Bakery visit–Holland Michigan

A few months ago, we visited the lovely town of Holland Michigan.  The city is truly inviting with a downtown filled with cute shops, boutiques, and amazing restaurants. And there is no excuse not to visit during the winter months, as the sidewalks and streets are heated to remove all snow and ice!  Amazing!

On our visit, we were especially impressed with the Alpen Rose Bakery. I love to visit local small town coffee shops and bakeries, where I often find some of the best cakes, cookies and pastries. Alpen Rose was not only a great place to eat, but had a great selection of European treats.  The decor is inspired by the Alpine culture and enviroment and was casual and very inviting.  We visited the bakery one afternoon, and then returned for breakfast the next morning.

Some of the treats featured at this cute bakery included muffins, scones, fruit turnovers, cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, cookies, bars and brownies, and of course cakes and tortes. If you are near Grand Rapids, please don’t forget to drive a few more miles to Holland and stop by the Alpen Rose. I can’t wait to visit again.

  

Bavarian Apple Torte

Just like others, I have recipes that I have made for my family for years. This one, in particular, I have made dozens of times over the past 30 years.  It is a classic.  I obtained the recipe from a friend of mine from the very first garden club I had ever joined, back in 1979.  To say that the recipe is delicious is an understatement.  It has always been well received from anyone I have ever served.  Two keys to success to this recipe are: using a 9 inch non-stick springform pan, along with slicing the apples quite thin.

Here is how I made this recipe–gather these ingredients for the different steps:  1/2 cup softened butter, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, 8 ounces light cream cheese/softened, 1 egg, 4 cups very thinly sliced apples, 1/4 cup sliced almonds, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/3 cup sugar.

Preheat the oven to very hot–450 degrees.  In a stand mixer, cream butter, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla.  Stir in flour until a soft dough is formed.  Press this dough in the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan–about 1 inch high on the sides of the pan.

Next, beat the cream cheese and 1/4 cup sugar with an electric mixer.  Add egg and vanilla and pour onto the crust in the pan.

Then, combine the apples, cinnamon and remaining sugar in a large bowl.  Layer over the cream cheese mixture.  Sprinkle the almonds on the top.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Then, LOWER the oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake another 20-25 minutes until done.  Cool before removing from the pan.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.  Makes 6-8 servings. Other options for serving include–add whipped cream, a scoop of vanilla ice cream or even a drizzle of caramel sauce.

Twice Baked Potatoes

Instead of the typical baked potato, or even hasselback potato, I decided to try a recipe for twice baked potatoes. I adapted the recipe to make it my own, and served this with a classic spiral ham with champagne glaze. It was very tasty and a big hit with my small family. This is a recipe that can be changed based on your own family’s tastes and preferences.  The recipe can also be increased based on the number of guests at your table.

Here is how I made this recipe–gather these ingredients:  3 baking potatoes, 1 cup shredded cheddar, 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 cup light sour cream, 4 chopped green onions, 1/4 cup soft margarine, 2 cooked and chopped bacon strips (optional)

Next, pierce the skins of the baking potatoes with a knife.  Bake at 425 degrees for 70 minutes.  Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise, and scoop out the pulp into a small bowl. Mash the potatoes and add salt and pepper to taste, 1/4 cup softened margarine and 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese.  Mix well and then add milk and beat until fluffy.  Stir in the sour cream and add 1/2 of the green onions.  Spoon the mixture into a ceramic pie plate that has been prepared with baking spray.  Sprinkle the last of the cheddar cheese and onions on top of the dish.  Top with chopped cooked bacon if desired.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 25 minutes.

Baked pears

Throughout the winter months, I enjoy baked fruit.  First of all, I really enjoy a nice breakfast during the coldest of winter weather.  Also, I think warmed fruit is a nice option and great alternative to a cold fruit platter.  I like to serve cold fruit during the warmer months instead.

So, here is another basic recipe for baked fruit. This year, I made this recipe for baked pears on Christmas day for a breakfast side dish.  It was very tasty. The recipe can be increased based on the number of guests expected at your meal.

Gather these ingredients:  2-4 pears-peeled and cored, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, 2 tablespoons margarine, and 1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a baking dish with cooking spray.  Place the pear halves and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.

In a small bowl, mix the margarine and brown sugar together.Spread the mixture over the pears.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Just before serving, add blackberries if desired.  Serve warm.

 

 

Mocha Chip Meringues

One of my favorite cookies happens to be a meringue.  We loved the taste of these cookies over the Christmas holiday this year.  I used a Martha Stewart recipe and as every one of her recipes, it worked perfectly. These cookies were crispy, but soft inside the center of the cookie.  The chocolate taste was just perfect and not overpowering.  I opted to use mini chocolate chips in the recipe, instead of the full size chips.  I found the substitute to be perfect and a nice improvement to her recommendations.

How to make the mocha chip meringues–gather these ingredients: 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 3 egg whites at room temperature, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon espresso powder, 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees with two racks divided within the oven.  Add parchment paper or silpat mats to the cookie sheets.  In a small bowl, mix sugar and cornstarch.

In an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until frothy on medium speed.  Then add sugar mixture slowly, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat about 6-8 minutes until very stiff. I used my stand mixer with the whipping whisk.  Add espresso powder and cocoa next.  Fold in chocolate chips at the end with a spatula.

Drop onto cookie sheets, one tablespoon at a time.  Bake 40 minutes.  Cool for 20 minutes before removing from cookies sheets.  Great recipe and these cookies are light and delicious.

Cherry Pistachio Shortbread cookies

Every Christmas I like to try at least one new cookie recipe, and this year I found a recipe in Yankee Magazine which was especially delicious.  My cookie tray looked quite festive with the red and green colors that this cookie contains. I did chill the dough overnight and baked them the next day.

Here are the ingredients to make the cookies:  2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 egg, separated, 2 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup chopped pistachio nuts, chopped red candied cherries, 1/3 cup white sanding sugar.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and salt.  Beat in the egg yolk and mix.  Add flour and pistachios. Blend until combined. Remove dough from the mixer, and hand mix in the cherries.  Divide the dough into 2 1/2 logs about 12 inches long.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight on a sheet pan.

  

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using parchment paper or silpat mats, cover the baking sheets.  Brush the egg white over the logs after unwrapping and place on waxed paper.  Sprinkle the coarse sugar over the logs and slice the cookies. Place on the baking sheets and bake 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned.

Cool and serve.  These cookies can be frozen and kept to serve at a later time.

Snowman Chocolate Bark

From another food blogger (theDecoratedCookie.com) comes this great idea for snowman chocolate bark.  The directions were very easy to follow.  And, the result is very cute. Just perfect for the winter season, especially for children of all ages.

Very few ingredients are needed. To make the bark, I used these ingredients: 16 ounces of Ghirardelli dark chocolate melts, 1 tablespoon shortening, Ghirardelli white candy melts, pretzel sticks, white sprinkles and decors, black and orange icing.

Place a silpat mat on a baking sheet.  Melt dark chocolate chips and shortening in the microwave following the directions on the candy bag.  Spread on the silpat mat to fill as much of the tray as possible.  Arrange the white candy melts into snowmen.  Add the broken pretzel sticks for the arms.  Sprinkle the white sprinkles and decor around the bark.  Decorate the snowman heads with the black and orange icing.

Place the baking tray in the refrigerator to set the bark for at least 30-45 minutes.  At that time, the bark can be removed and broken into segments for serving.  Individual bark pieces could be used as a garnish alongside an ice cream dessert.