Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Elvis Presley Lamingtons

It's Lamington time again!

And for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, it's when Mr. P. hosts the Reinvent the Lamington Contest on his blog Delicious, Delicious, Delicious. Lamingtons are an Australian dessert consisting of squares of cake with a jam filling covered in chocolate and shredded coconut. Last year, I submitted three entries. You can check them out here and here. My S'Mores Lamingtons actually placed 2nd.

This year, I had the greatest of plans. It was going to be a veritable Lamington extravaganza. I had ideas for at least four different Lamington creations. But alas, I procrastinated, and then life just got in the way. To illustrate—the reason I'm typing this at 10 p.m. just two hours before the deadline is that I spent the entire evening involved with the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. (Yes, I am Master o' the Cubs.) Unfortunately, only one of my ideas made it to fruition. It's sad, I know, but at least I've got some ideas ready to go for next year if Mr. P decides to once again hold the competition.

So without further ado, I give you (drum roll please)...


My inspiration for this Lamington was Elvis' favorite sandwich, which contains three of my favorite flavors together in one—peanut butter, banana, and bacon. 

Now wait!

Just stop right there, and wipe that look of disgust off your face.

Do NOT knock it till you've tried it.

You're probably thinking, "Hmm. Banana and peanut butter—I'm OK with that. But bacon? No way. That's too weird!" Well, just think of it this way. You know how adding sea salt to sweet desserts like caramels and brownies is all the rage? (If you didn't know that, just trust me. It is.) The bacon is just a little bit of salty goodness that balances out the sweetness and adds an interesting smokiness.

For these Lamingtons, I made a banana pound cake for the cake part. The filling is a peanut butter frosting. I then dipped the squares in chocolate and sprinkled bacon pieces on top.

In my opinion, Elvis was really onto something, and these Elvis inspired Lamingtons turned out really well. I brought them into work to use my students and coworkers as guinea pigs. I admit I got some skeptical looks, but everyone gave the Lamingtons a fair chance. In the end, everyone liked them. Most were pleasantly surprised.

I found the Elvis Lamingtons quite addicting. I ended up eating too many of them, which is not good. I'd better be careful, or I'm starting to look like Elvis in his later years.

Oh, and by the way, this banana pound cake recipe is fantastic by itself.

If you're wondering what the Kewpie doll is doing in the photo, it was my 2nd place prize for last year's Lamington contest. A little strange, I know, but still fun. It comes from Japan and arrived in a sealed box where you don't know what kind of Kewpie is inside—kind of like Cracker Jacks or Kinder eggs. I got the deer Kewpie from the animal collection. Kewpie dolls and other assorted figurines show up in Mr. P's blog posts, so I thought I'd include mine in the photo as a shout out to Mr. P to say thanks for holding the competition. It was a lot of fun coming up with these Lamingtons.

So, with 10 minutes to go till midnight. I'm going to hit the publish button and go to bed.

Good night.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nauvoo Gingerbread Cookies

Here is another recipe I made over the Christmas holidays. It comes from the Scovil Bakery in Nauvoo, IL, which was originally built in the 1840's by Mormon pioneers. If you tour the rebuilt bakery, you will be rewarded at the end with samples of their world famous gingerbread cookies.

Truth be told, I have never been a fan of gingerbread. The gingerbread cookies I've tried have always been hard and over-spiced for my taste. However, this recipe is the exact opposite. The cookies are nice and soft, and the flavor is perfect. In fact, I have fallen in love with this recipe and think it makes the best gingerbread cookies on the planet. Not only do they freeze well, but they seem to even get better after they've been in the freezer for a while. 

This past Christmas, I made batch after batch for parties and to give to neighbors. As proof of the wonderfulness of these cookies, I've been asked for the recipe multiple times. Here are some Y cookies I made for a student party at work.

Go Cougars!
I also used this recipe for our annual Gingerbread House Extravaganza we celebrate with some friends. This may be one case where a hard-as-rock gingerbread recipe might work better. Or, I would at least advise baking the house pieces a little longer. We had a few problems this year, but we didn't mind eating the broken pieces. And, I was pretty impressed with our creation.

Our gingerbread house masterpiece
And now, for the big finale! After the holidays were over, we wondered what to do with our house. No one was really interested in eating it. As good as this recipe is, it does not stay nice and soft after sitting out as a Christmas decoration for almost a month. Here is what we came up with. It's now our new family holiday tradition.

Take a look.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Candied Orange Peel

Yes, I'm still playing catch up. I think I have a backlog of about five recipes waiting to be written up and posted. Since the pace of life recently has returned somewhat to normal, I have high hopes. But please, don't hold your breath. 

As a gift, Katie received Good Housekeepking's A Very Merry Christmas Cookbook. So far, we've tried several of the recipes and have been very impressed. And, there is still a lot more recipes we want to give a try. 

While thumbing through the cookbook I was immediately drawn to a photo of candied orange peel. The beautiful orange color was bright and cheerful. However, I had no intention of making the recipe because I didn't think I liked candied fruit. My only experience with candied fruit has been in fruitcake, and I'm NOT a fan. In fact, I rarely like any kind of little fruit pieces baked in something, especially raisins.*

A Threadless T-shirt—might have to go on next year's Christmas wish list.
Well somehow just before the holidays, we had amassed a huge pile of oranges, and no one was eating them. I stared at them on the counter wondering what to do with all of them. It was then I remembered the recipe for the candied orange peel. Along with the oranges, we had all the ingredients in the house (sugar and water). It was Saturday afternoon, and I had a few free hours, so I thought I'd give it a try. I was mainly making it for Katie because I figured neither I nor the kids would like it.

Just as I was finishing up, Katie and the kids came home. I got some pretty strange looks, especially from Katie who was wondering what I was up to. Although you're supposed to let the peel sit for 12 hours before eating, I gave everyone a taste. We were all amazed at how incredibly good the candied orange peel was. In fact, it wasn't long before that batch was gone, and I was making another. They can be addictive.

I decided to make candied orange peel as part of the Christmas culinary gifts I hand out to coworkers, and it was a hit.

This recipe is extremely easy and is one I'm sure our family will continue to make. However, I still doubt if I'll be chopping it up to bake in anything. That's still gross. But alone? Fantastic!

 *I did use the word "rarely" because dried cranberries in scones is one exception.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Caramel Cake with Browned Butter Frosting

One of the students I work with, Jeff, had a birthday a couple of months ago. Of course, I made a cake, and I even started a blog post back then with the recipe. However, I got a distracted and never got back to it. I guess you could really call that getting totally sidetracked. Oh, this poor neglected blog.

Well, today was a holiday, and I spent pretty much the entire day doing absolutely nothing. I was feeling slightly guilty and thought before I go to bed I wanted to do at least one productive thing. It was then I looked over at the computer and remembered this unfinished post.

Back on the day before Jeff's birthday, I remember thinking I wanted to try something other than chocolate. Now, that seems so strange to think I wasn't in the mood for chocolate, but oh well. I wondered if there was such a thing as a caramel cake. I looked through all my cookbooks to no avail. Next, I went online, and I found a caramel cake recipe from Maya Angelou's cookbook. As I read through the recipe, I noticed that it had the same browned butter frosting that goes on my favorite cookie in the world, sour cream cookies with browned butter frosting.  I seriously cannot control myself when these cookies are in vicinity. If Maya Angelou's cake might be in any way like these cookies, I thought should give it a try.

Sour cream cookies with browned butter frosting—If it weren't so late and I wouldn't have to go to the store to pick up some sour cream, I'd make me a batch right now. And, eat most of them.

The recipe calls for caramel syrup in the batter. You could make your own, but that was more trouble than I wanted, so I just went with a store bought jar of Mrs. Richardson's. The cake doesn't have a real strong caramel flavor, but it is really good. 

The cake was a big hit at the office, and it did taste a lot like the cookies. However, I must warn you. This cake is rather sweet and is best enjoyed in small slices—and not the big ol' honkin' pieces we Americans tend to usually serve.

Happy birthday, Jeff! Hope it was a good one.

The birthday boy with his cake

And, here we have Jeff. Why the goofy look? He "thinks" he's impersonating me. Personally, I don't get it and think he looks rather silly. I'm sure I have never been photographed making such a silly face with a dessert. (Is there such a thing as a sarcasm emoticon?)