afternoon coffee, for a sweet breakfast or a late night treat. You can find the recipe here at Baked Sunday Mornings.

Next day note- I just ate the piece of cake I cut for the photo and droopy or not, it's worth it!

droopy mess!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Good Morning Sunshine Bars

Good Morning Sunshine Bars- if your morning sun is not shining, then these will certainly remedy that situation. If you're feeling sluggish- these will definitely get you up and going. 
But they should come with a warning- HAZARD- ADDICTIVE !

The taste reminds me of a snickers bar but with a crunchy texture, thanks to the cereal.  These are easy to make, no baking involved. Just heating the corn syrup, brown sugar, peanut butter, vanilla and a touch of salt, so that's one pot. Mix the cereal and peanuts in a large bowl(that's two) pour the heated mixture over them and stir, transfer to an oblong baking dish(that makes three) and drizzle chocolate on top. That's three bowls/pots/pans I counted- not a bad clean-up.
Depending on the size baking dish you use, they can be thicker or thinner. I used a 9x13 dish and they came out fairly thick. I might try a larger pan next time to have them spread out thinner.  Either way, they are really, really good! Really!

 You can find the recipe here, at Baked Sunday Mornings. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Devil Dogs

Anybody remember Ring Dings, Yodels or Devil Dogs? I do, especially Yodels- I think my brother used to eat them by the box. That is if my memory serves me correctly. Mom, do you remember something along those lines?  I don't remember eating Devil Dogs so much but certainly they are familiar. 
A bit of history on Devil Dogs and the like. They were made by a company called Drake's that originated in Brooklyn. They have since been sold out to a large food corporation.
The description of a Devil Dog:
An unfrosted devil's food cake sandwich with vanilla creme with round edged cake wafers resembling a hot dog. This is what the box looked like.
I think the description is pretty accurate.

Last week's assignment for Baked Sunday Mornings ( which I missed , so posting this now-better late than never) was for Devil Dogs with a Malted Milk Buttercream filling.
These were fairly straightforward to make and assemble. I put them all together from start to finish in about an hour. The only change I made to the recipe was the malted milk in the buttercream. The closest I can come to malted milk powder here is Ovaltine. This also has a malted flavor but gives the cream a darker color. It is a fine substitute, though you could completely change the filling with your own preference of flavors. 
The texture of the cookie is soft and chewy- quite yummy. The slight malted flavor of the cream really adds some depth to the whole experience. 
If you are nostalgic and looking for an update on a childhood treat, this is it. And even if you're not nostalgic, try them anyways- they're just good!

Perfect with a cold glass of milk!

You can find the recipe here- Baked Sunday Mornings

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pumpkin Nut Crunch Muffins

I love to bake so much, that sometimes I will wake up early in the morning and throw something together before I leave for work. Some may say I'm crazy- why would you want to wake up when it's still dark out, to bake?  For me, it's the best start for a day. I get in my "fix" ( if I don't come home after work and bake some more) and my day is always better when it begins with baking. 

Listen, everyone has a little "thing"- this one is mine.

So, early this morning I was going through my routine of checking mail, FB (tried to stop but that didn't work), Pinterest- and somewhere, can't remember where, I came across this recipe by Jennifer at Once Upon a Chef.  Looked like my kind of recipe so I dove right in, put it together in 45 minutes (including the baking) and took them to school hot- right out of the oven. 

I think my colleagues were pleased, at least it appeared that way! Hey, if I can bring a smile to someones face with my baking, then I've achieved my goal! Many have asked for the recipe so- here you go guys- have fun!

Make these- now. You won't be sorry. 

Then, make them again.

Pumpkin Nut Crunch Muffins
(adapted from

Makes about 18 standard muffins

What you need
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup demerara sugar
½ cup chopped pecans  or walnuts
¼ teaspoon cinnamon


2 cups all-purpose flour (280 grams)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1½ cups granulated sugar (300 grams)
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened (170 grams)
2 large eggs
1 15-ounce can 100% pure pumpkin

What to do

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Spray two standard muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray.

For Topping: Combine flour, butter, demerara sugar, chopped pecans or walnuts and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.

For Muffins: Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl and mix well (I use a whisk). Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar at low speed until just blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; continue beating at medium speed until very light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add pumpkin and beat until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Turn speed down to low and mix in flour mixture until just combined. Use an ice cream scoop to transfer batter to muffin pans, filling each muffin tin about ¾ full. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter. Bake for about 30 minutes. Let cool on rack for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely (use a butter knife to lift them out of pan).

I also made some without the nuts for anyone who either doesn't like nuts or has an allergy.

These are easy and quick to make, taste amazing right out of the oven or later if you can wait. Perfect for freezing and pulling out whenever you get the craving!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fall and Halloween

I haven't done any cookie decorating in a long time. I miss it. I love doing it. So why don't I do it more? A little thing called time. Lack of it, that is. But lately I have come to the conclusion that to do what I enjoy I have to reset my priorities. Make the time. Let other things go that are not as important- to me at least. 

So here is my first batch in my months. Fall is just starting to understand that it's time to arrive where I live. We have fall for , well, maybe a week if we're lucky, then comes our version of winter. Nothing like what I grew up with, but still different -cooler( thank you, thank you, thank you!)than the unbearable summer here. 

I'm already working on the next set- a celebration of a very special little girl. That to come next week.
In the meantime- it's good to be back!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

I miss the fall; autumn that is. Growing up in Upstate New York, the four seasons were very evident- each season having it's own characteristics, each with it's own personality. The gradual change from summer to fall has always been my favorite. That first gentle hint of cool air, the colors around you changing before your eyes. With the change of seasons comes change of habits- light t-shirts and shorts go into storage and the sweaters and long pants are brought down. Foods change- from ice cream, watermelon and light salads to soups, breads and things that make you feel warm inside. I miss that. A lot. 

So you ask- what are you doing living in the Middle East, where the season goes from hot to hotter and muggy to muggier. Once in a while the temperature drops so at night you may have to bring along a light sweater, just in case. As for rain- the whole country stops when a few drops fall from the sky-traffic jams, flooding (they don't know the meaning of the word flooding), news bulletins. 

I see the stores filled with winter clothing and I mean real winter clothing. Who can wear that stuff in 75 degree weather? OK, so I suffer from the heat and just the thought of a heavy winter coat makes me sweat! But even so..... As far as the question goes why I live in such a hot climate- that's a tale for another time.

The little desk teapot was a fun find at an outdoor flea market in Amsterdam!

Which brings me back to missing the fall. Certain foods represent the fall season, pumpkin being one of the most evident- you know, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas not long to follow.
These pumpkin cheesecake bars are not to be missed. For some reason I was skeptical about the sweet pastry crust- I thought a graham cracker type crust would be better, but I followed the directions "as is" and was very pleasantly surprised. Actually, I must tell the truth- "as is" is completely accurate. It calls for making homemade pumpkin puree, and though I am a big (OMG!) The homemade puree will come at another time but for now the canned version certainly did the trick. The recipe for these delicious bars can be found at Baked Sundays Mornings or in the book Baked Elements by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.

Happy Fall!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

It's been a very long time since my last post. Life just seems to get in the way and take over. Sometimes I feel like I'm standing on the corner, watching my life go by but not participating in it.
Too fast, too much- gotta slow down and take things easy, get priorities in order and do what I need but also what I love. And that is baking! The summer has been so hot here ( I know it's already October, but here you'd think it was the middle of July) that the thought of going into the kitchen and turning on the oven has been a complete no-no.

I have also returned to work after a wonderful sabbatical year and it has been much more difficult getting back into the groove than I had imagined. But that's another story altogether.
To keep my sanity and follow my thoughts of doing what I love, I am finally getting back to some baking. 

Snicker doodles are a basic old-fashioned type of cookies, that believe it or not, I had never tried. They sounded uninteresting and dry to me - just never caught my fancy. This was my opportunity to give them a try since I trust and respect and love just about every recipe that comes from Baked. If they make them, then they've got to be good. 

Browning the butter was easier than I had expected. The cookies came out great, with the amazing help of my granddaughter , Ronny. She did all the rolling in cinnamon and placing them on the cookie sheet. We had so much fun!
You can find the recipe here, at Baked Sunday Mornings. Give them a try, you won't be sorry!

in the oven

Ronny doing her thing

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

New Look

I'm playing around with some new looks for my blog. Bear with me while I try out new templates and arrangements. Feel free to make any comments- good , bad or indifferent- your input is valued!
In the meantime, a delicious Oriental Ramen Noodle Salad for hot summer days.
Sorry, no picture, but believe me, it's worth it.

Oriental Ramen Noodle Salad

1 pkg. ramen noodles whatever flavor you want- break them up and put on a baking sheet and toast them for 5- 10 min. watch them so they don’t burn. You can do this in advance. I also toast the sunflower seeds and almonds with them
½ cup sunflower seeds
¾ cup sliced thin almonds
2-3 green onions
½ green pepper, ½ red pepper
½- 1 head of cabbage- chopped like cold slaw in thin slices

½ cup sugar- I use a LOT less, more like ¼ cup
1/3 cup vinegar (I use regular, not wine, but I suppose you could, white would be better than red)
½ cup canola oil
seasoning pack from the noodles
Mix and shake all together.
Put cabbage in a serving bowl, add toasted noodles, nuts, seeds and veggies to slaw, add dressing and toss well.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Here and There.....

It's been quite a while since my last post. I've been doing some traveling- the U.S. to visit family and organize American citizenship for my grandchildren. Everything went smoothly and they are now officially "Americans".

Visiting girlfriends in Arizona and New York ( no kids this time- just  on my own!!) was one of the best times I've had in a long while. Lots of good eats, shopping, girl talk and laughing. Definitely a recommended getaway! I walked the streets of New York endlessly. I can't ever seem to get enough of that city. So much to see, experience, EAT(!!!) and buy. And EAT- did I mention that?

 (do ya think I like sweets?)

Upon my return home, I had a few baking projects awaiting. Here are a few.
soccer cake for a birthday party

Strawberry Shortcake cookies for my granddaughter's 3rd birthday

dragon cookies for a knight in shining armor
My husband surprised me with a quick weekend getaway to Warsaw. I know that doesn't sound like the most amazing destination, but it is an amazing city with a fascinating history. Since the city was completely destroyed at the end of WWII, everything is new. The Old City has been reconstructed exactly as it was and the cobblestone streets have much to offer in the way of food, cafes and street performances. We had excellent weather ( as opposed to the forecast which predicted rain, lightening and thunder..???) and walked our feet of, as we do in every city we visit.
an amazing candy store in Warsaw- such beautiful colors and designs!

cutting the candy on the premises- she was cutting so fast I was afraid she might take a finger off!

the one remaining synagogue in Warsaw

the only remaining building from the Warsaw ghetto

photos of residents past

In the interim, there have been a few Friday night dinners at home with kids and grand-kids. Some good recipes ( to be posted in the near future- hopefully).

One more jaunt before the end of my sabbatical ( sigh, sigh... it has been so awesome). We are off to Vienna and Germany for 12 days at the end of June. Looking forward to seeing a close friend in Frankfurt, traveling by car and seeing the sites.

That's it for now- just a quick catch up before I get back in to the swing of things.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Last Days of Passover


 Another eight days of matzoh is coming to an end. Although some feel that this holiday  is very limiting as far as baking goes, I actually look upon it as a challenge. I enjoy making cakes and sweets that are good enough not to be identified as "Passover versions". They need to be good enough to make and eat all year long. A  flour less chocolate cake (recipe and pics to come at another time) that is more like fudge than cake, and these Passover Coconut Macaroon Twix Bars from Kitchen Tested. These were a big hit, absolutely delicious and can be adapted for all year round.
One of my most reliable sources for amazing recipes is Smitten Kitchen. I don't think I've ever had a failure with anything of Deb's. This chocolate-hazelnut macaroon torte is a perfect example. Deb does not like using matzoh meal in any of her creations, so this has a multiple layer of large macaroons using ground hazelnuts (I didn't have enough hazelnuts so I used some ground almonds as well- worked just fine). I tasted some crumbs of the layers and it's just yummy! Mine didn't come out quite as pretty as hers, but I am happy with the result.


 Off for a month long trip to the U.S. with probably not much baking if any.  Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Malted Milk Sandwich Cookies

These cookies almost didn't make it to the blog. I thought I was being so efficient, making them in advance, being ready to photograph and post on time. They went over so big that I sent whatever was leftover from Friday night dinner, home with my daughter. Suddenly realizing I hadn't photographed even one cookie, I quickly called her and asked if any were left. Yes! Save a few , I asked, and I'll come over tomorrow morning to take a few shots before they disappear into my granddaughter's stomach!
And so it was. These cookies really were delicious, easy to make and have a beautiful warm, deep flavor. The recipe calls for a vanilla filling, which I'm sure is perfect with it, and I will try it next time. This time, I took a short cut and used some the leftover butter cream from a previous recipe, that I had frozen. I defrosted the butter cream and re-whipped to fluff it back up -worked just wonderfully. It's definitely worth freezing frosting if you have leftover- you never know when it may come in handy.

 You can find the recipe here- give them a try!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Honey Banana Poppy Seed Bread(?) Loaf(?) Cake(?)

Saturday morning, March 2nd- an amazingly gorgeous day! The sun is shining, not a cloud in the sky. Warm enough to walk outside with short sleeves, but still with that pleasant coolness in the air. A perfect day for what ever you want to do! I just returned from a long walk feeling energized and refreshed.Unfortunately, I didn't take my camera with me to show you how beautiful a day it is but you can probably imagine. Every time I get lazy about taking my walk ( I try to comply at least 3 times a week), I need to think about how good I feel after. It is definitely worth it.

This week , Baked Sunday Mornings is making this lovely, refreshing honey banana poppy seed loaf. As usual, I changed the pan it was baked it. Instead of making a loaf, I used this mini bundt pan that has been sitting in the cupboard, crying out to be used more often. The recipe is ridiculously easy and for those of you who either don't have a mixer or hate taking it out, this one is for you. All done by hand, comes together in a few minutes and poof! , you have something to serve guests or munch on by yourself! I had some leftover mixture and made a few muffins as well. Sprinkled with a little powdered sugar, they are are a perfect individual portion for afternoon tea, breakfast, midnight snack.........whenever!
You can get the recipe here.
Hope your Saturday is as lovely as mine!    

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Vanilla Bean and Chocolate Budino

Budino- never heard the word before. Looked it up ( even though it said what it was  in Baked Explorations) and it is basically the Italian word for pudding or custard.
Surprisingly easy to make, the rich, velvety texture bears no resemblance whatsoever to store bought stuff. 

It really is a few moments in heaven as the rich, but not too sweet custard slides down your throat, and you get the slight hint of the bourbon /vanilla from the white pudding ( love seeing those specks of vanilla!) and the creamy softness of the milk chocolate.
You can eat it with or without the whipped cream- just looks pretty I think.

Grab the recipe here and enjoy!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Speculaas (better known as Biscoff cookies)

Today, I am the rogue baker. According to the recipe schedule for Baked Sunday Mornings, I should be making these. Alas, no one home to eat them, besides the fact that I am missing so many of the ingredients and was nowhere near the mood to go out and get them (like when else will I use a bottle of whiskey?!)
Since I joined this group of bakers after they had completed many of the recipes in the book Baked Explorations, I decided to go back and make one of recipes I've had my eye on for a while (one they'd already done). 

This cookie, called speculaas or speculoos depending on where you look, has it's origins in Holland or Belgium and is a type of shortbread flavored with warm, delicious spices. I first encountered  them years ago when flying and remember them being served as a snack after take off. They are made by the Biscoff Company, come individually wrapped, ( although now you can get them in a bulk type package- easier to eat the whole pack!!!) and as far as I'm concerned , one of the best tasting cookies I've ever had. The newest rage is this spread they've come out with- undoubtedly the most incredible, addicting, amazing thing in this world. The possibilities for using it are endless ( I'll have a few recipes coming up in future posts), but frankly, I'm happy licking it off the spoon while hiding in my closet so no one can see me devouring half a jar.
OK, back to the cookies. These are the "Baked" version of speculaas. They say it was the closest they could come to the original and I agree. Mine turned out a bit crispier than the original, but crispy is fine with me. There was a bit stronger presence of ginger, whereas the original seemed to have more of a stronger cinnamon taste. Doesn't really matter, because they are scrumptious. Great with a cup of coffee, tea or a nice cold glass of milk. Yum! Dipping them in the milk and having the milk taste like the cookies in the end! Trust me, try it.
One thing I loved about this cookie is how easy it is to make. No mixer required!  You can find the recipe here.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chocolate Ginger Molasses Cookie

Ginger snap cookies have always been one of my favorites. Here, the combination of chocolate and ginger is a pleasant variation. They have that spicy nip of the ginger with the not overwhelming influence of the chocolate. The cookies actually come out looking more chocolatey than they really are. The consistency of the cookie is just right, not too soft and not too crunchy.

They are a great base for decorated cookies , which I so love to do. I used the opportunity to do some Valentine shapes and a few simple designs with the icing. While I enjoy the process of the decorating, I prefer to eat them plain.

 These are easy to make and you can cut them in  any shape to suit your purpose.
Here's the link for the recipe.