Baking Through the Alphabet: H is for Honey Cranberry Orange Scones

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I’m sick.

Headache, runny/stuff nose, slight cough, burning eyes (a little), fever, and slight nausea.

But after sucking it up at work for 7 hours and finally caving in at 3 to use my sick hours and to just go home, and after some meds and a good nap, I’m feeling much better! I think. Hopefully I’m well enough to go in to work tomorrow. (Edit: I didn’t make it to work. POO.)

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But seriously. Sick hours = :) :) :).

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I’ve been really slow with the alphabet recently because I’ve been baking other things outside of this alphabet project. I’ve made…thin mint cupcakes (which will probably be for T), chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes, baked parmesan eggs, Andes mint chocolate cookies, and other baked goodies just for friends and the apartment. Cream cheese was on sale at Albertsons for a buck again, so I’ll try to find things to make with those. I bought 10 blocks HAHA.

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I made these scones about 3 weeks ago. I knew I wanted to do something with honey for T, but I was having a reaaallly hard time finding something. I wanted to make some baked good that hasn’t been a part of this whole alphabet thing yet. I settled on this honey cinnamon scone recipe until Sam gave me the idea to make honey cranberry scones.

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I really wish the honey flavor stood out more though, but I love the citrusy combination with the fluffy scones and tart cranberries. I used this honey that Sam got from a farmer’s market, but take my advice, use honey instead of sugar. I made it once replacing the honey with 3 tablespoons of sugar, but they just came out so much drier. Also, the flour called for in the original recipe wasn’t enough; my dough was sooo sticky. Just keep adding flour until it’s manageable; I gave an estimate in the recipe below. Don’t add too much because the scones will turn out dry. Oh, I also used milk instead of cream to save some fat and calories. The scones still came out delicious! So yummy that I made them again three times after that. =)

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Honey Cranberry Orange Scones
From Inspired Taste
Makes 8 scones

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (or 2 1/2 depending on how wet the dough is)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup cold milk, plus 1 tablespoon for tops of scones
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon orange zest (I used the zest from one orange)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon coarse sugar (like Sugar in the Raw…I used
half of those packets you can get a coffee shops)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. I used my silicon baking mat and it got stained.

2. For the dough, blend together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter to the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with a few small crumbles of butter the size of peas. Alternatively you can do this by hand in a bowl and cut in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips. I just find that a food processor makes it so much easier.

3. In another bowl, combine the milk, honey, and orange zest and stir until the honey is completely incorporated into the cream.

4. Pour the flour/butter mixture into a large bowl. Stir in the cranberries. Pour in the honey-milk mixture and mix until a dough forms. If it’s too wet, add a little flour just until it’s easy to work with, but not too much or else the scones will come out dry.

5. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough 3 to 5 times. Form it into an 8 inch circle and cut into 8 triangles.

6. Place the scones onto the lined baking sheet. Brush with the milk and lightly sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar.

7. Bake scones in the preheated over for 12 to 15 minutes until light golden brown. Scones are best eaten fresh, but they can keep at room temperature for a few days. Perfect for breakfast. Enjoy!

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Perfect with some coffee (sorry, I lied in the picture because I really don’t drink my coffee that black…), a journal, and the word of God. :)

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Happy Thursday!

Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

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gracefulleats is one! (plus Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream)

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I’m taking a break from my alphabets for today, because…

gracefulleats is one!

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It’s been exactly a year since I’ve started this thing, and I must say…it’s been a blessing. I know that term gets thrown around a lot, but I really mean it when I say it. It’s been a crazy year (both in and out of this blog), and I’ve learned so much about myself and about others along the way.

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In the past year, I’ve baked through over 60 recipes, made three birthday cakes, baked for a bridal shower, engagement party, and wedding, was featured on Welcome Home and on Rachael Ray magazine’s “#RRWhatchaCookin Featured Cook of the Week,” and made it to foodgawker (after 27 declines!). I’ve received so much support and encouragement from my family and friends, and I am thankful. But…

Soli Deo Gloria.

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Soli Deo Gloria means “glory to God alone.” I’ve been reading, researching, and racking my brain the past few days to find a concise way to explain this…but I can’t. It’s too difficult to define. The way I see it is this (with the help of John Piper and Mark Driscoll): the glory of God is the infinite beauty and worth of God publicly displayed. It is the “radiance of his holiness, the radiance of his manifold, infinitely worthy and valuable perfections (Piper).” It is His beauty and greatness, His infinite worth radiated for us to see. “God’s glory is the outward radiance of the intrinsic beauty and greatness of His manifold perfections (Piper).”

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You see, God deserves eternal praise. He should be our greatest joy and desire, and we should find hope and happiness in that fact that we have a God who loves us, knows us, and has sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. We should delight in our salvation in Christ and in the fact that we get to live for His glory. HIS glory, not ours, and not that we have to, but because we get to. “We get to finally do the singular cause for which we were made: to glorify God (Driscoll).” God created us for His glory; therefore, as His children, we should live for the glory of God.

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If you’ve noticed, I always end my posts with Soli Deo Gloria. I do that for two reasons: 1) As a reminder to myself that all glory be to God; 2) because all glory really does belong to God. And this is true because we are called to glorify God in all that we do, as it is commanded in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (ESV). I know that was an abnormally long introduction, but a) it’s my birthday (kindasortanotreally) and b) this is important to me, and I pray and hope that this may be an encouragement to you as it is to me. You can read more here, here, here, and here.

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I’m celebrating gracefulleats’s first birthday with my favorite chocolate cake and vanilla buttercream. I first made this for a birthday cake I had to do back in September, and it was the best chocolate cake I’d ever made–I haven’t gone to a different chocolate cake recipe yet! The cake has a strong chocolate flavor, is moist, and isn’t too sweet. It pairs perfectly with the vanilla buttercream which is sweet, fluffy, and creamy. It doesn’t have that greasy taste that a lot of other buttercreams have. The recipe below makes a two-layer 6-inch cake (I cut my two layers in half so I had four) and enough buttercream to frost and fill the cake generously.

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Chocolate Cake
Makes two 6-inch layers
From Whisk Kid

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup sour cream, room temperature
2/3 cup hot coffee

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line with parchment paper two 6-inch pans. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt, and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Add the vanilla.Pour in a third of the dry ingredients, mix until just combined, then add half of the sour cream and mix until just combined. Repeat–add the rest of the dry ingredients, mix, then add the rest of the sour cream; mix until just combined. Gently stir in the hot coffee, and pour the batter into the prepared pans.

4. Bake the cakes for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans and let them cool completely before frosting.

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Vanilla Buttercream
Makes enough to frost and fill a 6-inch layer cake

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
5 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3-5 tablespoons heavy cream

1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar. Stir in the vanilla. Add the heavy cream, and beat until fluffy. You can add more or less heavy cream depending on how thick you like your frosting.

For Assembly: The Whisk Kid has a really good tutorial on assembling a layer cake. You can find it here! I promise it’s super useful! I really enjoyed it, and it was helpful for me too.

Enjoy!

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With all that said and done…here’s to another year. Whatever comes my way, I’m ready! I’m ready for the opportunities, the learning experiences, and the baking adventures. Thank you all again for your support! And as always…

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Until next time,

SOLI. DEO. GLORIA. (and happy reading, eating, and baking!)

Baking Through the Alphabet: D is for Dulce de Leche Eclairs

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Hello to all my new readers!

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It’s crazy how much my blog has grown the past few weeks, all thanks to Welcome Home on Facebook! I know there are a lot of comments sitting in my inbox, but I promise I’ll get to them soon! I’ve been swamped with finals and projects these past two week and haven’t had the chance to get around to them. But guess what? Finals are done, projects have been submitted, fall quarter duties have been relieved, so I can safely say…

HELLO WINTER BREAK!

Yes, I survived another quarter of college (all through the grace of God, of course). It’s been a crazy one, but I’m thankful for it all.

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I had meant for this post to be my “Happy Thanksgiving!” post, so let me just say…Happy (belated) Thanksgiving! I hope you all had an enjoyable and relaxing Thanksgiving with your loved ones (food included!). I know I did–it was great to be at home during the week with family and friends. I had lunch with my family, reunited with (actually, MET for the very first time) some extremely distant cousins for dinner (we have the same great-great-great grandma), and hung out with high school and church friends. It was a weekend well spent!

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I’m still baking my way through the alphabet. I know I’m only four letters in, but this letter kind of sucked. I knew I wanted to do dulce de leche eclairs, but it took me THREE tries to get the filling right. First, I tried making this diplomat cream, which is basically a combination of whipped cream and pastry cream. It was perfect since I had a bunch of leftover egg yolks from making macarons. But I messed up because I overcooked the pastry cream and ended up with this ugly, chunky, scrambled egg mess. Not good. Delicious!, but not good. I decided to make a dulce de leche whipped cream by beating together dulce de leche and heavy cream. All was well, until I got a little selfish and wanted stiffer peaks. So I put the bowl back under the wire whisk, turned it on, and ran to get my camera. I swear, it was only like 20 seconds, but by the time I got back the cream was overbeat (is that a word?) and had turned into a curdled mess. Boo.

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Third time was the charm. I used my trusty cream puff recipe from Joy of Baking, and piped logs instead of little mounds. The eclairs did come out a little fatter than I would’ve liked and I’ll have to pipe thinner logs next time, but they were still delicious. I spread a little dulce de leche on the bottom shell of the eclair, filled it with dulce de leche whipped cream, topped it with its other half, and topped that with chocolate ganache. The chocolate and dulce de leche go so nicely together, and it’s a nice twist to your typical cream puff/eclair. My roommates said it was a little too sweet for them (it was okay for me), but if you want it less sweet, you can spread less dulce de leche onto the bottom puff or skip it altogether. Either way, the chocolate ganache with the eclair shell and the dulce de leche whipped cream will be tres excelente (insert the “ok” hand emoji here).

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Dulce de Leche Eclairs
Makes 16 eclairs
Adapted from Joy of Baking

Ingredients:

For the Choux Pastry:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup water
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the filling:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup dulce de leche (more or less, to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the chocolate ganache:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1. For the choux pastry: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with a Silpat or parchment paper. Place the butter in a saucepan over medium high heat; bring to a boil. Make sure the butter is completely melted before the water boils. Remove it from the heat, and using a wooden spoon, add the flour, sugar, and salt, stir until combined. Return the saucepan back to the heat, and keep stirring until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball.

2. Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl, and beat it to release the steam from the dough. When the dough is lukewarm, mix in the eggs until you have a smooth, thick paste. The dough will separate but will come together to form a thick paste. The dough should fall from the spoon in a thick ribbon.

3. Place the dough in a pastry bag and pipe oblongs of dough onto the baking sheet. I made mine slightly larger, but the original recipe piped “12 oblongs of dough about 3/4 inch wide. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Continue to bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the shells are an amber color and are almost dry inside when split. Remove from oven; cool on a wire rack.

4. For the filling: With a whisk attachment (or a whisk, if you’re doing it by hand), beat the cream until soft peaks form. Mix in the dulce de leche, and beat until the cream holds stiff peaks. Add more dulce de leche if you want a stronger flavor. Mix in the vanilla. Refrigerate until ready to use.

5. For the chocolate ganache: Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the cream until just boiling and pour it over the chocolate. Gently stir until the chocolate is melted.

6. For assembly: Split the pastry shells in half, lengthwise. Take the top shell, dip it into the chocolate glaze, and let the excess drip off. Let it dry. Spread a little dulce de leche onto the bottom half (you should have some extra from the can), and fill it (can spoon or pipe) with the dulce de leche cream. Place the top half of the pastry shell on the cream. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use; it can be stored for two days. Enjoy!

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Baking Through the Alphabet: B is for Blueberry and Cream Cookies (A Momofuku Recipe)

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I’m back. One month and 8 days later. At this rate, I’ll finish my “baking through the alphabet” series in two years…hopefully that won’t happen! I know I haven’t been baking too much this past quarter. My friends ask me how my alphabet series is coming along, and I always say “I’m still on the letter A…but I’m getting there!” And I’m there now, starting with B! Making baby steps.

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I’m eight weeks into my fall quarter, so that means two more weeks of school (or 1.5, I should say), then finals week, then WINTER BREAK! Not that I’ll be doing a lot, but it’ll be nice to be back home during the week. This quarter has been one of the craziest yet, but not in the usual way. LIFE has been crazy, I should say. But hey, I’m still breathing, I still have my salvation, life is good.

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It took me foreverrrrrrr to decide what to do for the letter B. I wanted to do bo luo baos, but was too lazy to go buy bread flour. I wanted to make banana cream pie, but making a pie just seemed so tedious (I’ve never made a pie before! One of these days…). So there I was, flipping through my favorites section on foodgawker, when I found this–Momofuku’s blueberry and cream cookies. I’ve never had anything from the Milk Bar (AKA Momofuku Milk Bar), and I only heard about them through Facebook (I think a friend posted about them or something). But from what I hear and read, baked goodies from there are supposed to be really good. And I find their recipes online, and they’re super interesting and incorporate all these different things to it like “cereal milk” and “cornflake crunch.” Intriguing huh!

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These cookies are really good–trust me. The edges are crisp and the center is chewy, just the way I like them. It’s not too sweet, and the blueberries add a nice tartness to the cookies. They remind me of a blueberry muffin top. These cookies are different than your normal recipe; there’s an extra step of adding “milk crumbs,” which is just nonfat dry milk powder, butter, and white chocolate. It’s an extra step, but I think it’s totally worth it! It adds a different taste to the cookies, and it’s the “cream” aspect for your blueberry and cream cookies! Don’t worry, making the milk crumbs is easy; it kind of reminds me of making a graham cracker crust for a cheesecake. DO IT. It adds this extra “milky” taste in the cookies that you really don’t find in other ones, and I like it and it’s delicious! They’re thick and chewy, and I love the cracked aspect on top of the cookies. I have no idea what the real cookies are supposed to taste like, but if my cookie is supposed to be a copycat of the ones from the store, then the real ones must be HECKA GOOD.

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Blueberry and Cream Cookies
Makes 12 to 17 Cookies
From Momofuku Milk Bar

Ingredients:

225 g (16 tbs) butter, at room temperature
150 g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
150 g (2/3 cup) light brown sugar
100 g (1/4 cup) glucose, or 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 eggs
320 g (2 cups) flour
2 g (1/2 tsp) baking powder
1.5 g (1/4 tsp) baking soda
6 g (1 1/2 tsp) kosher salt
1/2 recipe milk crumbs, recipe follows
130 g (3/4 cup) dried blueberries

1. Cream together the butter, sugars, and glucose (or light corn syrup) in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I used an electric mixer) on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and beat for 7 to 8 minutes.

2. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than a minute. Don’t overmix the dough, and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

3. On low speed (I did this part by hand), add the milk crumbs and mix until they’re incorporated, no more than 30 seconds. Add the dried blueberries, and mix them in for 30 seconds.

4. Portion out the cookie dough into balls (mine were probably 1.5-2 tablespoons, or use a 2 3/4 oz ice cream scoop) onto parchment-lined (I used Silpat) sheet pan. Pat the tops of the cookie balls flat. Wrap the sheet pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 week. I rolled the dough into balls after I refrigerated it, then refrigerated the dough balls again. Make sure you don’t bake them from room temperature, or they won’t bake correctly!

5. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the chilled dough balls at least 4-inches apart on parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pans. Bake for 18 minutes until faintly browned on the edges but bright yellow in the center. Rotate your pans halfway through if necessary. The cookies should puff, crackle, and spread. 

6. Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pans. The cookies will keep fresh at room temperature for five days. Enjoy!

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Milk Crumbs
Makes about 250 g (2 1/4 cups)

Ingredients:

40 g (1/2 cup) milk powder
40 g (1/4 cup) flour
12 g (2 tbs) cornstarch
25 g (2 tbs) sugar
2 g (1/2 tsp) kosher salt
55 g (4 tbs) butter, melted
20 g (1/4 cup) milk powder
90 g (3 oz) white chocolate, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 250°F.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the 40 g (1/2 cup) milk powder, flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Add the melted butter, and stir until a mixture starts to come together and forms small clusters.

3. Spread the clusters on a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes. The crumbs should sandy, and (as the site puts it) your kitchen should smell like buttery heaven. Let the crumbs cool completely.

4. Crumble any crumb clusters that are larger than 1/2 inch in diameter. Put the crumbs in a medium bowl, and mix in the 20 g milk powder until it is evenly distributed.

5. Pour the white chocolate over the crumbs, and toss until the clusters are coated with the chocolate. Keep tossing them every five minutes until the chocolate hardens and the clusters are no longer sticky. The crumbs will keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for up to a month.

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Baking Through the Alphabet: A is for Apple Pie Pull Apart Bread

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I had an epiphany a few months ago…but I never went through with it. Cheryl and I actually bought ingredients for it, but we never did it.

The epiphany came back a few days ago.

I’M GOING TO BAKE THROUGH THE ALPHABET.

Yaknow, desserts that start with A, then B, then C, and so on. What’s going to happen when I get to Q or X? We’ll see. Maybe I’ll cop out and make a Chinese dessert/baked good. It’ll be a surprise for me, too.

So, first things first: A. A IS FOR APPLE PIE PULL APART BREAD.

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Think…apple pie meets cinnamon roll. It’s SO GOOD. I found this recipe while scrolling through foodgawker (during class, probably), and I thought it was such an interesting combination! My only issue with the apple pie pull apart bread recipes that I found was that they used Pilsbury refrigerated biscuit rolls as the bread, and in my book…that’s a no-no. It’s no fun when you don’t get to play with dough and make it from scratch! Maybe I’ll change my mind when I get married and have kids, haha!

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But I decided to use the bread recipe from Joy the Baker’s cinnamon sugar pull apart bread. I made some adjustments for the filling, crossed my fingers, and hoped that it would come out okay. And it did! The bread and filling was gooey and cinnamon-y, and the baked apple slices between the bread slices tasted just like an apple pie.

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Oh, and the GLAZE that went on top of it was yum-o! I had considered not making the glaze, but my roommate convinced me otherwise, and she was right! Not only did the bread look much better, but it also brought all the flavors together. Delicious fall flavors–all in one loaf! =)

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Apple Pie Pull Apart Bread with Vanilla Glaze
Makes one loaf
Adapted from Joy the Baker and The Comfort of Cooking

Ingredients:

For the Dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Filling:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 medium apple, cored and thinly sliced (I used a Fuji apple)

For the Vanilla Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and set aside.

In a medium bowl, melt together the milk and butter in the microwave (you could also do this in a small saucepan on the stove). When the butter has just melted, add the water and vanilla extract. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes.

Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and mix with a spatula. Add the eggs, and stir until the eggs are incorporated into the dough. The dough will be extremely sticky; try not to add too much flour or else the dough will come out too dry.

Place the dough into a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour. Alternatively, you can also let the dough rise until doubled in size, then refrigerate overnight to use in the morning. I did this and it came out just fine =)

While the dough is rising, make the filling. Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and set aside. Coat the apple slices in the cinnamon-sugar-nutmeg mixture and set aside. Keep the leftover sugar mixture and set that aside too.  Line a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.

When the dough has risen, deflate it and knead it with a little flour. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 12×20-inch rectangle. Spread the melted butter across the dough. Take the leftover cinnamon-sugar-nutmeg mixture and sprinkle it over the dough.

Slice the dough vertically into six equal-sized strips. Stack the strips on top of one another, and then slice the stack into six equal slices again. You should end up with six stacks of six squares. Place the dough squares into the lined loaf pan like a flip book. Take the sliced apple slices and stuff them between the squares. I stuffed 1-2 apple slices between each square. Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and let it rise until doubled in size (I skipped this step because I was running late for class, but it came out fine!).

Place a rack in the cetner of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Bake the loaf for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is very golden brown.

While the loaf is baking, make the vanilla glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. When the loaf is done, let it cool for 20 minutes, and then drizzle the glaze over the warm bread, and ENJOY!

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Rainbow Cake with Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream (Allergy-Free and VEGAN!)

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The new school year is here, and it’s been off to a rough start. But it’s okay! Because God is good and sovereign.

This cake was part of an allergy-free birthday cake that I made for two twin boys who turned six back in June. It’s amazing how moist the cake is without typical cake ingredients such as eggs and butter (I didn’t have a slice of it but I was able to eat the shavings I made when I trimmed the cake!)! I think there’s something about the soy milk and vinegar that acts as a thickener, but don’t trust me on that. I’m terrible at science.

The cake recipe below is double the original version. I doubled it because the cake batter looked too thin for me in the cake pans, and I wanted a thicker bottom tier anyway. And instead of making 6 layers, I made five, taking out the purple layer. Since I only had two cake pans, I had to keep reusing the pans, so I cut out 5 parchment paper rounds and resprayed the pan each time. It’s a bit of a hassle, but it’s okay since you can make this entire cake easily by hand with a whisk…so I guess it all evens out =).

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Allergy-Free/Vegan Rainbow Cake
Adapted From Speed Bump Kitchen
Makes one 5-layer 9-inch cake

Ingredients:

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups dairy-free milk + 4 teaspoons vinegar, set aside to thicken
3 cups white sugar
1 1/3 cup oil
2 tablespoons vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Trace your pans onto some parchment paper, and cut out 5 rounds. I used 9-inch cake pans.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a big bowl. In another large bowl, mix together the thickened dairy-free milk, sugar, oil, and vanilla together.

3. Add about half the wet into the dry ingredients, and beat. You want to get rid of the lumps or they’ll stand out against the colored cake. Add the second half of the liquid and fold in gently.

4. Using a scale, divide the batter into 5 equal portions. You can do this by tare-ing a big empty bowl, adding the batter to determine total batter weight, dividing the total weight by 5, and measuring out 5 portions to color.

5. Add enough of each color of food coloring (I use gel food coloring) to each portion and stir until desired shade is achieved. Transfer each color to an individual cake pan that has been lined and sprayed with cooking spray. If you don’t have enough pans, you will have to keep reusing them. Don’t worry, these cakes bake quickly.

6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the center is set. Remove the cake from the pan to a cooling rack (you may have to let it cool down for about 5 minutes or so), add a new parchment circle to the pan, re-spray, and bake the next layer.

7. Once all the layers are cooled, you can frost and build the cake. I used the vegan buttercream frosting that is posted right below!

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Vegan Vanilla Buttercream
From Speed Bump Kitchen
Makes about 8 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup shortening
1 cup dairy-free margarine (I used Earth Balance Buttery Spread)
7 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt
1/4 cup dairy-free milk

1. Beat the shortening and margarine until light and fluffy.

2. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla and salt.

3. Add the dairy-free milk until the desired thickness is achieved. Don’t add too much or the frosting won’t be thick enough!

4. FROST YOUR CAKE.

Here’s the final result of the entire birthday cake! The rainbow cake is on the bottom tier.

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P.S. All photos from this post are from the extremely talented [Auntie] Vinnie Y!! Please check out her Facebook page and blog! =) Thank you for the amazing photos that made everything so much better!

Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Minion Macarons

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Guys…School is in session. Summer is gone. 3.5 wonderful months of work, baking, no school, relaxation, and opportunities to serve the church. It’s weird to be back in school…can you believe I’m a third year already?! I’m entering the real world soon! It’s crazy. And God has been and always will be faithful.

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So goodbye summer 2013, you’ve been great! =)

I wanted to share with you all one of my proudest projects this past summer: MINION MACARONS.

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I don’t make character macarons often because they’re way more time consuming than regular circle macarons, but when I do…I feel very satisfied. Things I’ve done so far (please excuse the bad photos):

Beary Cute Macarons (inspired by Bakerella), which were coffee flavored with a Nutella filling;

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Large macarons for a bridal shower;

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Angry Bird Macarons, which were green tea flavored with a chocolate ganache filling;

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and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Macarons, which were green tea flavored with a Nutella filling.

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For all those character macarons, I used chocolate as decorations on top of the macarons–a mini chocolate chip as the bear’s nose, white chocolate for the eyes, etc. I never thought about using actual colored macaron batter to add to the characters until I came across Crumbs Macaron. She is amazing. She makes these macaron characters made out of 100% macaron batter, and it’s insane!!!! She made these minion macarons and I just had to try them.

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It took a lot of time (7 hours to be exact), different colored macaron piping bags, and a bunch of toothpicks.

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I found a picture of a minion online, printed about 9 of them on one sheet, and placed the Silpat over the sheet. For the macarons, I made the macaron batter without color, and while it was still a little undermixed, separated them into different bowls and added food coloring separately. I had seven colors: yellow, blue, black, red, gray, brown, and white. I piped the yellow body first, let the batter rest, piped the jeans, then the glasses, eyes, hands, buttons, and feet. Then I used toothpicks to make the hair, pupil, and smile. And seven hours later, after cleaning everything up, I had my minions!

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I know this is a short post, but enjoy the pictures (and sorry for the lighting! It’s hard to get good lighting at home). I think they’re pretty cool, and I hope you all think so too =).

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!!

Gospel Pizza

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As usual…sorry for the hiatus! I’ve been swamped with church things, but I have to say, it is a JOY to serve our God with our church.

I’m going to go backwards, because the recipe I’m posting about today is from the first event. So the event before the event this past week. Am I confusing? Womp.

1)

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Summer Retreat! The theme was “Hating our sin, and loving our Savior,” and I had the pleasure of counseling the 10th (to-be 11th!) and 9th (to-be 10th, though there was only one) grade girls. To be honest, I was pretty nervous because it was my first time counseling–it’s a little sad that I didn’t think much of the theme while going up. I was more focused on how to serve these girls that I had forgotten that everything is ultimately in God’s hands! He is good. For me, retreat was a good reminder of how unworthy, and how gracious and Holy our God is! Our sin sucks. Period. But by God’s grace, we have our salvation! During retreat, Aaron (who has new music up on his site by the way!) led worship with some of the other students, and they sang Grace Alone 6 out of the 7 sessions. It was hard to follow at first, but by the end of the retreat I was able to follow. Even though it was hard, the lyrics are really descriptive about how it truly is by grace alone that we are saved. I love this part of the song:

So I stand in faith by grace and grace alone

I will run the race by grace and grace alone

I will slay my sin by grace and grace alone

I will reach the end by grace and grace alone

A blessed week indeed! And to my girls: if you’re reading this, thanks for letting me be your counselor this past retreat! Thanks for being open and for helping me understand how to better serve you all. Thank you for being patient with me, and I genuinely hope you were able to learn a lot from this retreat. Thanks for being blessings to me =).

2) Kids’ Arts Academy. (picture credits to Uncle Gaylan). This was basically a different outreach approach for the children’s ministry. Long story short, our church wanted to do something other than VBS, because every church down the street had a VBS program and VBS became more of a day care for many kids. We wanted to reach out to the unchurched through something different. Our children’s director came up with this idea, and I thought it was great! It was new, it was different than VBS that all the other churches were doing, and it was a new way to bring people to Christ. The Arts Academy was a day-long event for kids to learn different forms of arts. What was really great was that we also had a parenting workshop at the same time at church! So the parents could drop their kids off at the academy while they attended the parenting workshop.

Anyways, there were four stations: 3-D Arts, Rhythm & Movement, Fine Arts, and Culinary Arts, and the gospel was tied somehow into each station. I was in charge of administration and the culinary arts. On the Sunday after the arts academy, we displayed the artwork in the courtyard for the congregation to see. It was pretty neat!

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For my culinary station, we made butterfly snack bags. It’s easy–you take a wooden clothespin, glue on pipe cleaner antennas, decorate the clothespins, fill up a snack sized ziploc bag with snacks, then clip it right in the middle. This is supposed to represent how we are a new creation in Christ.

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In addition to the butterfly bags, we made pizza. Or as I like to call it, Gospel Pizza! I am so thankful for my team, because I don’t think we would have been able to pull through without us bouncing ideas off each other. I wanted something that the kids would enjoy making, but at the same time teach them some basics about the culinary arts and tie in the gospel somehow. After our meeting, we ended up deciding to make the pizza dough, divide them into individual portions, and let the kids roll them out and top them off on their own. Then we would freeze the pizzas (as they moved through all the other stations throughout the day), then let the kids finish the pizzas off by baking them at home.

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We came up with five toppings–pineapples, olives, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and spinach–and each topping represented a different section of the gospel. The pineapples are gold, which represents Heaven. The olives are black, representing sin. Actually, it was funny–we figured that some kids wouldn’t like olives, so we just said “It’s okay, you’re not supposed to like sin!” The pepperoni is red, representing Jesus’ Blood. The mozzarella cheese is white, which represents purity. And lastly, spinach is green, representing growth. I put it all on a laminated half-sheet recipe card–recipe on the front, gospel on the back–because I also wanted the kids to be able to take something home that wouldn’t eventually rot/be eaten. Thanks Samantha Ho for designing! =)

All in all, the arts academy was a blessing! Super tiring, but totally worth it. For my group, we used over 35 pounds of bread flour and 12 pounds of mozzarella cheese–enough to make almost 200 9-inch pizzas. We had a total of 111 kids come out, and many of them were unchurched, so PRAISE GOD! May His will be done. Ya know, about two weeks before the arts academy, we only had about 50 kids signed up, and it was a little discouraging. But seriously, answered prayers! God is good.

We made a video to show the kids how to make the dough. Thanks Pamela for video-ing and editing!

I’m also attaching the picture of the recipe cards we made. If you do use them for your ministry, please let me know! I would love to hear how you are using this for your ministries =)

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria,

and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Blueberry Custard Pie Bars

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I helped out with a retreat this past weekend with some AACF brothers and sisters. I took care of the infants group (6 months-2 years), and I must say…THEY ARE SO CUTE. We only had three infants, but one of them got sick after the first session. I honestly don’t think I did much; I think I spent more time hanging out with AACFers than I did with the kids, haha! But I really did enjoy getting to know them more since I’ve been kinda MIA this past year. I’ll be back, I promise! It was also fun to be able to hang out with the other helper, who’s married with two kids. It’s nice to be able to talk to older women and to listen to the wise things they have to say. All in all, it was fun!

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There is one moment that I must share, though. Since the infants were on a different rotating schedule (basically nonexistent rotations) than the other groups, we dropped by the red group, which were the 3-5 year olds. D’s (the one that got sick) brother J was in that group, so we dropped by to say hi. J was at the crafts table with another kid, L. This was the conversation:

L: J, is that your brother? (pointing at D)
J: Yeah, it is!
L: HE LOOKS LIKE AN ALIEN!!!!!
Me: That’s not nice! Don’t say that!
L: BUT HE LOOKS LIKE AN ALIEN!

Heh, kids just say that darndest things. It was encouraging to see the kids become attached to us so quickly and so excited to learn and play. =) Thanks for the opportunity!

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Anyways, it’s berry season! I love berries, but I think the only berries that I enjoy baked in desserts are blueberries. I’ve made a few recipes with strawberries baked inside the cake, but they’ve never really appealed to me. But blueberries…they are another story. I love how they just ooze out.

IMG_3656I remember last summer I went through a phase with blueberries because Sam bought this 5 pound box from Costco. As a result, I made Blueberry Crumb Muffins and Blueberry Pull Apart Bread. It’s one year later, the blueberries are back, so today I present to you all…

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BLUEBERRY CRUMB BARS. I’ve already made these four times in the past week. My friend T shared this recipe with me, and I love it! It’s a sweet custard with blueberries and a thick graham cracker crust. It’s a really light, refreshing, and easy dessert. I do like how this is LOADED with blueberries–this recipe uses 1.5 pounds of blueberries! Take advantage of berry season y’all, and make this!

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Blueberry Custard Pie Bars 
Makes one 9×13″ pan
Adapted From Butter Baking

Ingredients:

For the Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (28 squares)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the Custard Filling:
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups sour cream
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
500g blueberries (18 oz); I used fresh, you can use frozen

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F and line a 9×13 inch baking tray with parchment paper.

2. For the Crust: In a medium bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Pour the crumbs into the prepared pan and press into an even layer. Bake for 7 minutes; leave the oven on when done.

3. For the Filling: Beat the eggs until combined. Add the sugar; beat until foamy. Add the sour cream, flour, cornstarch, and salt, and beat until incorporated. Stir in the vanilla.

4. Fold in the blueberries. Pour the custard mixture over the crust and smooth out. The batter will be thin.

5. Bake until the center is set, about 30-40 minutes. Let cool, then refrigerate and cut into bars/squares. Enjoy!

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

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M&M Cookie Bars (and a P2 Missions update!)

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Three weeks ago, I was in Arizona for P2 Missions. Aaaanddd…I miss it already– the kids, the program, the company, the serving, and the list goes on and on. And it’s only been three weeks! It’s always hard for me to leave Arizona. This was my third trip, but each trip is significant in its own way. I always learn something new, and I always get to serve with new people and work in a different capacity. But one thing remains the same: I serve a great and gracious God! That is something to be thankful for.

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I made these cookie bars as thank you goodies to our Youth pastors, Mat and Eugene. It wasn’t much, but it was just my way of saying THANKS!–Thanks for shepherding the flock, for planning every aspect of the missions trip, for being patient with us, and for being our pastor. Anyways, I stumbled across the mini M&Ms while at Winco, and I think I may have put too much in the batter, but whatever. My cookie bars turned out to be 70% M&Ms, but who’s complaining? They were super chewy; I love cookies that use an extra egg yolk! They weren’t too sweet or greasy, and I’d definitely make them again. They’re perfect for your summer roadtrips because the M&Ms won’t melt all over the place because of the candy coating. I love the mini M&Ms! They just make everything 10x more fun =). Sigh, I’m such a kid. Oh well ; )

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M&M Cookie Bars
Makes one 9×13 pan
From Lovin’ From the Oven

Ingredients:

2 1/8 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 12 oz bag mini M&Ms, divided

1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Line a 9×13 inch pan with foil, with the foil hanging over the sides.

2. Mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until combined. Stir in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour, salt, and baking soda into the wet mixture until combined.

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3. Stir in 1 cup of mini M&Ms. Spread the batter into the lined pan, and smooth out the top either with the spatula or clean damp hands. Sprinkle the rest of the M&Ms on top and press in slightly.

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4. Bake until the bars are light golden brown, slightly firm to the touch, and edges start pulling away from the sides of the pan, about 25-30 minutes. Let them cool before cutting into bars.

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When people ask me how my trip was, it’s easy for me to just say “good.” But it was definitely more than that, because everything in my life is always good because God is good. I made a video just for my own personal memory box (and also because I was babysitting and had no wi-fi and nothing to do while the baby was napping), and I’m going to share it here with you all too. It’s not much, but I think it captures a good chunk of the things we did while on our missions trip. Enjoy!

P2 Missions 2013 from graceko on Vimeo.

Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy Reading, eating, and baking!!