16 September 2008

Granola Bars

Yes, I am still alive and baking. Sadly, school has started and my senior of college has not been kind so far. My days are jam-packed between classes, interning at an elementary school, and working two part-time jobs. I still find time to bake, using my friend Amy’s kitchen and my boyfriend’s kitchen, but I’m not quite finding the time to post. Honestly, I shouldn’t be posting this right now. I have to read a book for class tomorrow and haven’t quite opened it… Oh well, I survived my first Atypical Child Psychology exam [yikes!] and am rewarding myself with the revival of my blog!

I’m an avid reader of the blog Cathlin Cooks and I especially love how she usually tries to put a healthy twist on all of her cooking and baking. I’m always up for trying something new and when I saw these granola bars, I knew that would be my new recipe to tackle. The only problem was…I don’t own a kitchen scale. I know, right? How dare I?! Well, Cathlin was kind enough to make these bars again and measure out the weighed ingredients, providing me with a recipe I could handle. Thank you so much, Cathlin! I really appreciated it and these granola bars were delicious!

Granola Bars
from Cathlin Cooks

2 1/3 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup flour
½ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup honey
¼ cup brown sugar
2-3 tablespoons peanut butter
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 1/3 cups assorted nuts and seeds
1 1/3 cups assorted dried fruit, cut up to the size of sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Roughly chop nuts and fruit into pieces about the size of a sunflower seed. Place in a bowl with oats, coconut, and flour, and stir together until combined.
Slightly heat honey in a pot on the stove, then add sugar, peanut butter, and oil, and whisk together
thoroughly. Pour wet into a well in the dry mixture and combine. If it doesn’t stick together well add more honey.
Dump into the prepared pan. Wet hands with cold water and using a spoon and hands, pack mixture flat into the pan.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes. During baking, use spoon or spatula to press down mixture every 10 or 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes after baking and then remove from pan. Using a sharp knife, cut into bars and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

For my bars, I used some toasted, sliced almonds and dried apricots, peaches, and cherries. Yum! The flavors work together so well and the bars were just the right texture for me, nice and chewy! It’s also nice to have a simple, easy to make recipe when I’m relying on a very ill-equipped kitchen. Now, don’t get me wrong…I very much appreciate having Bryce’s kitchen at my disposal. It’s just hard to use a pot as a mixing bowl and a metal serving spoon as my mixer when I have been spoiled with a Kitchen Aid mixer and an assortment of tools. Anyway, I definitely recommend this recipe and I will hopefully make it in the near future!

01 September 2008

Vanilla Peach Cupcakes

As I stated in an earlier entry, I love summer fruit. And while blackberries and cherries are great, peaches are my absolute favorite. During high school, some of my best summer days were spent with a good friend of mine on her family's fruit farm. We'd spend hours outside picking blueberries and raspberries, only to come inside and dive into a pile of ripe, sweet peaches. The Schmitkon's family farm grows, hands down, THE BEST peaches I have ever tasted in my life. The peaches are always incredibly sweet, juicy, and, at times, GIGANTIC! This summer, I had originally planned to make a pie with my box of peaches. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to pick up the peaches until the end of my summer and didn't have the time to make a pie. Instead I opted to make my go-to vanilla cupcakes with a little summer twist -- fresh peaches tossed into the batter!

Vanilla Peach Cupcakes

adapted from Billy's Vanilla Vanilla cupcake recipe

1 3/4 cups cake flour [NOT the self-rising type]
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup [2 sticks] unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk [I used 2%]

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract [or vanilla bean paste!]
2 medium peaches, skin removed, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.
In a large measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition. Beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat. Gently fold in peaches.
Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about two-thirds full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (about 17 to 20 minutes). Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting, I turned to my favorite frosting which came from a red velvet recipe. I added orange Wilton gel dye to make the frosting a fun, summery color to compliment my summery cupcakes! Some flower-shaped sprinkles added a nice finishing touch.

I brought most of the cupcakes down to OWU with me and shared with my friends. These treats received rave reviews from everyone, especially those at the cookout I stopped by on my second night back.