December 9, 2017

Gnome Sugar Cookie


The holiday season doesn't start for me until I decorate the Christmas tree and bring out my beloved collection of Scandinavian gnomes.  I first fell in love with these adorable felt figures many, many years ago when they festooned my honorary Norwegian mamma's cabin in the mountains outside of Oslo.  Mamma G (aka "MG") loves to decorate at Christmas, no one can hold a candle to her in this regard, and the gnomes are the star centerpieces.  


How ecstatic was I last Christmas when she gifted me with an entire family of white and grey gnomes of my very own!  Little did she know at the time that her generous gift was the start of my ever growing gnome collection.  You might say I have a slight obsession, but I can't help it, they are just so darn cute! I've found some great ones at Zara Home, Swedish Inspirations, IKEA and Heath Ceramics.


So when I happened upon Sweet Sugarbelle's gnome cookies I knew I had to make them.  They were literally screaming my name.  Callye is such a baking inspiration for me and her creativity has no bounds.  She ingeniously used one of her brand's ghost cookie cutters and transformed it in to the gnome.  Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to buy her Halloween cutter collection when it was in stores but I found this great alternative at Truly Mad Plastics.

I just love how the gnomes turned out.  In fact, I love them so much I'm using "gnomes" as the theme for the holiday treats that I'll be gifting this year.

December 3, 2017

Tunnel of Fudge Cake



My friend Link texted me a few weeks ago in search of a chocolate bundt recipe.  I initially referred him to this post already on my blog for deep chocolate sour cream cake.  Then I thought to myself, what if you didn't have sour cream and just wanted to make a cake with ingredients you normally already had on hand?

In search for something easier, I was thumbing through my copy of this Cook's Country cookbook and fortuitously happened upon a recipe for Tunnel of Fudge Cake.  I loved the idea of a moist chocolate bundt with a fudgy center.   I've never made this cake before and I don't recall having tasted one either so that was enough motivation for me to try the recipe.


After reviewing the list of ingredients I do admit I was concerned about the copious amounts of sugar it has: granulated, brown and powdered!  My anxiety was quickly alleviated once I tasted the finished cake as I found the rich chocolate flavor tempered any sweetness I had feared.   

The key to success with this cake is to make sure you don't over bake it, otherwise you won't get the lovely "tunnel of fudge."  Follow what the recipe says and test that it's done by gently pressing your finger on the surface of the cake and it springs back gently.  Also, I only used half the chocolate glaze, which was more than enough, so I ended up baking a second cake a few days later! 

November 5, 2017

Dutch Apple Pie


If you've made apple pies before then you've probably encountered the same issues that I have after they're baked.  The dreaded air pocket between the filling and the top crust.  This normally happens because the apple filling shrinks as the pie cools.  Don't get me wrong, it doesn't impact the taste in the least, but the Virgo in me (aka perfectionist), is chagrined.

Dutch Apple Pie is the solution!  Don't know why I didn't think of it sooner.  It's perfect because there's no top crust to contend with, therefore no air pocket.  And who doesn't love the buttery crumb topping?  Genius!


If you were following my InstaStories then you know that this pie was actually my second attempt at making Dutch apple.  In the initial recipe I tested the filling came out too watery and the crust was a bit too gummy.  I went back to the drawing board and mashed up a few components from different recipes to get to this beauty you see here before you.

Without a doubt my favorite pie crust of all time is the foolproof one from Cook's Illustrated that contains vodka.  It is seriously no fail and bakes up crispy and flaky every single time.   For the filling I piggybacked off my Honeycrisp Apple Pie but tweaked it ever so slightly.   Everyone knows Dutch apple pie is all about the crumb topping and Cook's Country has the best version around.   

When combined, all three components were culinary magic.  I'll definitely be making this pie again for Thanksgiving.  I recommend you do too!

October 21, 2017

A New England trip and some Apple Cider Donuts


I just returned from a five day trip with my family to the Northeast where the main items on the agenda were leaf peeping and experiencing a New England autumn.  Living in California, and especially San Francisco, late September to mid-November normally signals Indian summer so witnessing the fall colors has been on my bucket list.  The visit really exceeded my expectations.  So much in fact that I'm thinking of making it an annual outing going forward.  



Something I absolutely had to do on this trip was go apple picking and of course sample freshly made cider donuts.  I discovered Cider Hill Farm when I was researching online for u-pick farms.  Its location was ideal because it was only about an hour north of Boston (our home base) and in the general direction of New Hampshire where we were headed for leaf peeping. 


We got to Cider Hill just as it opened at 8am and as soon as we approached the farm shop the smell of freshly made apple cider donuts filled the air.  Absolute heaven!   After gobbling down a half dozen with some hot cider we set about focusing on the task at hand - picking apples!  

There were so many different varieties to choose from and the countless rows of trees were bursting with ripe fruit.  In the end we decided on Empires, with a few Ambrosias thrown in.  One hour and a half bushel of apples later and we left the farm fully satisfied.  


When I got back home to SF all I could think about were those delicious apple cider donuts.  Normally I avoid deep frying at home but in this case I had to make an exception.  I found a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, a highly trusted source, so I felt confident they would be great.   I wasn't wrong - they had a crispy, crunchy exterior with a soft cake-y interior.  So delicious!

The next time I make this recipe I'll probably just make the donut holes.  I actually prefer the smaller portions because you don't feel so bad eating a few in one sitting.  My favorite way to enjoy them?  With a cup of piping hot apple cider, of course!  


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