Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pumpkin Bars

I know it's getting toward the end of pumpkin season, but I'm going to have at least two more pumpkin recipes for you. This week I'm bringing you Pumpkin Bars. My version is a mixture of several online recipes I found.

Basically, it's just a pumpkin cake that you smother in cream cheese icing and cut into bars. I made it for a Thanksgiving pot luck lunch at work. Yummy! 

Pumpkin Bars

Ingredients for bars:

4 eggs
1-2/3 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
15 oz can pumpkin
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or use 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, and ¼ teaspoon ground clove)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
(1 cup raisins, optional)

Ingredients for icing:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 13x9 pan with cooking spray.

In a mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin until light and fluffy. 

In a different bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and baking soda. Hand mix the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture. (Stir in raisins if desired.)

Spread into prepared 13x9 pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

When cake is cool, make the icing by beating the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Beat in the sugar, vanilla, and milk. Add more milk if the icing is too thick. Spread over cooled pumpkin bars.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sugar-Dusted Macaroon Trees (Take #1)

I found this recipe through Martha Stewart's Living magazine, but you can also find it online here. They tasted pretty yummy, but I'm thinking I can do even better. (Gasp! Did I just say I could improve on a Martha Stewart recipe?)

My changes would be basically decorative, not substantive. I'd love to try dying these green so they look more like evergreens and perhaps adding some candy decorations to look like Christmas tree ornaments. If I try this again, I'll post new photos.

Sugar-Dusted Macaroon Trees

2-1/2 cups shredded coconut
3/4 cup sugar
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
5 teaspoons vanilla
dash of salt
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine coconut, sugar, egg whites, vanilla, and salt. Using 2 tablespoons at a time, use your fingers to form mixture into trees. Place each tree on parchment-lined cookie sheets.

Bake 12-14 minutes. The edges should be golden and trees should be firm.

Cool on cookie sheet on wire rack at least 15 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Best if eaten within the first couple days.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Vote for a Thanksgiving Dessert!

Okay, kids, today's lesson requires some class participation.

Some friends and I are having a potluck type of Thanksgiving dinner in a couple weeks. I can't decide what to make for dessert! Help me by voting for one of the recipes below. Leave your vote in the comments section.

Click on each name to see the recipe. The first four are from the Kraft web site. The last one is from the Food Network. The photos are from the respective web sites. They are both great web sites if you're looking for dessert ideas.


Don't forget to leave your vote in the comment section. If you do not vote, you will receive an F for your homework grade and will be held after class.

And no, you may not do someone else's homework for them. (No voting twice!) Even though this is Chicago, you should only vote early but not often.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

How to Keep Cake Crumbs out of Your Icing

Having problems keeping your cake crumbs out of your icing? I always wondered how the pros did it. One day I stumbled on the "dirty ice" method by accident. Actually, I didn't even know it was called that until watching an episode of Cake Boss. Basically, in order to keep cake crumbs from showing through your icing, you need to ice the cake with a thin layer of icing to "catch" all the crumbs. 

Before putting on any icing, lightly brush any loose crumbs from the cake. Then take a small amount of your regular icing and thin it out a bit with a little extra water. Thin icing spreads easily. Thicker icing will drag across the surface of your cake and create more crumbs than necessary.

As demonstrated in this picture, you'll still see cake crumbs in the frosting, but this is only your first layer.

Next, let the "dirty" layer set. Depending on the humidity in your home, this may take an hour or two. The icing should "crust" a little so that the crumbs remain caught in it. Once it's set, you can smooth a second layer of icing on the cake.

See? Much smoother and you don't see all those chocolate cake crumbs. :)

If you want to see how this cake looked in the end, check out this post.