Chocolate Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Filling

Yield: Two loaves

Who knew that vegetables could be so subtly sweet, very moist, and pair well with coffee, tea and ice cream? This quick bread is a double hit of chocolate with a hint of orange and a sweetened cream cheese filling. It’s a great way to use up that extra zucchini that seems to be sprouting out of my garden right now.

Serve at room temperature, reheated or even chilled. This bread is more like cake and suitable for breakfast, coffee breaks, and a quick dessert. Imagine it ala mode…sigh.

Ingredients

Cream Cheese Filling
 8 oz cream cheese, softened
 1/2 cup sugar
 2 tsp orange zest
 3 Tbsp flour
 2 egg  

Chocolate Batter
 Dry Ingredients:
 2 cups flour
 1/2 tsp salt
 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
 6 Tbsp cocoa
 1 cup sugar
 1/4 cup brown sugar

 Wet Ingredients:
 1/2 cup oil
 3 eggs
 2 tsp vanilla
 1/2 cup sour cream
 3 cups shredded zucchini
 zest of 1 orange

 Add In
 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips 

Instructions

  1. Grease and flour two 1.5 quart loaf pans.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 Farenheit.
  3. Make filling: Beat cream cheese in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. Beat in sugar, orange zet, and flour until smooth. Add egg and beat until throughly mixed. Set aside.
  4. Make chocolate bread batter: Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat oil, sugars, eggs, and vanilla till creamy. Stir in sour cream, zucchini, and orange zest. Add dry ingredients and mini chocolate chips and stir just till moistened being careful not to over beat.
  5. Spread 1/4 of the chocolate batter in the bottom of each pan.
  6. Then add half of the cream cheese filling to each pan.
  7. Divide the remaining batter between the two pans.
  8. Bake at 325° for 60-80 minutes. Check after 60 minutes as oven temps and loaf pan sizes and materials can vary.
  9. When the bread is done, a toothpick inserted into the chocolate part should come out clean. Cool in pans for about 10 minutes before removing to cooling racks

Lemon Cream Mousse

Yield: Six 6 oz. Servings

Lovely, cool, and creamy this dessert is the perfect antidote to a sweet-tooth in the summer’s heat. The ingredients are usually on hand in my refrigerator and it takes a little over an hour to prepare, most of the time spent chilling the lemon custard.

Ingredients

4 Large Eggs, whole
4 Large Eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 1/4 cups + 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
3 teaspoons Lemon Zest
3/4 Cup Lemon Juice, fresh
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 1/4 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Instructions

  1. Fill a large saucepan with several inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. In a large, heat-proof bowl, whisk together the whole eggs and the egg yolks, the sugar, the lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt.
  3. Place the bowl over the pan of simmering water and cook, stirring constantly, for about 10-15 minutes. A whisk is helpful in this stirring, especially as it begins to thicken, but should be applied gently. The mixture will thicken and lighten as it cooks.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for approximately 1 hour until it is chilled through. The result will be a thick lemon custard.
  5. In a separate mixing bowl, beat egg whites for 1 minute, and then add two (2) tablespoons of the remaining sugar. Continue beating egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form.
  6. Fold the egg whites into the chilled lemon custard.
  7. Add the cream to the bowl just vacated by the egg whites along with the remaining two (2) tablespoons of sugar. Beat on medium to high speed until stiff peaks form.
  8. Fold whipped cream into the lemon mixture. Spoon resulting mousse into serving dishes and chill thoroughly. Serve cold.

Serving options

  • Crumble graham crackers, vanilla wafers, shortbread or lemon cookies in serving dish before spooning lemon mousse into chill.
  • Top with sweetened whip cream before serving.
  • Garnish with additional lemon slices or zest.

Margarita Cupcakes

Yield: 24 Cupcakes

A party in a paper baking cup! These cupcakes suitable for adult birthdays, Cinco de Mayo, office parties, and summer get togethers. They are as much fun to make as they are to eat.

This recipe starts with a simple white cake mix and then layers in margarita flavor to the cake and glaze. We finish with a little salt and lime cream cheese frosting. The salt will compliment the sweet tart of the lime cream cheese frosting.

If you wish to make a non-alcoholic version of these cupcakes, eliminate the alcohols from the glaze and replace with orange juice in combination with the margarita mix step as all other alcohol in the cake will cook out during baking, but leave behind the bright flavor of the spirits.

While it looks like a few steps, they are all pretty simple. It takes about two hours to make these cupcakes with baking and cooling times.

With a little salt and lime….

Ingredients

Cake
8 ounces Margarita Mix (no alcohol)
3 ounces Tequila
1 ounce Grand Marnier
1 box White Cake Mix
3 large Egg Whites
2 Tablespoons Avocado or Canola Oil
1 Tablespoon Lime Zest

Glaze
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Butter
1/4 Cup Margarita Mix (no alcohol)
1/4 Cup Tequila
1/8 Cup Grand Marnier

Frosting
1 Stick Unsalted Butter, softened 
8 Ounces Cream Cheese, softened
2 Teaspoons Lime Zest
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
4 to 4 1/2 Cups Confectioners Sugar
5 Tablespoons Lime Juice
4 Drops Lime Extract
 
Finishing Touches
Salt Flakes (suggest Maldon or Fleur de Sel)
Lime, sliced thin then cut slices in half 
Paper straws, cut to desired length

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with baking cups for 24 cupcakes.
  2. Whisk together the margarita mix, Tequila and Grand Marnier in a small bowl or measuring cup. Measure out 1 1/4 cups of liquid (or whatever quantity of water is called for on the cake mix box); reserve any remaining for the glaze.
  3. In a bowl of a stand mixer or mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat egg whites on high until foamy. Add oil and beat a few more seconds until combined with egg whites. Add cake mix and lime zest and the 1 1/4 cups of margarita mix from step 2. Beat on low for 30 seconds and then increase speed to medium for 2-3 minutes. Batter will be smooth but have lumps from the lime zest.
  4. Spoon batter into cupcake liners about 2/3 -3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Know your oven. If it runs hot, check after 15 minutes, increasing time by 5 minute increments until toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cupcakes cook in pan for about 10 minutes and then move to a rack to completely cool.
  5. While cupcakes are cooling make glaze by combining sugar and margarita mix and butter in a small sauce pan.
  6. Heat over low heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and melt butter. When sugarr is dissolved and butter is fully melted, remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients, plus any liquid left from step 2.
  7. When cupcakes are completely cool, use a pastry brush to brush the glaze over the tops of the cupcakes in a thin layer. Do all cupcakes and then repeat the glazing until each cupcake has at least 3 coats of glaze.
  8. Prepare the icing:
    1. In a stand mixer with paddle blade, or large bowl with electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy and combined.
    2. Add in 4 cups of powdered sugar and the remaining ingredients. Beat until creamy.
    3. Add more powdered sugar until the frosting is of the consistency for spreading or piping.
  9. Ice the cupcakes using the method you prefer, spreading or piping it over the glazed cupcakes.
  10. To finish cupcakes, twist the thinly sliced lime halves and place on top of the cupcakes. Add a straw if desired and sprinkle with flake salt very, very lightly. Just a few flakes per cupcake. You want the hint of salt, but not too much.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Ice Cream

Yield: 2 Quarts

I love homemade ice cream. It doesn’t have any added thickeners or stablizers and the taste of fresh ingredients shine through. Many of my homemade ice-cream recipes start with a basic vanilla ice cream and then mix in flavors. Rhubarb-Strawberry sauce as an add-in gives this ice-cream a sweet and tart taste.

I use whole milk and real heavy cream to keep the butter fat high. A combination of vanilla extract and vanilla bean add a boost of flavor and make this ice cream subtley complex. Then I add in some Rhubarb Strawberry Sauce. It’s that simple

I use an ice cream maker to churn the ice-cream. Any ice-cream maker will work, or there are a number of videos on YouTube to follow if you don’t have an ice-cream maker.

Ingredients

Base:
1 Cup Whole Milk
2 Cups Heavy Cream
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/8 teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Bean Paste*

Add In:
1 Cup Rhubarb Strawberry Sauce, refrigerated

*If not available, you can either scrape the seeds from the inside of a vanilla bean, or double the vanilla extract in place of the vanilla bean paste.

Instructions

  1. Combine milk, cream, sugar, salt and both types of vanilla into a large mixing bowl; preferrably one with a lid. Whisk until sugar and salt combines into the liquids.
  2. Chili for 2-6 hours or overnight. Just before placing in ice-cream maker, stir in the Rhubarb Strawberry Sauce.
  3. Place ingredients into an ice-cream maker and follow manufacturers directions, or use alternate churning method.
  4. Can serve immediately, or freeze for firmer ice-cream.
  5. To store: Place ice-cream in a freezer-safe container and keep in the freeezer.

Notes:

  1. In a hurry? Place the mixture in the freezer for 1/2 hour and then move to the refrigerator for 1/2 hour.
  2. Other fruit sauces or mashed fruits in simple syrups can be used in place of the Rhubarb Strawberry Sauce.

Lemon Bars

This is one of my son’s favorites. This recipe is quick to prepare, and can be doubled. I usually have the 7 simple ingredients on hand. For the best taste, use fresh lemon juice.

Best served chilled, this makes a wonderful summer time dessert. Easy to make in small or double batches for potlucks, picnics and BBQs, or just to have around the house for a sweet treat.

Ingredients

Crust:
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, melted
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup + 1 Tablespoon All-Purpose Flour

Lemon Filling:
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
4 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
3 Large Eggs, room temperature
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice, room temperature

Optional Topping:
1/4 Cup Confectioner's Sugar 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8 glass baking dish with parchment paper. Leave enough paper to hang over the sides to make lifting the finished bars out of the pan. Set aside.
  2. Make the crust by mixing the melted butter, sugar, vanilla extract and salt together in a small bowl. Add the flour and stir to completely combine and form a thick dough. Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake the crust for 16-18 minutes until the edges are very lightly browned.
  4. Make the lemon filling by sifting the flour and sugar together into a medium bowl. Stir the flour and sugar until they are completely combined. This will allow the flour to fully incorporate into the remaining ingredients for the lemon filling. Add the eggs and lemon juice and whisk until completely combined.
  5. Pour the filling over the hot crust. Bake the bars for another 20-24 minutes until the center is set and no longer jiggles.
  6. Remove bars from oven and let cool in pan until room temperature.
  7. Using the parchment paper, lift the bars from the baking dish. Cut into squares.
  8. For optional topping, sift confectioner’s sugar over the bars.
  9. Cover and place bars in the refrigerator. Chill before serving about 2 hours. Bars will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  • Use a glass baking dish for best flavor. Metal dishes react with the acid in the lemon and leave a metalic taste.
  • Doubling the recipe will require the use of a 9 X 13 pan. Bake crust for 18-20 minutes and the filling for 22-26 minutes.

Dr. Pepper Cupcakes

An amazing co-worker has a birthday this week. He is brilliant and never lets our team down. More often than not, he comes to our rescue and is a “go-to” guy for our team and many outside our group. Not an easy feat in a demanding engineering environment. He deserves a sweet treat to celebrate with the office crew in honor of his special day. He is very healthy. He works out, eats right and stays in shape. I rarely see him eat anything sweet, but he does enjoy the occasional Dr. Pepper. I set out to create a cupcake that would echo one of his few indulgences.

This is a rather simple recipe, one that can be thrown together the night before and chilled for morning delivery to the office. It starts with a cake mix, what could be easier?

The addition of Chinese Five Spice powder may seem odd, but it amplifies the undernotes of the Dr. Pepper and is surprisingly complimentary to the chocolate and cherries.

Ingredients

For the cake
1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix
1/2 cup Butter, melted
3 Eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 Cup Dr. Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Chinese Five Spice

For the frosting
2 Cups Whipping Cream
1 Cup + 1 Tablespoon Confectioner's Sugar
1/4 Cup Dr. Pepper Reduction (recipe below)
1/4 Teaspoon Chinese Five Spice

For the Dr. Pepper Reduction
1 Cup Sugar
2 Cups Dr. Pepper

Optional Topping
Dr. Pepper Reduction
Maraschino or Bing Cherries

Instructions

  1. Line cupcake pan with paper or foil cupcake liners.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. With a stand mixer or hand mixer, prepare cake per package directions, substituting oil with butter, and water with Dr. Pepper. Blend Chinese Five Spice into cake batter.
  4. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full with cake batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes until toothpick inserted in cupcake comes out clean. Remove to a rack and cool completely.
  5. While cupcakes are cooking, make Dr. Pepper reduction by combining sugar and Dr. Pepper in a quart size sauce pan. Slowly bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or until reduced to a thick syrup. Cool completely.
  6. Prepare whip cream frosting. Combine whipping cream and confectioner’s sugar in a chilled mixing bowl. Use all of the confectioner’s sugar to stablize the whip cream. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Add in Dr. Pepper reduction and Chinese Five Spice. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.
  7. Spoon or pipe frosting onto cupcakes. If desired, drizzle with remaining Dr. Pepper reduction and top with a cherry.

Pina Colada Bundt Cake

A very special friend of mine loves my rum cakes, coconut and pineapple. Each year I make him a birthday cake. This year I decided to combine some of his favorites into a cake and realized I had all the basic ingredients for a classic pina colada.

I start with cake mix and instant pudding mix as this combo has been used by home bakers for years to make very moist bundt cakes. There are many takes on the way you can modify these cakes from simple to a little more complex. Cake mix gives you a leg up on the flour, sugar and leavening ingredients. Pudding mix holds onto moisture and makes a more dense, pound cake like texture. Perfect sized for the classic bundt cake pan. I have one in stoneware that I love, it creates a crispy crust that soaks up the glazes I use, yet keeps the cake moist and dense.

Ingredients

For the Cake
1 Box Yellow Cake Mix (I typically use Betty Crocker)
1 3.4 oz. Box Coconut Cream Instant Pudding Mix
1/2 Cup Coconut Oil (I used the fat
that rises in the can of coconut milk)
1/2 Cup Coconut Milk (liquid from canned coconut milk)
1/2 Cup 80 proof Dark Rum
1 1/2 teaspoons of Coconut Extract
4 Eggs
1 Cup Canned Crushed Pineapple, drained. Reserve juice.
1 Cup Sweetened Coconut Flakes

For the Glaze
1 Stick Butter
3/4 Cup Pineapple Juice (reserved from crushed pineapple)
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Rum

For the Icing
2 oz. Butter
8 oz. Cream Cheese
3 Cups Powder Sugar
1 tsp Coconut Extract
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

For the Topping
1 Cup Sweetened Coconut Flakes, toasted
12 Marachino Cherries, stem on, drained`

Instructions for Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour a bundt pan.
  3. Add coconut oil and coconut milk to a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer beat until well combined.
  4. Add four eggs and beat until fully incorporated.
  5. Add rum and coconut extract and beat until incorporated.
  6. Add cake mix and pudding mix. Beat on medium speed for 3 or 4 minutes until the batter lightens. The batter may still have some small chunks of coconut oil present, this is fine and will melt in as cake cooks.
  7. Add crushed pinapple and coconut flakes, stir just to blend in.
  8. Pour into prepared bundt pan.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes until golden and cake tester comes out clean.
  10. Invert onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
  11. While oven is still hot toast coconut for topping. Place coconut on a baking sheet and toast for 5 – 10 minutes until golden brown. Check frequently to avoid over cooking.
  12. While cake cools, prepare Glaze and Icing

Instructions for Glaze

  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter on medium low heat.
  2. Add sugar and pineapple juice and cook until sugar dissolves.
  3. Turn off heat and stir in rum.
  4. When cake is completely cool, poke small holes all over cake with fork tines and then slowly spoon glaze over cake a bit at time, allowing the cake to soak up the glaze between each addition until all th glaze is used up.
  5. Proceed to Icing the cake.

Instructions for Icing & Topping

  1. Add butter and cream cheese to a mixing bowl. Beat on high until blended.
  2. Add powdered sugar and beat on medium until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add extracts and beat until incorporated.
  4. Place icing in a pastry bag and pipe onto cake.
  5. Sprinkle icing with toasted coconut. Add marachino cherries in a ring if desired.

Beignets

I’ve often wanted to try a hand at donuts at home, and when I started reading up on Beignets, they seemed to be the right place to start. Simple shapes, made from rolled sweet dough, fried and dusted with powdered sugar. When I explore new techniques, I try to learn the basics before moving on. The basics are typically the things I return to time and again, after playing with more inventive versions with unique ingredients. The original generally remains the gold-standard and favorite. This is an old, long standing recipe found in many books and internet recipe sites. I’ve scaled it to 1/2 the recipe usually posted as this still makes more beignets than a small family can eat. The recipe can be doubled easily.

Powder sugar coated pillows!
1 hour and 50 minutes – dough is risen
Rolled, cut and resting
Golden brown and ready to remove from fryer.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 (.25-ounce) (or 7 g) packet active dry yeast
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 3/4 – 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • corn oil or any flavorless oil , for frying
  • powdered sugar , for dusting

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl (I do this in my stand mixer bowl) combine lukewarm water (90-100 degrees Farenheit) and yeast. Let it sit until dissolve for about 5 minutes.
  2. Lightly whisk eggs, evaporated milk, vanilla extract , salt and sugar. Add to the yeast mixture.
  3. Mix in about 2 cups flour and continue mixing with hand or dough mixer. Using a stand mixer for about a minute or 2.
  4. Finally add melted butter, mix until dough is sticky but smooth. Add in additional flour to make soft dough. Add a bit at a time until it achieves a soft consistency. If using a dough mixer becareful not to overmix.
  5. Turn dough on lightly floured surface and knead for 1-2 minutes. Add flour a tablespoon at a time, and knead in if dough is too sticky.
  6. Place dough in a greased (I use butter) bowl, turning once to coat the dough with butter. Cover loosely with a clean cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 2 hours or until doubled.
  7. Begin heating avocado or peanut oil in a dutch oven or deep fryer. These oils have a high-smoke point. Heat oil to 375 degrees.
  8. Punch the dough down and remove the dough from the bowl.
  9. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into ¼ – 1/3 inch thick. Using a sharp knife, cut dough into 1 1/2 or 2″ squares or diamonds. Let dough rest for about 10 minutes before frying.
  10. While dough rests, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and papertowels for draining the fried beignets.
  11. Check the oil with a candy thermometer to insure it has come to 375 degrees.
  12. Working with 4 – 6 dough pieces, so as to not crowd the oil, fry the dough squares until they are puffy and golden brown. Remove from the oil, drain onto paper towels, and immediately dust with powdered sugar.