Monday, April 30, 2012

Apple Fritters

I don't know what it is about apple fritters, but I love them. The crisp outsides, the tender insides dotted with sweet apples, the spicy cinnamon and the sweet, sticky glaze on top. All those together make a wonderful treat!

The only problem was that when I went to search out a recipe, all the recipes I could find were for a cake donut with apples chopped up and added. Not what I was looking for.

I finally got so frustrated that I decided to make my own recipe. It couldn't be that hard right? I know how to make raised donuts, I know that an apple fritter is a raised donut, I just needed to figure out how to make them look like a fritter. No problem!

I used the single loaf recipe of Grandmother Bread, with a couple additions.

Apple Fritters

Single Loaf Grandmother Bread
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 egg yolks
4 medium apples~ peeled, cored, sliced thin and sauteed with 1 Tablespoon butter, 1 teaspoon brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Cooked til tender and cooled.
1 1/2 Tablespoon cinnamon

Make the bread according to directions, adding the butter, egg yolks and apples to along with the first 3 cups of flour. Let rise until double.

Now here's where I changed things up again. I didn't let the dough rise a second time. Instead, I floured the counter really well and took about 1/2 a cup of dough out at a time. I rolled it into a ball on the floured counter and then stretched it into a thinner round (imagine stretching a pizza crust) before popping it right into the 350 degree oil. Cook about 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown and delicious. Drizzle with Glaze (recipe follows).

I tried just rolling them out, but the would be very thin in the middle and not have that signature bumpy appearance. The stretching worked out great and it was easy too!

Vanilla Glaze

2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup milk

Stir it all together until a thin (about the consistency of honey) glaze forms. Add more milk if it's too thick, more powdered sugar if it's too thin.

This couldn't have been any easier and I can tell by the way they are flying off the platter that these are going to be an often requested item here. They were easy, fairly quick (about 1 1/2 hours start to finish) and they taste SO GOOD. Dare I say even better than the ones you can get from the store? I think so!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Spring Rush

I don't know about you, but where I live in Oregon the Spring weather can be very unpredictable. For example, early last week there was just a dusting of snow and yesterday it was in the 80's. We can get a couple days of sunshine followed by a week or two of rain. We have to do like the saying says and "make hay while the sun shines". 

The first nice days mean that you are out mowing your yard because it resembles a hay field. Grass grows seriously fast around here when it wants to. So, we did that. Much nicer to look at now :)

Here are some of the projects I'll be trying to get done before the next rains come, and some random pictures too!

I thought this was cool. I dislike spiders, but I love spiderwebs (as long as I'm not walking into them).

Our strawberries are doing AMAZING. We're already flowering, you can see some in the picture as a matter of fact, and I saw a few set fruits yesterday when I weeded the bed. The PVC pipe frame holds up our bird netting and we have little clips to hold it down on the sides. It works out nicely to just be able to un-clip a side and pick. Take that birds!

Dottie is happy that it stopped raining to she can go outside for more than a few minutes at a time. I have never seen a dog hate the rain as much as this one. Now that it's sunny she spends a good deal of time laying in the grass on her back sound asleep. She's a silly one :)

Last year I used this raised bed for lettuce and spinach along with a few flowers. This year I'm going to plant some herbs in it. Well, after I finish weeding it. It's a jungle out there....

The raspberry bushes (they were more like raspberry sticks really) we planted last year are doing really, really well. This picture isn't a good indication of how big they are because I took it standing over them, but I'm happy so far. We have 2 golden raspberries, a red raspberry and a blueberry in from last year. We have 3 more blueberries and another red raspberry to go in the ground in the next couple days. Have you seen the new pink lemonade blueberries? They have cute little pink berries. I may plant a couple this year just to see how they do. Next year I'd like to add boysenberries, marion berries and currants to the garden. We'll see.

We walked down this row yesterday and were amazed to count over 80 volunteer onions in the weeds. Now we have to tackle cleaning out this patch and getting the onions some mulch. There is a mix of red and white in there. We planted onions last year and they didn't do very well, so we just left them to rot (we assumed) and they came up hardy and vigorous this year! It was a great discovery.

The sun is shining on our house! Look at the clear beautiful sky....I should probably go get something done.....

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cream Puffs or Eclairs

For a long time, I thought making a cream puff (or eclair) must be really hard because I only saw them in bakeries or in the frozen section of the supermarket. And you know, nothing says "hard to make" like finding it in the frosty isles of the WalMarts! A few years later and some looking around and I now know that making the dough for either eclairs of cream puffs is simple. Stupid simple.

Let me show you how you can have cream puffs in 6 easy steps.

Step 1: Melt the butter, water, milk and salt. Bring to a boil and turn down the heat.

Step 2: Add the flour and cook until if forms a ball.

Step 3: Take the dough ball of the heat, and beat in the eggs~ 1 at a time.

Step 4: Pipe onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Step 5: Turn the oven off and let the cream puff/eclair shells cool off in the oven.

Step 6: Fill, chill and enjoy!

To fill the eclairs you have to options, 1) poke a hole in one end with a small, sharp knife large enough to fit a pastry bag or a zip-top bag with the corner cut off or 2) use a pastry bag fitted with a round or shell tip and just jab the metal through the end and fill. Either way works equally as well and I have done it both ways. To fill the cream puffs, just split in half, fill the bottom us and top with the top half.

As far as fillings go, I usually opt for a chocolate or vanilla pudding filling. I make my pudding, cool it, add some whipped cream to lighten it up and fill those babies right up! You could also use pastry cream, flavored whipping cream and in the case of the cream puffs, ice cream. You can leave the tops plain, dust them with powdered sugar or drizzle with chocolate sauce. Or, you can spread some chocolate icing over the tops. Really, whatever tickles your fancy and will fit into the shell is going to be fantastic.

Choux Pasty Dough

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter
pinch of salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs

In a saucepan, place the milk, water, butter and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and add flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until a ball forms. Remove from heat and beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Spoon dough into a pastry bag or a zip top bag. Nip off the corner or use a pastry tip to pipe your desired shape. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 18-20 minutes or until golden browned. Prop the door open and leave the shells in the oven, with the oven turned off, to cool completely. Fill with desired filling, chill and enjoy :)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Easter Food Ideas

I have a few older recipes that some of you may have never seen. Since Easter is this weekend, I thought I would highlight some of the recipes that I think would make a nice addition to your meal. Just click on the links to be taken to some recipes that are favorites of mine!

Caramel Apple Cheesecake

Chocolate Cherry Trifle

Sweet Cornbread Muffins

Cheesy Potatoes

Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot Snack Cake

A Fun Bunny Cake

Grasshopper Pie

Mini Cheesecakes

Easy Cheese Danish

Golden Dinner Rolls

Hot Artichoke Dip

Hashbrown Casserole

Stuffed French Toast

The list is a little heavy on desserts, I know, but that's what I'm most often asked to bring to a get together so I have a LOT of good recipes :)

Yesterday's Lemon Bars would be great as well, as would the Cream Puffs that I'm posting about tomorrow! Stay tuned.....

Monday, April 2, 2012

The BEST Lemon Bars Ever.

I have never, and I mean never, come across a recipe for lemon bars that is better received than this one. Everyone who tastes these loves them! They are just 3 easy layers: a buttery crust, a tangy lemon layer and a sweet powder sugar topping. And they are easy! And they make a bunch! And they are SO GOOD!

The pretty yellow color and fresh flavors make these bars perfect for sharing at an Easter Brunch, Lunch or Dinner.

To make these wondrous treats, you first need to put the flour and powdered sugar into a bowl along with 1 cup of butter:

Mix until it looks like this:

And then press into a 9x13 inch baking pan like so:

Bake for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown. While you are waiting, mix up the lemon filling.

In a bowl, mix together 2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 4 eggs.

Whip it until it is very thick and lemon colored, like this:

Mix together the reserved flour and baking powder and add it to the filling mixture.
Now, pour it over the crust:

And bake for about 25 minutes, or until the center is set and the top is golden brown.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar when you take them out of the oven:

Cool completely before cutting.
I usually sprinkle them with powdered sugar again before I cut them, but that's up to you.

Lemon Bars

2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
powdered sugar for dusting

In a bowl mix the flour, powdered sugar and butter until it clings. Press into a 9x13 inch pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile, mix together the sugar, lemon juice and eggs. Beat on high until they are thick and lemon colored. Add in the 1/4 cup flour and baking soda. Mix well. Pour onto warm crust and put back into the 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or until the center is set and the top is lightly browned. Place on a cooling rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Let cool completely before cutting. Refrigerate any leftovers.

A simple, one bowl lemon bar to usher in Spring. Sounds good to me :)