Kosher Brownies vs. Jewish Apple Cake: a Dessert Duel.

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So here’s a little story for you.

Last week, my fiance and I were invited to a Passover Seder. The hosts, knowing that I was a baker, asked us to bring a dessert. I of course jumped at the chance to make something for this special occasion, and I started going through some recipes, thinking of what I could bring. I settled on a Jewish Apple Cake, since not only do I love it, but I hadn’t made it in quite some time! The one thing I love about my recipe is that it always turns out perfect! I was so pumped to present it as our contribution at Seder.

Perfect for Passover.

Perfect for Passover.

It started off excellent. The batter was perfect, the apples were crisp and tasty. It looked great when I put it into the oven. As it was baking, it still looked great, but it seemed to be taking a long time to cook all the way through. I took it out, and had to put it back in the oven, because it wasn’t done yet. Finally, it was done, and it looked a little….flat. This wasn’t the end of the world, since it wasn’t supposed to be super fluffy – the apple cake is very dense. I let it cool in the pan for a bit, and then went to flip it out onto the cooling rack, and nothing. The cake did not come out. It was stuck in the pan, like REALLY stuck. I did what I normally do in this situation – I ran a knife along the sides and center. Bundt pans seem to be the worst at sticking, so I wasn’t too surprised at this. The knife usually does the trick. Not this time. After going around the perimeter multiple times, the cake still would not budge. Finally, after one more time around and practically digging the knife completely underneath the cake, it began to come loose. And then, boom! Half of the cake fell out. And then a bunch of crumbs. And then the other half (in pieces, I might add). And just like that, my perfect for Passover Apple Cake was ruined.

The good news – I had made the cake a day early, so I had time to try again. I really didn’t feel like making a whole new apple cake, though. So what should I do? I suddenly remembered seeing this box of cake mix in the kosher section at the grocery store, so I snagged it.

a quick mix fix.

a quick mix fix.

Now I knew this cake mix would not equate to the glory that is my scratch Apple Cake, but it looked good, and I was getting short on time. The next morning, I opened the box, ready to create an easy second cake for the dinner that evening.

Yes, it was easy.

Yes, it was tasty

Yes, it was way too small.

Not much bigger than an apple.

Not much bigger than an apple.

There was no way I could show up with this tiny cake! It would barely feed just me and my fiance! Now I was starting to panic. I had started becoming comfortable with the resignation that I would ¬†have to actually purchase an already made dessert, when I had one last idea. Brownies. I don’t know where it came from, but there it was. I googled “Easy Kosher Brownies” and sure enough, found what I was looking for. And to top it off, I just so happened to already have all of the ingredients. I headed back into the kitchen for the third time, and hoped that three times really was the charm.

once, twice, three times the brownie.

once, twice, three times the brownie.

It was. The brownies cooked perfectly, were big enough, and when I cut them and removed them from the pan, they retained their shape perfectly.

redemption.

redemption.

I had been redeemed. My faith in my baking had once again been restored. As an added unexpected bonus, a few people wound up telling me these were the best brownies they ever had. So I guess it was meant to be in the end.

brownies for the win.

brownies for the win.

The brownies were the clear winner here, and I can honestly say that I’m glad the Apple Cake fell apart. Sometimes things fall apart for a reason. We just have to be patient and remember to never give up, because Good Things Come to Those Who Bake. ūüôā

Mummies and Spiders and Eyes, Oh My!

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I made some Halloween cupcakes today, for no real reason or purpose, other than it’s almost Halloween and I felt like being creative. I baked up two dozen apple caramel cupcakes, which, although quite tasty, kinda reminded me of that apple cinnamon oatmeal from the pouch I used to eat as a kid. In this case, the cupcakes were to serve more as a canvas anyway, so I wasn’t too concerned, and besides, I liked that oatmeal. I decided to do four different Halloween-ish designs.

Design #1: Pumpkin.

the obvious choice.

the obvious choice.

I had recently made these same cupcakes for a wedding, and I still had some of the candy corn pumpkins left over, and I wanted to put them to some good use. So I did.

Design #2: Mummies.

mummy is so yummy.

mummy is so yummy.

A friend had posted a pic of similar cupcake mummies to my facebook page, and I thought they were just so darn cute, I had to try them myself.

Design #3: Spiders.

is that a spider on your cupcake?

is that a spider on your cupcake?

I had done these a few years ago, but with mini Oreos. All I had were a bunch of regular Oreos in the cabinet, so I opted to try these using those this time, instead. Plus, I had a tub of cookies and cream frosting leftover from that same wedding a couple weeks ago (I made Oreo cupcakes for it as well), so I busted it out,slathered it on, and slapped a giant killer Oreo Spider on top.

Design #4: Eyeballs.

Eat with your eyes...

eat with your eyes…

I was thinking of these the other day when I was telling a friend I made eyeball cupcakes like 6 years ago, using a green lifesaver for the retina. I had no lifesavers, but I did have a ton of light purple icing…so that happened.

All in all, I think they turned out pretty cute, and I think I’ll bring them in to work to share with my coworkers on Halloween. Let’s just hope they all liked that cinnamon oatmeal in the pouch as much as I did growing up….

taste like...oatmeal?

tastes like…oatmeal?

Stevia. Sweet Stevia.

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I assumed that baking with Stevia, the all natural herbal sweetener, would be simple enough. I’ve baked with Splenda before, and the results frankly, were splendid. I just did some minor adjusting to the quantity used compared to that of regular old sugar (I used less Splenda), but everything else remained the same and the cakes all turned out just fine. In fact, one could hardly tell that no real sugar was used in the making of those cakes. I figured baking with Stevia would be exactly the same. It even says on the package to use half the amount of Stevia that you would use of regular sugar (i.e., 1/2 cup Stevia for every cup of sugar). I don’t think so, Osbourne.

I figured I’d try a pound cake, because, really, how can you screw that up? Well, apparently you can, and I have the cake to prove it. I can’t really even figure out exactly what the issue is. It looks like it might not be cooked all the way through – but it was starting to burn on the edges, and no batter stuck to the toothpick when I inserted it, multiple times. i wound up taking the cake out, and cutting a hole in the bottom to see if it cooked all the way. I still couldn’t tell. I ate some. It tasted relatively cooked, but something seemed “off”.

if it looks like a cake, and it smells like a cake...

if it looks like a cake, and it smells like a cake…

This cake was not the quality I’ve become accustomed to, so I decided to cast it aside, and try again .It’s a shame, too – it looked rather pretty, on the outside.

stevia: my new pet peevia.

stevia: my new pet peevia.

Well, I had to try again. No only to save my pride, but because this cake was supposed to be for my diabetic friend’s birthday tomorrow. I began flipping through the recipe binder, and settled on an apple cake – one of my specialties. I had apples on-hand, so it seemed like kismet.

stevia success.

stevia success.

This time it worked. I don’t know if was because it was an apple cake, or because I switched from bundt cake to cupcakes, or because the sun was out – the world will never really know. All I can say for sure, is that apple cupcakes baked with Stevia work and taste like regular cupcakes.

even better than the real thing.

even better than the real thing.

There are many brand names out there for Stevia – I use Truvia. I also use it in my coffee, and have been for a few years now. So, give it a try in your favorite cake recipe – you may wind up with a winner! But you can’t win unless you try.

Fear and Baking in New Jersey.

At this very moment, I am hiding out in my house, with all the windows closed, obsessively checking the weather report. That’s because we are currently in the midst of a severe storm warning with a tornado watch. And this, my friends, is my biggest fear. Yes, I suffer from¬†Lilapsophobia (sometimes considered¬†Astraphobia) which is an irrational fear of tornadoes/hurricanes/severe storms (at least they have cool-sounding names). Since I arrived home a little over an hour ago, I’ve turned my stereo all the way up to block out the sound of the storms, texted/called about 10 friends¬†in search of comforting words, and I can’t deny that the thought of sending a mass text to everyone in my contacts list had crossed my mind as well. My cat on the other hand, has been staring boldly out the window this entire time, not even flinching.

i find even just looking at this picture a bit terrifying.

I really can’t say for sure what’s the cause of this phobia – the only thing I can possibly think of is when I was 6 years old, the shed in our backyard blew right up into the air during some random storm. That shed was pretty flimsy though, so I’m not surprised when I think back, but I suppose at the time, this could have been somewhat traumatic. It’s not like anyone was in or near the shed though, so who knows.

So what does this have to do with baking? Absolutely nothing, other than the fact that I am a baker and I also suffer from this phobia. But on that note, I baked an apple cake the other night, which turned out to be most delicious (so I was told), and as there is still some left and I’m afraid to leave my house, I think I’ll have a glass of wine and eat the rest of it tonight in an attempt to remain calm.

an apple cake a day keeps the storms away.

It’s working. ūüôā

 

Recipe Sunday: Low-fat Apple Cake.

So, a while back, I¬†had to do¬†a project for a Nutrition class I¬†was taking, which was to create two recipes:¬†a “standard” version and “healthier” version. The goal was to bake both, present them to the teacher and have her¬† be unable to tell which one was which. She was completely duped on mine and guessed wrong, but that was because for some reason, the “healthier” version turned out better than¬†the old standard. I couldn’t figure it out myself, but¬†let’s not question such things. This Low-fat Apple Cake is almost 100 calories less per serving, and yet somehow manages to look AND taste better than its fatty counterpart. So dig in, and be happy that all good things are not bad for you.

eat right.

Low-Fat Apple Cake.

What you’ll need:

3/4  cups whole wheat flour

3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg white

1 egg

5/8 cups splenda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 apples – peeled, cored and sliced (I prefer Granny Smith)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup orange juice

1/8 cup apple sauce

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Apples:

1 1/4 tablespoons splenda

1 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the Topping:

1/8 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon water

What you’ll do:

Preheat¬†oven to 350¬įF. Sprinkle sliced apples with Splenda¬†and the ground cinnamon and toss to coat and set aside. Mix the flours, egg and egg whites, splenda, baking powder, salt, vegetable oil, orange juice, apple sauce ¬†and vanilla until well blended. Mix in half of the coated apples. Batter will be fairly stiff. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared¬† mini¬†bundt pans (makes about 3, depending on the pans you use). Place the remaining half of the apples on top of the batter , divided among the cakes. Bake for¬†25 – 30¬†minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Let cake cool in pan. Mix the confectioner‚Äôs sugar and water, and drizzle on top.

Recipe Sunday: Peanut Butter Apple Cupcakes.

I’ve been thinking about this recipe recently, even though I wrote it almost a year ago. I guess it’s about that time for some PB&A. And life is all about timing. So, in honor of being in the right place at the right time, this Recipe Sunday recipe is for Peanut Butter Apple Cupcakes:¬†two great tastes that taste great together, and just happened to find each other when they least expected it.

love at first bite.

Peanut Butter Apple Cupcakes.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup Creamy Peanut Butter

1/4 cup Butter, room temperature

3/4 cup Sugar

2 Eggs

1 1/2 cups Flour

2 tsp Baking Powder

1/4 tsp Salt

3/4 cup Milk

1 large Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored, and chopped

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a mixing bowl, cream together the peanut butter, butter, and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix well.In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add alternately with milk to creamed mixture. Fold in 3/4 of the apple pieces.  Line a muffin pan with paper liners, and fill each 1/2 to 3/4 full. Bake for 15-18 minutes.

Peanut Butter Frosting:

What you’ll need:

1 stick (about 8 oz) Shortening

2 TBSP Peanut Butter

2 1/2 TBSP water

4 cups Confectioners’ Sugar

What you’ll do:

Cream together the shortening, peanut butter, and water. Add confectioners sugar, 1 cup at a time.

If you like to live dangerously, you can use the remaing 1/4 of the chopped apples to make a topping. Just throw them in a pot with 1/8 cup of sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon, and bring to boil. scoop a little onto each cupcake.

job well done.

I was going to write about Souffl√©s, but all I can think about is Steve Jobs. I have nothing profound to say, nor do I possess any brilliant summation of his life. I just feel sad. I even tried making cupcakes, thinking it would help, but I’m still pretty bummed. The cupcakes turned out good at least – they’re cinnamon pumpkin. They taste like little pumpkin muffins with icing. Anyway, I guess I just want to take a moment to appreciate the life of Steve Jobs, and how so much of what he had done affected my own life, for the better. My very first personal computer was an iMac (that looked exactly like this one), bought with my own money that I saved up. My iPod has provided me with the background music encouraging me to run many, many¬†miles, and also motivating me to get moving¬†every morning. My book is for sale as an ebook¬†for the iPad¬†at the iBookstore (and you can download it here).

My life has been vastly improved by the hard work, dedication, and sheer genius of a man I will never actually meet. Funny how life works.

Thank you, Steve Jobs. You’ve changed my life. May you rest in peace.

“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

– Steve Jobs, May 1998

It’s peanut butter apple time.

Yesterday, I was eating apple slices and peanut butter for breakfast. I was reminded recently of how much I loved this combo when I saw a friend munching on this dynamic duo and offering me a slice. So I started incorporating the combo back into my regularly scheduled consumption. As I was enjoying said breakfast, I started wondering how it came to be – who thought to combine the two, both tasty in their own right, into one super snack? He/She must have been really smart. Because I’m also really smart, an idea came to me¬† just then – peanut butter apple cupcakes. woot!
 

the magic equation

Instead of running on the treadmill, or doing my homework, I decided that I must make this vision a reality, ASAP. I started with a peanut butter cake recipe which I’d used before and enjoyed. I peeled, cored, and¬†chopped a granny smith apple (my fave), and folded 3/4 of the choppings into the batter. While they baked, I concocted a peanut butter buttercream¬†icing on the spot with no recipe (I told you I was really smart). I felt it needed a little¬†something extra (boy I really didn’t want to use that treadmill) so I used the remaining 1/4 apple choppings, added some cinnamon, and caramelized them.

it's a win-win-win.

Cut the cake.

I can’t say no to cake. It’s just not something I do. Even when I know I don’t want to eat a whole piece. I’ll take it anyway, and either eat it and feel yucky, or let it sit until I eventually take a couple tastes and then begrudgingly throw the half-eaten remains in the garbage (have I mentioned that I absolutely despise wastefulness?). So what’s a cake-loving-recycling-obsessed bakestress to do?¬† The answer is easy, if you take it logically – there must be 50 ways to leave your lover. And by lover, I mean big ol’ piece of cake.¬†

Just cut it.

one cake, many varieties.

¬†That’s right, make one big¬†sheet cake,¬†ice it,¬†then cut into¬†however many pieces you desire. In my case, i made an apple juice cake – again my inner recycler was trying to find uses for things I already had that would soon go bad if not used, and iced it with cream cheese icing. I popped into the fridge for about 20 minutes so the icing would set, then cut it up, and topped the pieces with various decorative and tasty extras, and Voila! We’ve got cake bites.

cake bite: the poor man's petit four.

An apple cake a day…

I recently stumbled across this wonderful recipe for jewish apple cake.¬†I had forgotten about the jewish apple cake, and how¬†important it was to my taste buds¬†¬†until then.¬†I decided to test out the recipe. The batter was amazing (yes, i¬†tasted it,¬†I have a bit of an “addiction”¬†to batters and doughs), with one small¬†problem…actually the problem was the opposite of small…there was so much¬†batter!¬†The cake it made was hands down, the largest cake I’ve¬†ever baked at one time. It was too much! So¬†I¬†decided to take matters into my own hands. Enter the mini bundt¬†pan.¬†3¬†mini bundt pans, to be exact. What better way to¬†spread the joy of apple cake than to make¬†many mini cakes and give them¬†out¬†as¬†gifts? The recipe made 9 mini cakes. 9 of them!

the coveted mini apple cake

I¬†only had to¬†make it twice, and¬†it covered everyone on my¬†list this year, saving me time, money, and¬†kitchen resources. Plus, cake makes people happy.¬†And a little cake makes them even happier.¬†It’s like the personal pizza – there’s¬†plenty for one person,¬†without the¬†greasy, oversized remaining slices, tempting you to¬†keep¬†eating¬†when you’re already full. ¬†The moral of¬†story:¬†a little cake goes a long way.

all i want for Christmas is a cake in a box.