Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Things of which my conscience doth approve

There are certain things about my childhood that I find absolutely terrific. For instance, these costumes. (How cute are we?)

Also terrific is the fact that, when I was growing up, eating leftover birthday cake for breakfast was an entirely acceptable happening. That, I think, was an excellent call on my mom's part. Unfortunately, nowadays I have this wretched little grownup shoulder angel that disallows that kind of indulgence. Breakfast, he tells me, should be something wholesome and responsible--oatmeal, for instance.

Don't get me wrong; I like oatmeal a lot. I actually discovered that fact when I had it for the first time, in college. Yeah, college; no lie. That was the same year that I discovered bran flakes, Brussels sprouts, flax seed, and a variety of other traditionally hated things...and loved them all. Maybe it was some kind of wildly effective reverse psychology, but Mom never fed us any of that when we were kids.

Now, my own as-yet-nonexistent children no doubt WILL be force-fed oatmeal, along with all other kinds of healthy foods. (Because I love them. The kids, I mean...not the foods. Though I do love those. Different kind of, you know what I mean.) But I do like to think that compromises are a good thing at times (remember the Monster Cookies?), and if the oatmeal can come in cake form every once in a while...shoot, who am I to balk?

THIS is one of my new absolute favorite recipes: Spiced Fruit-and-Oat Bread.

The pictures I got aren't the best. Seriously, "in person" this was such a huge, pretty loaf. But, anyway...

I love quick breads for a number of reasons. They're...well, quick. They're virtually fool-proof. And there's something really warm and homey about them. comfort food, I guess. And, if we're honest, they're sort of an excuse to eat cake for breakfast. A much healthier, shoulder-angel-approved kind of cake. But cake nonetheless.

This makes a hefty loaf, and I very much recommend lining the loaf pan with parchment paper, so you can just lift it out instead of trying to turn it onto a wire rack. Also, pleasepleaseplease let the loaf completely cool before you cut into it. It's truly 35.2 times better the next day (as are most quick breads).


Spiced Fruit-and-Oat Bread
(Adapted from "Oatmeal Breakfast Bread" in Dorie Greenspan's "Baking From My Home to Yours")
 ¼ cup packed brown sugar
 ¼ cup chopped pecans
 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
 2 tablespoons oats
 2 large eggs, at room temperature (I used an egg and two egg whites)
 1¼ cups unsweetened applesauce
 ⅓ cup vegetable oil (I used 2 tablespoons)
 ¼ cup buttermilk
 ¾ cup whole-wheat flour
 ½ cup all-purpose flour
 ¼ cup sugar (I used Splenda)
 ½ cup packed brown sugar (I used half brown-sugar Splenda)
 1½ teaspoons baking powder
 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
 ½ teaspoon baking soda
 ½ teaspoon salt
 ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
 pinch of ground cloves
 1 cup old-fashioned oats
 ½ cup dried cranberries and raisins (I used a crazy mix of crans, raisins, golden raisins, and blueberries)

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan. Set aside.
2. In small bowl, whisk together the eggs, applesauce, oil, and buttermilk; set aside.
3.In large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugars, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cloves. Stir in the oats.
4. Using rubber spatula, gently stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Stir in fruit.
5.Spoon batter into pan; sprinkle with topping, and press down lightly so it sticks. Bake 45¬–50 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out (mostly) clean. (Don’t overbake!)
6. Cool cakes in pan 10 minutes; then carefully turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Autumn Additions

Late autumn is here in full force. I know this because (a) defrosting my windshield is once again a morning necessity, (b) my furry boots and scarves have emerged from the depths of my closet and are now on my person, and (c) I'm using a LOT of pumpkin and cinnamon in my baking. And pecans. And rum.

Also, there are insane amounts of birds on our front lawn. See?

That really has nothing whatsoever to do with autumn, or cupcakes, for that matter. But it's weird, and I found this picture stuck in with my autumn cupcake photos (which is odd in itself, since I don't remember taking the picture, and I have NO idea how it wound up in a file of cupcake pictures). Huh.


Moving on.

This week was a cupcake crazy week...meaning, lots of cupcakes. There were the usual culprits (meaning chocolate and peanut butter and Reese's cups thrown in the mix...heaven help us if they ever stop producing those things).

They're fun, aren't they? Chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, and butter-yellow cupcakes with milk chocolate buttercream. And sprinkles, which somehow add to the goodness.

Anyway, like I said, autumn means special cupcake flavors. This is my newest creation and absolute favorite cupcake of the moment. It's a crazy moist pumpkin-rum cupcake with cinnamon vanilla buttercream, topped with toasted pecans and cinnamon chips. Oh. My. Goodness.

Want some? Yeah, me too.

Oh, and lest I forget (and in the inexplicable event that pumpkincinnamonpecanrum amazingness isn't your thing), I also made these:

Dark chocolate cupcakes with cherry buttercream. And a chocolate-covered cherry on top. Because it's cute.

What to do with lemons...and chocolate...and other miscellaneous goodnesses

These...are lemons. In their natural (straight from the grocery store) state.

These are lemons after I'm done with them. (Don't worry; I"ll spare you the trauma of posting pictures of the shredded, squeezed, mangled lemon carcasses.)

I feel like this needs a caption like "Dad??"

Anyway, then there are these guys. Cocoa and peanut butter. Together, as they always, always should be.

Lemon cupcakes, meet chocolate cupcakes.

Buttt...they're still a little naked. Gotta dress 'em up.

Chocolate buttercream:

And Reese's cups:

Lemon buttercream...and raspberries:

Heart eyes? Yes.