Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ridiculous Holiday Baking Week!

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Whew - this week has been a little nutty, I went all out with my holiday baking! Cookies, quick bread, pound cake and doughnuts all homemade and used as gifts for friends and co-workers...baked goods completely took over the kitchen!

Of course I'm never happier than I am when I'm up to my elbows cooking and baking, so it was a lot of fun this week. I used two of my favorite recipes, which I've posted previously on this blog, my Apple Cider Doughnuts and Ultimate Ginger Cookies. Both are Food Network recipes and turn out flawlessly every time.

I did try out two new recipes this week, both of which are delicious - Apple Nut Bread and Ricotta Lemon Pound Cake. I've never tried to bake a pound cake before and this one was so light and delicious, but still had that decadent buttery taste associated with pound cake. The original recipe was Giada de Laurentiis' creation but I put my own little twists on it. She had it as a Ricotta Orange Pound Cake and since I am extremely allergic to oranges (not breathing and death result from consumption), I decided to use lemon instead. I also used an almond extract instead of amaretto. So here's my mutated version of Giada's recipe!

Ricotta Lemon Pound Cake


- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 cups) room temperature unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour
- 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 lemon (zested)
- 1 tbsp. lemon extract
- 1 tbsp. almond extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan (or do what I did with two tiny loaf pans and one regular sized one) with butter. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir well to blend.

2. Using a stand mixer, cream butter, ricotta and granulated sugar until light and fluffy - about 3 minutes. With the mixer running, add the eggs one at a time - fully beating each one into the mixture.

3. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, lemon extract and almond extract until combined. Add the dry ingredients about 1/3 at a time, mixing on low until it is just incorporated.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan (or pans) and bake until a toothpick comes out clean - about 45-50 minutes. If you are baking smaller loaves they took about 25 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pan(s) for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

I can't wait to see what everyone thinks of the cake...Aaron and I are keeping the big cake for ourselves and couldn't wait to try it - yum!

The second new recipe I rolled out is an Apple Nut Bread. Very easy, fairly nutritious...ok not that nutritious but at least it doesn't have a ton of butter in it and actually includes fruit and (of all things) carrots!

Apple Nut Bread

- 1/2 cup shredded carrots
- 1 1/3 cups applesauce
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 cup walnut pieces


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine carrots, applesauce, oil and vanilla. Once combined, add eggs and granulated sugar and mix until well incorporated.

2. Sift the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and then mix the dry into the applesauce mixture until just blended - don't overmix or the bread will be tough! Slowly fold in the walnut pieces.

3. Divide the batter between two loaf pans (or two mini pans and one large pan like I did) and bake for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

I think the freshly grated nutmeg made a huge difference in the flavor of the cake, it was incredible! A big thanks to my sister Kate and brother-in-law Andrew for giving us a fabulous herb and spices set as a wedding included fresh nutmeg and I'm totally hooked!

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