Archive for DESSERTS

Apple Baklava

If you’ve visited my “kitchen” before, you’ll know there is probably no dessert I won’t like. 😉  Baklava is no exception.  A bite of the sweet nutty filling sandwiched between crispy, buttery phyllo dough with a gooey honey syrup is like heaven in your mouth.

I also love most apple desserts — apple pie, turnover, donuts, cobbler, cake — there are so many delicious things you can make with apples.

This recipe is a combination of apple pie and baklava.  It’s the sweet, nutty, syrupy stickiness of baklava with the flavors of apples and apple pie spices.

Give it a try.  I think you’ll like it. 🙂

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 Use a total of 3 cups of your favorite nuts.  Because I’m adding apples, I omitted the pistachio nuts traditional in baklava and used only pecans and walnuts.

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Toasting the nuts in the oven for a few minutes brings out the natural oils in the nuts and intensifies the nuttiness.
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Pulse the nuts for a couple of minutes in a food processor until finely chopped.
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Add brown sugar and cinnamon to the chopped nuts.
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The nut mixture smells so good already!

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Peel and core two small apples, three if you want more apples in the baklava.  I used granny smith apples in this recipe but your favorite apples will do.

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Slice the apples into very thin slices.  Squeeze a little bit of lemon or lime juice over the sliced apples to keep them from browning.

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 Now this is the tricky part — working with phyllo dough.

A frozen package of phyllo dough usually has two rolls of dough in it.  You will need one roll of phyllo dough for this recipe.  One roll of dough has about 25 sheets.

Phyllo dough dries out very quickly when left uncovered, making them quite brittle.

Defrost the dough at room temperature then carefully unroll it until the sheets are flat.  The dough comes pre-wrapped in parchment or wax paper, but there isn’t enough parchment paper to completely encase the dough.  Wrap the dough with plastic wrap so that it’s completely covered, then place a very damp kitchen towel over the plastic-wrapped dough.

DO NOT prepare the phyllo dough until you’re ready to start layering your baklava.
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Spray the bottom and sides of an 8×8 baking pan with butter flavored cooking spray.

The baklava is made by alternating layers of phyllo dough, nuts, apples, then more nuts.

Begin by placing several sheets of phyllo dough in the bottom of the pan.  You’ll need 6 sheets of dough for each layer.

Place one sheet of dough on the bottom of the pan.  Spray the surface of the dough with butter-flavored cooking spray.  You can use melted butter instead of the spray, but I’m trying to cut back on the calories from butter.  Butter spray works just fine in this recipe, but if you use melted butter, use a pastry brush to brush the melted butter over each sheet of phyllo dough.

Each sheet of dough is larger than the 8×8 pan, so after spraying the top, fold over any excess dough and spray once more over the un-sprayed part.  Repeat the layering process until you’ve used six sheets of phyllo dough (dough-spray-fold excess-spray-repeat).

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Spread a half cup of the nut mixture over the layer of dough.
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Add a layer of apple slices over the nuts.

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Add another half cup of nuts over the apple slices.
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Repeat the layering two more times. Each full layer consists of six sheets of phyllo dough, followed by nuts, then apples, then more nuts.

Don’t forget to spray each layer of dough with butter spray, or brush melted butter on each one.

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After adding your last layer combination of dough-nuts-apples-nuts, you should have about 6 or 7 sheets of phyllo dough left.  These last few sheets go on the top of the baklava.  Layer them as before, ensuring you spray each one or brush with melted butter.

Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into 16 pieces.  It’s essential you cut the baklava before baking it.  The baked phyllo dough is very crispy so cutting BEFORE baking will make things easier. 🙂
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Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

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While the baklava bakes, prepare the syrup.  Although I love the nuts and apples and the crisp phyllo dough, I think the syrup is what makes baklava so special.

Traditional baklava syrup is usually made with a mixture of honey and fragrant rosewater, and sometimes with the added zest of lemons and oranges.

Because I want the flavors of apple pie, I’m making a syrup of honey, sugar, water, lemon extract, cinnamon (I use a cinnamon stick in the syrup since I added lots of ground cinnamon to the nut mixture), whole cloves, and a tiny bit of ground ginger.

Place all the ingredients into a pot, bring it to a boil over low heat, and cook until the syrup reduces by half.

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 Once the syrup reduces by half, set it aside to cool.  I poured the syrup into a measuring cup so that I could easily pour it over the baked baklava.

Be sure to remove the cinnamon stick and cloves!

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As soon as the baklava comes out of the oven, pour the syrup all over it.

Let the baklava cool for a few minutes before serving.

I prefer to let the syrup soak into the baklava for at least an hour before digging in.

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SERVE & ENJOY!

Look at the apples peeking out below! 🙂

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Apple Baklava
 
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Apple Pie meets Baklava in this delicious and decadent dessert.
Author:
Serves: 16 pieces
Ingredients
BAKLAVA INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 1 cup pecans
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 small apples, peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 1 roll frozen phyllo dough, thawed (25 sheets)
  • Butter-flavored cooking spray (or 4 sticks of butter, melted)
SYRUP INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 cup white, granulated sugar
  • ½ cup good quality honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or orange extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 6 whole cloves
Instructions
Prepare the Nut Mixture
  1. Spread the nuts onto a large sheet pan.
  2. Bake at 275 degrees for 5 minutes or until you start to smell the aroma of the toasted nuts. Set the nuts aside to cool.
  3. Place the nuts in a food processor; pulse for a couple of minutes or until the nuts are finely chopped.
  4. Add the brown sugar and ground cinnamon to the chopped nuts; stir to mix. Set aside.
Prepare the Phyllo Dough
  1. Defrost one roll of dough (about 25 sheets) at room temperature then carefully unroll it until the sheets are flat.
  2. Place plastic wrap over the dough so that it's completely covered, then place a very damp kitchen towel over the plastic-wrapped dough.
Layer the Baklava
  1. Spray the bottom and sides of an 8x8 baking pan with butter flavored cooking spray.
  2. Layer 1:
    Place one sheet of dough on the bottom of the pan. Spray the surface of the dough with butter-flavored cooking spray or brush melted butter over it. Fold over any excess dough, spraying any dry dough with cooking spray. Repeat this process until you've used six sheets of phyllo dough -- dough-spray-fold excess-spray-repeat.
    Spread ½ cup of the nut mixture over the layer of dough.
    Add a layer of apple slices over the nuts (use ⅓ of the sliced apples).
    Add another ½ cup of nuts over the apples.
  3. Layer 2:
    Repeat the layering process as you did for Layer 1 (6 sheets of dough, nuts, apples, nuts). Be sure to butter each sheet of dough.
  4. Layer 3:
    Repeat the layers one more time (6 sheets of dough, nuts, apples, nuts).
  5. Layer 4:
    By now, you finished all of the nuts and apples, but you should still have about 6 sheets of phyllo dough left. This last layer uses the remaining sheets of phyllo dough (brush melted butter or spray between each sheet).
  6. Use a sharp knife to cut the unbaked baklava into 16 pieces.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Make the Syrup
  1. Place the syrup ingredients into a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce to low and simmer until the syrup reduces by half. Set aside to cool, discarding the cinnamon stick and cloves.
  2. Pour the cooled syrup over the baked baklava.
Serve and ENJOY!

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Apple Cranberry Muffins with Streusel Topping

Apples and cranberries go so well together.  Pair them together in these muffins topped with sweet streusel topping and you’ve got a real treat on your hands.

I made these for a PTA-sponsored Teacher Appreciation Day one year and it was wiped out in no time.  These muffins are great for potluck breakfasts, and they make great snacks for a packed lunch.

Top the muffins with my apple cream cheese frosting (recipe below) and now you’ve got a decadent dessert.

Give my recipes a try.  I think you’ll like them. 🙂

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Apple Cranberry Muffins with Streusel Topping
 
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Apple and cranberries baked in a moist muffin and topped with a sweet streusel and buttery apple frosting
Author:
Serves: 2 dozen
Ingredients
Ingredients for the Muffins:
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (set aside 4 tablespoons out of the 4 cups of flour)
  • 2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 cups white, granulated sugar (you can use Splenda or Truvia made for baking)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup orange juice (with pulp)
  • 1 cup craisins
  • ⅔ cup coarsely chopped walnuts, optional
Ingredients for Streusel Topping:
  • ⅔ cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • ⅔ cup finely chopped walnuts, optional (or use your favorite nut)
Ingredients for the Apple Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 box powdered sugar
Instructions
Directions for the muffins:
  1. Place cupcake liners in two regular sized muffin pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl toss 4 tablespoons of flour with the diced apples; set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl cream the 2 sticks of butter with the granulated sugar. Add the eggs, vanilla and orange juice; mix until creamy.
  4. Mix together the remaining flour, baking soda and salt; add to the butter mixture.
  5. Fold the apple mixture, craisins and chopped walnuts into the batter (it will be quite thick).
  6. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling about ⅔ full.
  7. Top with streusel topping then bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  8. Cool the cupcakes/muffins in the pan for 10-15 minutes then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the Streusel Topping:
  1. In a medium bowl combine the brown sugar, 4 tablespoons of flour, lemon zest, melted butter and chopped nuts (you can use a food chopper to chop these nuts very fine).
  2. Mix well (you can use a fork) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Make the Apple-Cream Cheese Frosting:
  1. Place the diced apples, brown sugar and 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the apples have softened, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Place the cooked apple mixture in a blender or food processor to finely chop the apples (small bits are okay). Set aside to cool completely.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer. Add the apple mixture; mix until combined. Mix in the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until creamy. Refrigerate the frosting until you’re ready to ice the cupcakes/muffins.

 

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Easy Ultra-Moist Red Velvet Cupcakes

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Ahhh…the delicious aroma of cake baking is rivaled only by that of gooey chocolate chip cookies baking and filling your home with happiness. 🙂

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Red velvet cake topped with sweet cream cheese frosting is one of my favorites.

These cupcakes were topped with a marshmallow flower made by slicing marshmallows (use a pair of kitchen scissors for easy cutting) then sticking the petals together to form a flower.

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This is a super-easy recipe.  Mix a box of red velvet cake mix with eggs, milk, oil, instant chocolate pudding, and red food coloring (for a deeper red color).

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Fill cupcake lines 3/4 full.
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Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.
Let the cupcakes cool then frost and ENJOY! 🙂
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Easy Ultra-Moist Red Velvet Cupcakes
 
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Author:
Serves: 2 dozen
Ingredients
  • 1 box Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe red velvet cake mix
  • 1 box (3.9 oz) instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¾ cup oil
  • ¾ cup milk*
  • 12 drops of red food coloring
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix all ingredients together.
  3. Pour into cupcake tins lined with paper liners, ¾ full.
  4. Bake 18-20 minutes.
  5. Frost with your favorite frosting.
High Altitude Adjustments (for altitudes higher than 3000 ft):
  1. *Use 1 cup of milk (instead of ¾ cup)
  2. Do not preheat the oven. Prepare the batter and fill the cupcake tins, THEN turn on the oven. When the oven temperature reaches 250 degrees, place the pans in the oven.
  3. Bake for 10-15 minutes; the time starts when the temperature reaches 350 degrees (check for doneness at 10 minutes). The cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Caramel Apples

This recipe is one of the simplest, and if you get your kids to help, it’s fun too!

My recipe is makes just the basic caramel-covered apple, but you can up the WOW! factor by adding toppings to the freshly dipped apples.

Our favorite toppings are:

  • Toffee candy bits
  • Chopped nuts
  • Cookie pieces
  • Mini M&M candies
  • Sprinkles
  • Miniature marshmallows
  • Miniature chocolate chips

The options are virtually endless when it comes to jazzing up your caramel apple.  Give my recipe a try.  Your kids will love you for it. 🙂

Caramel Apples

 

Caramel Apples
 
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Crunchy apples covered with sweet, melted caramel
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 6 small apples
  • 1 bag (14 ounces) individually wrapped caramel candies, unwrapped
  • 2 tablespoons milk (or heavy cream or coconut milk)
  • 6 popsicle sticks
  • Parchment paper
Instructions
  1. Rinse the apples; dry them completely (or else the caramel sauce won't stick to them). Insert a popsicle stick into each apple.
  2. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
  3. Place the unwrapped caramels and milk into a small sauce pan over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly until the caramels melt. Let the caramel sauce cool for about 2 minutes before dipping the apples.
  4. Holding the popsicle stick, dip the apple into the caramel sauce, covering it almost completely. Let the excess caramel sauce drip into the pan then place onto the parchment paper to set. If adding additional toppings, do so immediately after dipping the apples into the caramel sauce then place onto the parchment paper.
ENJOY!

 

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Baked Yeast Donuts

I love making fried yeast donuts for my family, but in an effort to make this indulgent dessert a bit healthier, I decided to bake them instead.

Give my recipe a try.  I think you’ll like it.

 

Baked Donuts and Donut Holes

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Chocolate Frosted with Coconut (my favorite!)

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Cinnamon Sugar

Baked Yeast Donuts - 13

Chocolate Frosted (my kids’ favorite)

Baked Yeast Donuts - 16

Vanilla Glaze

Baked Yeast Donuts - 14

Donut Holes with Chocolate, Vanilla Glaze, Cinnamon Sugar, and Sprinkles

Baked Yeast Donuts - 12

Baked Yeast Donuts
 
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Baked, not fried yeast donuts...all the indulgence with a little less guilt. 🙂
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 20 donuts
Ingredients
Yeast Mixture:
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ cup warm milk (between 98-105 degrees)
Dough Mixture:
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • ½ cup warm milk
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2½ to 3 cups all-purpose flour (you might not need it all)
Chocolate Glaze: (this makes enough to glaze about 10 donuts)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
Vanilla Glaze: (this makes enough to glaze about 10-12 donuts)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
Cinnamon Sugar topping:
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Honey Butter:
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup honey
Other ingredients/items:
  • Sweetened coconut flakes
  • Sprinkles
  • Butter cooking spray
  • Plastic Wrap
Instructions
MAKE THE DOUGH (DONUTS):
  1. In a mixing bowl, mix together the yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, and ¼ cup warm milk. Stir together to dissolve the sugar and yeast. Let it stand for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to proof (it will get very bubbly).
  2. Meanwhile, mix together the 2 tablespoons melted butter and warm milk. Mix in the egg, ⅓ cup sugar and salt. After the yeast has proofed for 5 minutes, add the milk-butter-egg-sugar-salt mixture to the yeast. Using your mixer's dough hook, turn the mixer on to medium low speed to combine. *Note, if you don't have a large stand mixer, you can use a sturdy mixing spoon or spatula to combine the ingredients.
  3. Add 2½ cups of the flour to the mixing bowl. Reserve the remaining ½ cup flour. Turn the mixer to medium speed, mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl. After mixing for about 2 minutes, if the dough still looks very sticky and is not pulling away from the side of the mixing bowl, add in more flour, a few spoonfuls at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

    **DO NOT add more than the remaining ½ cup of flour, even if the dough is still sticky.**
  4. Once the dough pulls away from the sides, turn the mixer to medium high and mix for 5 minutes to knead the dough. *Note: if you are doing this by hand, mix the flour with the wet ingredients. Once all of the flour is incorporated, turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface (use some of the remaining ½ cup flour to flour the surface) and knead the dough for 8-10 minutes. If the dough sticks to your hand while kneading, use whatever remaining flour is left from the ½ cup of flour. If the dough is still sticking to your hands, spray your hands with butter cooking spray (DO NOT add more flour or your resulting donuts will come out hard as a rock).
  5. After kneading, place the dough into a clean bowl that has been sprayed with butter cooking spray (you can use softened butter as well). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to let the dough rise and double in size.
  6. After the dough has doubled, take it out of the bowl and gently punch it down. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, rolling the dough until it's about ½ inch thick. Use a donut cutter to cut out donuts (and donut holes).
  7. Place the cut donut shapes (1 inch apart) onto a baking pan that has been sprayed with butter cooking spray. Spray the tops of the donuts then cover with plastic wrap and let it rise again until doubled.
  8. After the donuts have doubled in size, remove the plastic wrap. Bake at 375 degrees for 7 minutes. DO NOT overcook the donuts, even if the dough still looks "white". Remove from the oven and let the donuts sit on the pan for 5 minutes then remove them to a baking rack to finish cooling.
  9. While the donuts are cooling, make your glazes.
MAKE THE CHOCOLATE GLAZE:
  1. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the butter, milk, vanilla extract and corn syrup for one minute. Remove from the microwave. Stir in the chocolate chips to the heated mixture; continue stirring until the chocolate chips have melted. Using a whisk, mix in the powdered sugar. Continue whisking/mixing until there are no more lumps from the powdered sugar and the glaze is smooth and shiny. Dip the donuts into the glaze while the glaze is still warm. If the glaze thickens up, reheat it for 10-15 seconds in the microwave.
MAKE THE PLAIN GLAZE:
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and milk. Mix until there are no lumps and the glaze is smooth and creamy. Dip your donuts into the glaze.
MAKE THE CINNAMON SUGAR TOPPING:
  1. In a small bowl, place the melted butter.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Dip the donuts first into the melted butter, then dip them into the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
MAKE THE HONEY BUTTER:
  1. In a small microwave-safe bowl, place the butter and honey; heat for 30-45 seconds, or long enough for the butter to soften and just begin to melt. Stir to combine the mixture; mix until you get a creamy, spreadable consistency. Spread honey butter on top of the donuts.
Optional:
  1. Top the glazed donuts with sweetened coconut flakes, sprinkles, or any other topping you like (nuts are good too).

 

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