Sweetly Spiced Sweet Potato Bread

Why is it that everything that is made with yam is actually called sweet potato? Sweet potato fries, sweet potato loaf, sweet potato salad etc. I think it is partly because it just sounds more appealing than yam. Yam sort of sounds like yak – not so appealing. Sweet potato sounds sweet – way more appealing. In reality, yams are the better tasting and the sweeter of the two.

WAIT! I just learned something. Both are actually sweet potatoes! I was going to say that yams are sweeter, moister and more orange while sweet potatoes are less sweet, dryer and more yellow. However, I just learned that what I think of as yams and what are generally sold as yams are in fact just a different variety of sweet potato! True yams are not even related and have a very dark skin and can grow up to SEVEN FEET!!  (see this site  and this one if you don’t believe me!)

So now at least I can call this sweet potato bread without lying to you (I figured I had used yams)! Anyways, if you like pumpkin bread, or carrot cake, or zucchini loaf (bread vs cake vs loaf – let’s not go into differentiating those today! I already lost one battle) then you will love this loaf – or rather bread! It is sweet and moist and deliciously spiced. The picture doesn’t really do it justice (and I only took a couple, late at night!) Enjoy!

baking 2013 051

Sweetly Spiced Sweet Potato Bread
(adapted slightly from this recipe by loveveggiesandyoga.com)

  • 1 1/2 cup orange sweet potatoes (likely labeled at the grocery store as yams!) – peeled, cooked and mashed (I boiled mine but you could steam them or cook them however you prefer)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (or yogurt or sour cream)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tb molasses
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tb cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tb coarse sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. To bowl containing mashed potatoes, add eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in sugars and molasses.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt (not the coarse sugar).
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined (it may still be somewhat lumpy – don’t overmix it!)
  5. Pour evenly into a greased or parchment paper lined loaf pan. Sprinkle with coarse sugar over the top.
  6. Bake 55-65 min or until a toothpick/cake tester comes out cleanly.
  7. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes in the pan before removing it to cool completely on a rack.

Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies #fbcookieswap

I have been part of cookie exchanges every year for at least the last 5 Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondiesyears but this is my first year doing an International Cookie Exchange! I took part in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap this year. Essentially everyone that takes part is matched with 3 bloggers within their country and then they ship one dozen cookies to each of their matches. In turn, you get one dozen cookies from three bloggers that had you as a match. So essentially a huge cookie exchange! I think there were over 600 bloggers involved this year!

I had been looking at this recipe for years – literally! I thought it sounded like an interesting combination but I kept not making it. Finally I did in October and I LOVED it! Gingerbread and white chocolate are perfect together. I don’t know why more sweets don’t use this combination. There is something about the spicy gingerbread that pairs perfectly with the creamy sweetness of the white chocolate. I have now made two other desserts using this combination as well as making this recipe again! And I knew it kept quite well and didn’t crumble so I figured it should work well for an across Canada trek!Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies

The blondies are the perfect chewy texture that is expected of blondies. (For those unfamiliar with blondies, they are essentially brownies without the chocolate – so expect the dense, chewy texture of brownies!) And like I said, the flavour combination is amazing. So in other words,  everyone should make these a regular on their “cookie baking list”. It is definitely on mine. And I don’t mean just for Christmas!

Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies

from Martha Stewart’s Cookies; makes about 4 dozen

Delicious Spices!

  • 2 3/4 cup plus 1 Tb flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 1/4 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tb white sugar
  • 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolkSpread Evenly
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 2 to 3 cups chopped white chocolate
  1. Line a 12 by 17inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a regular bowl and use a hand mixer), beat butter and sugars until creamy and pale, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs andPrepared Dough yolk one at a time. Add the vanilla and molasses and beat until well combined.
  4. Add the flour mix slowly on low speed until mixed. Stir in the white chocolate.
  5. Spread batter in the prepared pan and bake about 25 minutes – the edges should look slightly cracked and golden.
  6. Allow to cool and then cut!

I found these fun boxes at Winners and they worked perfectly for 12 of the blondies! I hope they shipped ok! The recipe says that the blondies can be stored, air-tight, for up to 1 week at room temperature.

Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies

Packed and Ready to go

Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Mmm... the moose agrees - those look delicious!!

Have I mentioned my cinnamon obsession? I am sure I have. In fact I know I have. Anyways, these are my absolute favourite cookies to make at Christmas – and yes I realize it is now well after Christmas but I am very behind on my posts! So this will have to do for now! I won’t add any other Christmas recipes but this one is SO SO good!

Between the buttery rolled dough is the delicious cinnamon that is reminiscent of a good cinnamon bun. Top that with a little drizzle of icing and you have one amazing cookie! Seriously, I love this cookie! They are the perfect texture and so delicious that they are worth the little extra work it takes to make them!

Cinnamon Roll Cookie (makes about 40 cookies)

  • The flattened and sprinkled dough.

    3 cups flour

  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tb ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 tsp meringue powder (optional but it makes it harder and adds a nice textural contrast)
  1. Use the parchment paper and gravity to help you roll it up.

    For the dough, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

  2. Beat butter and brown sugar with a mixer until fluffy and creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and continue to beat until well mixed.
  3. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet until incorporated.
  4. For the filling, in a small bowl stir together sugar and cinnamon.
  5. On a piece of parchment paperpat dough into a rectangle, about 9×16 inches,  using your hands. It really helps to wet your hands as the dough is very soft and will stick to your hands.
  6. Sprinkle about 2/3s of the of the cinnamon-sugar over the dough.
  7. Roll the dough into a log from the long side using the paper to help you (see picture). Dust the outside of the log with the remaining cinnamon-sugar. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours.
  8. Preheat oven to 350° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  9. Slice & Bake! Mmm...

    Slice chilled dough into 1/2 inch thick slices and arrange on the baking sheets about 1.5 inches apart. Bake 10 minutes or so until they just barely begin to get golden. Let sit cool on the baking sheet 3-4 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

  10. Once cooled, mix together the icing ingredients and drizzle over the top. Leave at least an hour to dry. Then ENJOY!

Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies!! YUM!!

Every Christmas season I have a need to try to find the absolute best Chewy Ginger Molasses cookies out there. Three years ago I actually tested out recipes and ‘forced’ them on the same people to see which one they prefer. There was the more ‘cakey’ ginger & spice recipe that I had been making for years, the ginger molasses crinkles that my friend swears by, the double ginger cookies with candied ginger as well as powdered ginger, and one more that I don’t remember (obviously not the best one). Every week I would bring a different one to work and insist on my co-workers eating them and giving me feedback! Well, the consensus was that they were all good. Some liked the kick of the double ginger, some liked the texture of the cakey ones and others liked the crinkles.

Well the next year came and I still wasn’t sure that I had the absolute BEST recipe. So I tried a couple more and found this recipe. I love this one. The cookies are so incredibly chewy and soft and although they are thin, I love the texture. And the spice and molasses is perfect! I of course still must try other recipes (and did try one earlier this year, which was a total fail – they were crispy and not so great!) but so far this seems to be my favourite! Although the amazing Starbucks version, which has both the thick and chewy feel that is required of this kind of cookie and the spice that gives the perfect flavour for this season, was my original goal, I have found that this version is delicious by its own standards. I still have one more recipe to try this year though! It is supposed to be excellent as well! We will have to see…

Blackstrap (left) vs Fancy (right) molasses

I learned something important this year. Although I knew there was a difference in the three types of molasses available, I always forgot what the difference was when I went to buy more. So I guess last time I bought  ‘Fancy’ molasses and made one batch of these cookies. Well they weren’t very dark and although they were still delicious, I didn’t feel like they had the full taste of molasses that I was looking for. Luckily, I ran out after making these cookies and had to buy more. This time, as usual, I still didn’t remember what I needed – only what I had previously used (and that it was too light). So this time I bought the one with the gingersnap recipe on the side – the ‘Blackstrap’ Molasses. Then I learned the difference: fancy molasses is the lightest and actually isn’t a byproduct of the sugar making process, unlike Blackstrap, which is the darkest, has the strongest flavour and is the leftover byproduct of the sugar making process. And ‘Cooking” molasses – well that is the one that is generally supposed to be used apparently! It is a mix of the two so it has a “middle-of-the-line” flavour and colour. To show the difference, I actually made these cookies with both fancy and blackstrap. I am sure you can see the difference.

Spicy delicious dough: I admit this is one reason I love these cookies! The dough is amazing!

Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

  • 2 1/4 c flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tb water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 c molasses
  • 2 Tb white sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together flour, spices, baking soda and salt.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a regular bowl and a hand mixer), beat butter and 1 cup of sugar together until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Beat in the egg, then the water, vanilla and molasses.

    Ready for baking

  4. Slowly add in the dry ingredients while beating.
  5. Shape the dough into 1 inch size balls (I use a 1.5 Tb cookie scoop and it is PERFECT!) and roll in the 2 Tb extra sugar. Place them on the cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake 8-10 minutes or until they look set but still soft. Allow the cookies to cool on baking sheet about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

After baking: when they first come out they are puffy but they flatten to get the perfect chewiness!

Cinnamon Dolce Latte Cake

I am one of those people that is annoying to be behind in Starbucks. I may sound like a high maintenance diva when I order my drink but the great thing about Starbucks is that you can order your drink exactly as you like it. And how I like it is “Tall, extra hot, soy, sugar-free cinnamon dolce latte, no foam, no whip”. It started with just getting the skinny cinnamon dolce latte and morphed from there – extra hot means I drink it slower and enjoy it longer, soy just somehow tastes better for most coffee drinks (and for awhile I wasn’t drinking milk), sugar-free to save calories for real sweets, I really hate whipped cream on drinks, and no foam means that you get more of your actual drink in the cup. For those that haven’t had the cinnamon dolce latte before, it is delicious. It is a sweet cinnamon caramel’y type taste. It really is the best drink there!

Look at those layers! Marbled Cinnamon & Latte cake, caramel, latte icing and cinnamon icing on the outside!

I made this cake for a friend’s birthday. He also is a big fan of the Cinnamon Dolce Latte (as is our mutual friend that was organizing the birthday). With the three of us loving the drink, I figured it was safe to try out this cake with them. I started with a basic white cake. Then I removed 1 cup of the batter and mixed in espresso powder dissolved in a little water. To the other half, I added cinnamon extract as well as cinnamon. After putting the cinnamon batter in the pan, I added the espresso batter and swirled them to get a marbled effect. Between the layers of cake I put either homemade caramel or latte buttercream. I covered the whole thing with a cinnamon extract flavoured buttercream. Oh, I almost forgot! Before baking the cake, I put a layer of brown sugar, butter and cinnamon mixture on the bottom of the pan. This kind of gave a bit of a cinnamon bun like texture in the middle of the cake – you know the delicious middle of the bun? I was aiming for that in the centre of the cake. It was delicious. Or at least I thought so. And by the fact that the rest of the cake was gone by the end of the night (there were only 6 of us eating it), I think everyone enjoyed it!

Cinnamon Dulce Latte Cake

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cinnamon extract
  • 2 tsp espresso powder mixed with as little water as needed to dissolve
  1. The cinnamon bun like base

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Line pans with parchment paper: either 2-8″ round pans or 1-8 or 9″ square pan (as I did).

  2. Mix together brown sugar, butter and first amount of cinnamon. Spread on the bottom of your pan (or pans) evenly.
  3. In a new bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a regular bowl and use your hand mixer!), cream butter and sugar together for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy
  5. Add the eggs one at a time and continue to beat. Beat in the vanilla.
  6. Marbled Batter! Latte batter swirled into cinnamon batter

    Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the flour alternatively with the milk. Beat until just smooth.

  7. Remove 1 cup of the batter and mix the dissolved espresso powder into the batter.
  8. In the remaining batter, add the cinnamon and cinnamon extract.
  9. Pour the cinnamon batter into the prepared pan(s) and spread evenly. Dollop the espresso cake batter on top of the cinnamon batter using fairly large spoonfuls. Swirl with a dinner knife until there is some swirling but not blending of the batters. I like to bang the pans down on the counter to ensure the batter is spread well and there are no air bubbles.
  10. Bake for 30-45 minutes (timing depends on pan, sorry! I used an 8″ square pan and baked it about 40 minutes I think). It is done when a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean and the edges haven’t started to brown much.
  11. Cool in pans about 20-25 minutes. Carefully remove the cake from the pan by placing a plate (with parchment paper on it) over the top of your pan and flipping carefully. I had trouble with the buttery/sugar/cinnamon mixture sticking to the bottom but I just greased the pan, I didn’t use parchment as I am now suggesting to you! Hopefully it will work better for you!
  12. Allow to cool completely

Homemade Caramel (the nectar of the gods!) (without a candy thermometer!)

  • 1 cup + 2 Tb sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup whipping/heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Put sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved and syrup is clear.
  2. Almost there! You want a little bit darker than this

    Stop stirring & cook until the syrup comes to a boil. If needed (if you see sugar crystals on the side of the pan), brush down sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush.

  3. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until the mixture turns a dark amber colour (a tiny bit darker than the picture! I had to take the picture just before it was ready since I was afraid that I would burn it while taking the picture!)
  4. Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream. Be careful – it spatters and

    Careful when you add the cream, it will spatter and boil!

    bubbles! Stir with a wooden spoon continuously until smooth. Stir in salt.

  5. Allow to cool to room temp. Store leftovers in a glass jar in the fridge. If it gets too solid for easy spreading, you can soften it by putting it in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time (or just remove it from the fridge a couple hours before using it).

Latte Buttercream

  • 1/4 cup butter, room temp
  • Finished Caramel

    1/2 Tb espresso powder (make it to how strong you like it!)

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp milk/cream/water to thin consistency icing
  1. Beat the butter until creamy and light (at least 3 minutes). Add in the flavourings.
  2. Add the sugar and milk & beat. Add more liquid as needed.

Cinnamon Buttercream

  • 1.5 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 tsp cinnamon extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 cups icing sugar
  • 6-8 tsp milk/cream/water to thin consistency icing
  1. Beat the butter until creamy and light (at least 3 minutes). Add in the flavourings.
  2. Add 4 cups of the sugar 1 cup at a time. Add a bit of liquid. Beat in the rest of the sugar. Add more liquid as needed.

The first caramel layer. Make a dam & fill!

Assembly: here is what I did – adjust based on whether you baked it in 1 square pan or 2 round pans.

  1. Torte cake – that means slice it into two layers.
  2. I used a square pan and then made it into a tall rectangle cake, so I then cut my cake in half so that I would have a total of 4, 4″x8″ layers. Keep the two layers with the cinnamon bun crusty stuff for the centre of the cake.
  3. Place bottom layer of cake on plate. Pipe a dam around the outside of the layer. Pour caramel over the layer to fill the dammed in area.
  4. Next layer - cinnamon bun type filling to the middle

    Cover with layer of cake with the cinnamon bun half facing up. Cover with latte icing and then the other layer of cake that has the cinnamon bun filling facing the latte icing.

  5. Pipe another dam around the edge and fill with caramel. Add the last layer of cake.
  6. Cover the whole thing with cinnamon icing & decorations of choice. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the finished cake again!

Layers end up: cake, caramel, cake with crusty cinnamon bun side up, latte icing, cake with crusty cinnamon bun side down, caramel, cake – all covered with cinnamon icing.

Cinnamon Caramel Blondies

Cinnamon Caramel Blondies: you need to make these!

Two things I have to admit: I don’t think I have ever made blondies before and although this recipe looked good, I was surprised by just how incredibly amazing it was!

I don’t know why I haven’t made blondies before, it isn’t that they don’t interest me, it is just that… well I am a big chocolate fan and blondies are just brownies without the chocolate! So really, in my world, although they keep that great chewy texture of brownies, they take out the best part. Except these ones, they add two of my favourite other flavours in instead! Cinnamon & caramel. I love them both. Almost as much as chocolate. And almost as much as peanut butter (which may be ranked above chocolate, or maybe they are tied?) Anyways, point is that I loved the idea of these blondies when I saw the recipe on one of the blogs I follow – The Baker Chick and had to make them at the first opportunity!

Cinnamon + Caramel: two amazing ingredients!

Also, it wasn’t that I thought these wouldn’t be good, I just didn’t think they could be as absolutely delicious as I wanted them to be! I mean cinnamon & caramel are so great but would the recipe be the perfection that I seeked? Well in this case, YES!! These were even better than I expected. And whereas I normally am fairly modest about my baking and let the taster decide when I take something somewhere, I raved on and on when I took these! And the reason I am posting this recipe right now is that I promised a couple people the recipe right away!

So if you need to make something and want it to be good, make these. Or if you just want to make something delicious to eat all to yourself, make these (although I don’t recommend eating a 9×13 pan of them to yourself!)

Cinnamon Caramel Blondies

  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 14 oz bag of caramels, unwrapped (used these but I found them in the States and can’t get them in Canada. If you can’t get these, just get a regular bag and unwrap them all yourself)
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  1. Bottom layer + caramel

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch pan.

  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  3. In the bowl of a mixer (or a regular bowl & use hand beaters), beat butter and brown sugar on medium until light and fluffy – about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla. Beat well to mix.
  4. With the mixer on low, add in the flour slowly until just combined. It is quite a thick batter.
  5. Spread half of the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.
  6. In a saucepan, heat the caramels and cream over medium high heat until smooth and melted.
  7. Pour the caramel over the batter.
  8. Distribute the remaining batter evenly over the caramel. I put small clumps spread throughout and then used clean hands to press it down evenly over the caramel (be careful it is hot!) It is ok to have areas that aren’t totally covered.
  9. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and then sprinkle evenly over the batter.
  10. Bake 25-30 min or until the surface is firm but still springy. Cool completely before cutting.

Seriously, look at those layers of caramel! So incredibly good!