Sweet Treats

These confections can help start the day as a breakfast goodie or serve as the perfect palate pleaser after an evening meal.

Baking happens with ingredients that last for months and come to life inside a warm oven. It is slow and leisurely, even relaxing. It also has a way of bringing back delightful memories.

Not much in my childhood compares to walking in the door after school and being enveloped with the aroma of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. I would eat them while they were hot out of the oven and would flip them over and spread real butter on them—the ultimate indulgence!

I find that baking is a labor of love that often gets passed down from generation to generation.

With cooking, you can experiment. You don’t have to be precise with a recipe. When it comes to baking, however, it is all about precise measuring—or your recipe most likely will fail. Baking requires a disciplined approach, but the reward is a consistent outcome.

I also love the process of making something to share with others to enjoy. So this month, I’m sharing the recipes for some of my favorite and best-loved baked goods.

My Orange Pecan Topped Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread is not only a crowd pleaser, it is a great way to use ripe bananas. The best part is that my recipe makes two loaves, so you have one to enjoy and one to share. This luscious bread can be a great addition for brunch, lunch or a thoughtful treat for someone you love…just because.

Another of my all-time favorite recipes is probably the most quintessential cake for Italians, a simple Torta di Mele Classica or, more plainly, Apple Cake. It’s delicate, moist and heart-warming like few other baked dishes. It’s one that great aunts made for years and that disappears way too quickly once it’s pulled out of the oven. I may be a bit biased, but this is the perfect breakfast cake in my book. If you prefer to serve it as dessert, you can take it up a notch by adding fresh whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel along the edge of the cake.

And, since I am one who despises waste, I will routinely bake or cook up a concoction before a particular food goes bad. This led me to first make my irresistible Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake, because I wanted to use some fresh organic blueberries before they got soft and mushy. I made this one evening after dinner and my son couldn’t wait the 20 minutes for it to cool. So, I cut it after 8 minutes and it held up well without crumbling. This is not too sweet and also makes a great breakfast cake.

I hope you will enjoy these recipes as much as I do, and by all means, share the love!

Orange Pecan Topped Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread

3 cups King Arthur Gluten Free Flour
2 cups sugar
1 1⁄2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 medium)
1 cup chopped pecans
8 pounces cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
3⁄4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt

Orange Icing

1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon orange rind, grated
Stir together until well blended.

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. › Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. › Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. › Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and gradually add to the butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. › Stir in bananas, pecans and vanilla extract. › Spoon batter into two greased and floured 8-inch x 4-inch loaf pans. › Bake at 350° for one hour or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and the sides pull away from the pan, shielding with aluminum foil last 15 minutes to prevent browning, if necessary. › Cool bread in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. › Drizzle orange icing evenly over warm bread and cool for 30 minutes on wire racks before slicing.

Traditional Italian Apple Cake (Torta di Mele Classica)

4-5 large Granny Smith apples (you can also use Jonagold, Braeburn, Pink Lady or Winesap)
3 large eggs, separated
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 organic lemon
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 heaping tablespoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 360°. › Butter and flour springform pan, then line bottom with a round of parchment paper. › Finely grate the zest of lemon and set aside. › Peel the apples, cut them in wedges and place them in a bowl. › Squeeze the juice from the lemon over the apples to prevent them from browning and mix well. › In a deep container, beat egg whites with cleaned beaters until foamy, then add about 1/4 of the sugar and continue to beat until the egg whites hold stiff peaks and then set aside. › In a separate big bowl, beat together yolks and the remainder of the sugar, then add softened butter and keep mixing until all lumps are gone. › Stir in milk, a little bit at a time. › Add lemon zest and mix. › Gradually stir in flour and baking powder just until combined. › Gently fold in 1/3 of egg whites to lighten, then fold in remaining whites. › Gently stir in 2/3 of the apples. › Transfer batter to springform pan. › Arrange the rest of the apples on the top, in circle patterns. › Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. › The cake is done when a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. › Leave cake in the pan for about 10 minutes. › Run a knife around the inner edge of the pan and remove the outer ring.

This cake is best enjoyed when served warm.

Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
2 cups fresh blueberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon packed lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt

Streusel Topping

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
6 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Streusel topping: Combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. › Using your fingers, mix until no lumps of brown sugar remain. › Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it is in a crumbly state. › Put in refrigerator.

Coffee cake: Preheat the oven to 375° and set an oven rack in the middle. › Spray a 9-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray. › In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. › With an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar until creamy, about two minutes. › Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating well after each addition. › Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest. › Gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, beating on low speed to combine. › Add the berries to the batter and stir gently with a spatula, but do not over-mix. › Transfer to pan, top with streusel and bake for 40 minutes. › Cool for 20 minutes. › Store at room temperature for a few days—if it lasts that long!

 

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