Bystrzycki Wedding Weekend!

. Holy crap, I can't believe this weekend is here.  October 1, 2011.  Mark it down as the Bystrzycki wedding weekend!  And you can bet your bottom dollar I had to Facebook their last name to make sure I spelled it correctly.  Gotta be so complicated, Timmy!

But I'm heading home tonight for wedding festivities galore and I can't wait to be back in Woodbury with my family and best-of-friends.  It seems like just yesterday the couple got engaged and now they're finally tying the knot!  Eek!  But I feel so incredibly blessed to be able to share the entire day with them. 

So you can correctly assume that there won't  be any posts this weekend.  I'll be a little too busy wiping away happy tears and tearing up the dance floor [ah ha, only joking.  The dance floor tears me up!]!  But I do want to leave you with an array of pictures from Brit's wedding shower and bachelorette party.  Oh, the memories! See you all next week! .

Wedding Shower 

The beautiful bride-to-be (left) and Kels [also beautiful; right].  One of the bridesmaids!

One of my besties, Mel and me.  Also bridesmaids.

Graham and Tilly after running around with the children.

Naughty, naughty!

Wedding shower group!

 Bachelorette Party Time!
Din, din!  Pastas, chicken, garlic bread, salad, and Salty Tart cupcakes!

All of the lovely ladies! Black themed [except for the Bachelorette!].
Annd not so lovely ;)

Had to make her do it.

I would call this a successful Bachelorette night :)

Wedding pictures to follow!


Secret Recipe Club: Danish Puff

. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I was/am for this post.  I can't tell you how long I've been waiting for this day to come around.

The Secret Recipe Club (SRC).  For the bloggers, many of you may know what I'm talking about.  The Secret Recipe Club was created by Amanda from Amanda's Cookin' and the 'secret' group started out with only a small handful of bloggers.  But today?  It's grown into a full blown club that requires applications, acceptance, and tight lips!

The concept is quite simple but so genius.  Every month, you get assigned a group and within that group, you are assigned a different blog.  Your responsibility is to browse through their recipes and make any one of their creations (baking or cooking).  Then, on an assigned day, you post the recipe and reveal who you're assigned blogger is.  AWESOME, huh?!  You might not share my enthusiasm but this is the first club I have joined in the blogging world AND it's been a loooong road to get here.  Okay, not long, but it required patience.  The first time I applied to join the club I was rejected because my blog was too young and I didn't have enough recipe posts.  That was a sad day.  But I kept at it, was eventually accepted, and here we are!  So for the coming months, you'll be seeing SRC posts once a month and I'm so excited!

So now for my reveal.  For my FIRST SRC post, I was assigned Cathy' blog, Wives with Knives.  Gosh, where to start with this woman!  I can't tell you how many times I ventured back to her blog, searching through her recipes and trying to get a a real sense of who she is.  I found out through her 'About' page that she's lived in Oregon's Willamette Valley for her entire life and many of her dishes come from recipes handed down through her family.  That caught me right there.  Who can resist a family tradition?!

Her recipes are simply unique and I can tell you I have yet to come across a blog like hers.  Stalking Browsing though her blog, I got this wonderful sense of German foods and the holidays.  Maybe I'm totally off what she's going for, but it's just how I felt.  For the past month I've struggled with what I was going to make from her blog because her recipes are so enticing.

To make it [a bit] easier, I decided that I was going to recreate one of Cathy's recipes that I normally wouldn't pick out on my own.  Yet again, I had some difficulty picking the final entry because her recipes are mouthwatering [check out Cathy's Dresdener Stollen, Maple Nut Coffee Twist, Dungeness Crab and Cheddar Omelet, and Cinnamon Sugar Popovers, to see what I mean].  But with the help of Robbie, I decided to make her unbelievable Danish Puff.

To start, this is a family recipe handed down from Cathy's mother.  Okay, I couldn't resist doing this recipe simply because of that.  And, of course, because Cathy labeled this as her 'favorite coffee cake.'

And now it's MY favorite coffee cake/dessert/breakfast treat.  Let's see if I can do this goodie justice.  Okay, first, it's ridiculously easy.  Beyond, beyond, beyond easy.  Convinced?  The puff looks intricate and from the way it tastes, you would think it took days.  But it maybe took me 15 to 20 minutes to put the two puffs together.

What about the flavor, you ask?  Well, the puff starts out with a simple pastry base, almost like an extremely soft butter cookie [but don't think crunchy cookie, think Melting Moment-esque].  And the base is topped with a pate a choux dough, which is what eclairs and cream puffs are made out of [if that helps at all].  I truthfully had no clue what the pate a choux was going to turn out like or taste like because I had never worked with it.  But my life will never be the same.  And then, the entire goodie is adorned with a rich glaze and toasted walnuts [if you choose!].

All together, you get an unexplainable melt-in-your-mouth, piece-of-heaven.  Just to be frank.  I will forever keep this recipe and whip it out for those special occasions.  Cathy, thank you so incredibly much this one-of-a-kind family recipe, I had an absolute blast looking through your blog!  Glad to be your newest follower ☺ .

My Notes:
  • I actually used my food processor for making the pastry base and it worked out wonderfully.  However, I put in the original directions below.
  • You can choose whether you want to use the walnuts or not.  Since I wanted to at least taste the original recipe from Cathy, I did one puff with and one puff without walnuts.  But they are equally amazing.  I will say that the walnuts completely change the flavors of the puff though, so I HIGHLY recommend trying out both variations.
  • To toast the walnuts, place the walnuts on a baking sheet in an even layer.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes at 350°F or until the walnuts are fragrant.
  • For the glaze, I ended up adding in an additional 2 teaspoons of water to get the consistency I was looking for.  But you can add less or more, depending on how liquidy you would like the glaze.

From Wives with Knives

Pastry Base:
1 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. butter
2 tbsp. water

Pate a Choux Dough:
1 c. water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. all purpose flour
3 eggs

1-1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 to 2 tbsp. water

1.  Heat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.  For the pastry base, in a medium bowl, cut in butter with flour using pastry blender or your fingertips.

2.  Sprinkle water over mixture and mix well with fork.

3.  Form the mixture into a ball and divide in half.  Pat each half of the mixture with your hands into 12x3-inch strips on prepared baking sheet, about 3 inches apart.

4.  For the pate a choux, combine butter and water.  Heat to boiling (making sure butter is all melted).

5.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.  

6.  Using a whisk, mix in flour, stirring to keep from lumping.  

7.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition.

8.  Divide the pate a choux dough in half and spread evenly on each strip.  Bake 60 minutes or until topping is crisp and browned.

9.  For the glaze, mix powdered sugar, butter, vanilla extract, and water until smooth (if needed, add 1/2 teaspoon of water at a time until glaze can be poured over coffee cakes).  Glaze coffee cakes as desired.  Top with toasted walnuts.

Yield: 2 coffee cakes


King Congo Bars

. I have good news to report...


Oh yes, mark us as undefeated

Okay, wait a minute, Jess.  Take it back a step.  Who in the world are the Foamers?!

Oh yeah...let me explain.  You know that softball team I talk about every week?  The team that gives me a legitimate excuse to make an extra batch of treats every week?!  Well, we're the Foamers.  Now let me explain to you exactly what a Foamer is. 

So, I work for the railroad, right?  Yes.  Union Pacific Railroad to be exact.  No, I don't work on the tracks or out on the trains, we'll leave that to people who actually have muscles.  Anywho, one of our managers [who is a self proclaimed Foamer] introduced me to this term a while back while traveling for one our audits.  She explained that a Foamer is someone who [not literally] 'foams at the mouth' when they hear or see trains go by and can rattle off information about that particular train.  Crazy, right?  Oh, those railroaders.

But that's how we got our name for the softball team.  A little weird sounding, I will admit.  At first it sounds like we're some rabid dogs, while in fact we're just a bunch of train-loving youngsters.  Good story?  Probably not.  But it's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Now back to our game.  I'm going to say that all of our success was probably due to these little [BIG] bars right here.  King Congo Bars.  They just sound masculine, huh?  And they are, and I think they are the reason we won our game on Wednesday in the LAST inning.  Why?  Because I basically threatened 'no win, no treats.'  Juuust joking, I didn't.  But we did win in the last inning and got to celebrate with Capri Suns [no joke, someone brought those!] and these delicious hunks of goodness.

I can't really think of any other way to describe the consistency of these bars except to compare them to Pecan Pie.  You know, that sticky, gooey filling?  That's kind of what they're like.  Chock-full of semisweet and white chocolate chips, pecans, dates, and coconut.  Then, finished with a crunchy, thin layer of chocolate.  YUM!  You can imagine the sweet, chewy greatness in your mouth.  Or you can just whip up a super simple batch of these yourself.  Your choice .

3/4 c. unsalted butter, melted
2-1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3/4 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. pitted, diced dates

1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

1.  Heat oven to 350°F.  Generously spray 13x9-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2.  In mixer bowl, blend butter and brown sugar.

3.  Add eggs and vanilla extract and blend well.

4.  Fold in flour, baking powder, salt, chocolate chips, coconut, white chocolate chips, pecans, and dates

5.  Spoon in prepared pan and using wet fingertips, spread batter evenly among pan.  

6.  Place pan in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 325°F.  Bake for 35 minutes or until bars are set but still seem soft.  Take pan out of oven and immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips and let sit for 1 to 2 minutes.  Using a spatula, smear chocolate chips around to make a glaze.

7.  Cool for 20 minutes and freeze for 1 to 2 hours before cutting and serving.

Yield: 2 dozen bars


White Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

. Remember how I said I went home this last weekend for my best friends' wedding shower and bachelorette party?  Well that meant Robbie was home all by his lonesome.  Sad, huh?  Fortunately he had a work BBQ last Friday, so that kept him occupied for at least one of the nights.  But that also meant that before I left, I had to make something for him to contribute to the festivities!  And yes, I had to because Robbie offered up my services and then asked if I could make something.  Funny how that works...

Anywho, I had a couple bananas left over from my attempt at trying out some wedding cupcakes last week [that didn't happen though because the groom was going to be out of town and I didn't realize that!].  So instead of letting those lovely, ripened bananas go to waste, I perused my recipes for anything banana.  And settled upon these.

The complete recipe for this treat [and they are a treat!] comes from two different sources, the cupcakes are from The Craft of Baking while the cream cheese frosting is adapted from More from Magnolia.  The combination of the white chocolate and banana-ey flavors are exactly what you're thinking.  PHENOM!  That's what you were thinking, right?

The cupcakes themselves are just like banana bread but much lighter in texture.  More of a fluffy cake then the dense loaf we're used to.  The cupcakes are also outrageously moist from the second they come out of the oven.  And you guessed it, they only get more flavorful as the time passes. 

The white chocolate cream cheese frosting is oh-so-yummy as well.  Thick, smooth, and the absolute perfect compliment to the banana cupcake.  The flavor of the frosting isn't overpowering whatsoever, really letting the naner's shine.  Yes, I just typed 'naners .

My Notes:
  • The cupcake batter will be very runny, but don't fret, it's supposed to be!
  • Make sure to buy good quality white chocolate (e.g., Lindt, Ghirardelli, Guittard).  I didn't buy the best bar because there was only one option at the grocery store I was at, but next time I will definitely go somewhere that I can get a nice brand.
  • The original recipe for the frosting did not include any powdered sugar.  But both Robbie and I felt like the frosting needed a little something to bring out the white chocolate flavor and I think the addition hit the nail on the head.  But you can always leave it out, too!

Banana Cupcakes:
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. grapeseed oil
3/4 c. mashed bananas (about 2 medium)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. buttermilk
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. plus 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz. quality white chocolate, chopped
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 (8 oz. each) packages cream cheese
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. powdered sugar

1.  Heat oven to 350.  Line standard 12-cup muffin tin with liners.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and oil.  Whisk in bananas, egg, egg yolk, buttermilk, and vanilla extract.

3.  In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt.  Using a whisk, mix the flour mixture into the banana mixture just until combined.

4.  Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

5.  Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.  Transfer cupcakes to wire rack to cool completely.

6.  For frosting, place the white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and melt in microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring in between.  Set aside to cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

7.  In a medium bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla extract and beat until combined.  Add the melted white chocolate and beat until well combined.  Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until well combined.

9.  Frost cupcakes as desired.

Yield: 1 dozen cupcakes


Tried & True Tuesday: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

. So, I made it back to Omaha in one piece.  And where/what was I doing, you may wonder?

I mentioned Brittany and Tim a while back when they first got engaged and can you believe that their wedding is in A WEEK AND A HALF?!  Holy moly, where has the time gone?!  So I ventured on back to Woodbury, Minnesota, this last weekend for Brit's wedding shower, bachelorette party, and a day filled with laughs with my besties!  You can probably imagine the time that we had and I'll let you know the weekend was nothing short of absolute amazingness.

Is that a word?  I think not...but it's the only word I can think of right now that comes even close to how much fun I had with those ladies.  Pictures to come [along with Colorado pictures, oops!].

So to go along with a weekend hanging out with my all time favorite people, I decided to put up my ALL TIME favorite pumpkin recipe, Pumpkin Whoopie Pies [with a Maple-Marshmallow Cream Filling].  Let me pick your chin up for you...

These little take-alongs are simply Fall-wonderful.  The cakes themselves are uber soft and tender. But what sets theses apart from any other pumpkin whoopie pie you'll be chomping on this Fall is the maple-marshmallow cream filling.  Uhh?  Yum?  Correct! .

3 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 c. packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree

Maple-Marshmallow Cream Filling:
1 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 (7 oz.) jar marshmallow cream
2 tsp. maple extract

  1. Heat oven to 350°F and place rack in center of oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla extract and pumpkin puree.  Beat in flour mixture just until incorporated.  Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.  With back of spoon, smooth tops of cakes.
  4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until tops of cookies spring back when lightly pressed.  Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
  5. For filling, beat powdered sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy.  Add marshmallow cream and maple extract; beat until blended and smooth.
  6. Spread 2 tablespoons of filling on flat side of half of cakes.  Top with remaining cakes.
Yield: 2 dozen whoopie pies


Double-Apple Mini Bundt Cakes

. This last weekend was complete craziness.  And when I stop to think about the next month [literally], the craziness will not be dying down.  But who's to complain about actually having things to do?!

So here's the run down: end of an audit at work [always hectic] and the beginning of another, throw in a wedding shower, bachelorette party, Robbie traveling for work, football [I know, sad I have that scheduled], and two weddings.  Whew!  Maybe that's nothing for you, but I'll tell you that for Robbie and I, that's a JAM. PACKED. SCHEDY.  Seriously, we've never had this many things to do in a row...and it feels like I may be leaving something out?  (Couple minutes pause while I think...) Oh yeah, practicing wedding cupcakes!

But I'll say that there's not one thing on that list that I'm not looking forward to.  Well, maybe one.

Anywho, I spent this last weekend shopping for an insane amount of gifts, cleaning the house, laundry, and working.  And yes, I made time for a little baking sesh Saturday night.  And thank the good Lord I did, otherwise these uber cutesy cakes wouldn't have made the table.  Aren't they A. Dorable?!

I was going for something incredibly Fall-feeling.  I stopped at the Farmer's Market early Saturday morning before heading to Starbucks to work for a bit, and spotted quite a number of apples.  They were a little small and had a couple worm holes, so I figured I'd give the vendors a couple more weeks to ripen that apple crop.  But I couldn't get the apples out of my head.  Once an idea is in this brain of mine, there's no talking me out of it.  Fact of life.

But back to these mini bundt cakes.  The flavors of Fall are oh-so-abundant in these little lovelies.  Cinnamony, nutmeggy, and gingery.  Chock full of apple bits, raisins, and pecans.  And topped with a simple citrusy icing that truly sets this cake apart.  The texture reminds me much of a banana bread loaf yet extremely moist and soft from the applesauce.  Nom, nom, nom!  I.  ❤.  Fall.  I think I need a t-shirt with that on it .

My Notes:
  • I found this recipe in my new book, Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.  Yes, THE Dorie.  Bloggers, you know who I'm talking about!  I barely adapted the recipe [except for below, but that was a matter of circumstance] because I've heard how wonderful Dorie's recipes are.  You don't mess with the best, especially the first time around.  And she did not disappoint.  But I also started thinking that mashed bananas would be to die for in this recipe as well.  Hmm...
  • I couldn't find any apple butter at the grocery store [I'm still kicking myself for not buying some at the Farmers Market], so I substituted the apple butter with applesauce.  I was on the verge of throwing the whole batter away during the first batch because I thought I botched it, but the cakes turned out perfect.  So feel free to use either ingredient!
  • The original recipe does call for a 9- to 10-inch bundt pan, however, I wanted to use my brand new William's Sonoma mini bundt cake pan.  So I did!  But if you use a regular-sized pan, bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes at 350°F.

From Baking: From My Home to Yours

2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 c. apple butter or applesauce (spiced or plain)
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 c. pecans or walnuts, chopped
1/2 c. raisins (dark or golden)

1/3 c. powdered sugar
2 tbsp. orange or lemon juice

1.  Heat oven to 350°F.  Butter pan using a pastry brush.  If pan is nonstick, also dust interior with flour.

2.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt.  Set aside.

3.  In mixing bowl, beat butter ad sugar on medium speed until mixture is smooth, thick and pale (about 3 minutes).

4.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition (batter will be light and fluffy).

5.  Reduce mixer to low and beat in apple butter or applesauce (batter will most likely curdle).

6.  Add in grated apples and mix to completely blend.

7.  Add in dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the batter.  Using a spatula, fold in  nuts and raisins.

8.  Spoon batter into mini bundt pan, filling each cup about 3/4 full.  Smooth tops of the batter with a spatula.

9.  Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Transfer to rack to cool for 5 minutes before unmolding.  

10.  While cakes are cooling, for glaze, whisk together sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Continue adding lemon juice until icing falls easily from the tip of a spoon.  Drizzle icing over tops of the cakes.  Let cakes stand until icing dries (about 1 minute).

Yield: 1 dozen mini bundt cakes
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