Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Banana Coconut Smoothie

By Nicole

Banana Coconut Smoothie

When I have a bunch of overripe bananas, they usually end up in a batch of banana bread. It’s easy to make – especially if you use my One Bowl Banana Bread recipe – and it is always a crowd pleaser. The problem with crowd pleasers is that it is helpful to have a crowd, particularly if you have enough bananas on hand for more than one loaf. A smoothie is always good fallback treat when you have some fruit in your kitchen that needs to be used up. I enjoy them as breakfast, an afternoon snack or as dessert, which means that I feel good about making this Banana Coconut Smoothie any time of day.

The smoothie is a simple one made with bananas, yogurt, milk and pineapple juice. The coconut flavor comes from cream of coconut, a sweetened coconut milk product that is often used in making smoothies and cocktails, like the Pina Colada. It gives the smoothie a great coconut flavor and adds just the right amount of sweetness, though you can supplement the drink with little extra cream of coconut if you prefer your drink to be a little extra coconutty. I added a little bit of pineapple juice for a hint of extra sweetness, which it added without turning this into a pina colada-flavored smoothie. Orange juice would also make a nice addition, if you don’t have pineapple juice in your fridge. Yogurt gives the smoothie some body without making it overly thick or turning it into a milkshake – though I admit that ice cream would be an excellent substitute for the yogurt if I really wanted to turn this into a dessert drink. As it stands, the smoothie has just the right thickness to make it satisfying without making it heavy, and it has a great balance of flavors. I guess I’lll be saving a few extra over-ripe bananas for the blender, and not just banana bread, from now on!

Banana Coconut Smoothie
2 medium-large bananas
1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup cream of coconut
1/2 cup milk (regular or coconut)
1/4 cup pineapple juice
8-10-oz ice

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend at low speed until the ice is crushed, then turn the blender up to high and blend until mixture is smooth and creamy. Divide into two glasses to serve.

Serves 2.

Source: Baking Bites


PostHeaderIcon Free Craftsy Recipe: Brown Butter Maple Yam Pie

By Nicole

Craftsy Brown Butter Yam Pie

Labor Day is the unofficial end of the summer season, which means that it is time to get out your favorite pie recipes and kick off pie season. Pumpkins, apples, pecans and sweet potatoes are all fall favorites that bake into fantastic pies. Since I love pie season, I am always on the lookout for new variations of my favorite pie recipes that will bring more flavor into my desserts and give me an excuse to go back for seconds. A great way to start your fall baking is by giving this free Brown Butter Maple Yam Pie recipe from Craftsy a try. The recipe is from one of the online baking classes in Craftsy’s wonderful collection, Evan Kleiman’s Perfecting the Pie Crust. The class teaches you all you need to know about making perfect crusts for any pie you can think of, walking you through the techniques you need step-by-step. The pie filling uses fresh, roasted yams – not the canned variety – and pairs them with browned butter, dark maple syrup and cinnamon for a deeply flavorful pie that just might become a new holiday favorite.

So get an early start on your fall pie baking, head over to Craftsy and check out the free Brown Butter Maple Yam Pie recipe. It’s a rich twist on a classic yam or sweet potato pie that will give you a delicious new way to use these veggies up this season!

Disclosure: Baking Bites is a Craftsy partner and this post is sponsored by Craftsy. Any commentary given and all opinions expressed are my own.

Source: Baking Bites


PostHeaderIcon Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies

By Nicole

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pumpkin pie spice is a spice blend made with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. They’re the primary flavoring agents use in pumpkin pie – hence the name – but the spice combination is so delicious that the blend comes prepackaged so that you can easily add it to just about any baked good you might want to infuse a little fall flavor into. These Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies are a variation on classic chocolate chip cookies that are spiced up for fall. The cookies are made with brown sugar and plenty of pumpkin pie spice, giving them a nice balance of the same flavors that you find in pumpkin pie – but in a buttery, chocolate chip cookie format!

I added a very generous amount of pumpkin pie spice to the cookie dough. If you don’t have any on hand, you can make your own by combining two parts each of cinnamon and ginger with one part each of ground cloves and nutmeg. Different brands balance the spices differently, but cinnamon is usually the standout spice in this mix. After adding in all that spice, I felt like the cookies needed a little bit of extra sweetness to make them stand out, so I added in a cup of white chocolate chips in place of some of the semisweet chocolate chips. The white chocolate chips – try to use a high quality chip, made with real cocoa butter and not just vegetable oils – make the cookies taste a little bit better balanced and help the other flavors to pop, but don’t make the cookies overly sweet. The cookies also include diced pecans for a little bit of crunch – and because pecans go so well with pumpkin pie spice.

The cookies are slightly chewy and have a nice crisp edge when they come out of the oven. Since they have more brown sugar than white sugar, they retain some of that chewiness even a day or two after baking, provided that they are stored in an airtight container to keep them fresh. If you want to adjust the size of the cookies to make them larger or smaller, don’t forget to adjust the baking time accordingly. The cookies should be lightly browned around the edges and set in the center when they are ready to come out of the oven.

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats (regular or quick-cooking)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup semisweet/dark chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup diced, toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, rolled oats, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, followed by vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice. With the mixer on a low speed, gradually blend in the flour mixture, then fold in the chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and pecans until they are well-incorporated.
Shape cookies into generous 1-inch balls and arrange on prepared baking sheet, leaving 2-inches between cookies to allow for spread.
Bake for 9-11 minutes, until cookies are golden brown around the edges. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, then trasnfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Source: Baking Bites


PostHeaderIcon Bites from other Blogs

By Nicole

Bites from other Blogs

  • Iced coffee is a welcome refreshment on a warm afternoon, and so is an ice cold coffee popsicle. You can get your coffee fix with a batch of Chocolate Dipped Cold Press Coffee Pops, an easy to make yogurt popsicle that is packed with flavor. Tasteseeker’s Kitchen made these pops with a base of yogurt, sweetened condensed milk and coffee, so they have a creamy sweetness, as well as a coffee flavor. The chocolate-dip technique can be used with just about any flavor of popsicle, but it is especially good with the coffee base.
  • If you feel like you want to indulge a little bit this weekend, make a batch of Southern Fatty‘s Maple Whiskey Peach Fritters. Whether you’re eating them for breakfast or dessert, these deep-fried treats are absolutely irresistible. They start with a lightly spiced yeast dough that is loaded with peaches, then fried to perfection and covered in a maple whiskey glaze. It’s a great technique for making fritters that you could adapt to other fruits, as well.
  • Dessert Now Dinner Later‘s Apple Cheesecake Pie is two desserts in one. The dish starts with a buttery pie crust, which is filled with a tangy cream cheese layer and a pile of sweet and spicy apples. The apples bake down into a traditional apple pie filling in the oven, while the cream cheese layer adds a great contrasting flavor to the fruit. It’s a fun alternative to plain apple pie and a great dessert when you’re entertaining, since your guests won’t need to decide between two options and can try both desserts in each bite!
  • Cookie butter is an ingredient that I work with a lot more in the fall than in the summer, not because it is a seasonal product, but because its brown sugar flavor just seems even more delicious on a cool morning. One fun way to use it is by baking a batch of Cookie Butter-Frosted Cinnamon Rolls from Eazy Peazy Meals. These simple yeasted cinnamon buns use a generous amount of cookie butter in a vanilla and cream cheese glaze to give the pastries a rich, spicy-sweet flavor that compliments the cinnamon filling.

Source: Baking Bites


PostHeaderIcon Wilton Cake Leveler

By Nicole

Wilton Cake Leveler

Leveling cakes is one of the trickiest tasks in baking. Leveling a cake, also known as torting a cake, is the process of cutting a thicker cake into several even layers that can be filled and restacked to form a finished dessert. To level a cake, you usually need a large serrated knife, a very steady hand and a lot of practice to ensure that you get an even cut every time. Alternatively, you could simply invest in Wilton’s Small Cake Leveler to help you get the job done much more quickly and accurately. The cake leveler is a tool that looks a bit like a high tech coat hanger. It has an easy-grip plastic frame with clearly defined height markers on either side. The sides are connected with a unique, slightly wavy wire that will cleanly glide through your cake and leave you with a smooth, level surface for decorating. The tool is designed to glide across the countertop smoothly, so you don’t need to worry about balancing it in mid-air while you make your cuts. Using it, you are guaranteed neat slices at any thickness you could want! I typically use it for dividing cakes into just two or three layers, but you could do a torte with twice as many layers, if you’re up for it! The level is wide enough to cut through cakes up to 10-inches in diameter. It gives you about 6-inches of clearance underneath, so you have plenty of room to trim even the most domed cakes you could bake.

Wilton also makes a Large Cake Leveler that can be used on cakes up to 18-inches in diameter, which is probably a lot larger cake than you are ever going to need to level at home! The large leveler does fold in half for easy storage, but the smaller leveler is going to be fine for the vast majority of cakes you might bake and is a great tool for the cake baker to have around.

Source: Baking Bites


PostHeaderIcon Peek-A-Boo Cakes

By Nicole

Peek-A-Boo Cakes

Desserts are always more fun when they have a surprise inside, like the fudge center of an ice cream pop or a cream filling inside of a cupcake. There are some desserts where you don’t expect to find a surprise center, however, and large cakes are some of them. That being said, there is no reason that you can’t transform something like a layer cake into a dessert that is even more delightful by adding a little something extra inside, and Peek-A-Boo Cakes: 28 Fun Cakes with a Surprise Inside is one book that will tell you how to do just that.

The cakes span a wide variety of fun ideas, all of which look just as delicious as they taste, from the jelly bean-filled pinata cake on the cover to the spotted leopard print cake inside. Each cake is built from homemade cake components, which means that the book is just as much about the flavor of the finished cakes as it is about the presentation of each dessert. That said, you will likely be able to recreate some of the same decorative touches using cake mixes if you are looking to cut down on your prep time a little bit, though homemade frostings, at the least, are a must for getting the best results. The instructions are clearly written and detailed, to ensure that your goodies come out looking just as delicious as the photos illustrating each recipe. The introduction to the book includes suggestions for basic tools and techniques that you might need to get started, but if you’ve baked a layer cake or two before, you should be fine to jump right in.

Many of the cakes are layer cakes, but there are plenty of loaf cake recipes, as well. It’s nice to have different cake size options, since that makes it easier to choose a recipe that fits any occasion you might need to bake for. The techniques used in the book are relatively easy to adapt to other recipes, so you’ll be able to create even more imaginative cakes of your own after baking your way through the recipes in the book.

Source: Baking Bites


PostHeaderIcon Spiced Peaches n’ Cream Bread Pudding

By Nicole

Spiced Peaches n' Cream Bread Pudding

Sometimes I will pick up an extra loaf of bread when I am out shopping for groceries. I know at the time that it is slightly more bread than I need to have on hand – even if I’m planning to make a lot of sandwiches – but I do it anyway because I know that the extra loaf will give me an excuse to make bread pudding or french toast in an effort to use it up. My Spiced Peaches n’ Cream Bread Pudding is a dessert that bridges the gap between summer and fall. It features fresh, juicy peaches in a rich bread pudding that is kissed with a bit of cinnamon and ginger, which give it a warmth that makes it seem just right on a cool end-of-summer night.

The bread pudding recipe is a little bit different from some other bread pudding recipes because it includes cream cheese in the base. Cream cheese gives the dish a subtle tang that contrasts well with the bright, sweet peaches. It also gives the finished dessert a texture that is dense, rich and cheesecake-like. It’s very satisfying to serve up a big spoonful, but at the same time it also makes the dish a little bit more filling, so this recipe will probably make a few more servings than you might expect! The cinnamon, vanilla and ginger that also flavor the dessert take a backseat to the peaches and cream cheese, but round out their flavors nicely.

I use fresh peaches in this recipe when they are available, but frozen peaches can be a good substitute if they are not in season. Jarred or canned (in juice) peaches can also be used, but they have a much softer texture and can sometimes get lost in the pudding. I always sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon sugar on top of this bread pudding, both to give it a little extra color and texture. I recommend using coarse sugar so your bread pudding will have a bit of sparkle to it, though regular sugar works just as well. The pudding is delicious when served both warm or cold, and it always pairs well with a spoonful of whipped cream on the side.

Spiced Peaches n' Cream Bread Pudding

Spiced Peaches n’ Cream Bread Pudding
4-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
6 cups white bread, cubed
1 cups diced, fresh peaches (frozen are ok)
1 tbsp coarse sugar + 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, for topping

Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease an 8×8-inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, cream together cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, mixing at medium speed until very smooth, then slowly blend in milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon and ginger.
In a large bowl, combine bread cubes and peaches. Pour cream cheese mixture over the bread. Gently fold with a spatula to allow the bread to soak up the liquid and evenly distribute the peaches. Let stand for 5 minutes. Pour into prepared pan and push bread into an even layer. Sprinkle evenly with mixture of coarse sugar and cinnamon.
Bake for 30 minutes, until pudding springs back slightly when you touch the top and the edges begin to turn golden.
Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator.
Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Serves 6-8.

Source: Baking Bites


PostHeaderIcon Spice-Rubbed Grilled Tri Tip with Watermelon Salsa

By Nicole

Watermelon Salsa with Grilled Tri Tip

During the summer, I like to grill and eat outside as much as possible. It’s always nice to be outside on a warm evening with friends, family and good food. This weekend is Labor Day weekend, and that generally serves as the unofficial end of the summer grilling season. I keep grilling just about year round, but I always make it a point to have a few people over and celebrate with a cook out. One of my summer favorites is Spice-Rubbed Grilled Tri Tip with Watermelon Salsa. The tri tip is a generous piece of meat that is great for serving a crowd and the spicy-sweet watermelon salsa is a delicious accompaniment that makes the whole meal feel light and fresh. The salsa is actually great with tortilla chips or other proteins, like chicken, and I will frequently whip up a batch when I have extra watermelon just taking up space in my fridge. The salsa is best on the day it is made, but can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days, if you have leftovers or really want to do your prep work in advance.

The spice rub I used on the tri tip is a simple blend of spices that I always have in my cabinet. It has a nice amount of garlic to it and a little dose of heat, thanks to ground chipotle pepper. You can substitute in cayenne for the chipotle, but you might want to reduce the amount slightly as the cayenne has a slightly more aggressive heat. I add some brown sugar for sweetness and to enhance the caramelization of the meat when it is on the grill. You can adjust the spices to taste, and double (or triple) the rub as needed if you’re cooking a larger piece of meat.

When grilling, you should always check your meat for doneness with a meat thermometer. Different grills will cook differently (“high” on one grill can be quite a bit higher than on another model) and two pieces of meat that weigh about the same can cook at different rates, depending on thickness, temperature, etc. I used a relatively small tri tip, however you can make more rub and use the same techniques with a larger piece of meat by extending the cooking time slightly.

Spice-Rubbed Grilled Tri Tip
2 1/2 – 3 pound tri tip steak
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic power
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground paprika
1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper
2 tbsp brown sugar

Preheat your grill to high heat.
Pat your tri tip dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, whisk together salt, garlic powder, pepper, cumin, chipotle pepper and brown sugar. Rub the rub evenly over the tri tip.
Grease your grill with olive oil or cooking spray. Cook the tri tip for 8 minutes on high heat, then flip and cook for an additional 7-10 minutes on the second side. Check with meat thermometer, and if it needs a few more minutes, flip the tri tip one more time. A meat thermometer should read 140F (for medium rare). Meat will continue to cook a bit when it is removed from heat.
Remove meat from the grill, cover with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Serve with watermelon salsa.

Serves 4-5

Watermelon Salsa
4 cups cubed watermelon, 1/4-1/2 in. dice
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 1/2 oz lime juice
3 tbsp finely diced jalapeno pepper
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and fold together with a large spoon or spatula. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Source: Baking Bites


PostHeaderIcon Cook’s Illustrated Rates Mixing Bowls

By Nicole

Cook's Illustrated Rates Mixing Bowls

Mixing bowls just might be the most important tool in the kitchen, especially if you’re a baker. All the spatulas, whisks and spoons in the world are awfully difficult to use if you don’t have a good bowl for mixing your ingredients! Mixing bowls are important, but most of us don’t pay all that much attention to the function of a mixing bowl in the same way we might scrutinize the features of a stand mixer or other flashy kitchen implement. Cook’s Illustrated knows just how important mixing bowls are and put them to the test in a recent issue (Setp/Oct 2014) to see what brands stood out from the rest.

The test kitchen rated bowls for performance, ease or use and durability, and both stainless steel bowls and glass bowls were tested. The performance testing included a lot of mixing, both thin batters and thick doughs, while the ease of use tested how comfortable the bowls were to handle under normal mixing conditions when used by testers ofr varying heights, strengths and skills. The durability test included repeated washing, bumping, dropping and double boiling. Plastic bowls were excluded, although they are common, because the can’t be used in a double boiler, making them a bit less useful overall than the other two types of bowls.

The winning stainless bowls were the Vollrath Economy Mixing Bowls, which are inexpensive bowls that you can find at most restaurant supply stores. They’re lightweight, with a broad and shallow basin that is easy to mix in. They tested 1 1/2 quart, 3 quart and 5 quart bowls, but they’re available in a wide range of sizes. The runner up was Cuisinart’s Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls with Lids, which are sold as a set. This trio of bowls got knocked down for being excessively tall and deep, but they were also very lightweight and easy to use. The lids might come in handy if you do a lot of advance prep and don’t want to constantly use foil or plastic wrap to cover your bowls.

The winning glass bowls were Pyrex Smart Essentials Mixing Bowls with Colored Lids. These bowls were very heavy when compared to the stainless bowls, but they had a broad and shallow basin for easy mixing and were easy to handle overall. The glass is tempered, which makes them surprisingly durable, so they should not break even if one slips out of your hands and onto the floor while mixing. The runner up was Arc International Luminarc 10-piece Bowl Set, which was a bit lighter than the Pyrex set, but not quite as easy to handle because they lacked an easy-to-grip rim. You do get a lot of bowls with this large set, which is handy if you use a lot during your prep work. Models that were not recommended were Oxo’s Stainless Steel Set, Duralec Lys Stackable Bowl Set and Anchor Hocking’s Mixing Bowls with Red Lids.

Source: Baking Bites


PostHeaderIcon Zoku Fish Pop Molds

By Nicole

Zoku Fish Pops

Zoku is known for their quick pop makers, which allow you to make popsicles in as little as two minutes if you have pre-chilled the base. The gadget is fun to use, but traditional popsicle molds are even easier because they require less hands-on time, even if you do have to wait for the pops to freeze completely before serving them. Traditional molds also give you a lot more size and shape options than the quick pops, and Zoku makes some interesting traditional molds, too. Zoku Fish Pop Molds are silicone molds that let you create popsicles with some unique – and fun – sea creature shapes. The shapes include a shark, a clownfish, an octopus, a whale, a puffer fish and a scuba diver. The handles of the pops are designed to match the shapes of the pops, so the scuba diver has legs with fins and the octopus has tentacles. The sticks that are attached to the handles look like cartoon fish skeletons, which gives the pops an extra element of fun while you’re eating them.

Since these molds are made of silicone, they capture a lot of detail and your frozen pops will look picture perfect every time. Unlike plastic pop molds, these do not need to be run under warm water to release them. The silicone molds invert when you pull out the pops for an easy, clean release. Just be sure that your pops are completely frozen, so that fish skeleton doesn’t pop out when you tug on the tail of your pop!

Source: Baking Bites


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