Winner of an Applesauce

 

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This week I am happy to announce that I won third place in the Our Family Garden Applesauce recipe contest. Now, you might not think 3rd place is a big deal, but this contest was such a joy to participate in for so many reasons other than winning.

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First of all this is a real family business headed by a man named Darvin. Everyone including the children are involved in making the best applesauce I have ever eaten. The applesauce, made from a variety of apples, comes unsweetened or with a touch of honey +/or cinnamon. Darvin sent each participating contestant 6 full size jars of his well-made product plus a gift of a jar of jam….just because his is a kind and generous business. I already felt like I won and my recipe testing had not even started, yet.

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Inspired by such kindness and the perfect balance of fresh applesauce sweetness I went on to create 12 new recipes. (These days for most contests I only create 1 or 2 recipes at most.) Truth is this applesauce is so good on its own that it’s almost a crime to transform it into something else, but, my oh my, did it make every recipe I developed taste not only fantastic, but so much healthier to eat. I eliminated sugar and lots of fat without sacrificing any flavor in everything from baked goods to soups to a Korean style BBQ sauce. Win-Win-Win!

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The icing on the cake is that one of my recipe photos was chosen to dress the cover of the cookbook Darvin and his family are putting together. I am just thrilled the family liked my food photography and styling, too.

Here is my winning recipe which was a huge hit at Easter dinner. It’s a healthy carrot cake cupcake makeover utilizing a touch of honey for sweetness and some white whole wheat flour for a wholesome boost in nutrition. Try them for Mother’s Day.

Honey Frosted Carrot Cupcakes

  • Servings: 14
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 cup all purpose flour

1/3-cup white whole wheat flour

1-teaspoon baking soda

1-teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon fine salt

2 eggs

1/3-cup honey

½ cup canola oil

1-teaspoon fresh lemon juice

2/3-cup Our Family Garden Applesauce Touch of Honey

1 1/3 cups finely grated fresh carrots

Frosting

1 (8 oz) container mascarpone cheese or cream cheese

¼ cup honey

½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 14 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk all purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside. In another large bowl whisk the eggs until lightly beaten. Add honey, oil and lemon juice; whisk until slightly thickened. Stir in the applesauce and grated carrots. Add wet ingredients to dry mixture blending until dry ingredients are moistened and well mixed. Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter. Bake about 20 – 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack, and let cool completely before frosting. For frosting, beat mascarpone, honey and vanilla until well blended. Pipe or spoon the frosting on the top of each cupcake. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate the cupcakes until serving time. Can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.

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My favorite jelly bean and now taste tester in her Easter dress

 

Birthday Boy’s Spirited Boston Cream Pie

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Happy heavenly birthday William

 #30

It’s Your Day

loved being home

Your life was cut short too soon, but you lived fuller than most.  You cultivated a beautiful diverse garden filled with people far and wide who still love and remember you. They reach out every day, but especially at this time to surround me with the kind of love and appreciation you showed them. Happy birthday my boy. You are loved and missed by so many.

This recipe is adapted from the Joy of Baking. I love this web site for its detailed recipe instructions, weight measurements and videos. Besides angel food cake with strawberries another of William’s favorite desserts was Boston Cream Pie. I fancied this one up with a white chocolate swirl and gave it a touch of Will Keys spirit in the chocolate glaze.

The recipe is designed to make 12 cupcakes, but I chose to make a 6-inch round cake plus 6 cupcakes from the batter. I think William would have eaten the whole cake himself.

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Vanilla Cupcakes:

1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (120 ml) milk, room temperature

Pastry Cream:

2 large (35 grams) egg yolks

3 tablespoons (40 grams) granulated white sugar

2 tablespoons (20 grams) firmly packed cornstarch (corn flour)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup (240 ml) whole (full fat) milk

1/2 tablespoon (6 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze:

4 ounces (120 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces

3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup (or liquid glucose or golden syrup)

1 tablespoon Jack Daniels

White Chocolate Swirl:

2 squares white chocolate

 

Heat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and lightly butter 12 muffin cups, or spray with a non stick baking vegetable spray. (I did 6 cupcakes and a 6-inch round cake)

In bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Then, with the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.

Using a level ice-cream scoopful, fill 6 muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake just comes out clean. Spoon remaining batter into the 6-inch round pan. Bake 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Pastry Cream: In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, whisk the  egg yolks with the sugar. Add the cornstarch (corn flour) and salt and mix until you have a smooth paste.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk just to boiling (the milk starts to foam up.) Remove from heat and slowly pour the milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling (pour through strainer if necessary). Pour the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, keep whisking the mixture for another 30 – 60 seconds or until it becomes thick. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. Pour into a clean bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until firm. The pastry cream can be stored for up to 3 days. Whisk or stir before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed. (I pressed my through a sieve to get it extra smooth and creamy.)

Chocolate Glaze: Melt the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat, stir in the Jack Daniels, and let cool until it thickens slightly (to pouring consistency).

2 white chocolate squares, melted

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Assemble: Place the pastry cream in a piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (1 cm) plain tip. Fill each cupcake with the pastry cream by inserting the pastry tip into the top of each cupcake and squeezing just until you start to see cracks in the top of the cupcake. Then pour about 1-2 tablespoons of the chocolate glaze onto the center of each cupcake, letting it drip down the sides. Drizzle with some melted white chocolate and swirl with the end of a toothpick. Let the cupcakes sit at room temperature for an hour or two, or until the chocolate glaze dries. The cupcakes can then be covered and stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Bring to room temperature before serving. (I zapped a cold cupcake for 15 seconds in the microwave and it was heavenly)

For the cake: slice it in half horizontally and place bottom half on serving plate. Top with remaining pastry cream. Place second cake layer on top. Spoon remaining glaze and white chocolate over the top; swirl it.

Makes 12 cupcakes or a 6-inch cake and 6 cupcakes

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William

The Best Darn Lemon Cake

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After last week’s revelation of whether internet recipes were well tested or NOT I promised to deliver a better lemon cake. The photo below is the recipe dud my friend experienced that kicked off lemon cake mania in my kitchen.

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~friend’s photo

Looking over the written recipe she used I guessed those sinking centers were a result of too much leavening. The cake collapsed down the middle because the batter could not hold the excess carbon dioxide. She also mentioned that the cake was very oily. With a half cup of oil stirred in at the end that came as no surprise. Based on the concept that oil and water don’t mix I imagine the oil just coating the wet batter rather than joining into the pool. The next photo is that same recipe with less baking soda and half the amount of oil with the oil incorporated in the beginning of the recipe rather than at the end. The collapse is gone, but it still felt oily and didn’t have much lemon flavor.

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too oily and not enough lemon flavor

 

It took a bit of internet recipe research and thumbing through a variety of my own cookbooks AND a field trip to Starbuck’s to understand the many variations available. Baked with everything from oil to instant pudding mix I knew I wanted a less processed ingredient cake that would tingle all the way down to your toes with fresh lemon flavor. It was not an easy task.

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In addition to my daughter and husband, my neighbor agreed to be a taste tester. Pam is a very good cook and I trust her tastebuds. Then it happened. The first slice I sent over her response is “this is better than Starbuck’s”. I knew I needed to get my hands on a slice to properly compare since this whole project started over a copycat recipe that failed.

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I am not sure why anyone likes this cake. See those tunnels in that slice? That most likely means the leavening is not distributed evenly into the flour. Oh, and it also collapses. AND at $3.00 a slice Starbuck’s is not cheap. Even before the cashier handed me the bag I was hit by a waft of lemon scent. Sadly, it was an odor that brought memories of my mom dusting the living room furniture with lemon Pledge rather than something baking in the oven.  Back home, as my sense of smell and taste mingled over a bite of the cake I guessed it was heavily dosed with either lemon oil or extract. It was an overwhelming and unpleasant bite. An assault to my nose as there was no flavor in my mouth. It was all in my nose. I wondered why anyone would want to recreate it, but taste is subjective. Right? I will give it props for the icing. I think it’s a simple mix of fresh lemon juice and powdered sugar.

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When it comes to the flavor of our food the sense of smell rather than that of taste is the dominant force. The common experience of pinching our nostrils close to swallow a spoonful of awful tasting medicine during cold and flu season illustrates the point. While the tastebuds distinguish between salty, sweet, bitter and sour the nose is far more sensitive and can discriminate among 100’s of different substances. We smell and taste the flavor of our food at the same time because the nose and mouth share an air passage known as the pharynx. Ingredients like lemon extract and lemon oil add aroma. In small doses it’s a good thing. I think Starbuck’s is using too much of a good thing in their cake recipe. Okay, enough science lets get down to the recipe.

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Second try using lemon pudding mix and a soaking lemon glaze. Taste testers like it. Still not enough lemon punch and a bit dense in my opinion. Find the recipe below.

In an attempt to enhance the lemon flavor I try instant lemon pudding in the next test plus a soaking lemon glaze. This cake bakes up dark and a bit dense. All the taste testers like it, but I don’t love it.

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Buttery light cake with a wallop of real lemon flavor

 

So, onto test #3. This is it. The goal is to eliminate the processed ingredients and create a buttery light cake with that punch in your face, lip-smakin’, pucker power fresh lemon flavor that make your shoulders shiver. It might not be yours, but it is my favorite lemon loaf cake. If you try it I would love to hear your honest opinion. I can thank one of my dessert heroes, Maida Heatter, for the inspiration.

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soaked in glaze

The Best Darn Lemon Cake

  • Servings: 8 to 10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from Maida Heatter’s New Book of Great Desserts

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 cup sugar

grated zest of 2 large lemons

2 eggs

½ cup milk

2 tablespoons lemon extract

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup almond flour

Glaze

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

¼ cup sugar

Icing(optional)

1 tablespoon soft unsalted butter

½ cup powdered sugar

pinch of fine sea salt

3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Heat oven to 350F. Butter an 8 ½ x 4 ½-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a strip of parchment paper leaving a 1-inch overhang. Butter the parchment or use a no-stick spray. In small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add zest and eggs; blend well. Add 1/3rd of flour mixture, alternating with half the milk, blending well after each addition and scraping bottom of the bowl. Add lemon extract and lemon juice; blend well. Stir in almond flour. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 65 to 70 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. The cake should have cracks in the top. Transfer cake in pan to a cooling rack. For glaze: heat lemon juice and sugar together in small saucepan, stirring, just until sugar is dissolved. While cake is still hot in pan slowly brush the glaze over top of cake until it is absorbed. The cracks in the cake are a gateway to the inside, so no need to poke holes all over it unless you are in a hurry. Let cake cool completely before lifting it from the pan using the parchment paper as handles. Makes 8 to 10 slices.

If you like icing just mix the butter, powdered sugar and salt together and then add enough lemon juice to create the desired consistency. Spread over the top and let set.

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Lemon Loaf with Pudding in the Mix

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 (3.4 oz) instant lemon pudding mix

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup canola oil

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons lemon extract

3 eggs

zest of 2 lemons

1/3 cup buttermilk

Glaze

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Icing

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat oven 350F. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with no-stick baking spray. Line pan with a strip of parchment paper with a 1-inch overhang. Lightly coat parchment with baking spray. In bowl, whisk flour, pudding mix, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In stand mixer, beat butter, oil and sugar until combined. Add vanilla and lemon extract, eggs and lemon zest; blend well. Add half the flour mixture; blend just until moistened. Add buttermilk; blend well. Add remaining flour mixture just until blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cover with foil last 10 minutes if browning too much. Transfer cake in pan to a cooling rack. Prepare glaze. In small saucepan, over medium heat, stir sugar and lemon juice just until sugar is dissolved. Brush glaze over loaf while it is still warm. Cool completely. Using parchment overhang as handles lift cake from pan. Peel off parchment and place on serving plate. For icing mash butter, powdered sugar and salt together with the back of a spoon until well blended. Add just enough lemon juice, stirring, to desired icing consistency. I like it lemony. You can substitute milk if you don’t like so much lemon, but then why are you here? (LOL)

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Note that Starbuck’s bakes in a narrow pan to get that height

And as an added bonus for all you Gluten-Free foodies check out my friend Kim’s blog for a delicious dairy free, gluten free version of the best darn blueberry lemon loaf. Just click on this link: The Gluten Free Gathering