Baked Sunday Mornings: Cherry Almond Crisp

I was initially excited for this week’s Baked Sunday Morning challenge, cherry almond crisp. I tend to be a fan of baked fruit desserts, and am suffering from a bout of insomnia, which oddly cherries may be able to help (there are some dubious results from a study of seven patients online). While I think this is a fitting dessert to celebrate President’s Day, as there is the famous story about Washington cutting down his father’s cherry tree, I really questioned the seasonality of this dessert. The recipe makes it seem like fresh cherries are required, but they are pretty impossible to find in February. Directions for using frozen cherries are located on the page before the recipe begins, on the narrative page, which in my sleep-deprived state I completely missed even though, yes it is in bold type. After thinking about it, I thought about sitting this one out until fresh cherries were available. A crisp showcases the fruit, and I wasn’t into using frozen fruit. I even went so far to make the orange almond ricotta cheesecake from Baked Elements for my going rouge entry. Then my husband came back with a giant bag of frozen cherries from Cosco, so I really had no excuse.

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The really unique part of this recipe is the inclusion of cereal in the crisp topping. I used Cocoa Puffs, as chocolate is always a plus. Even though I came into Baked Sunday Mornings thinking I would never change a recipe, I really wanted to try them in their true form, I only added half of the almond extract (1 & 1/2 tsp) as a full tablespoon seemed really intense. I am glad I cut back on the almond extract as the finished product tasted like almonds without being overwhelming. I also noticed one of my fellow BSM bakers said they added 1/4 cup of sugar to the cherries and I too thought only 2 teaspoons of sugar was skimpy. However, I stuck to the 2 teaspoons and it was tart yet sweet. Just the way I like it. My husband thought it needed more crisp, the ratio of topping to fruit for him was a little off. I thought this was ok, but a disappointment compared with the to the pear plumb crisp from Frontiers which is my usual go to recipe. I really want to try this using fresh fruit during cherry season to see how it compares to frozen.

Check out what my fellow bakers thought here.

Recipe from Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

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Baked Sunday Mornings: Toffee Coffee Cake Surprise

Bunt cakes from Baked are the bomb. The root beer, olive oil, and vanilla bunt cakes are ones that are requested often and are made just as much. My first blog post was for the hazelnut bunt cake, which I liked, but didn’t blow my socks off. This week’s cake was a marriage between a bunt and coffee cake, with the coffee cake topping inside the middle of the bunt. The hidden middle is to symbolize the burrow that Punxsutawney Phil emerges from to tell us how many more weeks of winter we are in for.

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This middle mixture is comprised of toffee (among other things), with the option to make your own or to use a store bought toffee bar. I decided to make the toffee, and it really wasn’t that hard, although my toffee was a little on the pull out your teeth sticky side. Making this cake was unique-the butter, flours, sugars, vanilla are beat together, then the eggs are added followed by the sour cream.

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This batter is thick; which made spreading a little difficult. When we tried this cake the same day of baking we thought it was ok. It reminded me of a pound cake more than a coffee cake, and I think the cake would be better with a couple of layers instead of the giant middle layer (although the thick batter may not make that possible). My frosting adverse husband thought it would be better with the addition of some sort of glaze, or frosting.  Oddly, I thought this cake tasted better the next day. We had this cake around for four days and it started to dry out on day four, but really was moist and flavorful days two-three. Not sure if this one will be part of the usual bunt cake rotation, but I am glad I gave this one a try.

Recipe from: Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

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Baked Sunday Mornings: Hair of the Dog Cake

I really know nothing about alcohol. I didn’t start drinking until I was 21 found something I like (gin and tonics) and have pretty much stuck to it. During my short lived career as a server, I once had someone ask me for an Arnold Palmer, and I told him I couldn’t serve to him, as by law we could not serve alcohol until noon. This was a while ago, but I am pretty sure I did not get a great tip, but in my defense, Arnold Palmer really sounds like it should contain booze. For me New Year’s is a great holiday because I usually get that day off of work, but I usually find myself parked in front of my TV watching Netflix and thinking of resolutions I can break without any guilt. I usually do not experience the usual hang-over regrets, but the Baked guys described the Hair of the Dog cake as one that is easy to make on those days when you may need a little extra help, so I was looking forward to something fast and easy.

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 This cake calls for rum, and the suggestion was made to use dark spiced rum. We had one bottle of rum, but my husband refused to let me use it because he thought it was too expensive to throw into a cake. I was thinking of going to the liquor store, but wine, worthwhile beer (anything with an alcohol content above a 3.2), and liquor can only be purchased from a state run liquor store here in Utah and they get really- cannot find a place to park, lines around the block-crazy this time of year. My dad actually had some spiced rum, which was not dark so I came with a brilliant strategy to combine his with my husbands to make dark, spiced rum, but again my husband disagreed. I decided to go with straight-spiced rum.

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For a Baked cake this is really easy to throw together. It is not an easy one-bowl kind of cake, but it is pretty close. The unique part of this cake is the frosting/glaze. While this cake is still warm a mixture of butter, brown sugar, cream, and rum is poured over the top and then broiled. I patiently waited with the oven door open, and it was pretty interesting to watch the top of the cake bubble.

I was a little worried about this cake, as I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Usually when I bake something I have a general idea of how the end product will taste, but this one left me in the dark. Well, it is delicious. My tasters loved it and got a kick out of the name. It reminds me of a really boozy pineapple upside down cake without the fruit and right side up (maybe this comparison is a bit of a stretch). Not the best looking cake, mine sunk a little in the middle and looked like a belly button, but the taste makes up for the lack of presentation.

Recipe from: Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

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Baked Sunday Morning: Wintermint Cake

I spent nine entire months thinking about the combination of mint and chocolate, hunting down junior mint and york peppermint patties and squirreling them away. During my pregnancy it was all I craved, so I am glad I only heard about this cake now, as I probably would have spent all of my waking time making and then eating the wintermint cake. This is the cake equivalent of an inside out junior mint, as it a chocolate cake surrounded by mint buttercream and mint chocolate ganache. For a couple of months my fellow Baked Sunday Morning bakers had been talking about how delicious this cake was, as many of them tested this recipe. Needless to say, I was looking forward to this one.

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The wintermint cake contains shortening, which may weird some people out, but other than that it is a pretty straightforward recipe (which is good because actually having a baby makes doing anything difficult). I only have two 8-inch cake pans and I waited to put the third cake in after the first two were done baking. I really jumped the gun, I was so excited to get this cake done, that I turned one of the first cakes out too soon. It crumbled everywhere, but the other two came out nicely.

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The frosting is a cooked buttercream, the traditional Baked buttercream which I have only attempted one other time with disastrous results, so I like a true quitter I have never tried it again. This time I really beat the crap out of the frosting, and it took a couple of trips to the fridge followed by mixing to get this to a somewhat firm texture. I frosted the cake with a crumb coat and put it into the fridge. I noticed that the frosting did firm up considerably once on the cake. Chocolate ganache is layered between the chocolate cake layers, and since I only had two layers I opted to spread some of the ganache over the cake, but please check out Baked Occasions to see how to decorate this cake in an interesting ombre style.

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This cake was a hit with my testers. It had a subtle, yet noticeable mint flavor so even those who are not huge chocolate/mint fans will still probably love this cake. Oddly, my favorite part was the chocolate cake layer that I destroyed. I kept it and had it for breakfast with my morning coffee and it was moist and contained a chocolate punch. I think this cake is delicious without hiding behind a mint layer (I may have also exhausted the love one can have for the mint chocolate combination). I also spent some time perusing through my fellow Baked Sunday Morning bakers blogs and found some helpful tips to use next time (cause there will most certainly be a next time) I make the buttercream.

Recipe from: Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

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Baked Sunday Mornings: Date Bars

Like most Americans I started this post-Thanksgiving week with the intention to eat right and burn all of those glutinous, unwanted calories. I was doing fine, until I made these unfortunately delicious date bars for our Baked Sunday Morning challenge, which confined me to sweat pants for another week.

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To start chopped dates are mixed with water and brown sugar and simmered for about ten minutes until soft. Chopping the dates was by far the most tedious and messy part of this recipe. Note to self: buying pre-chopped date pieces maybe wise in the future. Next the crust is made which is combination of butter, brown sugar, flour, quick cooking oats, salt, and baking soda. Unlike a lot of crumb toppings/crusts, this one is made in a stand mixer as opposed to a food processor, although I did have to dirty my food processor to chop the oats, as we only had old-fashion. Half of the crust is pressed into the pan, which is layered with the cooked dates, and then the remaining crumb/crust topping is placed on top. I baked mine for 3o minutes.

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I thought these bars were good the night they were made, but their taste was spectacular the following day. The only things I would change are to attempt these with my usual old-fashion oats and to use the food processor to finely puree the date mixture (as my chopping was a little rough and there were still chunks of dates). However, these bars really pretty great as they were. These date bars are crazy easy and I will be making them again and again (sorry waist line). I am excited to see if the other Baked Sunday Morning bakers loved these as much as me.

Recipe from: Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

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Smitten for Frosting: Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

One of my favorite colleagues, Susan, was moving on to a different job in our department and I wanted to make her something special to celebrate. Susan really liked the chocolate mayonnaise cupcakes I made a couple of months ago which was a little odd. Not that those cupcakes were not delicious, it was just that Susan is one of the healthiest people I know and she once indicated at a potluck that she did not like cake. After talking to Susan further she said she only liked chocolate cake. After searching the Internet I found the chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting on Smitten Kitchen’s blog, which had an amazing 1000+ comments. To summarize the majority of those comments, this was hands down the best cake ever. Some people had made these into cupcakes, which was what I was thinking of, as serving and transporting a cake at work can be messy.

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This cake is remarkably easy, and a great one for beginner bakers. Sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt are whisked together and then the wet ingredients are added (water, oil, sour cream, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla). The great thing about this cake is that it says to mix well, whereas a lot of other cakes request that they are lightly beaten or barely mixed. I then put the cupcakes into a 350-degree oven for 18 minutes.

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While these were in the oven I worked on the peanut butter frosting. Whenever I make a cream cheese or butter cream frosting, I rarely measure the powder sugar and just keep adding until I like the consistency. This is a cream cheese frosting, so I stayed true to my usual frosting method. These cupcakes are uber delicate and were really hard to frost. The cake recipe requests that the cakes are refrigerated before frosting, which I did not do. The next morning some of my cupcakes had folded under the weight of the frosting and barely survived the bus commute to work. They were well received by my coworkers. They did taste amazing. The chocolate cake while delicate was light and chocolaty. The frosting was the best part-really rich and peanut buttery. While I loved these cupcakes, they were too delicate and fussy for my taste. I would rather make the peanut butter frosting to use on the Baked chocolate mayonnaise cupcakes.

Recipe from: Smitten Kitchen

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Baked Sunday Mornings: Campfire Cookies

My sister and I got into a discussion about camping the other day. She lives in NC and folks out that way refer to any sort of sleeping in the wilderness as camping (sleeping in a cabin, RV, your car if there is room and your cheap). People who live in Utah are born wearing fleece and once they are able to walk begin roaming the hills like mountain goats, so naturally they firmly believe that camping is solely done in a tent. Actually driving to your predetermined campsite is considered lazy. I am probably considered one of those crunch granola types, not only because as I type this I am wearing a fleece jacket, no make-up, and am drinking out of a Nalgene bottle, but because I love to camp. One of the first things I do after setting up the tent is to forage for sticks to roast marshmallows for s’mores. I cannot write the words to say my love of roasted marshmallows nestled between chocolate and graham crackers. Needless to say this week’s Baked Sunday Morning challenge of campfire cookies, which pay homage to the s’more, was right up my alley (or hiking trail in this case).

multiple cookiesThe campfire cookies are pretty similar to a chocolate chip cookie although you add marshmallows, crushed graham crackers, cinnamon (which I omitted due to my husband’s request), and honey. The option is given to make your own marshmallows but I opted for the very classy, generic store-bought variety. These came together very quickly, but they did have a loose texture which was slightly worrisome. The recipe called for refrigerating these for at least four hours and I had my dough put together by 9:00 AM and only started to think about baking these around 6:00 PM. I was really nervous about both the texture of the dough and the inclusion of the marshmallows so I attempted a tester. I formed one cookie and into the oven it went. The recipe calls for baking these in the wide range of 14-20 minutes and I kept mine in for about 16. The cookie exploded, but not to worry I still ate it and it was delicious. I thought this one was a fluke and attempted a second tester. This one turned out perfect and then I proceeded to cook off an additional six cookies that were also perfect (or close enough-there was some marshmallow carmalization seepage). Not sure why these turned out. I did put the second and third batch of cookies on my already hot cookie sheet, so that could have been why.

doughMy intention was to bake a different batch of these throughout the week as the recipe indicated that the dough could be refrigerated for an entire week. That would have made for a really great blog post, but sorry I really loved eating this dough. I would snack on it throughout the day and only had enough dough to bake a batch the second day. Not sure how many cookies this recipe yields, as my dough consumption was significant (at least two to three cookies), but even then I have a hard time believing this recipe could yield 36 cookies.

single cookieThe lowdown my friends is that this is one tasty cookie. A little more work than your standard chocolate chip, but not much, and is great cookie to impress those who love chocolate chip (or just cookies in general). I did not really get a ton of s’more action from this cookie, but that did not damper my love of it. Did everyone else love this cookie? Check out the responses on Baked Sunday Mornings.

Recipe from: Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

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