Sunday, February 24, 2013

Week 8 of 52: Pistachio Sticky Buns

As I checked out the "National xx Day" list around this weekend, I learned it was National Sticky Bun Day (Feb 21) and National Pistachio Day (Feb 26).

Every year, I wait, anxiously, for the Iowa State Fair to begin. In case you have never heard of the Iowa State Fair, it is on the list of 1000 Places to See Before You Die (

I love the fair, everything about it. I love the food, the animals, the big tractors, even the cowboy hat and boot wearing people. I spent one fair working in the blue Information Booths every day of the fair (10 straight days)! I can tell you where most things are on the fairgrounds, and I plan out which days I can take off work when the schedule comes out so as not to miss opportunities like the hog calling contest, the big sheep competition, and the draft horses. But above all, I can tell you where the best vegetarian corn dogs are, the best hand-squeezed lemonade can be found, and those grilled turkey legs the size of your head from the Turkey Federation! And of course, I know where the best sticky buns are located.

Next to the mandate of starting a fair day with a sticky bun, I also love baklava. All those layers of honey-soaked, pistachio-rich phylo. That got me to thinking, why not a baklava-inspired sticky bun?

After searching the web for various recipes, I decided to modify one from Oprah (she knows desserts!). This is my interpretation.

Adapted from

Pistachio Sticky Buns

These are made in muffin tins to make it easier to serve. And they are made at night and baked the next morning. You can skip the overnight, but you need to add 1-2 hours of additional raising time. And you can make in a 9x13" pan instead.

Grease two 12-cup muffin tins.

3/4 c brown sugar
4 T butter, unsalted
4 T honey
1 T cinnamon, ground
1 c almond slivers, coarsely chopped
1/2 c pistachios, coarsely chopped

Melt all but nuts in a saucepan on low. Pour into the prepared tins. Distribute the nuts evenly among the cups. Set aside.

1/4 c warm water, not hot
1 pkt active dry yeast
1 t sugar

1/3 c sugar
3/4 c milk (I use light vanilla soy milk)
4 T butter, unsalted, room temperature
3 egg yolks, large (use the whites for an omelet!)
1 T orange zest, finely grated (invest in a microplane if you don't have one, they are fantastic!)
1 1/4 t salt, kosher
4 c flour (may need an additional 1/4 c, plus more for dusting)

Combine yeast ingredients in your stand mixer bowl and let set until it gets bubbly (5 minutes). Once ready, add sugar, milk, butter, eggs, zest, and salt. Mix on low speed. Once together, add 3 cups of flour and again mix on low until starting to come together. Change to dough hook. Add another 1 cup of flour and get dough to form a ball that is shiny and only slightly sticky. If too sticky, add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour. This should go for 3-5 minutes on medium.

Raising 1
Grease a glass bowl. Turn out dough and form into a ball. Place in bowl and turn to coat ball with the butter from the bowl. Cover with a clean dish towel and place in a warm place to let rise. I put mine on the couch under my down blanket. Rise for about 1 hour until doubled in size.

Once dough has risen, punch it down and turn it out onto a floured board. Let sit for 20 minutes.

1/2 c brown sugar, light, tightly packed
1 T cinnamon, ground
2 t cloves, ground
3 T butter, cold, cut into 12 pieces
1 1/2 c shelled, roasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/2 c slivered almonds, coarsely chopped

Mix all filing ingredients together. Pinch butter chunks so as to create a crumbly texture.

Roll out dough to 1/4" thick, 12" x 18". Brush with 4 T melted butter. Cover evenly with filing. Roll (starting from the longer side) into a cylinder with cut side down. Using a pastry scraper, cut into 24 equal pieces.

Place one piece, flat side down, into each cup of the prepared pans.

Raising 2
Cover with plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator over night. If you want to bake the same day, cover with the clean dish towel again and place in a warm place to rise. This will take another 1 hour to double in size.

In the morning, pull out tins and uncover. Let come up to room temperature while preheating the oven to 375F.

Bake for 30-35'.

Cool only slightly before turning out of tins and devouring!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Week 7 of 52: Almond Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Week 7 of 52: Almond Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Today is National Almond Day. There are so many desserts that could be made to celebrate this day. I wanted to make the Indian dessert called Burfi, but I didn't have any silver to top it that will have to come later this year. I also thought about almond cookies (to satisfy my Chinese dessert craving), or almond biscotti (which I will be making sometime this year, as it is a dessert I have never attempted), or almond joy brownies (I think about these often!!). But as I searched the web for ideas, I came across a recipe for sour cream coffee cake.

I remember having bundt-style streusel cakes when I was a kid. My grandmother on my dad's side was born in Czechoslovakia and even though much of what was cooking and baking in her kitchen was authentic eastern European food, I really don't know where her recipe for this type of cake came from. I never saw a recipe and have no idea if it had sour cream or not. But it was always super moist and had lots of gooey-ness inside.   My mother made these too, but as I mentioned in an earlier post...I can never be certain how much of my Mom's baking is from scratch and how much is from a box.

So to honor the memory of Grandma Harris' gooey bundt cakes, I began my search for all things almond, sugar, and cinnamon.

Many of the recipes I found were very similar with their ratios of ingredients. The fillings were either with flour/butter or without. I only found one relatively almond infused recipe, but it was only focused on the filling. So I decided to tweak things a little and incorporate some ground almonds into the cake batter to give an extra punch of almond. And because I don't own a bundt pan, I decided to use two round pans and then turn it into a layer coffee cake because the more gooey layers the better!

Enjoy this celebration of almonds and Grandma Harris.

Almond Sour Cream Coffee Cake

12 T butter, unsalted, room temperature
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
3 eggs, large
1 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
2 c flour
1/2 c ground almonds (I use a food processor and pulse just until they look like tiny hits, not until they are powder)
1/2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
12 oz sour cream
2T pure almond extract + 2T water, mixed in a separate bowl

1 1/2 t cinnamon
3/4 c brown sugar, light or dark, just your preference
1 c almonds (I use slivered and then coarsely chop)
1/4 t salt
1/2 c flour
3 T butter, cold, and cut into small pieces
Mix all ingredients except butter in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Add the butter pieces and then mix together by hand, squeezing the butter pieces into the mix until it is crumbly. Set aside to use in the panning. 

1 1/4 c confectioners' sugar
3 T milk (I use light vanilla soy milk)
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
Hand mix ingredients in a bowl. It should be runny, but not watery. Something thinner than the caramel dip for apples, but thicker than the chocolate in a molten cake. Set aside to use after cake is assembled after baking.


  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Grease and lightly flour two round cake pans.
  2. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, until incorporated.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, soda, powder, and salt.
  4. Alternating flour mix and sour cream, add to the butter mix until incorporated.

Put 1/4 of the batter into each prepared pan. Sprinkle 1/4 of the filling over the batter. Put remaining 1/4 of batter into each pan - you will need to dollop this using a spoon because the batter in thick and sticky and should be. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 of filling on top. Pour 1/2 of almond extract/water mix over the top of each cake.

Bake for 30-35' until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then turn out.

Place one cake on top of the other before completely cool. Add drizzle and serve.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Week 6 of 52: Peppermint Patty Brownies

Week 6 of 52: Peppermint Patty Brownies
Today is National Cream Cheese Brownie Day.  And tomorrow is National Peppermint Patty Day.  The former is easily accomplishable on a dessert blog.  The latter is bit more confusing.  Are we celebrating that wonderful confection covered in chocolate that sends a shiver of cold up the back of your neck when you take the first bite, or are we celebrating that fantastic freckle-faced girl that was the ultimate tomboy and has been around as long as me!  

This got me to thinking all kinds of strange and fantastic ways to create a dessert that would incorporate both my “famous” brownies, already known in town, and the brunette that could only be described as a rare gem!

So I went to work researching all things brownies and peppermint.  Did you know that Peppermint Patty was inducted into the D- Hall of Fame?  That she was raised by a single parent?  That she was the only Peanuts character to call Charlie Brown “Chuck”?  

And did you know that the first brownie was created in the United States in the last 1800s and early 1900s?  The first published recipes were in 1904-07 (

Not that any of this research puts me any closer or father away from my first and only thought when building a recipe – put a peppermint patty INSIDE a brownie.  Done!

I hope you enjoy…  

Peppermint Patty Brownies
(In honor of National Cream Cheese Brownie Day – FEB 10 and National Peppermint Patty Day – FEB 11)

14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
6 cups powdered sugar

10 T butter
1 cbrown sugar
¼ cwhite sugar
¾ c + 2 Tunsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsalt
½ tpure vanilla extract
2eggs, large
½ call-purpose flour

Filing Directions – do this part first, then put discs in the freezer while you mix up the brownies:
Combine the sweetened condensed milk and peppermint extract.
Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat.
Knead on a surface sprinkled with more sugar until dough is stiff.
(The stiffer the better when it come to the dipping part!) Add more sugar while kneading if the dough is sticky.
Roll 1/4 inch thick.
Cut into approximately 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch circles.
Note – I did NOT have any peppermint extract, so instead, I melted ¾ c Andies mint chips in the microwave and stirred them into the mix.  Also, the dough is very stiff if you add all 6 cups of powdered sugar.  It rolls out with a rolling pin very nicely.  I used one of the small condiment containers from Tupperware to cut my circles.

Brownie Directions – preheat oven to 325F, racks in lower 1/3 of oven
Grease a baking pan.
Combine butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a bowl – microwave for 1-minute intervals, stirring in between, until the butter is melted and the mix is smooth. Set the mix aside to cool slightly.  It will look gritty, but will become smooth.
Hand mix in vanilla.  Then add eggs one a time, stirring vigorously after each one, until the batter is thick, shiny, and well blended.
Add the flour until you cannot see it any longer, then beat for 30 strokes.
Pour evenly into prepared pan.

Panning – If you are using a brownie pan that has a separator, drop one half of a partially frozen patty into each well.  If you are using a standard square or rectangular pan, evenly space the patties so that when cut, each brownie has a patty.

Baking – Bake 20-25 minutes – until a toothpick inserted emerges slightly moist with batter.Once you remove the brownies, take the back of a spoon and squish the now puffy patty on top of each brownie. Cool completely and remove brownies from the pan.  These are best cooled in the fridge, as they are easier to cut (unless you are using a brownie pan).

Keep in airtight container.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Week 5 of 52: Carrot Cake

February 3 2013

Week 5 of 52: Carrot Cake

I can't really remember specific birthday cakes when I was a kid. Perhaps it is because I really can't remember a lot of my childhood. Perhaps because I blocked them out. Like when my mom threw me a surprise 30th. I don't remember that cake either! But for some time, I have always asked for a scratch cake, specifically Carrot Cake. It is my favorite and I feel that on birthdays, especially, someone should make you a scratch cake. Not those store-bought kind. But one made with love (and sweat!).

So this past year, my mom made a carrot cake. It was her best ever. She told me of course it was from scratch. Until the next day, when she fessed up to making a boxed mix cake! I was heart-broken, but really surprised. It was fantastic!

Well today is National Carrot Cake Day. Perhaps you are unaware, but almost everything on earth has its own "day"!  This was the perfect day to create a scratch cake that was even better than that fantastic boxed cake and one that I could give to my mom to use this year.

I searched out a number of cake recipes and settled on a variation between one I found on and This one has pecans, coconut, and of course carrots. But no pineapple. I am not sure why people put pineapple in carrot cake, but I am not a fan. I like my pineapple cold, fresh, and sweet. Not heated in any sense. That may be a result of years having ham with pineapple rings when I was a kid. I don't eat ham anymore.

I made a two layer cake with a cream cheese frosting. I had more pans, I think I would have preferred a four layer cake with thinner layers and more frosting. But that is just my passion.

I will post the picks tonight, and the recipe tomorrow, along with another pic once it is cut open.