Walnut Pumpkin Bread

Need to put this on the holiday baking list!


Creamy, sweetened homemade ricotta cheese makes for a lighter, healthier delicious alternative to cream cheese in this cheesecake-like tart. In this version, slices of pears have been brushed with peach preserves prior to baking.

I was surprised how easy it was to make a ricotta-style cheese at home. My first batch of ricotta went into Jack’s moose cannelloni. A second batch was split between blintzes and a pear and ricotta tart. Infused with vanilla, the beaten egg and ricotta base was smooth, creamy and light. The sliced pears were brushed with a vanilla peach jam which added another subtle layer of flavor.

Pear and Ricotta Tart


  • pie crust
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 d’Anjou pears, halved, cored and sliced
  • 1 heaping tbsp of peach preserves


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Press pie dough into a 9-inch springform…

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Best Sticky Buns Recipe EVER – The Search is OVER!

Many years ago, I started this search and have been through several “promising” recipes, only to end up with dry and hard cinnamon buns.

I remember one such recipe where I discovered a mis-print in the cookbook (after the fact).  The recipe was supposed to require 2 teaspoons of yeast, but the cookbook print said 2 tablespoons!  I followed the cookbook thinking, well, that must be right…

OMG – have you ever seen the old “I LOVE LUCY” show where Lucy tries to bake bread and when she opens up the oven in her small kitchen the bread starts coming out of the oven until she is back up against the cabinet on the other side of the kitchen?  Well, that is what it felt like having used 2 tablespoons of yeast for those buns!  The dough just kept rising and rising and rising!  If I recall correctly, the recipe was supposed to make about a dozen cinnamon rolls, but I ended up with about 4 times that many – PLUS the size of the cinnamon rolls would put the “CINNABUN” rolls to shame!  Unfortunately, they were also hard as a rock…


And thus started my quest for the best ever sticky bun recipe.  🙂

I discovered this “Winning Recipe” in a summer edition of Bon Appetit.  It was part of the Master Sweet Dough series of recipes, where they provided the base sweet dough recipe and then 5 variations on different rolls and breads that you could make with it.

You start with the base sweet dough recipe.  when you have prepared the dough, it will look like this before placing it into a greased bowl to rise.

Smooth and silky, stretch nicely and be easily removed from the dough hook and the bowl, though it will be a bit sticky.

The Ultimate Sticky Buns (as published in Bon Appetit’)


  • 1 3/4 cups chopped pecans (about 8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted  butter
  • 3/4 cup (packed) dark brown  sugar (if you don’t have dark brown sugar – check out the recipe I posted on how to make it at home here)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream – I didn’t have cream in the house, so I just used regular 1% milk, which worked just fine.
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest  (optional) – while this is optional, I highly suggest that you use the orange zest – it added just a hint of flavor that I think really took these sticky buns “Over the TOP”!


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room  temperature
  • 1/2 cup (packed) dark brown  sugar
  • 3/4t easpoon ground  cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated  nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • All-purpose flour (for  dusting)
  • 1 large egg
  • Coarse sea salt (such as  Maldon)
  • Special Equipment:

    An 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan.  (alternatively, you can use a couple of round cake pans)  I made the buns in two cake pans, putting one of the in the freezer to make later.  When ready to make the second pan of buns, remove from the freezer the night before and allow to thaw and rise (covered with plastic) on the counter over night, they should be ready to bake by the time you get up in the morning.



  • Follow the Master Sweet Dough Recipe I posted here
  • Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in  size, 1–1 1/2 hours (or 2–2 1/2 hours if dough has been  refrigerated).
  • Chill dough for 2 hours.


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Spread out nuts on a rimmed baking  sheet. Toast until fragrant and slightly darkened, 10–12 minutes. Let cool  completely. Set 1 1/4 cups nuts aside for buns.
  • Melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir  in brown sugar, cream, honey, salt, and orange zest, if using. Bring to a boil,  reduce heat to medium, and simmer until glaze is golden brown and glossy, 3–4  minutes. Pour 1 cup of glaze into baking pan, tilting to coat bottom and sides.  Set aside remaining glaze. Sprinkle 1/2 cup toasted pecans over bottom of baking  pan and let cool.


  • Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, sugar,  cinnamon, nutmeg, and kosher salt in a medium bowl until light and fluffy, 2–3  minutes. Set filling aside.
  • Punch down dough; transfer to a floured work surface. Lightly  dust top with flour. Follow our step-by-step guide for assembling buns with filling and 3/4 cup  pecans. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill buns and  remaining glaze separately. Store remaining pecans airtight at room  temperature.
  • Loosely cover pan with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let  buns rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1  hour, or 1 1/2–2 hours if dough has been chilled overnight.
  • Arrange a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Whisk egg  with 1/2 tsp. water in a small bowl. Brush tops of buns with egg wash.
    Bake,  rotating pan halfway through and tenting with foil if browning too quickly,  until buns are golden brown, filling is bubbling, and an instant-read  thermometer inserted into center of buns registers 185°, about 50 minutes. Let  cool for 5 minutes. Spoon remaining glaze over. Sprinkle 1/2 cup pecans over.  Let cool in pan on a wire rack.
  • Lightly sprinkle sea salt over.  (I forgot about the sea salt, so don’t worry if you don’t want to use it, they are fabulous even without it)

    Buns, right out of the oven, before topping them with the sauce and more nuts

    Finished buns, topped with sauce and nuts.

    Once the buns have cooled for about 5 minutes and you have added the sauce and nuts on top, I suggest you immediately invert them onto a plate, otherwise the bottom glaze will harden and stick to the pan, making them difficult to remove, and leave all that yummy goo and nuts in the pan.
    Serve buns warm or at room  temperature

Zucchini Muffins

Here is the 4# zucchini…


So, I made those chocolate chip zucchini muffins, but I still had a lot of zucchini left… so I made these muffins too.

Zucchini Muffins
adopted from William Sonoma Muffins cookbook

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large eggs

1/2 oil (I use grapeseed oil)

1/4 cup lowquat jam (I made this jam, you can also use orange marmalade)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 # zucchini

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine all dry ingredients

Combine all wet ingredients.

Mix wet and dry ingredients together.

Add zucchini and nuts, mix to combine

Spoon into greased muffin cups (or lined cups with cupcake liners).

Preheat oven to 400*.

Bake 17 – 20 minutes until done.  Cool on rack 5 minutes, remove from muffin tin and let cool completely.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 muffins


Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

I will be out of town over the weekend, so I thought I would post a couple of muffin recipes that I made a month or so ago.

About a month ago I was the recipient of a 4# zucchini from the church garden.  Yes, 4#s!

Well, it just happened to also coinside with National Chocolate Chip Day, so I decided to give a recipe from allrecipes.com a try.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup shredded zucchini

1/4 cup minature chocolate chips

1/4 cup nuts

Combine all dry ingredients.  (except chocolate chips and nuts)

Combine all wet ingredients.

Mix wet and dry ingredients together.

Add chocolate chips and nuts and mix to combine.

Grease 12 muffin cups, or line with cupcake liners.

Preheat oven to 350*

Bake muffins 20-25 minutes, until lightly brown springy.  use toothpick to test doneness.

cool on wire rack 5 minutes, remove from muffin tin and let cool completely.  Serve warm or at room temperature.


Peach Melba Muffins

I chose this recipe for yesterday’s muffins because I still had some red raspberries left in the feezer I wanted to use.

The original recipe called for two fresh peaches chopped.  I didn’t have any peaches but I did have some peach preserves in the fridgerator that I wanted to use up as well.  The recipe called for the peaches to be added to the batter, but since I was using preserves, I opted to mix that with the raspberries.  In retrospect, I think it would have been fine to put the preserves in the batter instead of with the raspberries, it would help to make the muffin a bit more moist.  These still turned out great, and because I put the preserves with the raspberries, I had some of the filling left over, so you can always spoon a bit of the raspberry/peach preserves on the muffins if you want more fruit.  🙂

Peach Melba Muffins
 adopted from the Williams-Sonoma Muffins cookbook

1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries (unthawed)

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon berry liquer such as Chambord or raspberry vinegar (I happen to have Chambord on hand as well – a definite plus – I really like that liquer)

2 cups all purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

6 tablespoons melted butter

1 cup milk

1 cup peach preserves

1/2 cup chopped almonds (I had whole almonds on hand so I chopped them, you could use slivered almonds – that is what the original recipe called for)

Preheat oven to 375*

Grease muffin tin, or line with cupcake liners

Toss raspberries with liqueur and peach preserves and set aside.

Mix all dry ingredients together in one bowl.

In another bowl mix all wet ingredients together (except the raspberry mixture).

Mix wet and dry ingredients together, just until evenly moistened. no more than 15 – 20 strokes.  batter will be lumpy

Spoon batter into muffin tin cups about 1/2 way.  Add a bit of the raspberry mixture and top with more batter to fill the cup.  Sprinkle with almond pieces.

Bake until golden brown, dry and springy to the touch.  toothpick inserted in center should come out clean.  25 – 20 minutes.

Cool in muffin tin on wire rack for 5 minutes or so, remove and let cool completely on wire rack.  Serv warm or at room temperature with butter, or left over raspberry mixture.

Makes 12 muffins.

Mexican Panzanella (Leftover Cornbread and Black Bean Salad)

Mexican Panzanella (Leftover Cornbread and Black Bean Salad).

via Mexican Panzanella (Leftover Cornbread and Black Bean Salad).

My blogging friend Justa keeps coming up with some fantastic summer salads that I just have to share!  Hope you enjoy and get some inspiration from her blog posts like I do!

Blackberry/Red Raspberry Muffins

Today’s muffin of choice is a delicious blackberry muffin recipe.  Why did I choose this recipe?  Well, I have some frozen blackberries in the freezer that I need to use.  🙂

In my usual fashion, this recipe will be tweaked a bit.  1) I don’t think I have enough blackberries that the recipe calls for, and 2) I have some red raspberries that I need to use up as well. So… these muffins will be a combination of black and red berries.  I also thought I had some lemon zest in the freezer that I could use, but what I found was orange zest, so I just used that.  End result, a very interesting and yummy muffin!

My version is a variation on the Blackberry Muffin recipe found in the Williams-Sonoma Muffins cookbook.

Blackberry / Raspberry Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

grated lemon zest from orange (original recipe called for lemon zest, but I didn’t have a lemon, or any zest, so I used that I had – orange zest)

1 large egg

5 Tablespoons unsalted and melted butter

1 cup buttermilk

2 cups fresh berries or 2 1/2 cups frozen unsweetened berries, FROZEN

If you do not have buttermilk, you can make “sour milk” at home instead of spending money on buying it and then not using it by the use by date.  Take 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup.  Add milk to make 1 cup.  let sit for 15 minutes. Stir and use in place of store-bought buttermilk.  I do this a lot, and it saves me time (travel to the store) and $$ as well.

Preheat oven to 375*

Line 12 cup muffin tins with cupcake liners, or spray with cooking spray or grease with butter.

Stir together all dry ingredients in one bowl (including lemon zest).

In another bowl whisk together all wet ingredients (except berries).

Mix to incorporate until all dry ingredients are wet.  Do not overmix.  Batter will be lumpy.

Fold in berries to evenly distribute through batter. Taking care not to break the berries.

Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling to a bit above the rim.  Bake until golden brown, dry and springy to the touch.  25-30 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin should come out clean.

Cool in muffin tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove and completely cool on wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

What is your favorite berry filled muffin?

Sour Cherry Muffins

June 3rd, day 2 of “A Muffin A Day”.  Today’s muffin – Sour Cherry Muffins.

I took my inspiration for this muffin from the Williams-Sonoma Muffin cookbook.

I have heard a lot about substituting honey for sugar in recipes, but have never tried it before, so today, for this recipe, I decided to do a little research to understand how to do the substitution, and give it a try.  I would say, I think it was a success.

Since honey is sweeter than sugar, you need to use 25% less honey in recipes, and add about 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (to neutralize the acidity of the honey).  I also noted in my research that if you are more than 2 cups of sugar, you should reduce the amount of honey by 33%.

The recipe in the cookbook included a coconut streusel; but I don’t like coconut, so instead I just sprinkled the muffins with a bit of granulated sugar before popping them in the oven.

In addition to substituting honey for the sugar, I also added about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, next time I would probably leave it out. They will be just as good with or without it.

Using honey instead of sugar gives the muffins an interesting flavor, I like it, but then I love honey.  🙂

The recipe calls for straining the cherries, and letting them “dry out” a bit, next time I would just scoop them from the container and leave a bit of the “sauce/filling” as I think that would add more cherry flavor to them.

Here is my version of the recipe, as I made them today.

Sour Cherry Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup honey (substituted for the 1/2 cup sugar in the original recipe)

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 large eggs

1 cup milk (I used 1%)

can/jar of tart red cherry pie filling, drained, and tried on paper towels

Preheat oven to 350* (If using sugar, temp is 375* )

line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cupcake/muffin liners

Stir together all dry ingredients

in a separate bowl, stir together all wet ingredients, except cherries

Make well in dry ingredients and add wet ingredients.  Mix until well incorporated and smooth.

Spoon batter into each muffin tin, only filling 1/3 of the way.  Add several cherries to each muffin, then spoon a little more batter over cherries, add a few more cherries and spoon batter over them, so that muffin tins are filled to the top.  Sprinkle with a bit of granulated sugar, or raw sugar if you prefer the larger grains.

Bake until golden, dry, and springy to the touch, 20 – 25 minutes.  cool 10 minutes on a wire rack, remove muffins and cool completely on wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 muffins.

Cherry Almond Focaccia Bread

I came across a recipe for “Sweet Bread” in a recent Bon Appettit’ magazine and decided to give making the various recipes that they had listed along with the base recipe a try.  One of them was Cherry-Almond Focaccia Bread.

It turned out pretty good, even though I bought the wrong type of cherries (tart cherry pie filling rather than just canned sour cherries).  It did cut down on the work I needed to do for the recipe, since I didn’t need to make the cherry sauce, but instead just used the filling “sauce”.  It turned out yummy!

So, the following is MY version of the recipe (shortened by using the pie filling tart cherries…)

Cherry – Almond Focaccia

Master Sweet Dough (See separate post for this recipe)

3 Tbsp EVOO

2 cups drained pitted tart cherry pie filling (one can is plenty)

3/4 cups sliced almonds (with or without skins)

Punch down dough, coat a large rimmed baking sheet with 1 tbsp oil. Press dough evenly into pan, leaving 1 1/2 inch border.  Loosely cover with plastic wrap or kitchen towel, let rise in warm, draft free place until puffed and doubled in size (45 – 50 min).

Arrange rack in middle of oven, and preheat to 400*.

Using fingertips, press dimples all over dough surface.  Drizzle dough with remaining 2 tbsp oil. Scatter cherries over dough, pressing gently into dough.  Drizzle/spread filling sauce/syrup over dough, allowing to pool into nooks and crannies.  Sprinkle all over with almonds.

Let rise until dough is doubled in size (15 – 20 min).

Bake until focaccia is golden brown. 20 – 25 min. Let cool in pan on wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temp.

Master Sweet Dough

I came across this recipe in a Bon Appettit magazine.  It is used for several different recipes, and I am going to add to those they provided using this as the base, with some of my own ideas in the future.

Master Sweet Dough

2/3 cup milk (I used 1%)

5 Tbsp sugar divided

1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast

2 large eggs, room temp

2 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1″ pieces, plus 1/2 tbsp melted (or cooking spray)

heat milk over medium heat or in microwave until 110 – 115*

Transfer to 2 cup measuring cup, stir in 1 tbsp sugar. Sprinkle with yeast and whisk to blend.  Let sit until yeast is foamy. Add eggs and whisk until smooth.

Combine remaining 4 tbsp sugar, flour and salt in a standing mixer bowl fitted w a dough hook.  Add milk mixture.  With mixer running, add butter 1 tbsp at a time, blending well between additions.  Mix on Medium speed for 1 minute.  Kneed on medium – high speed until dough is soft and silky, about 5 minutes.

Brush medium bowl with some melted butter (or spray with cooking spray), place dough in bowl and brush with remaining butter (or use cooking spray).  Cover with plastic wrap.  let dough rise in a warm draft free place until doubhled in size (1  1/2 hours or so).

DO AHEAD: can make dough a day ahead of time.  Cover with plastic and chill dough.  remove from fridge and let rise 2 – 2 1/2 hours) until doubled. Proceed with your sweet dough baking recipe.


This dough is used in several different recipes that I will be posting in the near future.