Daring Bakers: Christmas Stollen

What a great challenge for Christmastime.  I wish I’d had a huge family to share this with.  I’d bring it out on a lovely platter.  Everyone would ooh and aah over this lovely sugar coated, fruit and nut filled bread.  But it is just me, Ben and the new baby at home…and the new baby can’t appreciate my culinary feats just yet.  We’re going out of town for Christmas, and traveling with this thing intact would be difficult.  So, I made my stollen, had a little photo shoot and cut it into pieces to pack away.  At least I can post the photo of my stollen for all of you!

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

The dough for the stollen was quite easy to prepare and work with.  While I was given the option to let my imagination run wild in what I added to the dough, I just used cranberries and sliced almonds.  As a new mom I decided it was OK for me to opt out of making the candied citrus peel.  It would have been quite nice in this bread though, so I wish I’d taken the time to make it.

I used orange juice instead of rum to soak the cranberries and it was a good substitute.  The citrus flavor was subtle, but nice.  If you’re really into citrus then definitely use the juice, more zest and the candied peel as well.

I froze half of the wreath and plan to bring it down to my parents for Christmas.  The other half I have been snacking on over the past week.  It is incredibly tasty toasted with a little spread of butter.  Now, the only issue I had was the bottom of the bread.  It was beyond browned.  It was beyond dark.  It was burnt.  Solution?  Slice off the bottom before enjoying!

You can find the recipe and photos here.  Merry Christmas!

Oreo Cheesecake

When I saw this recipe I thought that there was no possible way that this dessert could turn out poorly.  Oreos, butter, heavy cream, sugar, cream cheese, and chocolate…no possible way.  I was right.  This thing is dang good.

In fact, the only problem I encountered in making this cheesecake is that my pan wasn’t deep enough to add the sour cream layer on top of the cheesecake, and without this layer the cheesecake had a visibly cracked top.  But that issue was hidden by the chocolate ganache layer.

In the past I have been known to cut corners in the time department.  I have very little patience.  I don’t allow things to set up or chill completely, usually because I have not given myself enough time to complete the dessert.  I gave myself plenty of time for this cheesecake, and my planning and patience paid off.  The cake cut nicely and had a terrific creamy texture.  So, give the cake the time is deserves to set in the oven, chill in the fridge overnight, and chill with the chocolate layer as well.

This recipe is from allrecipes.com.  Here is the link to the recipe.  I left out the sour cream layer completely, but other than that I did not make any changes.  You will need one package of Oreos…unless you plan to snack on them along the way.  I crushed them in the food processor, which is tons easier than banging them in a plastic bag that inevitably breaks and creates quite a mess.

Cheesecake alone is decadent, but this one is especially so thanks to the Oreo crust, the layer of Oreo in the middle and the lovely chocolate top.  This was a hit at the Christmas party I took it to.  You will not be sorry if you take the time to make this!  Enjoy. (more…)

Banana Bran Muffins

This is the second time around for me and these bran muffins from Ina Garten.  The first time I made them I followed the recipe exactly…well, I did leave out the orange zest.  They were terrific.  There wasn’t a real need to change anything.  You will not be disappointed if you try the original recipe.  Here is the link.

I had some blackened bananas that needed to be put to good use, and fast.  So I decided to try them in these muffins instead of the firmer chopped banana I’d used the first time.  Here are the other changes I made.

  • Added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the dry ingredients
  • Used skim milk (mixed with lemon juice) instead of buttermilk
  • Used half whole wheat and half AP flour
  • Used half golden raisins and half regular raisins
  • Substituted pecans for the walnuts
  • Used the orange zest

The result was yet another yummy bran muffin.  They do not photograph well though, so I used this photo courtesy of foodtv.com.  I liked the subtle flavor of the orange zest.  I definitely like the pecans better than walnuts…but that’s just a personal preference.  The texture was a bit heartier with the wheat flour.  The skim milk might have made the texture or moistness of the muffins a bit different, but not to a degree that I really noticed.  The combination of golden and regular raisins is nice, but not necessary.  I had some extra golden ones left over, so I used them.  I wouldn’t buy them just for these muffins as the plain raisins are great.

You can change a lot of things in these muffins to make them your own.  I would not leave out the banana though since I am sure that gives some necessary moisture.  Next time I might use cranberries instead of raisins.  I think that would be nice with the orange flavor, which I might bump up more by using more zest and some orange juice.  If you think of or try anything else, let me know.  Enjoy!


“Craisy” Oatmeal Cookies

Oatmeal, cranberry, coconut & rosemary cookies…but that is just too much to type as a blog post title.

I don’t like the “Craisy” title either, but that is how they’re described by Guy Fieri, the creator of these cookies.  “Craisy” because of the use of dried cranberries or “craisins”, and also “crazy” because of the use of rosemary.  I happen to love rosemary in desserts, these cookies are spectacular and quite good for the holidays.  But the idea of this savory herb in a sweet might put some people off.  Do not be frightened!  The rosemary is a welcome ingredient in these cookies.

This cookie recipe arrived in my inbox the other day as Day 12 of the “12 Days of Cookies” from the Food Network.  And instead of deleting it after deciding I had no interest in wasting precious time and energy in baking them (like I have with the other 11 recipes) I clicked on the title and was redirected to the recipe on foodtv.com.  I had all the ingredients…even the fresh rosemary thanks to the robust rosemary plants in the backyard that have withstood not only the freezing temperatures, my lack of care for most plants in my yard, and the dog.  I took the butter and eggs out of the fridge with the intention of making them in the next couple of hours.  Eight hours later, once the baby gave me a good chunk of free time and the electrician had completed his work on our house I got around to making the dough, and 2 hours after that I got around to baking them.  I am so very glad I did.

I love oatmeal cookies of any type.  I love coconut in just about anything.  I love the tartness that cranberries add to baked goods.  And, as you know by now, I love rosemary.  It is therefore no surprise that I loved these cookies.  My only issue with them was temperature and baking time.  I baked my first couple batches at the recommended 350 for 10 minutes.  I hardly ever bake cookies the full time the first time around.  I check them a bit earlier to make sure they do not brown too quickly.  After 10 minutes the cookies were pretty dark, so I took them out.  The next batch I did for 8 minutes, and they had gooey centers, but dark bottoms.  So, I turned the oven down to 325 and baked the cookies for about 10 minutes.  This seemed to yield the best results.  Your oven might so something different, so you might need to mess around with the time a bit.  But even over baked, these cookies are tasty. (more…)

Coconut & Almond Lemon Curd Bars

Since I am kind of a hermit these days as a new mommy, I have been raiding my pantry in search of things I can cook or bake with instead of going to the grocery store.  I found a jar of lemon curd in there and so I made these bars.

My mom makes the BEST lemon bars, but these were pretty good and different enough not to be a competitor.  My mom’s are super simple with a buttery crust topped with a tart lemon filling and dusted with powdered sugar.  In contrast, these bars have a crumbly almond and coconut topping that makes them a little special.

I found the recipe on allrecipes.com.  Here is the link.  The recipe calls for a jar of lemon curd, but I think you could easily use any lemon bar filling as a substitute.  This basic filling would be a good one.

Lemon Curd Bars


  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 (10 ounce) jar lemon curd
  • 2/3 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup toasted and chopped almonds


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl cream the butter. Add the flour, sugar and baking soda. Mix until the mixture forms coarse crumbs
  3. Pat 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of one 9×13 inch baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly.
  4. Spread the lemon curd over the baked layer. To the remaining 1/3 of crumb mixture add the coconut and the almonds. Sprinkle over the top of the lemon curd.
  5. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  Bake bars for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Sweet Potato Cake

Why I ever bought a can of sweet potatoes is a mystery.  I bake sweet potatoes every now and then, but I have never had a use for canned sweet potatoes.  I saw this can of potatoes and went to the trusty internet in search of something I could bake with it.  I found this recipe on cooks.com for sweet potato muffins.  I changed it to a sweet potato cake by simply baking it in a bundt pan. Here is the link.

Ben is not a sweets person, but he really liked this cake.  He even ate it for breakfast on 2 mornings last week, and he always has cereal.  When I make something that Ben eats without being asked to or having a piece served to him, I am pretty excited about it.  The cake is moist, the raisins and pecans add nice contrasts, and it is delicious.  Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Cake


  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes or yams, fresh or canned
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans


  1. Grease and sugar a bundt pan.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Beat sugar, sweet potatoes and butter until smooth.
  4. Add eggs and blend well.
  5. Sift together flour, baking powder, spices and salt.
  6. Add alternately with milk to sweet potato mixture, stirring just to blend. Do not overmix.
  7. Fold in raisins and nuts.
  8. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until firm to the touch, and cake tester comes out clean.