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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sweet Potato Coffee Cake

I found this particular recipe over at Baking Bites. When I bake sweet potatoes, I always have some leftover. Now I have a perfect use for them in this coffee cake. I really like the combination of spices in the streusel; the cardamom is a really nice touch but it doesn't overpower the rest of the cake. I'm sure you could also make this with canned pumpkin puree and have great results, too. In fact, I only had 1/2 cup sweet potato, so I used pumpkin as well. I also added some more dried cranberries since they're a nice surprise when you take a bite.

Sweet Potato Coffee Cake with Dried Cranberries

1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 tsp ground ginger
1/3 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup pureed sweet potatoes (cooked, unseasoned; fresh or canned)
or 1/2 cup sweet potatoes & 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
or 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease a 9-in square pan. (Double the recipe for a 9x13 pan)

In a medium bowl, mix together all topping ingredients on low speed - or stir very well by hand - until moist, sandy crumbs are formed. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter until light. Beat the eggs, adding them one at a time until mixture is smooth, then blend in the vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Mix in the pureed sweet potatoes (and/or pumpkin, if using).
Gradually stir flour mixture into the sweet potato mixture, stirring only until everything is incorporated and no streaks of flour remain visible. Stir in dried cranberries and scrape batter into prepared pan.
Top batter with streusel mixture, generously sprinkling it into as even a layer as possible.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool before serving.

Recipe adapted from Baking Bites

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Yuletide Toffee Bars

I suppose these toffee bars are intended to be similar to a Heath Bar or Skor, but I personally don't see the resemblance. However, I do think they're wonderful to munch and simple to make. I used toasted, chopped almonds in mine, but use whatever nuts you prefer. The folks at King Arthur Flour ended up with 96 pieces from this recipe; I ended up with more like 24. Whatever the size, you'll probably want to eat another one. :)

Yuletide Toffee Bars

4 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
~1 cup chopped almonds, toasted

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly grease a 15 x 10-inch pan.

Combine the oats, sugar, butter, corn syrup, vanilla and salt and mix well. Press the mixture into the pan, using your lightly greased hands to help the process along.

Bake the squares for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they're a light golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

In a medium saucepan set over very low heat, melt the chocolate and shortening together, stirring constantly until smooth. Spread the mixture evenly over the oat base and sprinkle on the chopped nuts. Cover very loosely and chill the squares in the refrigerator until the chocolate is firm. Remove from the refrigerator and cut into squares.*

*Note: The KAF folks state, "The easiest way to do this is to use a chef's knife to cut the bars into long strips while they're still in the pan and then transfer each long strip to a cutting board to cut into bite-sized pieces. Yield: 96 small pieces (but feel free to cut them into whatever size works best for you)."

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Peanut Brittle

'Tis the season for baking and candy-making. I usually do lots of cookie and cake baking around the holidays, but I decided to go the candy route this year. I'd never made Peanut Brittle before, but it turned out to be a lot more simple than I thought! (No candy thermometer required!) This recipe actually comes from my Sunday School teacher when I was ~5 years old, so I'm pretty sure it's tried and true. The original recipe is below; my comments are in italics. Just be sure you (1) are giving it as a gift or (2) have a good hiding place for this because it's highly addictive. Now excuse me while I go hide the rest of this batch from my husband.

Peanut Brittle

2 cups sugar
1 cup white syrup (light corn syrup)
3 cups raw peanuts
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda (baking soda)

Grease two baking pans or line with a silicone baking mat.

Slowly heat sugar with syrup until melted over medium-low heat in a heavy-bottomed, large pot. Bring to a boil and add peanuts. Cook until golden brown, stirring constantly. (This will probably take ~15-20 minutes). Add salt and soda; stir (be careful - it will foam up!), then pour on greased pans while forming. You want a single layer of peanuts if possible, so use your stirring utensil to spread out the mixture into an even layer. Let it cool completely and break into pieces.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Cranberry Crunch Bars (Updated)

I first posted this recipe back in 2006, and I thought it would be good to do a quick update since I continue to make this easy and delicious treat. This is one of my absolute favorite desserts. The original recipe only made an 8x8 pan, so this version is for a 9x13 pan (and more is always better)! I buy bags of whole cranberries when they're available and toss them into the freezer so I can make this any time of the year. Oh, and if you have any left over, wrap them individually in plastic wrap and stash in a freezer bag in the freezer; they'll last a couple months and make great snacks.

Cranberry Crunch Bars

1 1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch (heaping)
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed & picked over
3/4 cup raisins

Combine sugar, cornstarch, water, vanilla, cranberries, and raisins in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 5-7 minutes, until the cranberrries have popped and the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Crumb Topping:
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Mix oats, brown sugar, flour, and melted butter until combined. Sprinkle 2/3 of the crumbs in bottom of a greased 9x13-inch pan. Spread cranberry filling over the crumbs, and top with the remaining crumbs. Bake at 375F for 30-35 minutes or until edges are slightly brown and caramelized and the center is bubbling. Cool completely, cut into squares, and serve.