The Baker Upstairs: June 2012


slow cooker hot fudge peanut butter pudding cake


This seemed very apt for our father's day dessert this year, since I have heard tales about Geoff's mom's pudding cake for pretty much our entire marriage. It's actually almost a family legend, really... apparently Cheryl made it almost every Sunday for dessert, and nobody could get enough of it. A few years ago, Geoff's sister put out a family cookbook, and I was excited to see that the pudding cake recipe was included! That is, until I tried it, and it was an utter failure. The pudding layer was as thin as water, the cake layer was a disgusting soggy mess, and I ended up throwing the entire thing into the garbage can. To this day, I'm not sure whether the recipe was written down wrong, or if I am just incapable of baking the famous pudding cake, but I don't think I'll ever try that recipe again. Lucky for me, Mel's Kitchen Cafe has an awesome (easy to make) slow cooker recipe for pudding cake. And the addition of peanut butter meant it was pretty much guaranteed to win Geoff over. The result: he loved it! We all loved it. It's a little rich (a small serving goes a long way) but delicious and simple and homey. I hope it helped to convince Geoff of just how much I love him!
Slow Cooker Hot Fudge Peanut Butter Pudding Cake
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup smooth or chunky peanut butter
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups boiling water

Vanilla ice cream for serving

Coat a medium round or oval slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center, add the milk, oil, and vanilla, and stir in widening circles, gradually incorporating the dry ingredients, until you have a smooth batter. Stir in the peanut butter. The batter will be thick. Stir in the chocolate chips. Spread evenly in the crockpot. To make the topping, in another medium-size bowl, combine the cocoa, and sugar; pour in the boiling water and whisk until smooth. Gently pour over the batter in the cooker; DO NOT STIR. Cover and cook on HIGH until puffed and the top layer is set, 2 to 2 ½ hours. Turn off the cooker and let it stand, covered for 30 minutes before serving.

lasagna cupcakes


I've been seeing these lasagna cupcakes all over Pinterest, and decided it was time to finally jump on the bandwagon and try them! I didn't want to add the meat layer, since we're still mostly vegetarian, so I made the ricotta layer a little heftier with some sauteed chopped spinach. I also used my handy dandy homemade ricotta recipe, and it was marvelous. Lately I've been making it with just whole milk (no cream) and it has been great! I was able to find round wonton wrappers at the grocery store, and they fit nicely into the muffin tins. They were delicious! The girls both ate them right up (I am seriously amazed whenever that happens) and Geoff and I both enjoyed them. I will definitely make them again!
Lasagna Cupcakes
The Girl Who Ate Everything

1/3 pound ground beef
salt and pepper
24 wonton wrappers
1 3/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese (7 oz)
1 3/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (7 oz)
3/4 cup ricotta cheese (3 oz)
1 cup pasta sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray muffin tin with cooking spray. Brown beef, and season with salt and pepper. Drain. Cut wonton wrappers into circle shapes (about 2 1/4- inches) using a biscuit cutter or using the top of a drinking glass. You can cut several at a time. Note: For a more rustic look, no cutting necessary! Reserve 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese and 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese for the top of your cupcakes. Start layering your lasagna cupcakes. Begin with a wonton wrapper and press it into the bottom of each muffin tin. Sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese in each. Top with a little meat and pasta sauce. Repeat layers, ending with pasta sauce. Top with reserved Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until edges are brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. To remove, use a knife to loosen the edges then pop each lasagna out.


chocolate swirl buns


I think it's only fitting to post these today, on Father's Day, because 1) chocolate croissants are Geoff's favorite food, and these taste almost just like them; and 2) when I made these on Friday night, Geoff totally went to town on them. So they're definitely father-approved!

They were pretty easy to make, although my dough took forever to rise (maybe because of the air conditioner). I thought it would take maybe 2-3 hours, start to finish, and instead it took closer to 5 or 6, even with me letting the dough rise in a warmed oven. The end result, though, was totally worth it!

I think the dough would also be perfect for cinnamon rolls and orange rolls. It was easy to mix and easy to handle. The chocolate filling was dense and rich, and almost too much for me, although everyone else loved it. I used chocolate chips because I didn't have any bars of chocolate, and they worked just fine. These buns are perfect for a gooey, decadent dessert!
Chocolate Swirl Buns
Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup milk, preferably whole
1/4 cup plus a pinch of granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 large egg, brought to room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus additional for bowl and muffin tins

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 pound semisweet chocolate
Pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Prepare dough:

Warm milk and a pinch of sugar to between 110 to 116°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, you’re looking for it to be warm but not hot to the touch; best to err on the cool side. Sprinkle yeast over milk and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and remaining 1/4 cup sugar, then slowly whisk in yeast mixture. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Run mixer on low and add egg mixture, mixing until combined. Add butter and mix until incorporated. Switch mixer to dough hook and let it knead the dough for 10 minutes on low speed. At 10 minutes, it should be sticky and stringy and probably worrisome, but will firm up a bit after it rises. Butter a large bowl and place dough in it. Cover loosely with a lint-free towel or plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled.

Meanwhile, prepare filling: If your chocolate is in large bars, roughly chop it. Then, you can let a food processor do the rest of the work, pulsing the chopped chocolate with the salt, sugar, and cinnamon (if using) until the chocolate is very finely chopped with some parts almost powdery. Add butter and pulse machine until it’s distributed throughout the chocolate. Set mixture aside. Generously butter a standard 12-muffin tin; set aside.

Once dough is doubled, turn it out onto a well-floured surface and gently deflate it with floured hands. Let it rest for another 5 minutes. Once rested, roll dough into a large, large rectangle. The short sides should be a scant 11 to 12 inches. The other side can be as loooong as you can roll it. The longer you can make it — I got mine to 20 inches before I ran out of counter space — the more dramatic and swirled your buns will be. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough’s surface. It’ll be clumpy and uneven and probably look like there’s too much chocolate for the volume of dough; just do your best. Tightly roll the dough back over the filling from one short end to the other, forming a 12 to 13-inch log. With a sharp serrated knife, gently saw 1-inch segments off the log and place each in a prepared muffin cup. Loosely cover buns with plastic wrap or a lint-free towel and let them rise for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350°F. Bake buns for 15 to 20 minutes, until puffed and brown.


mushroom and barley stew


I recognize that this stew is not high in the list of things that look appetizing. Mushrooms and barley really just don't do it for me, stylistically. That being said, it was easy, filling comfort food. Mine ended up fairly thick, because I added a cup of cooked rice to it at the end of the simmer time, and I'm not sure if that was a good move or not.  I would definitely make it again (although maybe in the winter?) but I would halve the tomato paste, because it ended up being a little overpowering.
Mushroom and Barley Stew
Alisa Cooks

1 Tablespoon Oil
½ Medium Onion, slivered (about 1¼ cups)
½ Cup Dry Barley, rinsed
2 Large Garlic Cloves, Minced (or about 2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic)
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
8 Ounces Sliced Button or Cremini Mushrooms
4 Cups (1 quart) Beef or Mushroom Broth
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 Teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 Bay Leaf
¼ -1 Teaspoon Salt to Taste
1 Teaspoon Miso Paste (or simply more salt to taste)
Freshly Ground Black Pepper to Taste

Heat the oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until they are translucent. Reduce the heat just a touch, add the barley, garlic, and thyme, and sauté for another 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, followed by the broth, tomato paste, vinegar, bay leaf, and I would start with ¼ teaspoon of salt and the miso if using. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and allow the soup to simmer for at least 1 hour, or until the barley is nice and tender. Season to taste with additional salt (see my notes in the post above) and black pepper to taste.


vegan pancakes


I know I'm crazy, but I like breakfast for dinner a lot more than I like breakfast for breakfast. It seems like so much work in the morning when I'm tired. Geoff would eat breakfast for all three meals if he could, so I usually leave the breakfast-making to him. One thing I can make (even better than Geoff can) is pancakes, and it's fun to have them for dinner occasionally. Since we're on a vegan kick, I found a good recipe for vegan pancakes. They were pretty good, although the texture wasn't quite as good as my usual recipe. I used brown sugar instead of the white sugar, and added blueberries. The girls gobbled them right up, and Geoff and I each polished off a short stack.
Vegan Pancakes
Mongolian Kitchen

1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup sugar (adjust to taste)
3/4 cup soy milk
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon

In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. Add the soy milk, oil and vanilla extract and mix well until the mixture is smooth and creamy but not too runny. Pour the mixture in the pan to your desired size and cook for about 2 minutes on either side until golden brown.


easy quinoa salad


So... I have a confession. I know quinoa is supposed to be the bees knees, and every blogger in the world loves it. And guess what? I don't really love it. I've tried a few recipes for breakfast quinoa, and been less than impressed. A few years ago Geoff and I went to this crazy restaurant called One World, where customers can pay whatever they like for the food. And I swear, every single dish we ate was at least half quinoa. Even the dessert. Blech.

I keep trying to change my mind about it, because supposedly it's incredibly nutritious, and this salad did a lot to improve my opinion of it. I had some leftover plain quinoa in the fridge, and tossed it with some fresh tomatoes, mango, black beans, and avocado, then added a little italian dressing. It was pretty tasty! I'm still not totally sold on the texture, but as far as taste, it was pretty much perfect. Good enough that I would definitely make it again. Someday, quinoa, you and I will be tight. :)


fresh corn salsa


I mentioned in the last post that we got a great deal on some fresh corn (seriously! 6 ears for a dollar!) a few weeks ago. We optimistically bought twelve ears... and then got another 6 ears from the co-op a few days later. I was racking my brain trying to think of some good ways to use up our bounty, and came up with this quick and easy corn salsa. It is unbelievably good! I'm considering changing the name to "corn salad" so I can just eat it in a bowl with a spoon. It tastes so light and fresh and summery, and I love it.
Corn Salsa

4 ears fresh corn
1 small to medium jalapeño
1/2 red onion
2-4 cloves garlic
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Cut corn kernels off the cob, and add to a medium bowl. In a food processor, pulse the jalapeño, onion, and garlic, until finely diced. Add to bowl with corn, then add olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Mix and store in the fridge. Serve cold.


corn cakes with guacamole


I pinned these corn cakes from Annie's Eats a long time ago and have been excited to make them ever since. A few weeks ago, corn was on sale, 6 ears for a dollar, and it seemed like the perfect time to try them. They were quite tasty, though a little on the greasy side (maybe I'm just not good at frying things?) and reheated well for lunch the next day. I made some quick guacamole to top them by mashing up a few avocados with some fresh salsa. Delicious!
Corn Cakes
Annie's Eats

3 large ears of corn, shucked
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
¼ cup red onion, finely diced
¼ cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. buttermilk
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying

Cut the corn kernels off of the cobs and place in a large bowl. Place 2 cups of the corn kernels in the food processor and pulse several times, until the corn is slightly pureed but still chunky. Scrape the mixture into the bowl with the remaining corn kernels. Add the flour, cornmeal, onion, basil, baking powder, and baking soda to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to mix well. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and butter, and stir just to combine.

Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add just enough oil to barely cover the bottom of the pan and heat until sizzling hot. Scoop the batter into the skillet a heaping tablespoon at a time, cooking the cakes in batches of 4 or 5 so that they are not touching. Fry 1-2 minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer the cooked cakes to a wire rack and repeat with the remaining batter.


quick french bread


Although I have a french bread recipe that I love (see here) sometimes I'm not great about planning ahead, so I was excited to find this quick french bread recipe a few days ago. It wasn't quite as light and airy as my bread usually is, but it definitely got the job done. And there's really nothing I love more than fresh bread... mmm!
Quick French Bread
Confections of a Foodie Bride

1 cup warm water
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp yeast
2 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp salt oil, for coating bowl

Put water, sugar, and yeast into the stand mixer bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes until frothy. Add flour in three batches and knead for 5-7 minutes on medium speed with the dough hook (adding additional flour if the dough is too sticky). Cover bowl and let rest for 15 minutes. Sprinkle dough evenly with salt and knead on medium speed for 1 minute to incorporate salt. Transfer to an oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise until dough has doubled. Preheat oven to 425. Place broiler pan in the bottom of the oven. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and punch down. Divide dough in half and shape into loaves. Using a razor blade or sharp knife, slash the top of the loaves every 2-3 inches. The blade should be sharp enough to do all the work for you - pressing down on the dough will only deflate your loaves. Place into the oven. Pour 3/4 cup hot water into the broiler pan and shut the oven door. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

vegan chocolate cupcakes


As much as I love a good cupcake, I was highly doubtful that I would be able to make my own while trying to eat a vegan diet. If nothing else, a lot of the vegan recipes I find have all sorts of weird ingredients in them (nutritional yeast and chia eggs, anyone?). So I was totally thrilled to find a vegan cupcake recipe in my trusty Martha Stewart cupcake book! I had all the ingredients on hand, and they were super easy to make, too. They smelled fantastic, and were moist and delicious. Definitely a cupcake win!
Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
Martha Stewart

1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup plus 1 T vegetable oil
1 T distilled white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners. Sift together cake flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. With an electric mixer on medium high speed, mix together oil, vinegar, vanilla, and water until well combined. Add flour mixture and mix until smooth, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed (batter will be very thin). Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Baking, rotating tin halfway through, until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn cupcakes onto a wire rack and let cool completely.