The Baker Upstairs: October 2013


liege waffles


It's funny how food trends are always sweeping the country... cupcakes, macarons, gourmet donuts, food trucks, cronuts, and (maybe best of all) waffles! It's also funny to me that I really couldn't care less about fashion trends, and I wear the most boring clothing ever, but I'm always up to date on food trends. (Yes, I'm sure that says a lot about me as a person...) I mentioned before here that Geoff and I have a tradition every Christmas of going to see my very favorite performer, Peter Breinholt, and we always stop at the completely adorable waffle shop, Bruges, that's near the theater. Their waffles are totally amazing... crisp and hot off the waffle iron, slightly crunchy from the pearl sugar, and full of sweet vanilla (or cinnamon) flavor. They have a bunch of delicious toppings you can choose from, but I always get mine plain, because they're just that good!

I was thrilled when I stumbled across this recipe for liege waffles that I could make at home! Of course it's fun to visit that little shop, but it's always awesome to figure out how to make my favorite foods myself. The only slightly tricky part was tracking down the pearl sugar (which is totally essential in this recipe). I ended up buying mine at Orson Gygi (which is an amazing local cooking store) but they also sell it on their website here, or you could buy it on Amazon here. The package I bought had smaller grains of pearl sugar (and worked great!), but I think the bigger grains would be more authentic. (And fun!)

These waffles are a little different from traditional waffles... the dough uses yeast and has to rise, which makes them light and fluffy. They also end up a little more moist and soft in the middle than a typical waffle, with delicious little sugar pockets. We ate ours with fresh strawberries on top (and kind of wished we had some whipped cream...) but they would be delicious with any number of toppings, or just plain. These waffles are a must try!

Liege Waffles
adapted from Kristen Duke

3 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
1 stick softened butter
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
6-8 ounces pearl sugar

Add the flour to a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. In a measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk until bubbly. Add the butter, eggs, salt, and vanilla, and mix until blended. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes. After the dough has risen, gently fold in the pearl sugar. Preheat and grease a waffle iron. Divide the dough into small balls, about 3-4 ounces each (no need to be too precise. Bake in the waffle iron until golden brown and cooked through. Serve with toppings of your choice (fresh fruit, syrup, whipped cream, etc.) or enjoy plain!


brown sugar cinnamon rolls with cream cheese glaze


Cinnamon rolls are pretty much the ultimate comfort food! They smell incredible, they taste like heaven, and they make everyone happy. Unfortunately, they were also on my "can't make this successfully to save my life" list until recently. No matter whose amazing passed-down-for-twelve-generations family recipe I was using, they just didn't turn out. They were dry, or didn't have enough cinnamon sugar, or used a shocking amount of butter... not to mention that every. single. batch. seemed to stick to the pan horribly. Argh!

And then I found this recipe, and (miraculously!) they worked the first time I made them. And not just worked... they were totally awesome! The kids loved them, Geoff loved them, and I was so impressed with myself for finally conquering another kitchen hurdle. Cinnamon rolls for the win!

I think lining the pan with parchment paper made a huge difference. It made them so easy to lift out and (best of all!) there was no sticky burned sugar stuck in the bottom of the pan. Just delicious, perfect rolls!

All I can say is yum. And that I'm going to be making these again (and again and again...). Happy cinnamon rolls to you as well!

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

for the rolls:
3/4 cup buttermilk, warm (or milk + a splash of vinegar)
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs
4 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

for the filling:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

for the glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the buttermilk and butter in a measuring cup. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and eggs, and mix until the dough comes together. Knead until smooth and elastic. If the dough is too stick add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is slightly sticky to the touch. Cover and let rise 2 - 2 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.

When the dough has risen, grease or line with parchment paper a 9 x 13 baking dish. Punch the dough down and press it into a 12 x 16 inch rectangle. Brush the 1/2 cup butter over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border on all sides. Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon over the dough, pushing the sugar mixture gently into the dough with your hands. Roll the dough into a tight log, seam side down. Cut the dough into twelve even sized rolls using a serrated knife. Place cut side down in prepared baking dish. Cover and let rise 1 - 1 1/2 hours, until doubled.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350. Bake the rolls for 22-25 minutes, until lightly golden and cooked through. Remove and let cool for a few minutes. Whisk together the powdered sugar, cream cheese, milk, and vanilla, and drizzle it over the warm rolls. Enjoy!


simple and sweet apple cake


Oh, I have such love for simple cakes. My strawberry summer cake is still one of my favorite desserts ever (and I love the peach version as well!). I love how homey they are and how easy it is to whip them up on a whim. This apple cake is joining the ranks as another delicious cake that's simple and easy to make. My little Lizzy was sick last Saturday and I spent most of the day on the couch with her snuggling and watching Lark Rise to Candleford (which I just discovered on Hulu and can't get enough of). Geoff joined me in watching it, and we talked about my love of the nineteenth century and how I was born at the wrong time. When I pulled this cake out of the oven later that night, his first comment was, "Wow, you really were born in the wrong century! This looks like something they would eat in Little Women." I'm still not sure whether that was meant as a compliment or an insult, but I'll take it as a compliment. :)

The apples make this cake very moist (without being soggy) and I love the flavors of the simple sweet cake mixed with the juicy apples and cinnamon. The batter took just a few minutes to whisk together, and mine was perfectly baked at about 50 minutes. I used golden delicious apples because they were what I had available, but I think it would be fun to experiment with some other varieties of apples too (granny smith, sweet tango, etc.). Hooray for fall baking!

Simple and Sweet Apple Cake
adapted from Julia's Album

2 large or 3 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9 x 9 pan with cooking spray.Toss chopped apples with cinnamon and brown sugar, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, canola oil, yogurt, and vanilla until well blended. Whisk in eggs until well combined. Whisk in flour, baking powder, and salt until combined. Pour half of the cake batter into the pan, spreading to cover the bottom, and top with half of the apples. Spread the remaining cake batter over the top and sprinkle with remaining apples. Bake 50-60 minutes, or until light golden brown. Let cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar.


bakery-style pumpkin chocolate chip cookies


How about another delicious cookie recipe for you today? Yes, I recognize that the balance around here has tipped heavily in favor of desserts lately, but why not add a few more? I am a total sucker for those soft, cakey pumpkin cookies from the store bakery. Our grocery store carries them year round, which is bad for me because I can't stop buying them!

Of course I need to try making everything I love at home, and this recipe comes the closest of any I've found. I've been making it for several years now and it never disappoints! I love how easy they are to make, and the texture is just awesome. I whipped up a batch of these for our trip to Moab last week and we happily snacked on them as we drove. I think they actually get better the next day, but they're really delicious anytime! Make them, and you'll love them too!

Bakery-Style Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Spray baking sheets with nonstick spray. Mix flour, soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Beat butter and sugar in separate bowl, then add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla, and mix well. Beat in flour mixture gradually, then fold in chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoons (or use a cookie scoop) onto baking sheets. Bake 15-18 minutes or until edges are firm.


caramel-stuffed snickerdoodles


Wow. I thought I loved snickerdoodles before I made these cookies, but I had no idea that I could love them even more stuffed with gooey caramel! Cinnamon and caramel are so unexpectedly delicious together, and I love the combination of textures between the soft cookie and the luscious caramel. Best of all, they're quick and easy to make with storebought caramels!

These cookies are best warm (and we could hardly wait long enough for the caramel to cool before we shoved them in our mouths) but if you're eating them the next day, popping them in the microwave for a few seconds works great to soften up the caramel again. Yum!

Caramel-Stuffed Snickerdoodles
adapted from How Sweet Eats

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons milk (if needed)
18 caramels, unwrapped
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and 1 cup sugar together. Beat in egg and vanilla until blended. Add flour, salt, baking powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, and stir to form a dough. If the dough is too thick and crumbly, add milk to soften it up a little.

Whisk together 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon. Divide dough into 18 equally sized balls. Flatten each ball with your palm and press a caramel into the middle. Wrap the dough around it to cover the caramel completely and form a ball again. Roll ball in cinnamon sugar mixture and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Press down gently to flatten dough just a little. Bake 10-12 minutes.


vanilla almond shortbread cookies


Is anyone else totally in love with World Market? (This isn't a paid post by any means, I just adore that store!) I love how many fun, cute, and quirky things I find there every time I visit, not to mention all the amazingly yummy foods they sell. We visited the store a few weeks ago to do our usual stock-up on German chocolates and silly gummy candies for the girls, and I found this cute cookie stamp. Maybe I'm just a 12 year old at heart, but it made me giggle. And if you can't tell people "Bite Me" at Halloween (accompanied by vampire teeth) when can you?

I tried a few different recipes with the stamp before I figured out that the dough needs to be pretty firm and not rise or spread much for the stamp to work (duh...). I found a great looking shortbread cookie recipe on one of my very favorite blogs, and whipped up a batch. Not only were the cookies fun to look at, they were super delicious! The vanilla almond combo is great, and the cookies themselves are buttery and crisp, while still soft in the middle. I like that they're a little less crumbly and hard than the usual shortbread cookies. They'd be delicious and perfect even without using a cookie stamp, too!

Vanilla Almond Shortbread Cookies
adapted from One Little Minute

1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups flour
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 375. Cream together butter and sugar, then add egg yolk, vanilla, and almond, and mix until combined. Mix in salt, baking powder, and flour until just combined. Shape dough into golf ball-sized balls, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Stamp with cookie stamp (or flatten with the bottom of a glass. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Let cool and dust with powdered sugar, if desired.


easy chicken squares


This recipe is for my friend Lori, and anyone else who feels like my recipes are too complicated and use too many ingredients. :) In general, I love making things from scratch, and pushing my limits. I feel like I've grown so much as a cook since I got married and started making meals for my little family, and it's fun to try new things. That being said, life is so busy! There are nights when I barely have the energy to turn on the microwave, much less to cook a healthy, delicious meal from scratch. I think family dinner is very important, and we eat dinner together almost every night. Sometimes it matters a lot less what we're actually eating, and a lot more that we're spending time together and enjoying each other. This is one of those recipes that's perfect for those busy nights! And paired with a green salad or some steamed veggies it's a balanced meal.

Recipes really don't get much simpler than this... only a few ingredients, a few minutes of prep time, and a short bake time, and you're ready to go! Both of my little ones loved these and gobbled them right up. It's certainly not the most glamorous meal in the world, but if you're looking for some quick and easy comfort food for a family dinner, these are perfect!

Easy Chicken Squares
adapted from Yummy Healthy Easy

2 packages refrigerated crescent roll dough
1 can cooked chicken, drained most of the way
4 ounces cream cheese (I used neufch√Ętel)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Mix together chicken, cream cheese, garlic, and salt and pepper using a fork, and set aside. Open the crescent roll dough. Using your fingers, push two triangles of dough together to form a rectangle.  Scoop 1/8 of the chicken mixture into the middle of the dough triangle, and bring the corners of the rectangle together to form an envelope, pinching together with your fingers to seal. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough/filling mixture. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.


skinny peach crisp for two


Happy Friday! I'm in a great mood today because 1) I don't have to work tomorrow! and 2) I found out last night that not only do ALL of us have several days off next week (miraculous in and of itself), but our state found some funding to open our national parks again, so we are going to Arches National Park next week! We haven't been for a few years and I'm excited to fall in love with it all over again. :) Here's a pic we took on a trip a few years ago (when Abby was just 2). Gorgeous, right?

Anyways, good news like that calls for a celebration, and this skinny peach crisp is an awesome way to celebrate. Not only is it incredibly delicious and full of juicy fruit, it's also good for you!

This recipe is pretty adaptable, so you could change it in a lot of ways to suit your preference. Some suggestions for variations are whole wheat pastry flour in the topping (awesome), apples instead of peaches (super delicious), toffee bits mixed into the topping (amazing), or even shredded coconut mixed into the topping (haven't tried it, but now I'm drooling...). You really can't go wrong. You could also easily half the recipe for one serving, or multiple by 6 or 8 for a larger dish. I love that it's ready in just a few minutes and is so simple and easy to make!

Skinny Peach Crisp for Two
adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

2 medium peaches, skins removed, diced
1 teaspoon flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons oats
3 teaspoons flour
3 teaspoons coconut oil or butter (either works great, I usually use coconut oil)

Preheat oven to 375. Spray two ramekins or a small baking dish with nonstick spray. In a small bowl, toss peaches with flour, cinnamon, and sugar, until evenly coated. Divide the peaches evenly between the ramekins. In another small bowl (or the same one if you're lazy like me) combine brown sugar, oats, and flour. Cut in butter or coconut oil using your fingers or a fork until the mixture has sort of clumped together and the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Crumble the topping over the top of the peaches. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown.


baked cinnamon apple chips


These baked cinnamon apple chips are the simplest thing in the world, and so easy to make! I've actually made somewhere between 3 and 5 batches within the last two weeks because I just can't get enough of them. They're sweet and tart and crunchy, and make the perfect snack. I've gotten both my girls hooked on them now, too, and whenever I ask Lizzy what she wants for a snack she proudly announces, "Apple chips!" (Except when she says it, it sounds more like, "Ap-puh chips.")

They really could not be easier to make... it's about five minutes of prep time, max. And yes, it probably would be better if you (unlike me) could cut your apples to precisely the same thickness, but really it doesn't matter too much in the end.

I've tried a few different kinds of apples in these, and they've all been good. We've done gala apples, granny smith, and golden delicious, and I think my favorite so far are the golden delicious. I kind of want to try them with a more flavorful apple, like a honeycrisp or a sweet tango, but they're awesome with just the boring, inexpensive, always available varieties. These are definitely going on my to-do list for every fall from here on out!

Baked Cinnamon Apple Chips

2-3 medium apples (I'm sure any kind would work fine)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 200. Using a sharp knife, cut apples horizontally into thin slices, removing seeds as you go. I found it easiest to cut a very small piece off the side of the apple so it could lay down flat and not roll as I cut. After the apples have been cut, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet, trying not to overlap (a small amount of overlap is fine, since they will shrink as they bake). Mix together sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle over apples, more or less to taste. You can vary the sweetness depending on how sweet your apples are, and your personal preference. Bake for one hour, then remove from oven and turn apple chips. Continue baking, checking every 15 minutes, until apples are lightly browned (mine took about 1 hour and 20 minutes). Don't be concerned if they're not super crispy immediately when you pull them out; they will get crispier as they cool. Enjoy immediately after cooling, or store in an airtight container.


aebleskivers (pancake balls)


Ah, aebleskivers. Also known as one of the best breakfasts I've ever made! Aebleskivers are a traditional Danish pancake, made in a specially shaped pan. I had never heard of them until about a year ago, when they started popping up on some of my favorite blogs. Geoff's family is Danish (and proud of it!) so when my mom gave me an aebleskiver pan for Christmas (after a few not-so-subtle hints from me...) I was excited to help him celebrate his Danish heritage. If you don't have your own aebleskiver pan, you can buy one similar to mine here on Amazon. I searched for a long time for a good recipe that wouldn't be too difficult, and finally found one from my awesome friend (and super great recipe source), Emma.

The batter is really straightforward to mix together, but I'll confess that cooking them made me want to tear my hair out at first. I had a really hard time figuring out how much oil to add to each well of the pan, as well as how much pancake batter for each well. Not to mention that they're a little tricky to turn, and I was pretty convinced that they were all going to fail. (I may at one point have thrown some kitchen utensils across the kitchen in frustration...)

Surprisingly, though, as tricky as they seem, they're actually pretty foolproof! I found it easiest to turn them with a fork, and once I got into the groove of rotating them in the pan, I started getting excited about my beautiful golden pancake balls. Yum!

As much as I feared that I had ruined them, each batch of aebleskivers came out perfectly! We ate them hot with some homemade buttermilk syrup and it was an amazingly delicious breakfast. They're a little too much work to have very often, but I think they'll make the perfect breakfast for birthdays, holidays, and special occasions!

adapted from Emma the Joy

2 eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter

Heat the aebleskiver pan on the stove top over medium heat. Beat the egg whites until stiff and set aside. Whisk together remaining ingredients, then gently fold in egg whites. Add a small amount of oil to the bottom of each well of the pan (enough to make a spot of oil about the size of a penny in the bottom) then add 1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons of batter to each well. When they start to get bubbly around the edges, use a fork or a knitting needle to rotate them in the pan. This part can be tricky and a little frustrating, but keep at it. Continue to rotate the aebleskivers until they are cooked all the way around and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the pan and serve hot. These are also fun to stuff with strawberries, whipped cream, Nutella... anything that sounds good!