Apple Cream Cheese Braid

Apple Cream Cheese Braid

For Thanksgiving and Christmas we like to do pastry breakfasts that will hold us over until it’s time for the feast. Sometimes it would be cinnamon rolls or if one of us had been selling butter braids for a school fundraiser it would make an appearance.  My favorites were always the ones that combined fruit and cream cheese.  I’m a sucker for cream cheese, a fruit and sweet bread.  How could you not be, right?

I was having a class held on Friday nights and all day Saturday.  We provided breakfast for the class so we could bond and make it through the day until the lunch break.  So when it came to my turn, I wanted my classmates to be well fed and decided to hunt up a cream cheese danish.  IMG_20131207_232115_811

This recipe is a bit time consuming.  The dough needs to rise twice – so be sure you have at least 3 hours on hand to pull this one together.  It is delicious and well worth the effort.  Since it is a yeast recipe, temperature is important. You don’t want to accidentally kill your yeast by making the milk bath too warm.  If you don’t have a thermometer to get an exact temperature, use your finger.  It should be the same as a warm bath.

Recipe from Carmel Moments

Apple Cream Cheese Braid

Sweet Dough

6 Tbsp Butter, softened IMG_20131208_092647_221
1/4 cup Water
1/2 cup Milk
3 Tbsp Sugar
2 & 1/4 – 2 & 3/4 cup Flour
2 tsp Active dry yeast
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Egg, lightly beaten

Apple Filling:

2-3 Medium-large apples, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp Butter
3 Tbsp Granulated sugar
1 tsp Ground cinnamonIMG_20131207_215441_132
1 Tbsp Cornstarch

Cream Cheese Filling:

8 oz Cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup Granulated sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 tsp Lemon juice

Vanilla Drizzle:

1 & 1/2 cup Powdered sugarIMG_20131207_215035_479
5 & 1/2 tsp Milk
1/4 tsp Vanilla extract


Heat butter, sugar, water and milk to 120F.

Combine 2 cups flour, salt and yeast in a medium bowl.  Make a well in the center.  Add butter mixture.  Mix in additional 1/2 cup flour.  Knead on low speed for about 7-8 minutes scraping down the bowl as needed.  (If you don’t have a stand mixer, use a spoon to combine – sculpt those arms!).  Add egg and additional 1/2 cup of flour while kneading, if necessary.  Dough should be smooth after the 8 minutes.

Place dough in a greased bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Let it rise for about an hour or until dough has doubled.

Meanwhile, over low heat combine apples, butter, sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch. Heat until apples are softened, about 5-7 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

In small bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice.  Mix until smooth.

Back to the dough!  After the dough has doubled in size, roll out the dough on a floured surface into a large rectangle about 12×10.IMG_20131207_215831_100

Spread cream cheese filling down the center.  Arrange apple mixture on top.  Using a pizza cutter, cut diagonally from end of dough towards center in 1 inch strips.  Do on both sides.

Braid the dough by pulling strips across alternating sides. Continue until braid is complete.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let rise for 30-40 minutes.

Preheat over to 350F.  Bake braid for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.IMG_20131207_220414_104

Combine powdered sugar, milk and vanilla.  Drizzle over braid. Serve warm or allow to cool and then serve.




Tomato Basil Bread

Tomato Basil Bread

I don’t go to Panera very often — and honestly most of the time it doesn’t matter what I order I get the same bread. Which is frustrating.  Luckily though very industrious kitchen mavens fix these problems by figuring out how to make these delicious breads at home.  H/T wondrous kitchen mavens!

I enjoy baking bread.  It’s crazy relaxing and honestly makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something.  As it happens I came across a tomato basil bread recipe.  Two of the most delicious savory tastes in one delicious bread.  It tastes like tomato soup.  No jokes.  Tomato soup.  It has a slight kick and a Parmesan undertone.  You can’t go wrong. The bread makes for great sandwiches, a light snack, or an accompaniment with dinner.

I found the recipe at the Keenan CookbookIMG_20140112_192506_674

Tomato Basil Bread


1/4 oz package Active dry yeast

3/4 c Warm water (110-115 F)

1/4 cup Fresh basil, minced (or 2 TBSP dried basil)

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

3 TBSP Tomato paste

1 TBSP Granulated sugar IMG_20140112_192239_197

1 TBSP Olive oil

1 tsp Salt

1/8-1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 & 1/2 to 2 & 3/4 cup Flour


In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.  Stir in basil, Parmesan cheese, tomato paste, sugar, oil, salt, pepper flakes, and 2 cups flour.  Add additional flour until it forms a stiff dough.

Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes.  Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top of the dough.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until dough has doubled, about an hour.

Punch dough down; knead for 1 minute.  Shape into a round load.  Place on a greased baking sheet.  Cover and let rise again until doubled, about an hour.

Preheat over to 375 F.

With a sharp knife, cut an “X” in the top of the loaf.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from baking sheet and cool.

Lemon Blueberry Brownies

Lemon Blueberry Brownies

Blueberries = summer.  Lemons = summer.  Put them together and you get infinite summer!  Whatever, I’m not a math major.  The important message here is – these are probably the best summer dessert item I’ve ever made.  They are super moist, the flavor is to die for – think lemonade in a solid form – and the sweetness isn’t overpowering.  These are a breakfast, lunch, snack and dinnertime food.

If you like lemon bars or lemonade at all.  You want to make these!  I got the recipe from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen.  The only change I made was to add more lemon to the glaze.  Rather than just stick with 1 TBSP lemon juice, I used the remainder I had – about 2 & 1/2 TBSP.  It makes about 12-16 brownies — or if you feel like making them really big 9.  🙂

Here’s the sitch:

Blueberry Lemon Brownies


3/4 cup Flour
1/4 tsp Salt
8 TBSP Butter, softened
3/4 cup Granulated sugar
1 tsp Lemon zest
2 Large eggs
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup Fresh blueberries

Lemon Glaze:

1/2 cup Powdered sugar
1 tsp Lemon zest
1-3 TBSP Fresh lemon juice


Heat oven to 350F.  Prepare an 8×8 pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, whisk flour and salt together. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat butter, sugar and lemon zest at medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add lemon juice and mix to combine.  Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture. Gently hand fold in blueberries.

Spoon batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 22-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.

To make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, 1 TBSP lemon juice and zest.  Add more juice to taste. Spread over brownies and let harden before serving.


Salted Caramel Apple Pie

Salted Caramel Apple Pie

I’ve been on a pie kick recently.  Who needs cupcakes when you can have pie?  Having made this the first time back in September I was out hunting for the perfect fall dessert.  I had recently encountered Godiva’s caramel apple truffles (beware they are addictive little guys… so good!).  In an effort to replicate that mouthwatering experience, I decided it was time to make a salted caramel apple pie.  And it tastes as amazing as it sounds.

This recipe make a nice 9 inch pie.  I’ve used various kinds of apples from Gala to Granny.  I’ve decided it just works best with a nice sour apple.  But, feel free to blend sweet and sour, you can’t go wrong.  I was also supremely lazy – as can be expected when having to core and peel apples and used store bought pre-made crusts.  But!  I’ve seen decided that a chocolate crust make everything better.  Recommendation?  Use the spiced chocolate crust for a mind blowing experience, you’ll need to double it to have a top and bottom for the pie.  I was also lazy with the sauce, I’ve never been able to make a perfect caramel sauce, so I just buy baking caramel bits and melt them into a sauce.  Very tasty and so easy!  Should you not own a rolling pin – I’ll tell from experience wine bottles and beer bottles work perfectly.  Just make sure they are room temp, otherwise the moisture wrecks havoc on rolling out the dough.  So let’s make some pie!!

Pie Crust Salted Caramel Apple Pie

Spiced Chocolate Crust x2


Taken from Sally’s Baking Addiction


2 tsp Fresh lemon zest
1/4 cup Fresh lemon juice
6 Large apples, cored, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup Flour
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 & 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup Granulated sugar
1 Egg, beaten
Salted caramel sauce — or alternatively you can buy baking caramel bits (11 oz), melt and add 1 tsp Salt


Prepare the crust and caramel sauce.  Set aside.  While those cool, let’s make the filling.

Put the lemon zest and juice in a very large bowl.  Add the apples and gently toss.  In a small bowl, combine flour, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and sugar.  Pour over the apples and gently combine.  Set aside.

Roll out the pie crust and place into a 9 inAdd the caramelch pie dish, gently press crust into dish until smooth.  Trim and discard overhang.  Fill crust with the apples – it’s okay if it’s piled high!  Drizzle with at least 1/2 cup of salted caramel — since I used the baking caramel bits, I used the entire bag for the filling to make it extra caramel-ly.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Roll out the second ball of dough until it is roughly 12 inches in diameter.  Use a knife, pastry wheel or pizza cutter to cut 16 – 1/2 inch wide strips.  I eyeballed it, but feel free to use a ruler for perfect lines.  Carefully thread the strips over and under, weaving until you’ve covered the the top.  You can make the lattice top also by just layering the strips on top of each other.  Use a knife to trim the overhang.  Using a fork or your fingers press down on the edges, so that they seal with the bottom crust.

Thinly brush the lattice top with the beaten egg.  Sprinkle top with sugar and cinnamon.

Time for the Oven

Place the pie onto a large baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Then turn the oven temperature down to 375F and bake for an additional 40-50 minutes.  Check periodically to make sure it isn’t getting too dark on top.  If it is, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.

The pie is done when the caramel begins to bubble up.  A knife inserted should come out clean.

Allow the pie to cool for at least 4 hours before serving.


Coconut custard pie!

Coconut custard pie!

So I’m obsessed with coconut.  Honestly, it is one of my favorite flavors and scents.  So naturally when I have a hankering for custard pie I had to find a way to add coconut.  Some really dislike custard because of the milky – and potentially – eggy flavor.  I totally get that.  But!  This recipe is amazing.  If you like macaroons, you’ll probably enjoy this.  The custard is there, but just barely.  It isn’t overly sweet or rich.  The custard and the coconut really balance each other out.

With pies I’m not a huge fan of crust.  I generally prefer most to be crustless – especially when it comes to custard and pumpkin.  So in an effort to embrace a crust, I found a chocolate crust recipe and added a kick to it by adding cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and a bit of extra sugar.  The spice blended nicely with the chocolate and made the pie have the most heavenly scent!

Here’s how it’s done –

Coconut Custard Pie

Chocolate Pie Crust

Recipe sans spice came from Simply Scratch


1 & 1/8th cup Flour
2 TBSP Unsweetened dark cocoa powder
2 TBSP Granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (8 TBSP) Cold butter, cut in pieces
2-3 TBSP Cold water

~~~~ If you want to add spices ~~~~

3/4 tsp Ground cloves
3/4 tsp Ground nutmeg
3 & 1/4 tsp Ground cinnamon
2 TBSP granulated sugar


Combine flour, cocoa, salt and butter in a bowl using pastry blender (or fork!) until crumbly — if you are fortunate enough to have a food processor it also works well.  Add one tablespoon of water at a time, mixing between additions, until forms into large clumps. Add spices and knead into dough.  Form into a round disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 min.

Roll out dough and proceed as normal.  Fits a 9 inch pie dish or tart pan.

Coconut Custard Pie

Recipe adapted from Paula Deen by LittleFoodieChef


1/2 stick  (4 TBSP) Butter, melted
2 Eggs
1 TBSP Flour
3/4 cup Granulated sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract
2 cups Sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup Milk (I used skim)
1 Chocolate pie crust


Preheat oven to 350F

Whisk eggs, butter, vanilla extract, and sugar.  Whisk in flour and milk.  Add coconut and blend into mixture.  Pour into pie shell.  Optional – but yummy addition: sprinkle extra coconut on top and add pecan halves.  They toasted up nicely in the oven.

Bake 45-60 min until the custard has risen, is golden brown and firm.  Check by inserted knife – it will come out clean but slightly oily.  Let cool, then refrigerate.



Coconut, Curry, Basil and Cupcakes


I’ve always been fascinated by India.  No doubt part of this is because it is an ancient nation with so much history and culture that is quite beautiful.  I’ve enjoyed exploring India through various media and hopefully someday I will be able to visit.  For now, I will just provide a nod with baked goods.

I was thinking last week about what a cupcake inspired by Indian cuisine would contain.  Curry was an obvious flavor.  But it has such a distinct flavor I wanted to add something to make it lighter and decided upon coconut.  Coconut curry is already a normal dish, so why couldn’t it work as a cupcake!?

The one tragic side of my decision to make this cupcake cake is that I can’t actually eat Indian food, the smell of the spices make me nauseous, especially the smell of curry.  So I spent a bit of time trying to get accustomed to the scent and then finally just decided to hold my breath. [I also went with a Thai curry paste, which surprisingly didn’t bother me as much!]

It was a risk well worth it!  These cupcakes are wonderful.  The coconut plays well with the curry.  It is not an overly sweet cupcake either, which is nice.  I decided to make a chocolate basil buttercream for the icing.  It provides a nice cleansing herbaceous mix to the curry.  So if you have fears the spiciness of curry will kick you, the chocolate basil buttercream rectifies said situation.

You are probably also thinking, basil buttercream?  I know, it sounds weird.  But seriously, it is amazing.  I have never loved a buttercream more than this one.  I don’t actually like icing, I find it generally overpowering for most baked goods.  But this one?  I’m tempted to eat it without a cake to put it on.  The buttercream is more invovled than a regular recipe, so you will want to start making it before you start the cupcakes and then finish it while the cupcakes are cooling.

So how does one make this dessert?

Whatcha’ll need for the cupcakes:

½ cup – coconut flakes
1 ¾ cup – flour
1 ½ tsp – baking powder
½ tsp – salt
¾ cup – butter, softened
½ cup – sugar
½ cup – brown sugar
2 eggs
¾ cup – coconut milk
1 tsp – curry
½ tsp – thai red curry paste
½ tsp – paprika

Mix it together:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl mix the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, brown sugar, curry powder, curry paste and paprika together.  Cut butter into pieces and mix in to flour mixture using a beater.  Beat in eggs.  Beat in coconut milk.  Mix in coconut flakes.  Spoon into cupcake tray.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.  (Makes 24 cupcakes)

Now on to the chocolate basil buttercream!

Exactitudes for Happiness:

1 ½ cups – coconut milk
⅓ cup – heavy cream
1 cup – fresh basil leaves, packed
1 ½ cups – sugar
⅓ cup – flour
1 ½ cups – butter, soft and cut in pieces
1 tsp – pure vanilla extract
¼ cup – cocoa powder

Blending Together for Splendor:

Combine milk, heavy cream and basil in a saucepan.  Heat until simmering, then remove from heat.  Let cool and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Remove from refrigerator.   Remove the basil leaves from the milk mixture, squeezing the leaves to add any excess juice to milk mixture before discarding basil leaves.

In a saucepan, whisk together the flour and sugar.  Add the basil milk mixture and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened (around 10 minutes).

Transfer mixture to a bowl — if you have  stand mixture this process will be much easier, if not, a bowl and beater will work.  Beat mixture on high until cool (around 10 minutes).  Reduce speed to low and add butter, one piece at a time.  Mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).

Add the vanilla and cocoa powder and continue mixing for 1-2 minutes.  If the mixtures seems too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill and beat again until is the correct consistency.

Top cupcakes with frosting and add a bit of coconut flakes as garnish.


Low sugar Mocha Cheesecake


In honor of Halloween… I present to you low sugar mocha cheesecake.  I first made this last Halloween at the request of Bob – who in exchange for covering a reference desk shift, requested I make a low sugar/sugar-free cheesecake that went cooresponded with my Halloween costume.

Well I had two costume’s last year, and as I couldn’t figure out how to create a Steampunk inspired cheesecake, I went with the other option… cowgirl.  And what do cowgirls and cowboys drink?  Coffee.  So naturally a mocha cheesecake just made sense.

As you are trying to move off your sugar high of tonight, this might be a lovely option for you.  It is a really tasty cheesecake with a pecan and chocolate crust.  The pecans mix really well with the mocha of the filling.  As a sugar-free option, it is slightly sweeter than a normal cheesecake, but with the addition of sour cream, it really holds back the artifical sweet taste attached to most sweetners.

As a side note… I made a ridiculous number of cheesecakes this past year!

Potion Ingredients:

For the Crust:

1 1/2 cups – sugar free Oreos, crumbled
1 1/2 cups – pecans, chopped
4 Tbsp – butter, melted

For the Filling:

3 – 8oz packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup – Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
3 eggs
1 tsp – vanilla
4 tsp – instant espresso, powder (I used Starbucks VIA, Italian Roast as both are dark roasts)
2 Tbsp – flour
1 cup – sour cream
4 Tbsp – dark cocoa powder (regular is fine too)

Brew the Potion:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the Oreos, pecans and butter. Mix well. Press into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan, pushing up about 1 inch along wall of pan.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and Splenda until fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and espresso until smooth and well blended. Add flour and sour cream, beating until smooth. Divide into two bowls. Add cocoa powder to one bowl. Blend until smooth. Pour half without cocoa powder onto crust, and smooth out until even. Then gently add other half on top, smoothing until even.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F, bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheesecake is set along the edges and slightly jiggles in the middle.

Remove from oven and let cool for 2 to 3 hours and then refridgerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Run a knife along the edge of cheesecake to loosen from pan and then remove cheesecake from pan. Serve.