Category Archives: Family Fun
Today’s treat is not baked, but very tasty and easy to make. It amazes me sometimes how much we are willing to pay for chocolate truffles when it’s not terribly hard to make them at home.
The thing that makes these so easy is that they are rolled in a coating and not dipped in tempered chocolate. Tempering chocolate is a tricky business that involves quite a bit of precise temperature regulating. If you eliminate that step, though, you get a treat that even kids can make.
In fact, that’s just what my kids did yesterday and today. They each chose a flavor for their truffles. One chose peppermint and the other mexican chocolate.
I was busy shuttling back and forth between the two of them so there are no pictures of the chocolate mixing process. The recipe I used can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s book, Baking Chez Moi. However, there’s lots of similar recipes out there if you want to try them.
Rolling the ganache into balls was messy, but it doesn’t really matter if they are done evenly because it all looks good in the end after they are rolled in their coatings. The peppermint ones got rolled in ground up white chocolate, while the Mexican ones got a cocoa powder/cinnamon/chili powder coating.
Because these are not coated with tempered chocolate, they have to be stored in the fridge. They taste better if you leave them out for a while to warm up, though. The boys are planning to give some of their truffles away as gifts to their friends. That’s only if we don’t eat them all first!
I’ll be sure to include a few in the Christmas Treat box that I am giving away in just a few days. Be sure to leave a comment to be included in the drawing. (If you need the rules, here they are. Tell me about your favorite chocolate. My favorite chocolates to eat are from Chuao. They have a passionfruit truffle that is really yummy!
Last week we went on a biking and camping vacation to Acadia National Park. It was a significant trip for us for a couple of reasons. First, we got a hitch and bike rack to put on the car so that we could take our bikes with us. After fifteen years of waiting, we are finally a biking family! This may seem inconsequential, but biking did not come easily to the boys (nor me, if I am honest). We wanted it to be a fun biking trip and not torture for anyone, so we waited until everyone was comfortable biking for long stretches and found it enjoyable as well.
This is also our first camping trip since moving to New England. Previously, we usually took a fall camping trip in October sometime to western Maryland or down to Virgina. But, the nights get a little nippy earlier in the year up here, so we decided to go in September.
And it was glorious.
We had wonderful weather for the first three days.
The biking was not too difficult.
The views were fantastic.
All the food we ate was delicious.
We wished it would last forever.
Unfortunately, it came to a halt when our older son fell off of a rock he was walking on and injured himself on some other granite rocks. We had to get him down the mountain, a two mile bike ride, and then to a hospital for stitches. Fortunately, he could still bike and those two miles were all downhill. We were very thankful it was not worse than it was. If he had fallen in a different direction, he would fallen down a very steep ravine, littered with rocks. As it was, he only needed a few stitches and some ice cream.
Our last morning in the park started off in a rush of breaking camp as we woke to the sounds of rain on the tent. The rest of the morning, we spent enjoying the park through the fog and an occasional downpour, which gave the park a unique beauty. My only regret is that we did not get to the top of Cadillac Mountain on a nice day because the views from there are truly spectacular.
Instead, with the wind buffeting us around, we pretended we were summiting a much taller mountain and tried not to get blown off.
Something that I was not expecting during our vacation was the lack of a cell phone service. I only had service when we went into town, which we did almost everyday, but other than that, I was completely off the grid. At first it was annoying because I missed the convenience of looking things up on my phone and posting to social media. But, I soon forgot about it and enjoyed the time I had to focus on the things we were doing without any temptation to connect with the cyber world.
Sadly, we had to come home and get back to all that comes with a busy life. However, it’s only a matter of time before we go back. Promise.
One of the first things I did when we returned from our travels a couple of weeks ago was to look around for blueberry farms that would allow us to come and pick our own. We’ve been blueberry picking every summer for almost two decades! There were several that popped up, but most of them did not seem appealing for one reason or another except for one that happened to be rather close to our house. Well, close meaning it was a 25 minute drive, which is how far we are from just about everything. Anyway, we jumped into the car and drove over there and the whole time I was thinking that if it was a bust, at least it wasn’t that far away. Happily, it was a fantastic little farm and we were there on the opening day of blueberry picking, so the blueberries were very plentiful.
We were there for less than an hour and picked all this, including the raspberries.
I can”t tell you what a relief and joy it was that we were able to find this farm. After a long first year here with countless moments of homesickness, this was a couple of hours when we all felt actually really happy and glad to be here. Don’t get me wrong, none of us regret moving (well, maybe a little), but living in a place where everything is new and nothing is familiar just wears on a person.
It was nice to enjoy a familiar activity. In fact, we enjoyed it so much we went back the next week and did it again. And I am hoping they will still be open for another week so we can get some more because, unbelievably, we have gone through 12 quarts of blueberries in two weeks. There were a couple of tarts and batches of jam. Three or four of those quarts went into the freezer for the long winter. And, of course, there were pies and breads and smoothies. And recently, with the last quart of berries facing me, I also made a lovely loaf cake dotted with blueberries, flavored with zingy lemon, and enhanced by the subtle crunch of cornmeal.
Best of all, the cake is super easy to mix together. The hardest task is zesting the lemons. Everything else can be done with a whisk. These are my favorite kinds of recipes. Simple. Tasty. Unfussy.
When the loaf comes out of the oven, it gets a sugar and lemon juice glaze.
Then, once it has cooled, it gets a drizzle of icing. You may be tempted to skip the icing and it would be ok without it. However, the cake itself has less sugar than most, so the icing really enhances the cake instead of just adding to the sweetness. Plus, it makes it really pretty.
Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Quick Bread
makes one 9 by 5 inch loaf (I used a 11.5 by 3.5 inch pan that I got from Ikea, but the 9 by 5 is about the same volume. If you don’t have that, an 8 by 8 pan would work, but it would be shorter and probably need to bake for a shorter period of time.)
1 1/4 cups (6.25 ounces) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) fine cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
zest of one lemon
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 Tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup plus 1/4 cup fresh blueberries
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup (3 ounces) powdered sugar
zest of half a lemon
1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a piece of parchment.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together until mixed.
In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and lemon zest together. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until almost fully mixed. Add the melted butter and whisk until smooth. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in 1 cup of blueberries. Scrape the batter into your loaf pan and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of blueberries on top.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until nicely golden on top and a tester comes out clean. Meanwhile, mix together the 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and sugar for the glaze. As soon as you remove the cake from the oven brush the glaze over the top of the cake while it is still in the pan. After 15 minutes, remove the cake from the pan and let cool completely on a rack.
Mix together the ingredients for the icing. Begin with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Whisk the powdered sugar, lemon zest, and juice together in a bowl, adding additional juice until the icing drops smoothly from a spoon or whisk. Drizzle the icing decoratively over the top of the cake. Transfer to a serving plate and serve at room temperature. The cake will keep well, covered for a day or two.
This summer is going to be recorded in our family history books as one of the busiest and fastest moving summers we have ever had. I feel like I have barely blinked and two months have passed by. Another thing I discovered this week as I opened up this blog for the first time in weeks is that this blog is five years old! Amazing how the months roll by. At the time, so many moments seem to last longer than they should, but in hindsight I wish they had lasted longer. Oh well. C’est la vie. I will try not to waste my time in past regrets, just like I won’t waste your time by going on about how I did not mean to be gone from the blog so long. The truth is, we all have to do what we need to do in the time that we have and sometimes we have time for extra things and sometimes we don’t. My goal is just to be grateful for what I am doing right this minute, which is talking to you, and also to be grateful that you are spending your precious time listening. Thank you.
Now, onward. To kind of celebrate the five year birthday of this blog, I’ve created a new tab at the top of the page here for recipes. Hopefully, when you click on that, you will find a nice tidy list of recipes with hyperlinkies attached that I have posted over the past five years. They are separated into categories that I hope will be helpful if you are looking to make a particular type of food.
It was fun to go through all my past recipes. There’s lots of cake and jam and cookies, lol! It’s really amazing to think about how much sugar and butter we have gone through in the past five years as well. People often remark that they wonder how we stay so skinny with all the goodies I make. Well, all I can say is that we have two growing boys who are very active and they keep us active and busy enough that a piece of cake or bread treat a day isn’t going to make us fat. Also, we try to keep our portions small and I utilize a big deep freezer for extras. We hardly eat any packaged foods, which also means any treats we eat we usually make ourselves. Sometimes, we share as well!
The photos above were taken on our various travels lately, which included visiting both coasts of the continent. Thankfully, for the next few weeks, we are at home and experiencing our first New England summer. (Even though we were here last summer, it did not really count as a summer for us as we were stressed with moving and new home and job stuff.) The first thing we did when we got back was to enjoy the local produce.
I hope to have some more inspiration and ideas to share with you soon. In the meantime, enjoy the new tab with all the recipe links!
So, you know how yesterday I said that the Salted Caramel sauce with Maple Bourbon was just about the most delicious thing I have ever eaten? That is still true, but it is also true that today’s recipe is almost as good as yesterday’s, and that is mostly because it includes yesterday’s sauce.
After I made the caramel sauce, I started thinking about all the things that it would go well with. Ice cream. Cake. Coffee. And then I thought of bread. Monkey bread. What if I used the caramel sauce with monkey bread? Now, normally I don’t love monkey bread. I find it too sticky, kinda how I feel about sticky buns as well. They are always good for a few bites, but after that, stuff starts sticking to my teeth and it loses its charm for me. But, with this awesome sauce, how could it be bad? So, I tried it.
Oh my goodness, it was amazing! It was soft and gooey, but not sticky. There was just enough sweetness to let you know you were not having a plain roll, but not so much that it felt like you were having a serving of candy with your breakfast.
I loved it. The boys loved it. The husband even loves it and he hates sticky things.
Do you want to hear the best news about this recipe? You can make it ahead of time. It can be made and assembled the day before and refrigerated to be popped into the oven when you wake up the next morning. Or, if you are really thinking ahead, you can make it several weeks ahead of time and freeze it. Yes, I said you could freeze it! Then, whenever you want to bake it, just take it out of the freezer, let it sit for a bit while the oven preheats, and then you bake it. It just needs an extra 15-20 minutes in the oven.
When I made this, I split the dough in half and made two loaf shaped breads so that I could bake one immediately and freeze one for later. If you want to feed more people, you can put all the dough in a bundt pan.
This is also a really fun thing to do with the kids. They loved helping out and it makes the tedious job of rolling little balls of dough in butter and sugar go by much more quickly.
It is so good that this monkey bread has been officially voted in to the standard Christmas list of baked goods. In order to make this very short list, everyone has to love it. Many breads have auditioned, but few make it. This group includes Pannetone, Pandoro, Snowflake Buns, and, now, Caramel Monkey Bread.
If you have taken my advice and made the caramel sauce from yesterday, I hope you will take my advice today and make this bread. If you are feeling really generous, you can make the sauce and the bread and give it away as a gift. That would just about make you a saint, I think!
If you do make it, be sure to put the pans on another baking pan to catch the drips. Otherwise, you will get a house full of smoke because that caramel sauce will definitely bubble up. Ask me how I know, haha. Also, when you eat it, be sure to scrape up that yummy sauce with each little pillow of dough! Yum.
With that, my Twelve Days of Christmas Gifts is done. I think I said that the deadline is midnight tonight to enter, but this post is a little late in the day, so I will extend the deadline to 6pm tomorrow, December 20, Eastern standard time. I will announce the winner tomorrow night. Leave me a comment to be entered. Tell me what you would love to get for Christmas this year.
Caramel Monkey Bread
makes one large bundt bread or two loaf pan breads
3 3/4 cups or 18.5 ounces all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk
1 envelope of instant yeast or a scant tablespoon
1 cup hot water, not over 115 degrees
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2/3 cup of caramel sauce (see recipe here)
6 Tablespoons melted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup toasted pecans(optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, dry milk, and yeast.
Melt the butter in the hot water.
With the stand mixer on low speed, add the buttered water and eggs to the flour mixture and mix just until the dough comes together. Stop the mixer and cover the bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle on the salt and continue mixing the dough until it is smooth. If it does not clear the sides of the bowl after five minutes, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until it does. Be sure to let the flour fully incorporate before adding more flour.
Cover and let rise until doubled, about 60-90 minutes, depending on the temperature of your house. Meanwhile, prepare your pans and filling.
Spray with oil or butter your bundt pan or two 8 1/2 by 4 inch loaf pans with oil. Pour the caramel into the bottom of your pan(s). If using the pecans, sprinkle half of them over the caramel in the pans.
Melt the butter in a small bowl. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon in another small bowl.
When the dough has risen, scrape it onto your counter. Divide it into 4 pieces and then cut each piece into 12-16 more pieces. Roll into little balls.
Dip each ball into the butter and then into the brown sugar mixture to coat. Drop the balls into the baking pans. Repeat with all the balls, evenly distributing them. Sprinkle the remaining nuts on top.
Cover the pans and let them rise until just doubled, about an hour. If you are making them ahead of time, make sure they are tightly wrapped and then put it in the freezer or refrigerator after they are fully risen the second time.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If your pans are cold, just take them out, unwrap them and let them sit on the counter until the oven is preheated.
Cover the pans loosely with foil and place on a baking sheet. Don’t skip this step! The caramel will bubble up and drip out!
Bake for 20 minutes. Then, remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes for unchilled dough. For chilled dough, bake for another 25 minutes. For frozen dough, bake for another 40 minutes. These are all estimates. If you want to check for sure if it is done, slip a knife into the dough between two of the balls and look inside. If it still looks doughy, bake a little longer.
Have a rimmed plate or platter ready for the bread when it comes out of the oven. When the bread is done, take it out and turn it over onto your serving plate within a few minutes. Be careful as the caramel sauce is very hot! Try not to burn your fingers when you eat it. This is best served warm and eaten within a day.