Peanut Butter Fudge

One of my most requested recipes around the holidays is for peanut butter fudge.  Years ago I worked with someone who brought in peanut butter fudge that his wife made every Christmas.  It was excellent. But when I asked for the recipe he said it was a family secret and he would not share it.  After that I tried several different recipes for peanut butter fudge and finally stumbled on this one that I’ve been using for the last 20 years or more.  I have no idea where I found it, but it is every bit as good, if not better, than the “family recipe” my coworker refused to share.  The fudge pictured above is my version of Reese which is my daughter’s favorite.  A layer of peanut butter fudge and a layer of chocolate.  Of course I end up with two 9×13 pans of this, but I guess that’s not a bad thing.  And I’m all about sharing recipes!

Ingredients:

4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 cup evaporated milk

1 T white vinegar

1 T light corn syrup

dash of salt

12 oz creamy peanut butter

13 oz jar marshmallow creme

1 tsp vanilla

Line a 9×13 pan with aluminum foil, allowing a generous overhang on each side, and lightly butter the foil and the pan.  This makes the fudge easy to lift out and cut.

Combine the sugar, butter, milk, vinegar, corn syrup and salt in a deep heavy kettle like a Dutch oven.  Stirring constantly cook over medium high heat until your candy thermometer reads 236 degrees.  Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter and marshmallow cream until completely incorporated.  Stir in the vanilla.

Pour into your prepared pan and allow it to cool completely.

This fudge is a perfect addition to our Christmas cookie trays.

NOTE:  I’ve never made this with chunky peanut butter and I’ve never added peanuts, but either of those modifications might be good.  If you want to make our Reese version the chocolate fudge recipe I use is also on my blog.  For some reason I only make this a Christmas but I’m thinking fudge is good any time of year.  My good friend and cookie baking partner gives a whole pan to her sister who cuts it up and freezes it.  When she is craving some peanut butter goodness she takes a piece or two out of the freezer.

Chocolate Mayonnaise Sheet Cake

A year ago on April 19th I lost a very special friend, Debra, to cancer.  There was a celebration of life for family and friends  followed by a luncheon.  I made the chocolate mayonnaise sheet cake she loved and decorated it with the monkeys I had bought to use on her birthday cake.  She loved all animals but monkeys were a favorite of hers and always made her smile.  Whenever I saw cute monkey memes I would share them with her and I once gifted her a hideous pink sock monkey that I made.  She adored it.  My first and last attempt at sock monkeys.  Debbie had the gift of gab.  She loved to come down and sit and visit and have a cup of tea or a cup of coffee with a little rum chata in it.  And she had a sweet tooth.  She loved chocolate.  So if there was a cake or cookies or brownies she was a happy girl.  And if there were no baked goods, there was always a dish full of chocolate candy and that’s where she’d head.  I’ll always think of her when I make this cake.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups hot, strong coffee

1 cup cocoa

3 cups AP flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350.

Whisk together the hot coffee and cocoa and let stand for 20 minutes.

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

In a large bowl combine the sugar and eggs.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Beat in the mayonnaise and vanilla.

Alternate flour mixture and coffee/cocoa mixture beating after each addition and beginning and ending with flour.

Pour the batter into a lightly greased and floured sheet pan.  Bake for 22-25 minutes.  Allow the cake to cool completely before icing.

To make this cake easier to serve to a crowd I cut the cake, used cupcake lines to separate individual pieces, and then iced each piece.  I made a peanut butter icing but you can use any flavor icing you like.

This post is for you my beautiful friend.  I miss talking to you and enjoying a cup of coffee or tea with you at my kitchen island.  I hope there is a lot of chocolate in heaven.  And monkeys.  A lot of monkeys.

Blueberry Coffee Cake

King Arthur has some really great recipes and this one is no exception.  They called this a Blueberry Breakfast Cake but I think it’s more like a Fruit Danish.  I used blueberries, which the recipe called for, but this would be great with raspberries, apple, peaches…almost any fruit.  Because of the ricotta cheese and sour cream it has a consistency similar to a cream cheese danish.  It is simple to make and not cloying.  Great with a cup of coffee or a glass of milk.

Ingredients:

3 large eggs

heaping 1/2 cup of sugar

6 T melted butter

1 cup small curd cottage cheese or part skim ricotta

1 cup sour cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup AP flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly grease an 8” round pan that is at least 2” deep.  If your 8” pan is too shallow, use a 9” round pan or an 8” square.  Shape really doesn’t matter.

Beat the eggs and sugar together.  And yes, a HEAPING 1/2 cup of sugar.  First time I’ve seen that in a recipe.

Add the melted butter, cottage or ricotta cheese, sour cream and vanilla.  Beat until well combined.

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder,  add to creamed ingredients, and stir or beat gently until combined.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and scatter berries over the top.

Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out moist but with no obvious smears of raw batter.  The edges should be lightly browned.  It should appear set throughout but jiggle a little when you gently shake it.  Baking time is between 45 and 50 minutes.

Once it comes out of the oven generously sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar.  Let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to firm.  Cut into wedges or squares, depending on the pan you used, and serve warm.

Enjoy!

NOTE”. I baked mine in a 9” round pan for 45 minutes.  I recommend checking it after 40 minutes.  Much depends on your oven and the size of your pan.  I will try this with  a combination of apple and cranberries next.  A little bit of sweet and tart together.   Also, the cinnamon sugar is optional.  Instead you might want to lightly dust with powdered sugar as you serve it or make a glaze and drizzle a little over the cake.

Blueberry Muffins

A few times a year King Arthur Flour publishes a magazine called Sift.  Every time one comes out my friend Jane and I pick up a copy.  So many wonder recipes!  This muffin recipe is from the Spring 2019 edition.  I made these today to accompany our crab meat quiche for a perfect brunch.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar plus 2 T for sprinkling

2 large eggs

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups AP flour

1/2 cup milk

2 1/2 cups  fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375.  Line a muffin tin with papers and lightly grease the papers.

In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and 1/2 cup sugar until combined.  Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl and beating well after each addition.

Stir in the baking powder, salt, and vanilla.  Add the flour, alternating with the milk, stirring gently until combined.  Scrape bottom and sides of the bowl.  Mash 1/2 cup of the blueberries and add mashed and whole blueberries to the batter stirring  to combine and distribute.

Scoop the batter into the prepared pan.  I used my ice cream scoop.  Sprinkle tops with the remaining 2 T of sugar.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until light golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes.

I served ours with crab quiche but they’re perfect for breakfast on their own with a cup of hot coffee or a glass of milk.

NOTE:  My muffin pans are dark so I reduced my oven temperature to 350.

Thank you King Arthur for your great recipes that inspire!

Orange Cake

Our Thanksgiving tradition includes a traditional dinner on Thursday with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes and rutabaga…and a “theme” dinner on Saturday with my brother Bob and his family.  Our theme Saturdays have typically been eithnic and this year we are doing Finnish food.  Finnish food in honor of my Dad who passed away on New Years Day.  Finnish food to honor our heritage.  I have fond memories of an orange cake that my mummu used to make and I recently found her recipe.  It was written in Finnish.  Well, some Finnish and some Finglish.  I was able to decipher all the ingredients and measurements (pretty proud of that) but I struggled with the directions.  I asked for help from my Finnish Food and Culture site on facebook and they came to my rescue.  Today I did a test run for Saturday’s dinner.

Ingredients:

1 orange (orenssi)

1 cup raisins (rusinaita)

1 cup sugar (sokeri)

2 eggs (munaa)

1/2 cup butter (voita) or lard

3/4 cup of buttermilk (kirnupiimaa)

1 teaspoon baking soda (suuta)

2 cups flour (jauhaja)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon lemon extract

Preheat oven to 350.

Juice the orange and set the juice aside.

Grind the orange peel and the raisins. This was my mummu’s grinder.  Then my dads.  And now it’s mine.  Just trying to make this orange cake authentic!

Cream together the sugar, butter, orange rind and raisins.  Add well beaten eggs.  Also my mummu’s mixer.

Sift together flour and baking soda.  Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternating with the buttermilk.

The batter will be quite thick.  Spread the batter in a greased 8×8 square pan.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.  While the cake is cooling combine 1/2 cup of sugar and the juice from the orange.  Bring to a boil and pour over the slightly cooled cake.

Serve the cake as is or with a dollop of whipped cream.  This cake brought back wonderful memories.  And it will be a perfect addition to our Finnish Saturday.

NOTE:  You can grind the raisins and orange peel in your food processor and you can beat your eggs with a whisk.  I was trying to make this the way my grandmother did and she didn’t have my modern appliances.

Don’t check my Finnish.  Remember.  This was written in Finnish AND Finglish.

Double Chocolate Cake

When I’m scrolling through Facebook I see a lot of people posting recipes with pictures that look mouth watering.  So I ask, “have you made that?”  The most frequent response I get is, “no, but I’d like to.”  And then I’m a little leery.  What if someone accidentally left out a key ingredient?   We’ve all seen those pictures of Pinterest fails…recipes or projects that look easy and amazing and when someone attempts to replicate them they bear little resemblance to the original picture.  We had special friends coming for the weekend and a belated birthday to celebrate so when I saw this picture and recipe for a chocolate cake (that the person who posted had not yet made) I decided to give it a try anyway.  I can’t eat chocolate but everyone LOVED the cake and the icing so my efforts were worth the risk.  And I’ll make it again.  The other good thing about this particular recipe is that it made an 8”x8” cake which was the perfect size.

Ingredients:

1 cup AP flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

1/2 cup whole milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup boiling coffee

Preheat the oven to 325.

Whisk together the dry ingredients.

Add the egg, milk, oil and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minute.

Gently stir in the boiling coffee.  The batter will be thin.  Pour into an 8”x8” pan that has been greased and floured.  Bake for 35 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Icing:

1 cup chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate)

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tsp vanilla

This was the intriguing part.  To me.  I’ve never made an icing like this!  Melt the chips in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until melted.  Once the chips are melted stir in the sour cream and vanilla.  Give it a good hard stir for a creamy consistency.

Viola!  You have icing that sets up beautifully.  Almost the consistency of fudge.  I inverted the cake and put it on a plate to ice but you could do it right in the pan.

I garnished the cake with fresh raspberries.  Slice and enjoy!

NOTE:  The cake is super moist.  I put it in the freezer for awhile prior to icing it…it is much easier to frost.  The recipe called for boiling water (or coffee) and I chose to use coffee.

I’m not sure whether this recipe would work doubled and baked in a 9×13 pan or as two layers.  Some recipes work that way, others don’t.

Zucchini Bread with Walnuts and Golden Raisins

Zucchini.  The vegetable that people are always giving away after it has inexplicitly multiplied and grown to ginormous proportions in their gardens.  One can only make so many zoodles and side dishes with tomatoes and onions and zucchini boats stuffed with meat and cheese.  But everyone loves zucchini bread and cake and other sweets.  Zucchini makes for very moist bread and cake and no longer even tastes like a vegetable.  Not even a little bit.  That’s probably the appeal to many people.  This bread is an easy quick bread that is at least a little healthy.  The inclusion of nuts and raisins,  ground flax seed, and, of course squash, bolsters that claim.  And cinnamon.  Cinnamon is very healthy!  It is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.  You’ll feel so good after you have a slice or two of this tasty bread.

Ingredients:

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 T vanilla

3 cups AP flour

1/2 cup ground flax seed (or wheat germ)

1 tsp nutmeg

1 T cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 cups shredded zucchini

1 cup walnuts chopped

1 cup golden raisins

Preheat your oven to 325.

Beat white and brown sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla together.

Sift together flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking powder and soda, and salt.

Add raisins, nuts, and flaxseed.

Add shredded zucchini and stir until well combined.

Grease 2 loaf pans or 6 small loaf pans.  Use parchment paper if you’d like.  Divide batter evenly.

Bake for 40-60 minutes depending on the size of the pans,  Check for doneness using a tooth pick or cake tester after 40 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

Slice and enjoy!!

NOTE:  Zucchini bread freezes well.  If it lasts that long.  If you prefer you can use dried cherries or pecans.  A little different flavor but it’s all good.

Saltine Cracker Pie Crust

When we were kids I remember my mom making a mock apple pie with saltine crackers that we swore tasted just like apple pie.  I wonder if I would still think so.  Browsing the internet recently for dessert recipes I came across a recipe for pie crust made with saltine crackers.  I’ve made plenty of  graham cracker pie crusts but this was intriguing.  I’m a fan of sweet and salty so this just seemed like a natural.  I’ll try anything once.  Glad that I did.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers

1/2 cup butter melted

1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350.

The preparation part was a little tricky when it came to consistency.  The instructions warned against turning the crackers to dust.  I pulsed them a few times in the food processor along with the sugar.  I poured the crushed, slightly chunky but not powdered, crackers into the melter butter and mixed them the best I could.  They were not holding together like I thought they should so I dumped them, butter and all, into the food processor and gave them a couple more pulses.  I pressed them into the bottom and sides of a 9” pie plate.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool slightly.

While the saltine crust was cooling I made up my recipe for key lime pie except I used regular limes and lemons.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325.

Ingredients:

4 large egg yolks

1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup fresh squeezed citrus (lemon, lime or a combination)

1 T lemon or lime zest

Whisk together all of the filling ingredients making sure they’re thoroughly combined and pour into the slightly cooled pie shell.

Bake for 18-20 minutes.  Cool completel on a wire rack.

I like adding a berry topping.

Ingredients:

3 cups fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)

1/2 cup water

1 T lemon or lime juice

3 T sugar

1 T cornstarch

Stir together water, sugar, cornstarch, citrus juice and 1 cup of the berries.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the sugar dissolves completely and berries burst and soften.  Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 cups of berries.  Allow the berry topping to cool completely and pour over the filling.  I used blueberries and strawberries.

Refrigerate at least a couple of hours or overnight prior to slicing.  Serve with a dollop of whipped sweet cream.

I will definitely make the saltine crust again.  It was a perfect contrast to the sweetness of the pie.  And I’m sure this would be excellent with a chocolate cream filling or a banana or coconut cream,

NOTE:  You might want to play around a little with the consistency.  Next time I will pulse my crackers and sugar a little longer and add the butter while the crumbs are still in the food processor.  This crust would also work well in a springform or tart pan.  Enjoy!

Cucumber Mint Jelly

Some time ago I bought a Better Homes and Gardens magazine with jam and jelly recipes in it.   Lots of good stuff!  I love cucumbers and I love mint so this combination really intrigued me.  Interestingly, most of my brothers hate mint.  They won’t even use mint toothpaste.  And I think some of them probably don’t like cucumbers either.  My kitchen smelled wonderful while I was making this jelly.  A friend came in while it was cooking and the first thing she said was, “your house smells like cucumbers.”  This recipe was very easy and it’s something you can make year round.

Ingredients:

3 large cucumbers

7 cups of sugar

1 cup cider vinegar

1 6-oz package liquid fruit pectin (both envelopes)

1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves

a drop of green food color

Peel and cut the cucumbers into chunks.  No need to remove the seeds.  Purée them in a food processor or blender.

Press the purée through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl.  You want to recover 1 1/2 cups of cucumber juice.

You pretty much waste most of the cucumber.

In a heavy saucepan combine the cucumber juice, sugar, and vinegar.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, to dissolve the sugar.

Quickly stir in both packets of pectin and the mint.  Bring to a full rolling boil stirring constantly.  Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat.  Use a metal spoon and skim off any foam and remove the mint.  Add a drop of green food color.  The “natural” color is not appetizing.  While I was making the jelly I had this bright idea that a mint leaf in each jar would be really pretty.  As you remove the mint from the pot you realize, as I did, that this would not be a good idea.

Ladle hot jelly into hot sterilized half pint jars leaving a 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe rims, adjust lids and screw on the bands.  Process jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.  Start the timer when the water comes to a boil.  Remove jars and allow to cool completely on a heavy towel or wire racks.

Makes 6 half pints.

I love the finished product!  The day I made the jelly we had lamb chops for dinner so I could showcase the cucumber mint jelly.

NOTE:  Try a spoonful of cucumber mint jelly, some tonic water and good gin or vodka for an amazing cocktail.  Zap the jelly for a few seconds in the microwave, add the alcohol, ice and stir in the tonic.

Cheers!

Cinnamon and Cardamom Bread

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This stuff is amazing!  Love!

We just returned from a family vacation to New Orleans.  The land of great food, really wonderful music everywhere, and a plentitude of adult beverages.  And people watching.  We enjoyed poboys, gumbo, oysters, shrimp, catfish and, of course, beignets.  As good as our food was, whenever I get home from a vacation I actually kind of enjoy eating my own cooking again.  Funny how that works.

I had some organic milk in the refrigerator that was going to go south in just a day or so and I wanted to put it to good use.  I decided to make us some bread with my remaining milk and came across this recipe that I had clipped from a Saveur magazine early last year but had not tried.  Until today.  The recipe says the bread is Swedish.  But since I’m Finnish, today it is Finnish Cinnamon Cardamom Bread.  Whatever your ethnicity I think you will enjoy!  The kitchen smelled wonderful while this was baking.

Ingredients for the Dough:

7 T unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups whole milk heated to 115

2 tsp active dry yeast

4 1/2 cups AP flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, lightly crushed

1/4 tsp kosher salt

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Ingredients for Filling:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

7 T unsalted butter softened

1 T ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, finely crushed

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To make the dough heat the milk to 115 degrees.  Use a thermometer unless you’re a lot better than I am at estimating temperatures and you don’t want to kill your yeast.  Melt the butter and add the butter and yeast to the warm milk.  Stir and let it sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.

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In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, cardamom and salt.  Stir in the yeast mixture until dough forms.

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Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes.  Or knead in your stand mixer.  Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean dish towel, and let sit in a warm place until the dough doubles in size.  About an hour.

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Prepare the filling stirring together the softened butter, sugar, cinnamon and cardamom seeds.

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On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into approximately a 11×17 rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick.

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Spread the filling over the dough.

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Working from one of the long sides, roll dough into a tight cylinder and transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet.  Cover with a dish towel and allow it to sit in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.  About 45-60 minutes.

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Heat the oven to 375.  Using kitchen shears and starting 1 inch from the ends of the dough, make crosswise cuts spaced 1 inch apart, three quarters of the way through the dough.  Now this is where it got tricky for me and my bread looks a little crude.  The recipe says to fan dough slices away from the center, alternating left to right.  Huh?  The center?  Maybe I was supposed to make this into a circle?  I don’t know for sure because I didn’t have a picture.  But it doesn’t really matter. The fanning does not affect the taste at all.

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Whisk an egg and brush the dough with the egg wash.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  Allow the bread to cool before serving.

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I made up a little icing with powdered sugar, heavy cream and lemon zest.  Because we like icing.

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Cut yourself a slice and enjoy.  Great with a hot cup of coffee or tea.

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NOTE:  The recipe suggests that you use the egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar before baking.  Since I was going to ice the bread I did not you the pearl sugar but you may prefer that.  If any of you bake a more attractive loaf please comment with a picture.