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Classic Rhubarb Pie

IMG_1230I had a giant Rhubarb plant in my backyard growing up and no joke, my Dad and I would pull the stocks out and chew on them right there in the sun, I love that extra sour flavor! The sourness of rhubarb is what makes it so amazing in desserts, and this makes me kind of a purist, like, I don’t want strawberries trying to sweet up my sourness! Which isn’t to say I would turn down a rhubarb dessert in any form.  This is my #1 – the recipe came from my kitchen genius mother in law.  It comes out amazing EVERY TIME and it sets up perfectly so there is zero sog or ooze, and there’s plenty of tartness with the sweet to make it just a rhubarb lovers dream.

Crust:
Double traditional pie crust – ours is easy and delicious and you can find the recipe here.  9″ pie pan – (I made this one in a deep dish pie crust and used 5 heavy cups rhubarb)
I make a lattice with the top crust, but you can just lay it on with vents or put cut-outs in the top crust.  You could even do a streusel top!

Filling:
4 cups fresh chopped rhubarb
3/4 cups brown sugar
3/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
2 eggs well beaten
1-2 Tablespoons butter

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Roll half your double crust into a 9″ Pie pan (but a deep dish would work if add more rhubarb) Pinch the edge into a ridge and put in the fridge while you prepare your filling.
  3. Combine the rhubarb, sugars, flour, spices and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir it up to get the rhubarb covered.
  4. Pour the beaten eggs over the filling and spread out pieces of the butter on top.
  5. Roll out your other crust and either lattice it, do some cut outs, or just lay on top with some vents.  Pull the edge of the top crust into the ridge of the bottom crust so it’s one big ridge then crimp it how you would like.
  6. If you would like you can do an egg wash on the crust, but I just spray it with water and sprinkle some raw sugar.
  7. Put your pie in the hot oven for 25 minutes then take out and tent it with foil and reduce oven to 350. Bake at 350 for another 50-60 minutes – it seems like forever, but this is the trick to getting it to set up so perfectly every time and it caramelizes the rhubarb for incredible flavor.
  8. I think this pie is amazing on it’s own, but I’m also not mad at it a-la-mode with some fresh salted caramel.

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Whole Wheat Banana Bread..or Muffins

whole wheat banana muffins by twocarolines[/

This time of year I like to walk the neighborhood with baked sweets in hand because it’s beautiful outside and people really like you when you bring them treats like this whole wheat banana bread. It’s also fantastic as muffins- both ways shown below. This is my own recipe, it’s so easy and good, plus it’s a great way to sneak some flax and fiber into your kids breakfast.  Not that it’s entirely virtuous, but breads and muffins that don’t taste good are a waste of everyones time.  If you don’t have ground flax or wheat germ you can substitute with bran, or just a little more whole wheat, this recipe is very forgiving and it’s begging to be messed with so have at if you want to add some fruit, nuts, top it with raw sugar, or add some chocolate chips, which I do quite regularly because: obvious.

1/3 cup coconut oil (you can use vegetable oil or butter as well)

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

3 medium sized banana’s mashed up

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon whole wheat flax

2 tablespoons wheat germ

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

(if you’d like add 3/4 cup chocolate chips, nuts, blueberries, raisins, or whatever sounds good to you!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a loaf pan -I also make a parchment sling, or a muffin tin or use cupcake liners and spray just a bit in the bottom of each.

Mix the oil, sugar, and eggs one at a time and vanilla.  In a separate bowl mix up the flours, flax, wheat germ, baking soda and salt.  Add dry ingredients and banana in 3 batches taking turns until it’s all incorporated.  If you’re adding any extra’s do that last.

For bread fill loaf pan 3/4 full and bake about 55 minutes depending on the size of your loaf- start checking if a toothpick comes out with only a few crumbs around 45 minutes. If a darker top bothers you, you can foil tent it the last 20 minutes or so- just don’t take out until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

For muffins fill muffin tins about 3/4 full and bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  You can freeze what you don’t eat the first day – I wrap them individually in plastic wrap and freeze for up to a month.

Kristin’s Homemade Brownies

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Classic Homemade Brownies by twocarolines.com

Nothing satisfies a craving for chocolate baked sweets faster than a brownie mix, and they taste pretty good.  However, for about 2 minutes more effort you can have these chewy, chocolatey, corner crunchy, mind melting brownies using only one bowl and ingredients that are always on hand.  They are so simple, and so fantastically delicious.  My kitchen master sister in law Kristin dropped this knowledge on me and once I learned about them I never went back to the box.  They are truly so much better tasting and it’s fun to see the people you serve them to expect a “normal” box brownie then get wide eyes and freak out over how much more delicious these are. They are also wonderfully versatile so add all the chopped nuts, chocolate chips, powdered sugar, frosting etc. that you feel like, or just leave them as is because they put on quite a show all on their own.

1 cup butter (melted)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
optional – 3/4 cup chocolate chips, chopped walnuts or other additions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 9X13 pan.  Please note you can easily half this recipe in an 8×8 just use 2 eggs and do 1/4 plus 1/8 cocoa – it’s okay to approximate.
  2. Mix sugars and butter until very well combined then add eggs one at a time until totally incorporated.  Next add salt then pile the cocoa, flour and baking powder all on top of your mixture and whisk until smooth.  Last add your vanilla and any additions if using until uniform and spread into your pan.
  3. Bake for anywhere from 25-30 minutes depending on how done you like your brownies.  If you enjoy a gooeyer texture opt for a shorter bake time, but go all the way if you like your brownies more done.  Enjoy!
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kristins homemade brownies by twocarolines

Dark Chocolate Chunky Cookies

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dark chocolate chunky cookies by twocarolines.com

Like any rational human, I sometimes have a deep and urgent desire for something intensely chocolate.  At these times, a chocolate chip cookie is not going to cut it, not even a cake, I need a lightning bolt of chocolate flavor, and these cookies are the PERFECT remedy for intense chocolate emergencies of all kinds.  They are not only a super amazing chocolate experience, but they are the perfect texture, packed with chunky bits of nuts and chocolatey goodness.  I found the recipe years ago at my Mother-In-Law’s house, they had a very unappealing name in the book (chocolate chubbies) but I read the ingredients – which included a combined total of 24 ounces of chocolate! Plus, the intro bragged of the recipe being from a famous restaurant in SoHo so I copied it to make once I got home.  It took me forever to do it because there is some serious chocolate chopping involved, and the recipe has a few more steps than your average cookie, but don’t be intimidated, it’s easy to follow and so special when you’re done.  This makes 2 dozen cookies – next time I will half it, because having that many of these dark chocolate chunky cookies around is guaranteed to spell trouble, they are irresistible!

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes
9 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate finely chopped
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 large eggs (room temperature if possible)
1 1/4 cups sugar (they called for superfine, but normal sugar worked fine for me)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups (5 1/2 ounces) coarsely chopped pecans
1 1/4 cups (4 1/2 ounces) coarsely chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (or silpat, or baking spray if you have neither of those)
  2. Melt the butter and chopped chocolate (semi-sweet and unsweetened) either in a double boiler or with my preferred method of melting them slowly in a microwave, either using defrost, or in 20-30 second intervals until the chocolate chunks start to lose their shape and you can whisk them to a smooth texture – melt SLOWLY or your chocolate will burn.  Let the melted chocolate mixture cool slightly, about 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
  3. Mix (or sift if your fancy) the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.  Whip the eggs in the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until the eggs are foamy and lightly thickened, about 30 seconds.  Increase speed to high and gradually add the sugar, then the vanilla.  Whip until the eggs are very thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium and beat in the tepid chocolate, making sure it is completely incorporated.  Change to the paddle attachment and reduce the mixer speed to low.  Gradually add the flour mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in the chocolate chips, pecans and walnuts making sure the chunky ingredients are evenly distributed at the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Using a 2-inch diameter ice cream scoop, portion the batter onto the prepared pans, placing the cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake the cookies immediately–if you wait, they won’t be shiny after baking.  Bake about 15-18 minutes.  You can check done-ness by seeing if the when you lift a cookie from the pan the edge release easily, if they do, they’re done, even if they still don’t look baked at the top.  Cool and enjoy!
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dark chocolate chunky cookies by twocarolines.com

I wish I could remember the book I copied these out of to give them credit, if this looks familiar and you know where they came from let me know!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Chocolate Frosting

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chocolate zucchini cake by twocarolines.com

I’m well known for my love of cakes, so people often ask me my favorite, well HERE IT IS! Caroline’s world famous Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Chocolate Frosting.  I just deeply love and adore this cake.  It’s the dessert I crave the most often, there’s something about it, that really sends me.  Usually when I make it, I bring it directly to an event of some sort and never get a decent picture, it’s just that once it’s done, everyone wants to eat it so fast photos seem unimportant! I’m not ashamed to admit that this is a ‘doctor the mix’ cake, with a mix foundation that tastes better than many from scratch cakes, there are no ego’s allowed in my kitchen! The cake itself is soooooo rich and chocolatey, the zucchini makes it ridiculous moist.  And the frosting is a legit, dreamy dark chocolate buttercream just poppin off chocolate flavor like nobody’s business.  I like to put nuts on half my cake so nut haters can still enjoy but man alive does a pecan or walnut just belong on this beauty! I also adore this cake with a white sticky frosting, but if you make it that way you need to eat it day of, because the white sticky tends to break down after a day or so.  I’m so excited to share this and I hope you love it as much as I do!

Chocolate Zucchini cake:
1 package devils food cake mix (I use the pillsbury one and it always tastes great)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup oil
3 eggs
2 cups zucchini
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Chocolate buttercream frosting:
1/2 cup butter melted
3/4 cups cocoa
1/3 cup milk (or cream)
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1/2 cup or so walnuts or pecans (optional)

  1. Heat oven to 350.  Grease and line 2 9 inch round cake pans (or it bakes up beautifully in a 9×13 – just pay attention to doneness rather than bake times).
  2. In a large bowl blend cake mix, cinnamon, buttermilk, vanilla, oil, and eggs and beat for a few minutes.  Add zucchini and mix until thoroughly combined and then add chocolate chips.
  3. Distribute evenly into your cake pans and bake for about 22-25 minutes depending on your oven.  It’s done when a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Let cool before frosting.
  4. For the frosting, mix the butter and cocoa then add the milk, vanilla, salt and powdered sugar mixing on high until totally uniform and combined.  I use a cocoa mix with 1/3 special dark cocoa and the rest regular cocoa for an ultra decadent flavor.  Add more powdered sugar, or milk alternatively to get the desired texture.
  5. Cut off the top rounds on your cakes with a large bread knife then put the first one cut side down on a plate or cake stand.  Spread 1/3 of your frosting on that layer, then put your next cake on cut side down and spread the rest of your frosting, starting at the top and being careful to never touch your frosting spatula or knife to the cake itself but only on the frosting so you don’t pull crumbs.  Spread over the sides and around the edges.  Garnish with pecans or walnuts if you would like.
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chocolate zucchini cake by twocarolines.com

 

Grandma Ruth’s Cinnamon Rolls

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There is something so warm cozy and welcoming about a cinnamon roll, cinnamon rolls just want to love you, cinnamon rolls understand.  There are many versions of this beautiful pastry, but these are BY FAR the best I’ve ever tasted.  I was introduced to them from our sister Kristin who learned about them from our other sister Courtney who got the recipe from her husband Greg’s Grandma Ruth.  I never had the honor of meeting Grandma Ruth, but based on all accounts she was a character with a talent for cute one liners and cinnamon roll perfection.  The thing that makes these the most magical is….well, all of the things.  The dough is soft, but bouncy, not too sweet, and the filling has no strange flavors, it’s brown sugar and cinnamon, but perhaps the very most special ingredient is the really unique icing.  I’ve never met an icing like this one and PLEASE take the time to make it instead of wussing out on some easy sleazy pow sug and milk silliness.  You thicken it on the stove with sugar and flour then add the powdered sugar later.  It harden’s as it cools so it kind of closes in on your roll making it stay fresh longer, plus it allows you to easily freeze them individually and as Grandma Ruth used to say “zip ’em in the microphone for 20” to have a cinnamon that tastes like it just came out of the oven for weeks after the effort.  I have made a few adjustments, such as tripling the icing because a cinnamon roll without enough icing is truly tragic and I would never treat these sweet buns that way.  This is not the easiest thing on the planet to make but it’s not a finicky recipe, have fun with it, get your kids involved and don’t stress out.  They will turn out amazing and make for a magnificent morning guaranteed!

Rolls:
2 cups milk
2 rounded teaspoons salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (cut up for easy melting)
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
6 1/2-8 cups flour (enough to make your dough curl and handle easily – I usually use about 8)

Cinnamon Filling:
5 tablespoons butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 heaping tablespoon cinnamon

Frosting:
1 cup sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
6-7 cups powdered sugar

1. Scald the milk, either on the stove or I usually just warm in up in a large (4 cup capacity) pyrex for 3 minutes so it’s really hot.  Add salt, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup butter to the milk and let stand until sugar and butter are dissolved and milk is no longer hot but just warm, -give this a mix before adding to your yeast mixture.

2.  In a separate bowl (I do this in a stand mixer) put your yeast into the 1/2 cup warm water and let sit with the extra teaspoon sugar until dissolved and starting to puff.  Add the two beaten eggs.  Next add milk mixture.  Combine and slowly add flour starting a few cups at a time but once you get to 6 cups slow down and watch how it curls and handles.  When your dough is ready it will start to pull off the sides of the bowl and stick more to itself than it does to your fingers.  It will still be a bit tacky, you don’t want it dry, just to the point where you can handle it.  It does not require a long knead, I just kneaded with the dough hook for about 4-5 minutes until all incorporated.

3.  Work dough into a ball and put into a lightly greased bowl covered for about an hour – until doubled.  Punch down once doubled and let them come back again about 15 minutes.  Divide dough into two and roll on a floured surface into a large rectangle.  Try to even up your corners as best you can.

4.  For the cinnamon filling melt the butter and use half for each half of dough – about 2 and a half tablespoons butter for each.  Spread out on your rectangle evenly then mix up your brown sugar and cinnamon and use half of this mixture over the butter reaching almost to the ends all over the dough.  Starting on a short side roll your dough rectangle into a nice tight rope and do your best to seal it at the end by pinching the dough into itself.  With a nice sharp knife cut rolls from your rope in about 1 1/2 inch sections and place them on a cookie sheet with either a silpat baking mat, parchment, or greased with butter or oil.  I just cut as many as my recipe makes instead of trying to do a set amount.  In my last batch I was able to make 30 total rolls.  Repeat step 4 with the other half of the dough.

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rolled out dough for cinnamon buns by twocarolines.com

5.  Preheat oven to 350.  Let the rolls rise under tea towels or plastic wrap for a good 20-30 minutes until nice and puffy.  Bake one cookie sheet at time for about 12-14 minutes.  Mine were done at 13.  You want them lightly browned and gorgeously puffed up.

6.  Make frosting – please don’t be lazy and do an easier frosting, the frosting for these is so unique and spectacular – it’s what makes them so super special!  In a large saucepan put evaporated milk, sugar, salt and flour.  Mix on medium heat until mixture is bubbling and thick.  Stirring constantly add butter vanilla and powdered sugar.  You might add a bit more powdered sugar to get desired consistency, but this magical icing hardens as it cools so don’t stress out about it.  Once it’s done, I pour it through a strainer and push it with a rubber spatula to get all the lumps out so it’s nice and pretty smooth.  You can also sift your powdered sugar as you add it, but this is too messy for me.  You could also just leave the lumps in, they taste fine, but are somewhat unsightly and won’t do if you’re a dessert blogger like me.  When they are hot out of the oven put icing on each bun generously, there should be enough to cover all your rolls easily. You might have a little extra which is in my opinion better than not enough – if you don’t insist on gobs of frosting you can cut this in half, but I like to have plenty.

7.  We always freeze what we don’t eat the first day in individual sandwich bags then heat them for 25 seconds and they taste incredible.  This magic icing doesn’t stick to plastic so they are easy to freeze.

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Grandma Ruth’s Cinnamon Rolls by twocarolines.com

 

 

 

Homemade Bagels

homemade bagels
homemade bagels

Of all the white carbs I adore, legit, chewy, fresh bagels have my whole heart.  Maybe you’re thinking “why would I make them, when I can easily just buy them?” but you’ve been decieved!  It’s actually really difficult to buy a legitimate bagel these days – the distinction being a bagel that is actually boiled before it’s baked.  Even some large bagel chains have switched from poaching to steaming, which is so weak sauce!  In order to achieve that super chewy texture that makes a bagel so much more special than circle shaped bread, they need to take a little bath in boiling water, trust me, it’s a difference you can taste.  The cool bonus is that they are quite easy to make and don’t require any super secret ingredients.  And think of how impressed the people at your table will be when you bust out these beauties!  I cut, wrap in plastic, and freeze anything we don’t eat the first day then we eat them for weeks by throwing them in the microwave on defrost for a minute or so.  I’m way to much of a bagel purist to ever toast a bagel (BLASPHEME!) But I won’t judge you if you choose to warm yours up that way, this is assuming of course that you have any left after the first day….

6-7 cups white bread flour (I’ve used all purpose flour with great results, bread flour just makes a little smoother texture, it’s’ not essential)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon yeast – (I like this saf instant one that performs well mixed in with flour instead of needing to hang around in water)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons sugar for poaching in water (the recipe uses malt, but I’ve never found that and sugar works beautifully)

  1. Combine the flour, salt and yeast together in a large bowl.  Start with 6 cups flour but be ready to add 7 depending on how much your dough will take.  Add the sugar and oil to the water in a different bowl.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid, mixing to a dough with a spatula or wooden spoon.
  2. Knead the dough either by hand or with a dough hook, trying to add more flour as it kneads- you actually want a quite dry dough vs. normal bread and yes, your dough will be stiff, but knead for a good 10 minutes until you have a really smooth, elastic dough.  I use my kitchen-aid mixer with the dough hook and it takes about 11-12 minutes.
  3. Form the dough into a ball, and put it into an oiled bowl (I just use my kitchen-aid one) turning once to coat.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it to rise for about 1 hour.  It should be well risen, and when you poke it with your finger the impression should remain.
  4. Punch down the dough and give it a few kneads then divide it into 3 pieces.  Using your hands roll each piece into a rope then cut each rope into 5 fairly even pieces.  I line up my 3 ropes and cut with my pastry scraper that also helps me measure.
  5. Roll each piece into another rope and curl it around to form a ring.  Seal the ends by over-lapping them a little and pinching them together – I usually dip one side in a little water.
  6. At this point put a large pot of water to boil and once it’s boiling add your sugar.  Preheat your oven to 500 – I know it’s hot, but that’s what your bagels want!
  7. Set the bagel on baking sheets, cover with tea towels and leave for about 25 minutes by which time they should be puffy.
  8. To poach your bagels drop a couple at a time (I do 3-4 because I use a large pot) into the water and boil for only about 1 minute turning once.  I use a slotted spoon for this which works great.
  9. As you poach them put them back on your baking sheet that is either oiled or has a silpat on it.
  10. Bake for about 10 minutes or until they’re shiny and golden brown.  Let cool for a good 10 minutes, but they are incredible served warm.
  11. Note:  You are welcome to get creative with toppings etc.  I like to sprinkle a coarse salt/flour mixture on some and it’s also yummy to do a cinnamon sugar/butter combo on top as well.  If I have time I will even mix my last 5 with various things like chocolate chips, blueberries or cranberries before I boil them.  They always turn out tasty but some of my combinations make them look a little busted.  Do what sounds good to you!

Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson How To Be a Domestic Goddess

homemade bagel sandwich
homemade bagel sandwich