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My lovely husband recently crossed the threshold into official “mid-30’s”-dom. We were able to celebrate on his actual day with his family back in his hometown in Southern Illinois and so I knew I could count on his dear mother to make him his favorite dessert – pineapple upside-down cake [made in a cast iron skillet, natch!].

To make sure I didn’t step on any toes but still bake some sweets for my sweetie [awwww..] I sleuthed out what Jeremy’s second favorite dessert was – chocolate-pecan pie. Since I haven’t ventured into making my own pie crust and was already in my pajamas [meaning, no running to the Kreepy Krogs around the corner to see if they might have some non-dodgy pre-made pie crusts available], I got to googling and discovered Deep South Dish‘s Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars.

I tweaked just a few things from the original recipe. I love using King Arthur Flour‘s Midnight Cocoa in place of regular Dutch-processed cocoa. It makes your desserts all that much richer, chocolate-r and less sweet [which is my personal preference]. I also added the optional bourbon [yes, puhleese!] as well as the suggested shredded coconut.

The next time I make these, and there will definitely be a next time, I’ll probably skip the coconut and bourbon and add some cayenne pepper to the mix when toasting the pecans, as well as adding some large flake sea salt to the top of the mix pre-baking to add a bit of a savory edge to the pie.

Do you have a favorite dessert you usually have on your birthday? What is it? I’d love to know!

xo,

@

coconut bourbon pecan pie bars | sweet betweens

Coconut Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars

via Deep South DishChocolate Pecan Pie Bars

yield : 1 9×13 dish / 12-16 bars

Ingredients

Toasted Pecans

1 cup pecan halves

1 cup pecan pieces

1/4 cup [1/2 stick] unsalted butter

2 tsp kosher or coarse sea salt

Crust

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup midnight/black cocoa powder [like this version from King Arthur]

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Filling

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 heaping TBSP all-purpose flour

3 eggs, large [lightly beaten]

1 cup light corn syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 TBSP bourbon [I used Wild Turkey‘s American Honey]

1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut

2 TBSP unsalted butter, room temperature

Directions

Toasted Pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter, pour over pecans and toss to coat evenly. Spread buttered pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, stirring about halfway through.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with salt and let cool to room temperature.

Crust

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Line a 9×13 baking dish with aluminum foil, leaving excess hanging over the ends to help with the bar removal after baking. Butter foil generously and set aside.

Whisk together flour, cocoa and confectioners’ sugar. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Press crust mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking pan, making sure to go slightly up the sides [about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch].

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips and return to oven for 3-4 minutes to begin melting the chips. Remove from oven and, using an offset spatula, spread melted chocolate evenly over crust. Set aside to cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Filling

In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and flour. Stir in eggs, corn syrup, vanilla extract, bourbon and softened butter. Finally, stir in toasted pecans and coconut.

Pour pecan-coconut mixture on cooled crust and bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool on rack, about 1 hour. Transfer pan to refrigerator to chill and set for another hour.

Using aluminum overhang, remove bars out of baking pan and cut into bars of desired size. [I did 12 3×3-ish sized bars, 3 rows of 4 bars].

Enjoy!

coconut bourbon pecan pie bars | sweet betweens

You may have read the title of this post, rolled your eyes and said “ugh. doesn’t this woman know the speculoos/cookie butter/biscoff thing is so over?”. For this deliciously creamy, spicy and rich dessert you are going to want to set your need to be on trend aside, swallow that ego and make this pie. Like, yesterday.

I tweaked Darla‘s original recipe for No-Bake Biscoff Cream Pie by adding some [locally distilled!] Prichard’s Sweet Lucy Cream Liqueur. The regular Sweet Lucy bourbon has been my go-to sipping and cocktail bourbon and though I’d purchased the Cream Liqueur ages ago, it had been sitting on our bar shelf gathering dust. Most literally. The bottle caught my eye when I was going back and forth from the refrigerator to the counter assembling my needed ingredients, so I picked up the bottle and just went with my gut. And my gut was very very right.

The bourbon taste is most noticeably when the pie is eaten after the first chilling noted in the directions. I saved the pie for a visit to my in-laws and noticed that the bourbon wasn’t as strong a day after [not-] baking. Because of this I would recommend that if you need to prepare the pie in advance that you split the whipped cream recipe in half and only add the bourbon to the whipped cream topping you can make and assemble just before serving.

I hope you’ll make this, and soon. When you do, come back here and let me know how ridiculously over-the-top delicious it was. I’ll be waiting!

xo,

@

no-bake bourbon biscoff pie | sweet betweens

No-Bake Bourbon Biscoff Pie

from Bakingdom‘s No-Bake Biscoff Cream Pie

yield : one 9″ pie

Ingredients

Crust

20 chocolate Oreos [approx 2 1/2 cups crumbs]

7 TBSP unsalted butter

Filling

6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup Biscoff spread [I used nearly the entire jar of Biscoff Crunchy spread]

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 cups bourbon whipped cream

Bourbon Whipped Cream [Filling and Topping]

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 TBSP Pritchard’s Sweet Lucy Sipping Cream bourbon

Decoration

4-5 Oreos, chilled and sliced into 5-6 pieces each

small piece of semi-sweet chocolate, grated

Directions

* I find chilling a metal or glass bowl and the beaters of a hand-held electric mixer in the freezer before making the whipped cream speeds up the process.

Crust

Pulse Oreos [about 5 at a time fit in my Vitamix blender] until you get uniform crumbs. Melt butter and mix with Oreo crumbs until evenly distributed.

Press crumbs firmly and evenly into a 9″ pie plate. Refrigerate.

Filling

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add Biscoff spread and mix on low until combined thoroughly. Add confectioners’ sugar [all at once – no need to divide] and continue to mix on low until combined. Don’t worry if mixture looks curdled!

Set Biscoff mix aside.

Bourbon Whipped Cream

Add all ingredients into a large bowl. [Large! The volume of this mixture will quickly double once the whipping process begins.] Whip on high with an electric hand-held mixer until light and airy, where stiff peaks form on the end of the beater blades when removed from mixture.

Assembly

Divide whipped cream in half [estimate, as it’s not crucial to be exact]. Fold half into the Biscoff mix until well combined.

Pour and spread the Biscoff mix into the chilled pie pan, on top of the crust. Top with whipped cream.

Decorate with shaved chocolate and extra Oreo crumbs [optional]. Return to refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours.

Serve and enjoy!

no bake bourbon biscoff pie | sweet betweens

This recipe adaptation was another one of those saw it-checked the pantry-made it situations. Jeremy and I spent a few days before the actual Easter holiday this year with his family in Southern Illinois. I’ve  established a precedent of bringing some baked goods with me every time we take the three hour drive north/west on I-24 and when I saw the Spiced Cranberry Hot Cross Buns Kathryn posted on her blog, London Bakes, I knew they’d be perfect.

I had a bag of fresh cranberries withering in a produce drawer of our refrigerator [last hold-outs from the winter holidays] as well as a bag of candied ginger slices. Adding both amped up an already deliciously spice-ful recipe and added a variety of textures with the pop of fresh cranberries and the chew of the candied ginger.

The beauty of these buns is that they don’t have to be pigeon-holed just for the Easter holidays. Just skip the addition of the plain flour cross on top of the buns – but don’t skip the sugar glaze!

Hot cross buns were never a tradition for the Easter holiday in my family, unlike the ham and potatoes au gratin, but after these buns turned out so beautifully, I’m thinking I may have to make them one!

What are your favorite family Easter traditions, if you celebrate this holiday? I would love to know!

xo,

@

cranberry ginger spice hot cross buns | sweet betweens

Cranberry Ginger Spice Hot Cross Buns

from London BakesSpiced Cranberry Hot Cross Buns

yield : 12 buns

Ingredients

Buns

300 ml [1 1/4 cups] milk [I used whole, but you can use whatever you prefer]

50 g [a little under 1/2 stick] unsalted butter

500 g [4 cups] bread flour

1 tsp kosher salt

75 g [1/3 cup] granulated cane sugar

1 packet yeast

1 large egg, lightly whisked to combine yolk + white

100 g [4 ounces] fresh cranberries, sliced in half

1/4 cup candied ginger, small dice

zest of 1 lemon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Cross [optional]

75 g [2/3 cup] all-purpose flour, unbleached

Glaze [optional]

2 TBSP granulated cane sugar

Directions

Warm milk to near boiling, stirring to prevent scorching the milk. Add butter and stir until melted. Set aside and let cool to 120-130 farenheit [ideal temperature to activate yeast].

While milk is heating, butter is melting and/or mixture is cooling, put flour, salt, sugar and yeast into the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Whisk to distribute evenly. Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture.

Add milk and egg to flour mixture. Stir together with a wooden spoon or spatula until combined. Knead mixture with dough hook attachment on low for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Cover dough with a clean cotton dishtowel and set in a warm place for an hour or so, until the dough has doubled in size.

Return bowl to stand mixer. Add cranberries, ginger and spices and knead for a few minutes until well distributed. Re-cover with towel and allow to rise again for an hour, or doubled in size, in your warm spot.

Divide the dough into equal pieces, weighing about 3 ounces each. Smooth into round buns and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Cover again and let rise until the buns have doubled in size, about an hour.

Heat oven to 375. While oven is coming to temperature, mix 2/3 cup all-purpose flour with 2-3 tablespoons water until you have a smooth paste. Pipe flour paste on top of buns into crosses.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

While buns are baking, melt 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in 2 tablespoons water. Once buns are finished baking [golden and crispy outsides, especially bottoms], brush syrup on top of each bun with a pastry brush.

cranberry ginger spice hot cross buns | sweet betweens

My pal Kate [of Kate Schmate] and I have known each other for over 10 years. Eep! We became friends during the second year of Big Horizons, a service-learning based pre-orientation program for incoming freshman at Vanderbilt University. It was my second year involved with the program and I was student directing while she was a small group leader/counselor.

Big Horizons @ Saddle Up!Big Horizons 2001-2002 Leaders . Saddle Up! Project Day

Our friendship continued while we were both still at Vanderbilt. She even had a small hand in the romance brewing between my then crush [now husband] and I, when she took this photo of J for an interview she wrote on him for the [now defunct] literary magazine Versus.

JP01The Husband . Swoon! [amiright?!]

In those ten years, we’ve both graduated from Vanderbilt University, married our college sweethearts and returned to Nashville to make a life for ourselves and our families. Oh, and though she may be ahead in the human baby department, we both have Boston Terriers! [Theirs, Lucy. Ours, Ramble] Speaking of said human baby, Kate + JD’s sweet little, Maggie, turned the big 0-1 recently and they turned to me to help them out in the smash-cake department for this fun monkey-themed party. Because Maggie’s still so young and hadn’t yet eaten any processed sugar, ever, Kate’s only request was that we use alternate sugars.

MSMiss Maggie, delicately eating her own Honey-Banana Cake!

Moving with the monkey/banana theme, I suggested a delicious banana cake recipe [from my pal Lesley] as the base, subbing the cane sugar for [local] honey. One of my favorite and key steps to make a delicious cake with a strong banana flavor is roasting the bananas prior to adding to the cake batter, making sure to include all the juices that accumulate within the banana peels into said batter. Give this cake recipe a go, and let me know how it turns out for you. You won’t miss the traditional cane sugar. I promise!

xo,

@

PS – See some cute pictures of Maggie, and the cake set up, in Kate’s recap of her sweet daughter’s 1st Birthday, here.

honey-banana cake | sweet betweens 02

banana cake, topped with [optional] freeze-dried banana slices [like these]

Honey-Banana Cake

adapted from Lesley EatsBanana Bread

Yield : 1 large or 2-3 small loaves [I doubled the recipe and made 1 8″ round cake and 20 cupcakes]

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

heavy 3/4 cup honey

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 tsp salt

3 large ripe bananas

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup + 3 TBSP unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Directions

1. To Roast Bananas: Preheat oven to 450 F. Place bananas on lined baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes on each side. Remove from oven and let cool.

2. Adjust oven temperature to 350 F. Prepare loaf pan[s] by buttering and and dusting with flour. Set aside. Measure out salt, baking soda, flour and spices into a large bowl. Whisk to incorporate then set aside.

3. In bowl of electric stand mixer, cream butter and honey until uniform liquid [about 5-6 minutes]. Add eggs one at a time, allowing them to incorporate into honey mixture before adding the next one.

4. Add cooled bananas to honey mixture. [Make sure to peel bananas over stand mixer bowl so the sweet liquid from the roasted banana is also included in the mixture]. Mix on medium until mashed/broken to desired consistency. [I like to have some bite-sized chunks of banana in the final product.] Finally, add vanilla extract until just combined.

5. Add flour mixture to honey mixture in three additions, mixing on medium/low until just incorporated.

6. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, smooth top and place in oven. Bake for up to one hour, checking for done-ness with a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf at 45 minutes. [The top of the loaf should spring back slightly to touch and the inserted toothpick should come out clean.]

7. Let loaf cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing and letting come to room temperature on wire rack, about 30 minutes.

honey-banana cupcake trio | sweet betweens

I topped the extra banana cupcakes with chocolate chips, banana + honey and blueberries

Honey-Cinnamon-Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

1 1/2 packages cream cheese, softened and cut into 1/4ths

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature and cut in 1 TBSP pieces

1/4 cup honey

1 vanilla bean

1 tsp vanilla extract

1-2 dashes of ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Add cream cheese and butter to the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the whipping attachment, mix on medium/high for 5-6 minutes until combined, light and fluffy.

2. Add honey, vanilla bean caviar and cinnamon and whip for another 2-3 minutes on medium/high until combined.

3. Spread frosting on cooled loaf with offset spatula or pipe with frosting bag.

I had been hemming and hawing, waffling back and forth on the topic of homemade bread. In the last year or so I have been wanting to become *that* baker – the one who always has a fresh loaf of homemade sandwich bread around the house and who dabbles in fun savory and sweet boules, brioches and other types of bread + pastry.

When my pal Amy [Fearless Homemaker] shared her twist on a cinnamon swirl bread earlier this week, I bit the bullet. I may not have started the process until well into the evening on a Monday, but I had all of the ingredients necessary in the pantry plus a few for a twist. So I did it!

I. Baked. Bread. Y’ALL!

With a boost of confidence from Amy, Lindsay + Lesley on twitter everything went smoothly. I was nervous as I couldn’t remember how big the dough ball was pre-proofing, so I didn’t think it had risen enough. I figured I might as well go ahead with the baking since I couldn’t eat raw dough, anyways. Glad I did, as the loaf is wonderful! I may be glowing a bit from the rush of having accomplished a long dreamt-of goal, but honestly. The bread is GREAT! Decent chew thanks to the whole wheat flour, a sweet and spiceful surprise with the cinnamon, pumpkin pie spices, chocolate chips and hazelnuts.

Next time I make this bread [and believe me, there will be a next time. Probably next week!] I’ll double the filling, and maybe even add some dried fruit like cherries or blueberries? [Soak them in hot water to reconstitute so they are plump + moist before adding to the loaf.]

So, do it. Bake some bread this week/end! And please come back here and let me know how it went.

xo,

@

whole wheat[ish] nutty-spice swirl bread - sweet betweens 01

Whole Wheat[ish] Nutty Cinnamon-Chip Swirl

adapted from Fearless Homemaker‘s Whole Wheat Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Yield : 1 loaf [10-12 slices]  Prep Time : 20 minutes + 2.5 hours proof time + 40 min. bake time

Ingredients

Bread:

1/2 cup warm milk [I used coconut-almond milk as we usually don’t have dairy milk in the house]

1/2 cup warm water

1 pkg yeast [1/4 oz]

2 tsp + 1/3 cup granulated cane sugar, divided

1 cup whole-wheat flour

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3 TBSP unsalted butter, room temperature

1 TBSP cinnamon*

1 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Nutty Spice Swirl:

3 TBSP unsalted butter, room temperature

1 heaping TBSP pumpkin pie spice blend**

1 heaping TBSP dark brown sugar

1 heaping TBSP mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 heaping TBSP toasted, chopped hazelnuts

1 egg + 2 TBSP warm water, mixed [egg wash for loaf, just prior to baking]

Directions:

1. Measure 1/3 cup sugar, flours, cinnamon and salt into medium bowl. Whisk to combine.

2. Combine warm milk and water, yeast and 2 tsp sugar in a measuring cup. Let sit for 10 minutes, until foamy.

3. While the yeast is foaming, add flour mixture to bowl of an electric stand mixer. Towards the end of the 10 minutes for yeast foaming, add butter and using paddle attachment, mix on low. While mixing, drizzle in yeast mixture until the dough just comes together.

4. Switch to dough hook attachment, increase speed to high and mix for 8-10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.

5. Butter or spray [with cooking spray] a large glass bowl, place dough inside and cover with a clean, cotton cloth. Let dough rise for 1 1/2 hours in the warmest spot of the house.***

6. While the dough is rising, mix together the spice swirl filling [all ingredients but butter]. Butter or spray your preferred loaf pan.

7. Once dough has risen to at least double its size, roll out on a floured surface to about 1/8″ thickness in a long rectangular shape [whatever the length of your loaf pan may be]. Smear butter on the surface of the dough. Sprinkle spice filling liberally over dough.

8. Tightly roll the dough, place in loaf pan and cover with cloth. Let rise an additional hour in the same warm spot in the house. Preheat oven to 350.

9. Whisk together egg and water for egg wash. Brush over top of loaf. Bake for 40 minutes, or until loaf is golden-brown on top. Cool, remove from pan, slice + enjoy!

* I ADORE these new[ish] roasted spices by McCormick. I’ve got the cinnamon and ginger and am hoping to build my collection to include them all. They pack so much of a spiceful punch with every teaspoon, I’m totally sold. So when you need to replenish your spices, splurge on these. They’re worth it! [*I was not endorsed by anyone to say this. 100% honest opinion here.]

**I used Trader Joe’s pumpkin pie spice mix because it includes cinnamon, ginger, lemon zest, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper. A bit more spice than your usual pie spice blend! Feel free to stick with just cinnamon or a blend of your favorite spices that will total up to one heaping TBSP.

***Amy proofed her bread in her small bathroom, door shut, heat cranked up, on a baking sheet. Lindsay turns her oven on for 30 seconds, turns the oven off [IMPORTANT!!] and then puts the bowl of dough in there to proof. Finally, Lesley turns her toaster oven on for a few minutes then puts the dough nearby to proof.

whole wheat[ish] nutty-spice swirl bread - sweet betweens 02