State Fair

State Fair
State Fair Ribbons

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No Bake Key Lime Pie Redux

It is a cold, snow-stormy day in Minnesota.  This is the longest winter I can remember.  It makes me wish for Florida and Key Lime Pie.  Anna from Cookie Madness posted a recipe for a key lime pie without eggs.  In other words, no baking required!  Right up my alley this week!   The first time I followed Anna's recipe for the filling and it was delicious.  Mine didn't set as well as Anna's did.   So this time I used 6 T of unsalted butter instead of 4.  It came out fine.   I also used a non-traditional key lime pie crust:  home-made Oreo pie crust.   The reason:  Times square on Fort Myers Beach has a Kilwins Fudge and Ice cream shop where they sell Key Lime Pie ice cream.  It has chunks of dark chocolate covered pie crust mixed into it.   Didn't think I'd like chocolate with key lime.  I was so wrong!  I loved it!  For the crust I took 20 regular whole Oreos, put them in a food processor and processed to coarse crumbs.  I then poured the crumbs into a bowl and poured 4 T melted Salted butter over them and mixed thoroughly.  Pressed into a pie plate with the bottom of a measuring cup/ and then yes, I baked it in a 350 preheated oven for 10 minutes....
BUT you don't need to bake the crust, you can just refrigerate it or freeze it until firm before filling it.  I apologize for the color in my pictures..Key Lime Pie should be yellowy-cream color. 

Key Lime Pie and Painted Bunting-both Florida natives.

Looks like cheesecake, but it's not...exactly.

A slice of Florida Key Lime heaven!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Blue Ribbon Maple Pecan Amish quick bread

I have been meaning to post this recipe for a while, but I have not made a loaf of this bread since I started this blog.  I borrowed the picture above from Ben's Sugar Shack because this is what my bread looks like warm.  I hope Ben won't mind!  I won first place in the "quick breads with nuts" category at the Minnesota State fair in 2010.  2010 was the fifth year I entered the bread.  Finally all the planets aligned and it was my time to win.  Amish quick bread starter was being passed around a lot in the 1980s and 1990s, but it seems to have fallen out of fashion. My coworker Diane gave the first one cup of starter to me along with instructions and a recipe back in the mid-1990s.  I have not had to make the starter from scratch and it is 16 years and going strong!  I'm fairly sure I may have only a microscopic amount of the original starter in mine. This Amish starter is virtually indestructible!  I also remember thinking "oh my gosh, I'm going to have 4 cups of this starter and I have to make it all or give some away."   I learned over the years, after no one wanted any more, that you can freeze it in 1 cup portions!   It lasts at least 6 months in a freezer bag!!!  What people don't realize is you can take a 1 cup portion from the freezer, defrost it overnight on the counter, and make breads from it without waiting 10 days!   I've got some "cooking" on the counter right now.  See all the bubbles?  They are noisy and the fragrance is sweet and yeasty.

Here is a picture of the finished product-for the state fair they need to be baked in small pans:

Here is the recipe for the starter:
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45
degrees C)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup room temp milk


Day 1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand 10 minutes. In a large plastic or glass mixing bowl combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or flour will lump when milk is added. Slowly stir in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Cover loosely and let stand until bubbly. Consider this day 1 of the 10 day cycle. Leave loosely covered at room temperature.
Day 2:  do nothing
Day 3:  lightly stir with a wooden spoon
Day 4:  do nothing
Day 5:  do nothing (don't you just love this!)
Day 6:  add:
1 cup room temperature milk
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
Stir to combine.  The mixture will be lumpy.  (Sometimes I poke the lumps to expose the flour and stir a little bit more because I just can't help myself !) 
Day 7:  do nothing-- watch it bubble and listen to the crackling sound!
Day 8:  lightly stir with a wooden spoon
Day 9:  do nothing
Day 10:   add to the existing batter:
1 cup room temperature milk
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar.
Stir to combine.  The mixture will be lumpy.   Put one cup of batter each into 3 freezer bags or 1 cup containers.  Freeze or give away. You should have approximately one cup of starter batter left in the bowl.  ( Or you can freeze it all and use it later....see tips at the end of this post.) 

Preheat oven to 325°
Grease or spray (2)  9 x 5 loaf pans

To what is left in the bowl mix in the following:

3/4 cup vegetable oil  
1/2 cup milk
3 large eggs lightly whisked
2 teaspoons pure maple extract or maple flavoring

Use electric mixer on low or mix by hand to combine the wet ingredients. Set aside.

Here is where I make the optional maple pecan topping and set it aside:
1/2 cup of finely chopped pecans-not toasted
1/8 cup sugar
1 tablespoon melted salted butter
1 teaspoon maple flavoring or pure maple extract.

In a small bowl mix together first the pecans and the sugar. Then mix in the melted butter and maple flavoring. Set on top of the preheating oven to keep it warm and easier to work with.

Now for the dry ingredients:
In a separate bowl mix together:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large box of vanilla instant pudding (5.1 oz box)
Set aside.
Have on hand 1 cup toasted chopped pecans (mix in right before batter is ready to pour into pans)

Add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients-mixing on low or by hand and not for too long.  Then stir in 1 cup toasted chopped pecans.

Pour into the 2 well-greased loaf pans and sprinkle the top of each with half of the optional maple pecan topping.
Bake for one hour. I usually check at about 45 minutes with a toothpick inserted in the center.  You want the toothpick to come out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Then remove from pans and let cool completely for about an hour.   They freeze exceptionally well!  

Tip:  to use the batter straight from the freezer:  While mostly frozen take a spoon and scoop it out of the bag or container into a bowl and let it sit on the counter overnight.  You can make a bread straight from this batter or you can use this as your base to start counting from day one and make a whole new batch of 4 cups. 

Note: You can make many variations. The original recipe has 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and a teaspoon of vanilla with no maple. You can sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top. You can use banana pudding, or chocolate pudding and add chocolate chips, etc! 
Here is a link to some of the variations: Armchair World    Enjoy!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Thin Mint brownies

Last night I decided to try Thin Mint brownies closely adapted from Anna at Cookie Madness.  The only thing I changed is I used salted butter and then only added a pinch of extra salt.   I have to say everyone who tried them loved them including me.  Because I am obsessed with shiny topped brownies, I took a picture of the top. I brought most of them to work so I didn't get a picture of them cut. You can find an excellent picture of them cut on Anna's site.
Notice at the top of the picture a piece of yummy Thin Mint

You will notice in my directions below that I like to mix things in a particular order.  I always mix my dry ingredients first and set them aside so they are ready when my wet ingredients are ready to go.  If  I have a few minutes in between steps, I sit down, relax, and eat a few chocolate chips!

Here is the recipe:

Thin Mint Brownies
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips plus 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (divided use)
1 1/2 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate or just shy of a 1/4 quarter cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 large egg plus 2 tablespoons lightly beaten egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt.  If you are using Unsalted butter: add 1/2 teaspoon salt
8 Thin Mint Cookies (if you don’t have Girl Scout Cookies, try another mint flavored cookie)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line an 8 inch square metal pan with foil. Spray bottom with cooking spray.
Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

Melt butter in a small sauce pan on low and then add 2/3 cups chips and bittersweet chocolate.   Stir until melted.  Remove from heat and set aside for about five minutes or until the pan is is not hot, but still warm to the touch.

While waiting for the chocolate to cool, in a mixing bowl lightly whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and sugar. 
Stir the warm, but not hot (you don't want scrambled eggs) chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and cool to room temperature or for about 10 minutes.   Then stir in dry ingredients.

Chop the Thin Mints roughly into quarters (you can make them smaller if you want). Add the Thin Mints and the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips to the batter. The batter will be thick. spread it in the pan and bake on center rack for 25-27 minutes.   Toothpick should come out with moist bits of brownie on it.  Let cool to room temperature and then chill thoroughly. Lift from pan, set on a cutting board and cut into 16 squares.