Country Spoon

Garden to Table in Cayuga County

Category: Dessert

Ricotta Christmas Cookies

Christmas is not Christmas without the usual sweets and cookies galore.  This recipe is one of my favorites, adapted from a close friend of mine, who always makes recipes her own by tweaking a few things.. a little more of this, less of that, how about I add this? Not wanting to change too much, I lessened the amount of butter, added an egg, a bit more vanilla and a dash of cinnamon for a cozy touch.  The rich ricotta cheese adds so much moisture and a unique old fashion flavor.  Share with family and friends to brighten their season. Happy Holidays to all and to all happy baking!

Ricotta Christmas Cookies:

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

2 c. granulated white sugar

1  1/2 sticks of unsalted butter – softened

3 large eggs – room temperature

1  15 oz. container whole milk ricotta cheese

2  1/2 t. pure vanilla extract

4  1/2 c. all-purpose flour

2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1 t. salt

 

Vanilla Icing:

2 c. confectioners sugar

4 T. milk

4 T. butter – softened

1 t. pure vanilla extract

 

Preheat oven to 350.  In a stand mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar and add eggs one at a time until combined.  Mix in ricotta cheese and vanilla.  In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Slowly mix flour mixture into wet batter until wet and just combined.  Be careful not to over mix.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper and drop cookie dough by the heaping tablespoon full onto cookie sheet.  Bake for about 12 – 15 minutes or until just set. Remove and let cookies cool on a rack.

To make the icing, combine confectioners sugar and butter in a medium bowl using a hand mixer.  Gradually add milk and vanilla and beat until well mixed.  Frost cookies and decorate with your favorite sprinkles and sugar!  You can also add a drop of green or red food coloring to the icing mix it up.

 

 

 

 

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Apricot Clafouti

Apricots are not only a delicious summer stone fruit, but are also such a beautiful color – a color so pretty I picked it as our wedding color. YES, we are engaged! He asked me at Long Point by the lake, where we had our first date over five years ago. So, for every joyous occasion, a dessert is almost always in order…These apricots make this custard even more special, being grown at Long Point Orchard. Now on to the planning … think apricot!

Apricot Clafouti:

1 lb. fresh apricots – sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 c. whole milk

2 large eggs

1/3 c. sugar

1/2 c. flour

2 t. vanilla

nutmeg

cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a medium shallow baking dish and arrange apricot slices on the bottom. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, eggs and sugar. Make sure your eggs are at room temperature before using – you can always soak them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.

Add flour to egg mixture and continue to whisk until well combined. Pour batter over arranged apricots. Drizzle vanilla over batter and dust with nutmeg and cinnamon to lightly cover. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until custard is golden and puffed. Cool slightly and dust with powdered sugar if desired.

When the apricots are in season next year…we will be wed! Cheers and enjoy!

 

 

Yellow Layer Cake with Nutella Buttercream

Happy New Year and Happy Birthday to all our friends and family that have birthdays this month! A simply delicious and beautiful cake that is the perfect in-between for chocolate and vanilla lovers.

Yellow Layer Cake:

4 c. all-purpose flour

1 T. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

1 c. olive oil

1  1/2 c. white sugar

4 eggs

2 egg yolks (reserve whites)

2 t. vanilla

1  1/2 c. skim milk

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  In a stand mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, mix together olive oil and sugar.  Beat in eggs and yolks one at a time and stir in vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture alternating with milk until batter is moist.  Be careful not to over mix.

Prepare two 9 inch round cake pans by greasing with butter and dusting lightly with flour.  Pour batter into pans and tap lightly on counter to release any air bubbles. Place on the center rack of preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes. The cakes are done when golden in color and when pressed on the top the center bounces back. Remove and cool on racks. Once cool, run a thin spatula knife around the edges of the cakes and pop them out of pans on to a cutting board. With a long sharp knife, trim off the outer edges of the cakes and slice off the top “puffed” part of the cake to make it level.  Slice each cake in half horizontally to make 4 rounds and set aside. Prepare frosting below.

Nutella Buttercream:

1 stick unsalted butter – softened

2 egg whites

1/2 t. salt

4 c. powdered confectioners sugar

1 c. Nutella hazelnut spread

3 T. skim milk

In a stand mixer bowl with paddle attachment, cream butter and egg whites on medium speed until fluffy. Slowly add sugar and salt followed by the Nutella.  Add milk and beat on medium speed until combined and light in texture.

Place one cake round on a platter and spread with a thin layer of buttercream.  This acts as the “glue” to hold the cakes together.  Repeat on the other 2 layers.  Once the fourth cake is added to the stack, frost the whole cake with the remaining buttercream. Use thick long motions when frosting, being careful not to mix the crumbs into the frosting. Enjoy!

Cranberry Coffee Cake

What to do with that leftover cranberry sauce? Don’t let it hide in the back of your fridge. Homemade or store bought, cranberry sauce adds sweet and tart flavors to baked goods. Try this very simple biscuit batter without oil or butter for easy and healthy holiday baking. 

Cranberry Coffee Cake:

2  1/2 c. baking mix

1 c. skim milk

1 egg – lightly beaten

2 T. white sugar

1/2 c. light sour cream

leftover cranberry sauce – about 1  1/2 c.

1/2 c. brown sugar

1 t. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400. In a medium bowl, combine baking mix, milk, egg, white sugar and sour cream. Butter an 8 x 8 baking dish and pour in batter.  Using a tablespoon, drop spoonfuls of cranberry sauce on top of batter –  about an inch apart. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over cranberry sauce. Bake for about 20 minutes or until batter is lightly browned. Serve warm with a cup of coffee!

Candied Treat Bars

An ooey gooey cookie bar piled with Halloween favorites – chocolate candy bars, peanuts, pretzels and candy corn. A festive spin on the traditional “Magic” bar with graham cracker crust and sticky coconut. These are one of those treats you make and plan to give away… so tasty you will eat them all before you know it.  Trick or treat? Treat, please… Happy Halloween!

Candied Treat Bars:

2 c. graham crackers – crumbled

1 stick salted butter – melted

1  14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

2 c. sweetened shredded coconut

a handful of pretzels

1/4 c. dry roasted peanuts

4 mini candy bars – chopped

1/2 c. candy corn

1/2 c. candy pumpkins

Preheat oven to 350. Combine melted butter with graham cracker crumbs in a small bowl. Grease a 9×13 baking pan. Add graham cracker mixture and press with a rubber spatula to make a smooth crust.  Pour sweetened condensed milk over graham cracker crust.  Sprinkle with coconut and top with pretzels, candy bars, peanuts and half of the candy corn and pumpkins. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until slightly golden.  Remove from oven and press remaining candy corn and pumpkins into the hot cookie bars.  Let cool completely before cutting.  Wrap them in parchment paper and give them away as festive treats!

Honey Cinnamon Buns

Now that fall is really setting in, we are closing up our homes and starting winterizing projects. Our homes are not the only ones getting tightened up, beekeepers are doing the same thing for their bees by condensing the hives. This final chore of the year leaves one last chance for some dark and flavorful fall honey.  Honey makes for a natural way to sweeten and lighten recipes… honey cinnamon buns are sticky sweet drizzled with late harvest honey… perfect for a cold morning or a festive gathering.  

Honey Cinnamon Buns:

Dough

1 c. milk – lukewarm

1/2 c. honey

3 t. dry active yeast

1 egg – lightly beaten

1 stick salted butter – soft

2 t. cinnamon

5 c. all-purpose flour

Filling

1/2 c. brown sugar

1 t. cinnamon

honey

In a small bowl, combine honey and warm milk. Stir until it dissolves. Add the yeast and let sit for 10 minutes.  In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, beaten egg and cinnamon.  Add softened butter and stir until butter is evenly mixed.  With a wooden spoon, slowly add the flour.  Once the dough becomes hard to stir, turn it out on a lightly floured surface.  Knead lightly to combine dough in a ball.  The dough will be rough at first, but will smooth out.  Place dough in a clean bowl and cover with a cloth. Let sit in a warm place for about 2 hours or until dough has doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, separate it into 3 balls.  In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the first ball of dough into an eight inch round. Drizzle dough with desired amount of honey and sprinkle with a third of the sugar and cinnamon topping.  Starting on one side, roll the round up into a log and set aside. Repeat these steps for the remaining dough balls.  Preheat oven to 350.

Slice each log into 2 inch thick slices.  On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place the slices about an inch apart.  Let rest covered with a cloth for 10 minutes. Bake in oven for 20 minutes.  Serve warm drizzled with honey.

Chocolate Zucchini Olive Oil Cake

With zucchini overflowing in your garden and with hopes that all of them don’t turn into boats – catch them before and enjoy them in a new, sweeter way. Rich, delicious and healthy – a moist chocolate cake that can be brought to any picnic or even for breakfast. Perfect to bake on a rainy morning … my garden, the fields and our farmers are thankful for all this rain.

Chocolate Zucchini Olive Oil Cake:

1 1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. olive oil

3 eggs

2 1/2 c. zucchini – grated

1 t. vanilla

1/2 c. milk

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 c. cocoa powder

1 1/2 t. baking powder

1 1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1 t. cinnamon

1 1/2 c. dark chocolate bits

Preheat oven to 325. Prepare a bundt pan or a round cake pan and set aside. Cream sugar, vanilla and olive oil and beat in eggs one at a time. Slowly mix in zucchini and milk. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Slowly add flour mixture to the wet mixture. Be careful not to over mix – over mixing will give your cake a gummy texture. Gently fold in chocolate bits. I like to use extra dark cocoa powder and dark chocolate baking morsels mixed with milk chocolate bar bits. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, checking with a toothpick until set. Cool completely, remove from pan and sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

 
This recipe evolved from Grandma Dell’s Chocolate Zucchini Bread. I feel in love with this recipe a few years ago and always crave it when the zucchini starts… Grandma Dell of course made the recipe quite hardy with plenty of sugar and oil. It was more like a cake than a bread and it was one of those recipes that you don’t ask what’s in it and just happily eat it. By using heart-healthy olive oil and in half the amount and by reducing the sugar by 1/2 of a cup, I am able to enjoy this recipe guilt free. However, of course I have to add some more chocolate to it – well at least it is dark chocolate…