Friday, April 24, 2020

Quarantine Baking Nespresso Toasted Pecan Bread

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A match made in heaven
Ahhh 2020, I am pretty much over you.  I have been absent from my blog but I am back.  January started as usual.  I was cleaning and organizing, I got the worst cold, and then I got the worst phone call.  My mom fell in Florida and as happens with the elderly (although I never considered her elderly) she broke her hip, her arm, and then went into kidney failure.  I can't retell this chapter, but I lost my sweet mom who was really the center of my day, everyday.  We talked a minimum of once a day.  I sure hope she can still hear me, because my conversations haven't stopped.  I now call my dad everyday, and he is kind of loving it, which makes my heart soar. 


There were rumblings of COVID during the January and February trips back and forth to Florida.  And honestly when the shutdown came, I was ready to hide in my house.  Well, now I want out!!!!  In the meantime, I have been baking, and sewing and quilting, and walking!!!   I'm kind of a recluse anyway, so no issues for us.  I sure miss Pure Barre and golf....I do need those!

It's really not a bread. It's cake baked in a loaf pan!

Last week I was scrolling through Instagram and Nesporesso had a little photo of its amazing coffee and this bread, with frosting and pecans.  Everyone, including me wanted that recipe! Advertising works....I ordered another 80 capsules for my machine and I made the closest version to that beautiful bread I could.  I have every church cookbook from my mom and found many pecan breads within.  I did a little tweaking and I think I found a winner!!!

The ad that made this happen!

My icing is much whiter than the Nespresso bread!

Pecan Bread With Toasted Pecans and Browned Butter Icing

Makes 2 loaves 5x9 pans

Spray the pans liberally with Baker's Joy and preheat oven to 350.  I bake convection so I preheat to 330. 

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. 

In a large skillet over medium heat, toast 1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans.  I dump into a dry cast iron pan and shake around until I smell them toasting.  Keep an eye on them so they don't burn.  Turn off the heat. 

In a stand mixer with the flat paddle, mix

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter at room temp
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add one at a time mixing each in,

3 eggs
and add
1 cup plain full fat Greek yogurt (I use Fage 5%)

Add dry ingredients and when fully mixed add the warm pecans.  Divide among the 2 loaf pans, it will rise significantly when it bakes!!

Bake.  I set timer for 20 min and move around in the oven.  Set timer another 20.  If the inside is still gooey, drop the heat 10 degrees and give it another 10.  It should be cooked through.  Cool on a rack before popping out of the tins. 

As soon as the bread is out of the oven, (let's be honest, it's a cake!!!) brown your butter.

6 Tablespoons butter (I like salted for icing)

I use a small saucepan, you can use a skillet, just make sure its stainless steel and not dark.  You want to see it brown so it doesn't get overdone!!!  I put the pan on med high heat and when it starts to bubble, slide off heat and swirl until it stops bubbling. Again, put on heat until it bubbles, slide off and swirl.  You will be able to smell that amazing browning happening (think caramel) and see small specks on the bottom of pan.  It should be golden, not dark. You can always cook longer but if you burn it, you have to start over! 

Transfer to a small dish and put in fridge while the bread cools. 

pinch of salt if using unsalted butter
1 cup to 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
3 Tablespoons milk (if you want decadence use evaporated milk!!!)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla 

When the bread is cooled and the butter is not warm, but not hard as a rock, whip butter in a mixer adding salt (optional) vanilla, and add the confectioners sugar 1/4 cup at a time until icing is spreadable and smooth.  Ice the cakes, decorate if you like!
Perfect for 3 o'clock Nespresso during quarantine or anytime!  What are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!

Monday, December 9, 2019

A Christmas Engagement

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Every once in awhile I made a platter of cookies that even I am like, Wow!  I did that!  This is one of those platters.  My directions were Christmas but not Christmas green, and engagement but not "she said yes" cookies as they were engaged a few weeks ago. I know this friend well, and I knew this would be a pretty dressed up party (no blue jeans here), so the cookies needed to be elegant as well.

We decided on gold accents, which I just love with red and sage.  I hand painted the rings because I find gold airbrush to be the strangest color!!  I love some sugar crystals to add a little texture to the platter, and of course a diamond should sparkle.  There might be a dash of disco dust on there.

 I love the way the platters came together.  They originally wanted to do their own platters which I understand.  It's the South, we use Grandma's sterling and fine antique crystal, but I told them I would fill 2, 18" platters and it is doubtful they have anything that could accomodate 5 dozen cookies.  I know people are turned off by disposable plastic, but I am pretty adamant about making the platter myself. I have lots of practice!

A few days before pick up, she texted me and asked if I could add a dozen cookies.  Hmmm.  I usually have some basic blanks, and I had these fat stars.  I just love the Merry Me on them!!! They were a sweet addition, get it, sweet addition?  Yep. 

 I knew she was planning on doing white flowers, and I assumed there'd be poinsettias.  I found a tutorial from Sugarbelle on making poinsettias.  I didn't do so well.  I had the tip, but I made these giant round cookies thinking I could fill it with one poinsettia.  That didn't work.  I made dozens of these smaller poinsettias on parchment paper and put 3 on a round cookie, but I know I will use them all the season.  I improvised and I really love my very organic poinsettias!  I also loved the white background for my poinsettias where I sprinkled a little gold shimmer on the white, I just loved the way everything sparkled!  The hearts were inspired by Clough'd 9 cookies, Amy is super talented.  My pine boughs need a little refining.....

So there you have it.  Another Christmas first in the books.  Ho, ho, ho....what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!!!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Water Color Christmas Cookies

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Looks like a famous Italian plate, yes? They agreed!

Regards! Merry Christmas!  Or something like that.  We always say Auguri!
 You know that old wisdom about how you'll never see anyone you know at Target unless you go without a shower?  I swear...I have the best interactions with friends and customers straight out of Pure Barre.  That means leggings, t-shirt, fleece, likely a baseball cap, (no makeup) not the most professional appearance!  So there I was a high end gift shop I love, buying a gift, and I chose this little collectible that was a gingerbread girl, and told the gal at the register, "Since I'm the cookie girl she will always know I gave this to her!" She responded with "Cookies??"  and off we went!

So fun to paint these!

The store was hosting a signing by an artist with Vietri, a gorgeous Italian dish ware company.  She wondered if I could do Italian cookies.  Me?  So we chatted and decided I would make her some amazing biscotti, very traditional, and some sugar cookies.  I showed her the cookies I made for Guess and Company,  and she loved the big platter full of Christmas.  She took me to the Vietri display and we looked at the Santas and the trees and she asked if I could do any of those.  I was a little apprehensive copying their work, but she said they will love it.  So I went home and went to work!

I had never watercolored on a cookie before, and it was a very satisfying experience.  I loved it, and I wasn't really bad at it! Who knew??? I loved looking at all of their pieces and deciding how to put this all together.  I also shopped while I worked, and when I delivered the platter, I had a good order of Vietri for me and my girls. Ho, Ho, Ho!!!    I also watched the artist, loved listening to him speak Italian and when I met him he complimented me on the cookies and said I was a true artist!!!  That is high praise!  I went home with an amazing sense of accomplishment. 

How fortuitous the Italian flag is Christmas colors!

The lesson here is that art, whether it is royal icing or acrylics, must evolve.  Certainly I am much better than my first attempt at faces... want a good chuckle?  Check out these volleyball players!  I was very apprehensive attempting these Santas and surprised myself.  It was a confidence booster and it really is what I needed to give me that push to branch out a little.  Who knows what next year will bring, new cookie ideas, new creative outlets, more dishes?   We shall see....So what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake...and paint!!