Tag Archives: Seasonal Recipes

Apple Walnut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I believe that I’m a muffin person more so than a cupcake person.  Muffins seem to be less work, more humble, and are at least somewhat capable of providing flavor without a lot of sugar so I can dupe myself into thinking that the morsel I’m about to pop into my mouth is good for me.  Then I can have two.

With butter.

Realistically, the only other big difference between a muffin and a cupcake is frosting, isn’t it?  Well, and all those cutesy decorations everyone’s putting on cupcakes these days.  Both muffins and cupcakes are transportable, which makes foisting the leftover onto unsuspecting co-workers expected, but when you travel with top-heavy cupcakes, don’t they usually end up on the floor of your car when you brake to avoid the bumper of the person in front of you who didn’t see the red light because she was putting on her make up while driving?  Muffins would survive that trip to the floor unfazed and looking just as comely as they did before the mishap.

But I think I’ve found a happy medium.  Something with pieces of fruit, nuts, some spice…and a lovely cream cheese frosting.  Humble, not cloyingly sweet, and very satisfying.  And yes, sporting a bit of a decoration as well.  Have you ever made your own apple chips?

You won’t have to grab a second because these are anything but bite-sized.  In fact, you’ll need a friend to share one with.  I’m sharing mine with Fanny of Foodbeam for SHF:  Cupcakes the Final Chapter.  They’re definitely…

Not.  Just.  Pretty.

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Danish Braids: Daring Bakers June Challenge


Call me Murphy because if anything could go wrong, it already has.  You know when you get to the end of a very long post and you see that spinning wheel?  The one that indicates that something’s not quite right with your browser?  Yes.  That would be me about 3 minutes ago.  And now I’m supposed to start over because the whole freaking thing is gonzo. *sob* It all happened when I clicked on that link for the Daring Bakers Blogroll…Can you believe it?

It’s 12:46 am, and it’s posting day for the Daring Bakers, something I can’t wait for each month.  And this month in particular, since I’m one of the hosts, you’d think I’d have things all wrapped up.  I’ve had Danish Braid on the brain for about three months now, from thinking about choosing the recipe, to choosing it, to testing it, and baking it four different ways…and now it’s time to raise the curtain and what do you think?


My browser quits on me and my post is lost.  Crappity crap crap.  It’s kind of like not showing up for your own party.

It’s bad enough living in the farthest Southwest corner of the U.S. and always, always, always being the very last to be able to post, counting the minutes until midnight, barely waiting for my time to let it rip.  But have my browser quit on me?  That’s just wrong.

Ahhhhh…..I guess I should have written this post a month ago, right?  Set it to fly when the clock hit midnight?  But no.

I’ve had Italy on my brain along with Danish Braid, because we’re leaving in two days.  Two.  So this is my punishment for not being ready.

Nevertheless, it’s time to give this another go.  To write again that which has been lost.  Right?

Um, nope.  I have no energy at this point.  Forgive me.

With what little grace I have at this point (like, ZERO?), it is so important to me to say thank you to Ben of What’s Cooking? for being my co-host for this month’s Daring Baker Challenge.  THANK YOU BEN!   I know Ben would have more dignity than I do right now.  *sigh* Right Ben?

Okay, enough of the melodrama and on with the pastry.

Danish Braid anyone?

This completely fabulous recipe is Sherry Yard’s from The Secrets of Baking, and what a lovely recipe it is.  Cardamom, orange, vanilla…and lots of options for making it your own.  If you’ve ever wondered about whether you could make pastry, this is the recipe for you to try.  But I’m biased. I could have eaten all of it myself.


Makes enough for 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)

For the egg wash:  1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1.    Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.  On a lightly floured  surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick.  If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again.  Place the dough on the baking sheet.
2.    Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart.  Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
3.    Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle.  Starting with the top and bottom flaps, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover.  Next, fold the bottom flap up to cover filling.  This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished.  Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1.    Spray cooking oil (Pam) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid.  Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
2.    Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Position a rack in the center of the oven.
3.    Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown.  Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature.  The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.



Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
½ cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
¼ cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour

Combine  yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed.  Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice.  Mix well.  Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated.  Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth.  You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky.  Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.


1.    Combine  butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free.  Set aside at room temperature.
2.    After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll the dough  into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick.  The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour.  Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough.  Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter.  Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third.  The first turn has now been completed.  Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally.  Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3.    Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface.  The open ends should be to your right and left.  Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle.  Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third.  No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed.  Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
4.    Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns.  Make sure you are keeping track of your turns.  Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight.  The Danish dough is now ready to be used.  If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it.  To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze.  Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling.  Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.


Makes enough for two braids

4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl.  Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 – 8 minutes.  Then add the apple mixture and saute until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes.  If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid.  (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet.  After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.


  • I made two braids:  one with apple filling, and the other with a combination of strawberry jam & pastry cream.  I took the jam & pastry recipes from the Beatrice Ojakangas recipe for Danish Braid in Baking with Julia.  They are quickly and easily made in the microwave and were very good.
  • I also made Danish Envelopes folded two ways.  Each had the apples described above, but also with a filling of 8 oz. cream cheese, 1/4 c. demerara, 1/2 egg,  and 1/2 tsp. vanilla well mixed and dolloped onto the apples. I sprinkled chopped pecans over the filling, baked them, and then drizzled dulce de leche over the top.  Mmmm….
  • Speaking of those apples — they’re delicious.  This would make a beautiful pie filling or ice cream topping, or…add some nuts and just enjoy.
  • The egg wash for the top of the braid will produce a very brown crust, so be prepared.
  • Absolutely read the recipe several times before you begin.  The recipe is very straight forward unless it’s not carefully read.
  • Make sure you don’t cheat on the 30 minute refrigeration times between turns.  The gluten needs to rest, and the butter to chill.
  • If your kitchen is above 80 degrees F, the butter will most likely pose a problem, so make sure all your ingredients are cold to begin with, and if need be, refrigerate when necessary along the way to keep things cold.
  • Make sure the “fringe” on the dough for the braid isn’t cut too long or the filling will ooze out during the proof time, or even worse, during baking.  Hmmm…did I do this?
  • I used green cardamom pods for this — about 16.  It’s time consuming to crack them and grind the seeds, but worth it.  The dough is very aromatic, and the pastry very special.




Please take time to visit the other Daring Bakers to see their sweet and savory, nutty, fruity Danish Braids. They’re amazing, as always, and far more entertaining than I am at this point.

Somebody needs to hose me down.

And here’s a quick look at round two with my Danish Envelopes.  To get the rounded ones, I placed them in a Texas style muffin pan and wrapped the corners up over the filling.  Cute little things if I might say so myself.  Wish I had one right now, and I’d drown my sorrows in that yummy pastry.

Look how much nicer my dough was the next time.  All straight and perfect! Such lovely dough to work with. Okay, forget hosing me down.  Just wrap me in this dough, and I’ll be happy.





Sugar Cookies with Cardamom & Lime

I started this post once already.  To be exact, I had almost completely finished it and was adding the very last photo.  And then it happened.  I noticed things slowing down a bit, then stalling, and although I tried to quickly save the post as a draft, it was too late.  My connection was lost, and so was my writing.

You do understand that this did not make me smile, yes?

And so I have waited a couple of days to try again because there’s nothing worse than having to write something all over again, is there?

Moving right along…

I recently learned that Victoria Magazine is back in publication.  Although I am quite excited by this, I’m also hesitant, in much the same way one might be if given the opportunity to do something wonderful all over again, and have it turn out less than expected, ruining lovely memories.  I had been a devoted subscriber of this remarkable magazine for years, and then former Editor-in-Chief, Nancy Lindemeyer left. The magazine changed, leaving those of us inspired by its beauty wondering what would happen.  It was still a pleasant magazine, but it just wasn’t the same.  Because my career had also taken a new direction that would eliminate much of the free time I had to lounge with magazines, I canceled my subscription.  In 2003, publication stopped.

I gave all but one or two of my saved magazines to my mother, who loved them. I saved this one because of the cookies on the cover.  They’re amazing and I’ve made them many times over the years since I learned to pipe that lovely icing.  Unfortunately, I’m completely out of practice — or perhaps it’s patience, as my hand is not quite a steady as it once was.  But now that I’m back in the saddle, I’m ready for Christmas, and Valentine’s Day.  Cookies, anyone?

Ricki Arno’s Butter Cookies, published in the February 1998 edition of Victoria, are flavored with fresh lemon, no spice, and melt in your mouth.  They’ve inspired me to create my own recipe with flavors that are more in line with the colors on my Fall Leaves.  I couldn’t resist those beautiful cookie cutters when Martha Stewart came out with them.  Or the snowflakes, or the hearts.  I’m hopeless, but I love these cookies.Img_3530

Kelly’s Cardamom & Lime Sugar Cookies

Cookie Ingredients

1 c. unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 c. extra fine sugar
1 lg. egg, slightly beaten
Grated zest from 2 limes, about 1 T
1/2 tsp. cardamom
2-1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Icing Ingredients

2 c. sifted confectioner’s sugar
1/4 c. lemon juice
juice from 1 lime

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy.  This can be done by hand easily as well.  Beat in the egg and lime zest just until mixed.

In another bowl, sift flour and salt.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture, stirring each time before adding more.  Beat until well combined.

Divide dough into two pieces, flattening each between two sheets of plastic wrap and then tightly wrapping before placing in the fridge for at least 2 hours.  This can be done ahead of time, and then left over night if you choose.

After chilling, unwrap flattened dough, but leave between the plastic sheets to roll (about 1/8-1/4″ thickness).  You can roll the dough on a cold, lightly floured surface, if you prefer.

Quickly stamp the dough with your chosen shapes, and if necessary, return to the fridge for about 10 minutes before removing the sheets to a baking sheet.

Baking sheets can be ungreased, lined with parchment, or silicone.  Bake for about 7 minutes just before the edges begin to show brown.  Watch them carefully.


Remove from oven and let rest on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before placing them on rack to cool completely.

Decorate as desired using the icing above, or one of your own.  The cookies also taste excellent without icing, right from the oven.


Notes: I learned to ice cookies through much trial and error and with guidance from Martha Stewart Living which had a great feature on it one year. (Here, let me dig through all my back issues to find it…NOT)  I was fascinated by the whole process and had to learn.  I use Wilton color, and pre-cut triangles of parchment that I shape and tape together.  I use piping tips and couplers, but also find a paper tip just as nice for this type of cookie.  I use a 5 tip for flooding, or a 2 tip if the icing is thin.  A 1-tip is for small dots and thin lines, but as the icing begins to harden, it can get stuck in the tip at times.


The colors I chose for my leaves ended up differently than I’d intended, but that’s what makes this so interesting to me.  I play and experiment.  I usually start with one color and do all the cookies I expect to have that color on.  This time, I outlined first, creating the dike that would hold the thinner icing I’d spread inside, which has a tendency to flow over the edges or into the next section.  When I’m finished outlining, I can then thin the icing to use in the center as well.


To make designs in the interiors, I flood, then while still wet, add other colors.  As it dries, the icing will be flat.  To add texture, I wait until the frosting is dry, then add detail on the top.


It’s challenging for me to make just one design, but it’s actually more simple if you plan to do that.  You only have to mix a few colors, and it goes fairly quickly.  I get bored, and then impatient, so there ends up being several “styles” of cookies by the time I’m done.