Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gluten-free Apricot Pistachio and Dark Chocolate Bars

Wow. I have writer's block. I feel as if I have nothing to talk about for this post. Do you ever get writer's block?
I would write about fall coming to NYC, but maybe it's springtime where you live. I would write about the opera I was in last week, but it seems like it ended months ago and doesn't seem as important a subject any more..
Maybe one of the reasons I have writer's block is because I have a song stuck in my head. I don't think it's leaving any room in my brain for much else...
In which case, let me just skip to writing about this dessert. I decided that since I had gluten-fee oatmeal, I would buy some gluten-free all purpose flour and make these bars gluten-free.
Now, dear readers, gluten-free doesn't mean it's super healthy. It just means people with aversion to wheat gluten can have these (and maybe non-celiacs would find these easier to digest as well.) Either way, these bars are a heavenly mix of tart apricots with buttery, crumbly granola-esque crust. The addition of the occasional chunk of dark chocolate had me going back for seconds...and thirds...
Gluten-free Apricot Pistachio and Dark Chocolate Bars (adapted from One Perfect Bite)
2 cups gluten-free all purpose flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1-1/4 cups gluten-free old-fashioned oats (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup chopped, shelled natural pistachios
1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks
1 jar (~15 ounces) apricot preserves

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Using an electric mixer, combine flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, and salt; mix on low speed until well combined. Add butter and mix on medium until butter is mostly blended and mixture appears moist and begins to pull together, about 3 minutes. The mixture will still be slightly chunky. Stir in pistachios. Transfer 1-1/2 cups of crumb mixture to another bowl, then stir dried apricots and chocolate chunks into it and refrigerate.
2) Firmly press remaining mixture into the bottom of a13x9-inch baking pan (not greased). Bake in middle of oven for 25 minutes. Let cool for about 20 minutes. Make sure oven is at 325 degrees and spread apricot preserves evenly on top, leaving a 1/8-inch border around the edge of the crust.
3) Crumble reserved crumb mixture over apricot preserves. Return to oven and bake until lightly browned and fruit filling is bubbling all over, including the center of the pan, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing into bars.
Bake well and prosper! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pumpkin Donuts

I must be making up for the lack of pumpkin posts on my blog. This is my 2nd pumpkin recipe post on my blog within a month! Aren't y'all lucky!
But let's get down to business...these donuts were THE BOMB! What? You don't use the phrase "the bomb" when you are doing business? Hmmm...ok... These donuts were incredibly pleasing. No...that's not the right way to describe them either. Look, if you make them your taste buds will bow down to you in thanks. There. That's about right.
I had read all of the comments on this recipe in preparation before I started making the dough. Everyone said that the dough was ridiculously sticky, therefore I was prepared for a mess. So prepared that I used gloves! 
Isnt' that a lovely mess?
I conquered that lovely mess and managed to cut out donut shapes.
The dough was sticky but I wasn't scared. I had my eye on the prize.
Frying donuts. It's the best thing to do to donuts (besides eating them).
If you want some easy to make (not yeast!), "fall is in the air" spiced-sugar donuts, you should definitely try this recipe.
Pumpkin Donuts (recipe found on Epicurious)
Ingredients for the Donuts
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (Erika's Extras: you'll need more while rolling out the dough)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
Canola oil (for deep-frying) (Erika's Extras: I used vegetable oil)
Ingredients for the Powdered Sugar Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
Whipping cream (Erika's Extras: I used half & half)
Ingredients for the Spiced Sugar
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

Instructions for donuts
Whisk first 8 ingredients (everything up to the sugar) in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until blended (mixture will be grainy). Beat in egg, then yolks and vanilla. Gradually beat in buttermilk; beat in pumpkin in 4 additions. Using a rubber spatula, fold in dry ingredients in 4 additions, blending gently after each addition. Cover with plastic; chill 3 hours. (Erika's Extras: I put mine in the freezer for ~15 minutes. This worked fine)          
Press out 1/3 of dough on floured surface to 1/2- to 2/3-inch thickness. Using 2 1/2-inch-diameter round cutter, cut out dough rounds. Arrange on sheets. Repeat with remaining dough in 2 more batches. Gather dough scraps. Press out dough and cut out more dough rounds until all dough is used.
Using 1-inch-diameter round cutter, cut out center of each dough round to make doughnuts and doughnut holes. (Erika's Extras: I made about 3 dough rounds and donut holes at a time and then repeated the process.)          
Line 2 baking sheets with several layers of paper towels. Pour oil into large deep skillet to depth of 1 1/2 inches. Attach deep-fry thermometer and heat oil to 365°F to 370°F. Fry doughnut holes in 2 batches until golden brown, turning occasionally, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Fry doughnuts, 3 or 4 at a time, until golden brown, adjusting heat to maintain temperature, about 1 minute per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to paper towels to drain. Cool completely. (Erika's Extras: Really keep your eye on the temperature of the oil. It drops quickly when you put in a lot of the dough.)          
Instructions for powdered sugar glaze
Whisk powdered sugar and 4 tablespoons whipping cream to blend. Whisk in additional cream, 1 teaspoon at a time, to form medium thick glaze. Can be made up to 3 hours ahead. Add donut holes to bowl of spiced sugar and toss to coat. Dip donuts on 1 side in the Powdered Sugar Glaze. Arrange doughnuts, glazed side up, on racks or plates.           

Ingredients for spiced sugar
Whisk all ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Dip plain donuts or glazed donuts in the sugar.

Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pumpkin-Doughnuts-with-Powdered-Sugar-Glaze-and-Spiced-Sugar-Doughnut-Holes-230926#ixzz2hjLfMk8W
Bake well and prosper!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Raw and Gluten Free Magic Bars & Blog Birthday!

"Happy birthday to my blog! Happy birthday to...oh wow. FOUR years?!" Those were the thoughts that coursed through my mind while getting ready for this post. I cannot believe I have been blogging about my baked goods (and sometimes my life) for four years. It doesn't seem like four years. It seems like two and a half. It's been so fun and cathartic and, well, delicious!
I must admit that I was a little saddened to read last year's blogiversary post...and the year before's post...and the blogiversary post from 2009. Besides travelling more (yay!), it seems like not much has changed in my life over four years except for the apartments I live in and my hair. (Which is nice and "long" now compared to when I had a pixie cut.)
(Yes, that IS me eating a fried oreo in Little Italy.)
Besides these two things I'm still working the same day job, I still sing operatically, I still run (well, I did until my injury last week), and I still love hanging out with my friends whenever possible. (And sometimes I do more than one of these things at a time!)
It's not that I was expecting some drastic change in my life within the last fours years, and quite frankly I can be very thankful that nothing drastic HAS happened. Whew!
But then I realized that one thing has changed (besides me joining pinterest...). It doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me so maybe that's why I didn't think of it right away, but, in the grand scheme of my blog, it IS rather important:
I enjoy eating healthy!
Yes, ever since Feb, 2012, I've incorporated more fruits, veggies, and nuts in my diet. There are also many weeks when I do a raw foods diet.
Don't worry. I still love desserts and still completely believe that life IS too short to skip dessert. But my taste buds have become a little more picky and I prefer artisnal, lightly crafted desserts more than the heavy, super processed, and preservative heavy desserts. The fact that there is an abundance of blogs out there with posts on those kind of desserts makes me feel ok about the lack of them on my blog. (Mind you, I'll still bake them from time to time...especially around Christmas time.)
I've actually been enjoying baking vegan, gluten-free, raw,  or just healthy desserts recently (which I'm sure that you, my awesome readers, have noticed.) It's so fun to make up my own recipes as well, like the recipe for this post. I loved my raw and gluten free magic bars so much that I've been making single serving parfaits for myself each day this week.
Besides this "hits the spot" recipe, some of the other recipes I loved/am proud of that I made this last year are:
Overnight Coffee Loaves I was so proud of myself for making these. They were perfect, just perfect (and even more so when eaten right after they came out of the oven.) I hope to make them again when I have more time to take better photos of them.
Homemade Donuts This recipe pushed me out of my baking comfort zone which resulted in amazing donuts. Once again, I was very proud of myself for the success of these donuts.
No Bake Peanut Butter Cup Granola Cookies  These were an instant hit and it's hard to eat just one. I'm currently wishing I had one to eat right now...maybe I'll make a healthier version of them soon...
Raw & Gluten Free Honey Bunches of Oats Bars I made up this recipe after making my own almond butter for the first time. I was proud of my own recipe and happy with the yumminess of the bars.
Heart Shaped Italian Macarons This recipe required a lot of attention and I'm happy to report that both times I made macarons in the last year they all turned out to be scrumptious. These heart shaped ones were so cute! Next time I'll try to make some without splits on top.
Cherry Poppyseed Cake I'll just reiterate what I wrote about this cake back in summer: This cake is so lovely, especially for summer seeing it's somewhat light in consistency and uses cherries. I added a nice whipped cream that helped bring out the flavors of the poppy seeds and the cherries. I highly recommend making this cake.
"Almazing" Almond Bars I am dead serious about these bars being amazing. I'm craving one right now just thinking about them!
Cherry Lemonade Bars with Lavender Frosting Thankfully I decided to enter a baking contest this year. While I didn't win, this is hands down my favorite recipe of the year. I made it three times within a week since it was so amazing. (And part of the recipe is mine!)
There are plenty more recipes I loved this past year, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind the most.
Hopefully my next year of blogging will be just as successful when it comes to baking. I can't wait for another delicious year! 
Raw and Gluten Free Magic Bars (an Erika Beth original recipe)
1 cup raw & pitted dates (I used medjool dates)
2 Tablespoons of nut milk (I used a mixed nut milk)
1 Tablespoon of raw honey
1 cup pecan butter (I made my own - feel free to substitute a different nut butter)
1/2 cup of gluten free dried oats
1/4 cup of unsweetened, dried, and shredded coconut
2 Tablespoons of cacao nibs
In a medium bowl, stir the honey into the nut milk and then soak the dates in the mixture for an hour. Then put the dates and the milk into a food processor and process until the mixture becomes sticky and like caramel. Mix the pecan butter with the oats and spread evenly on the bottom of a small square container (about 4x4 inches. *see photo below). Once an even layer is on the bottom of the container, spread the date "caramel" evenly on top of that layer. Then sprinkle the coconut on top of the caramel layer. Then sprinkle the cacao nibs on top of the coconut. Refrigerate for at least an hour and then cut into small squares and enjoy.
Bake well and prosper!