Photo by Kirsten Lara Getchell

Friday, February 17, 2017

Homemade Ding Dongs and Twinkies

Those Hostess cakes we all grew up with are a guilty pleasure and I have always wanted tp make them from scratch.

There is a special pan you can buy by Norpro:

It takes some practice but I got the hang of filling and baking the twinkie cakes I used my lemon curd for the filing and then I used a strip buttercream across the top. 

My next step was ding dongs; I love those devils food cakes with cream filing and dark chocolate covering. I researched online recipes for the cream filing and didn't care for most of the ones I saw using ingredients like marshmallow cream. So I decided to just go with the stabilized whipped cream recipe I use for frosting cupcakes but I used a little more sugar.

I used a silicon pan with oval shaped cakes:

I used semi sweet chocolate chips for the coating and the filing tool from the norpro set to fill the ding dongs.

I think the silcon pans are a bit of a pain you have to have a pan under them otherwise the flop around when you try to pick them up. But I already owned this one and it was close to the round shape of a ding dong.

My attempts were a great success and folks loved them so I am posting it here for folks to give it a try.

1 box yellow cake mix
1 batch lemon curd
Buttercream frosting or stabilized whipped cream

I use my lemon curd to fill the twinkies but you can use either the toppings instead if you do not want to make curd.

The curd filling is made first, my curd recipe is here:

Refrigerate the curd while baking the cakes to let it cool and set.

Follow the instructions from the box and using the Norpro pan, use a nonstick spray in each well (even though the pan is supposedly nonstick I found the cakes would stick and not come out easily without teh nonstick spray.) 

Fill with 1/4 cup of batter, box will make about 20-24 cakes. As each batch is done remove and let cool on a rack. 


While baking make the stabilized whipped cream or buttercream frosting.The whipped or buttercream topping will be the last step but you want them properly chilled so make them now. The Buttercream can be chilled for just about 10 minutes but the whipped topping should be chilled at least 30 minutes. 
NOTE: If you will not be serving these right away I would not put the whipped topping on until right before you do.

You must fill your twinkie cakes after they have cooled. (Whipped cream instructions are in the ding dong section.) Once they have all been filled and topped I also drizzled some more curd over each frosted cake.

Buttercream frosting is just butter powdered sugar and milk:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1.5 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp milk
Cream the sugar and butter then add the vanilla and milk.

Now the curd should be chilled and ready to fill your cakes. You fill the Norpro filler and using the long straw like tip you slowly insert it in one end of the cake, now while slowly drawing the tip back out you press the handle of the filler and fill the cake. Then you switch to the other end and fill that side so you have a cake that has curd all the way through it.

Do this slowly and carefully but the filling may still  come out of spots on the cake as the cakes can be a touch porous. I found that if I went slowly this was easier to prevent or at least minimize. 

After you have filled all your cakes you can use the same methods that I explain for the whipped cream to top your twinkies. 

I used a fancy tip and my cookie press to create the design on top of my Twinkies, this picture is of them with a buttercream topping. 

The Twinkies keep for at least a week in fridge.

Ding Dongs:
1 box devil's food cake mix.
Stabilized whiped cream
1 bag 12oz semi sweet chocolate chips

For the filling used my go-to stabilized whipped cream recipe; half pint of whipped cream, bakers sugar and plain gelatin so the whipped cream does not liquify. The one difference is that I doubled the sugar for this recipe. Place the cream in fridge to chill. 

Here is a great link for several ways to make the stabilized whipped cream topping/frosting:

Following the box instructions spray the pan with nonstick spray and bake the cakes and let cool on a rack.

Once the cakes have completely cooled take the whipped cream and the Norpro tool used to fill the twinkies and fill with the chilled whipped cream then insert through one end of the cake and fill the center of each cake. Unlike the Twinkies you only need to do one insertion and fill the center. 

After filling the cakes take the semi sweet chips and melt one third of them in the microwave. Taking either a frosting spreader or regular knife spread the sides and the top of each cake melting more chips as you run out of the first batch. I used the entire bag to cover each cake but left the bottom of them unfrosted. Chill the cakes for at least an hour to get the chocolate coating to set. 

I also put a little bit of the whipped cream on top of the cakes when I served them. You can put the whipped cream in a ziplock bag cut one corner open and pipe each cake across the top or you can use a a fancy tip frosting bag. As with the Twinkies since I was not serving these right that moment but the next day I waited to put the topping of whipped cream when I was serving them.

The ding dongs can also stay fresh for about a week in the fridge.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Best Cheesecake, FINALLY!

This is my mom's recipe; it is a great version of a classic cheesecake with a different crust and a lemon sour cream topping. 

Judy's Cheescake:
One 9" x 3" spring form pan or 3-4 6" x 3" Another large pan big enough for the springform pan(s) to fit in that is at least 5” deep for water bath.

 *Image is of one the small cheesecakes.

Heat oven to 400°

Cheesecake - Crust  (If using the multiple small cheesecake method double the crust recipe.)
1 ½ cup flour
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
2-4 tsp grated lemon peel (regular or I used meyer lemons)
¾  cup butter

Combine till mixture crumbles

3/4 tsp vanilla - add and blend thoroughly with crumbled mixture.

Remove bottom(s) of springfrom pan(s) spray or butter bottom(s).
Pat dough about 1/4" thick on bottom(s) and bake for about 8 minutes or until golden.
Cool completely then attach sides to bottom(s), butter or spray side(s) and pat remaining crust on side(s) up about 1 3/4" (Can be less but not higher.) For multiple small cheesecakes divide evenly before patting into pans.)

Cheesecake - Filling

Change oven temp to 450°

5- 8oz pkg cream cheese at room temp- beat till creamy.

¼ tsp vanilla                                    Add vanilla and lemon peel to beaten cream  
2-3 tsp lemon peel (reg or meyer)   cheese and mix well.  

1 ¾ cups sugar     Mix well in separate bowl then blend into cream cheese mixture.
¼ tsp salt              

4-5 eggs(1 cup)     Add one at a time, beating after each to blend till you have 1 cup.
2 egg yolks           Then add yolks and blend.

¼ cup whipping cream - gently fold in.
1-2 egg whites – beat till frothy &then fold in gently.

Wrap bottom and sides of springform pan with foil to prevent water from getting into the cheesecake(s)
Pour batter into crust lined pan(s) and place in pan, pour water into pan to the halfway point of the cream cheese layer of the cake(s). Bake at 450° for 9 minutes (small pans) 12 minutes (large pan) reduce heat to 300° and continue baking till small area in center still jiggles, aprox 45 minutes to 1hr 15minutes.

Cheesecake - Topping
While baking mix ½ pint sour cream, ¼ cup sugar, ¼ tsp lemon juice (double it for the multiple small cheesecakes.) when cheesecake center is at the jiggly stage spread over top and bake for 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool for ½ hour, remove foil then loosen sides. Cool for at least one more hour then remove sides, cool at least two more hours before serving.

Monday, September 21, 2015


UPDATE: My apologies but life exploded and I am in the process of moving for the second time this needless to say the recipe is still not posted..I promise to get to it ASAP! I(I move next week so hopefully not long after that.)

My mom used to make an incredible cheesecake usually during the holidays she would make one but it is very lengthy process and it has been many years since she made one.

It is so far and away different than any cheesecake you can buy anywhere I have tried that when she finally helped teach me to make it last Christmas I find I just cannot face anyone else's again.

Most cheesecakes even the fancy restaurant ones I have had are maybe 2-2.5 inches high, cheesy sweet with a graham cracker crust.

Mom's is about 3.5/4" high, has a deeper flavor with a lovely lemon tang a sweetened sour cream topping and the crust...well the crust is like a warm, soft, buttery shortbread cookie!

The picture is of the smaller cheesecakes we made so they are also a little shorter AND smaller (about 6.5") than the full size cheesecake.

This post is more about a disclaimer, the recipe will follow in about a week or sooner, it is not a simple recipe so bear with me on how long it takes to transcribe it.

Cheesecake is not something  you decide to throw together the night before a party, ESPECIALLY if you have never made one before. You need to do testers, see how your oven works, doing a souffle it can go wrong, horribly horribly wrong if the oven isn't right, water gets into the mold etc..

It requires patience and a willingness to possibly make it more than once to get it just right before you make it for that party! So if you are looking for something to make for your Wednesday night bridge club this week and and you've never made this recipe or any real might wanna hold off on it.

HOWEVER once you actually get the hang of this recipe your friends will freak out over it, well I hope they will, I know my friends did. It is creamy, lemony(I use meyer lemons) treat that just melts in your mouth, it also freezes beautifully. The recipe either makes 1 BIG cheesecake or three small cheesecakes(one of the small ones is pictured above.)

Soo stay tuned and later this week it will appear.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Quick Marinara from the home garden.(Mostly)

After 2-3 years of so-so home grown tomatoes we have a bumper grop, we had a voluteer from last years heirloom(Sweet Millions I believe) that last year did not do so well but this year is great, as well as a new plant  of Sungolds that is kind of meh and are not doing as well and we have no idea why.

However the Sungolds are not aweful so last night when mom had me take home a ton of those and some Sweet millions I decided to take all from the batch she gave me last weekend  and half the batch from last night to make some marinara. I also used  our shallots and oregano. I had to use store bought garlic and olive oil as well as salt.

It take really almost no time and it was so fragrant and yummy!

Homegrown Marinara:

2.5 cups cherry tomatoes(I used a mix of Sungolds and Sweet millions)
2 large shallots chopped into small pieces
2 tsps oregano(Mine was dried up fresh from our garden that I crushed as I put it in the pot so the measurement is aproximate. if you use dried store bought I would start with less first to make sure it is not too strong.)
2-3 tbsps  olive oil (extra virgin or whatever you prefer)
1 tbsp crushed garlic

Put oil and shallots in a pan and let sautee for a a couple minutes then add tomatoes ( I cut them in half) and salt. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes then add oregano and garlic. Cook for another 5 minutes and then you can either crush with a spoon all  the tomatoes or I went ahead and used my food prcessor to blend and purree everything up a little more. Then put back on the stove for about 5 minutes.

Add to cooked pasta and  you can throw in some muchrooms or other veggies you like I also added some fresh grated asiago cheese. I also put the rest in a jar and in my fridge for a later lunch or dinner. I want to make a larger batch and freeze it so I can have some later in the year after tomato season is over.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Toaster oven apple pie

My new apartment is having some ventilation issues right now and I cannot really use my oven until it is fixed. But I wanted to make an apple pie so taking my earlier post apple pie recipe I decided to try using my tiny toaster oven.
It worked beautifully so for folks with a tiny space or even just wanting to cook with small appliances try this.
3 small or two large apples.
1 premade rolled pie crust. (Pilsbury is a really good one)
Aluminum foil
Non-stick cooking spray
My toaster oven is very basic small Black & Decker but it does have the ability to bake up to 400°.
I used Gravenstein apples but they are not an all year round apple and you can use your favorite apple, I would recommend sticking to firmer apple varieties though.
Pull a piece of foil that is bigger than the unrolled crust size. Spray with non-stick cooking spray then unroll the pie crust onto it.

Core, peel and wedge the apples, try a keep the pieces close to uniform in size for even cooking.
Layer one apple along one half of the crust to about 1/2 inch from the edge. Sprinkle one spoonful of sugar  *cue Julie Andrews!* and sprinkle enough cinnamon to make a medium brown color on top of the apples do for each apple layer  (about three layers) then cube 2 tablespoon of butter and spread over the top of the apple layers. 

Then fold the other half of the crust over the apples then fold and crimp the open edge. Cut 2 or 3 slices in the top of the crust and sprinkle a little sugar on your pie-tart.

Taking the edges of the foil gently slide the apple pie tart back to the center of foil and wrap the foil all around the pie-tart leaving the center open for venting. Put on a toaster oven tray if you have one, otherwise right on toaster rack is fine.

Bake for 35 minutes at 400°, checking a couple times to ensure it is cooking well. After about 35 minutes the crust should be nearly cooked but not browned so open the foil most of the leaving a light cover still around the edge crust and bake for 10-15 more minutes or until the crust is a lovely golden color.

*Note* I only used 2 small apples and realized after it was done 3 would have been better so if you liked your pie-tart thinner like in the pictures just use 2 small apples.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hush puppies and buttermilk biscuits!

SO I had a housewarming and decided to do southern style food after being in North Carolina for a family wedding in June. For the most part everything went great but in my new and tiny little kitchen I have learned a few lessons.

1.Small kitchens are tough to do a lot cooking in at once especially when several items are deep fried items like hush puppies and fried chicken.

2.Might be smarter to invest in deep fryer than do stove top in the future.

3.Prepping as much food as you can a day or more in advance helps a lot though. It could have been much much worse had I not made several items and done a lot of prep so I could just get going the day of with as few tasks as possible.

I think the hush puppies were my favorite of the stuff I made I also really liked the biscuits and the chicken but I will not ever make that much fried chicken again! I made about 30 pieces it was waaay too much work! See the blog I did right before this one for the recipe.

First thing is I just went ahead and used Bisquick for my biscuits and substituted buttermilk for the milk portion and it worked beautifully. I prefer rolled and cut biscuits to drop biscuits even though it takes a little more time I just prefer them that way.

SO if you want easy buttermilk biscuits just do what I did!(I even microwaved and then toasted the left over biscuits for a few days after the party and that tasted great.)

Now on to the hush puppies! If you have never tried a hush puppy the easiest way to describe it is that it is, for the most part, a bite sized-deep fried piece of corn bread, with some minor differences. If you like corn bread sweet or not should determine how you like your hush puppies is my feeling. I like mine sweet so that is how I proceeded.

I tried this recipe first:

But in the end it was not sweet enough and so I did some slight modifications like so:
12 cups all-purpose flour
12 cups cornmeal
2 tbsp. baking powder
4 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking soda
2 tsp. kosher salt
14 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1 medium SWEET yellow onion, chopped in a food processor
Vegetable oil, for frying

I doubled the sugar in the recipe and used a sweet onion; this provided more of the sweet taste I am used to in my hush puppies. It by no means makes it sweet like a dessert but the other recipe has zero sweetness and just tasted wrong.(I also cannot eat hot and spicy so the cayenne was left out too!)
First mix all the dry ingredients togeher and mix well. Then in a seperate bowl mix all the wet ingredients including the onion, and it's juice/liquid, that has been finely chopped in a food processor, the orginal recipe called for grating the onion which was time consuming messy and really really not fun so I just put it in my FP and was able to get the same result as well as plenty of the onion juice.
Then slowly mix both batches of ingredients together make sure to mix it gently but thoroughly so it is all mixed together.
Let it sit for 1 hour. The buttermilk, baking soda etc makes the batter puff up really nicely so be sure to let it rest for the 1 hour or your hush puppies won't cook right!
Puffed up hush puppy batter! This is a double batch so do not freak out when your batch does not look as big.

About 40 minutes into letting the hush puppy batter rise fill a 3 quart pot(stainless steel works well in this case) with about 3-4 inches of vegetable oil. I prefered this over canola as I felt it cooked the hush puppies to a nicer brown and were not as heavy tasting as the batch I did in canola oil.If you use a larger pan the amount of oil will be lower, for example a 5-6 quart pot will be more like 2-3 inches of oil.  Heat the oil to 350 degrees, if you do not have a thermometer I found it was hot enough when the oil started to make wavy lines at the bottom of the pan.

Set up a plate with paper towels by the stove and second plate to move the finished puppies onto.

Once the Hush puppies have sat for an hour and the oil is ready use some kind of scoop(I used my medium sized cookie batter scoop) and start scooping into the hot oil I was able to fit about 8-10 in my 3 quart pot at a time.(this recipe makes about 30)

Now the cooking is kind of an eye ball it method the orginal recipe says about 2 minutes each side but you should still be watching them to make sure they are nice medium golden brown on all sides. If it gets a little darker that is fine, but do not undercook or they will still be raw in the middle.
Once they are done lift them out and place on the paper towls to soak up the excess oil then start the next batch. While that batch cooks flip the first batch to soak up more oil then move them to the second plate. Add more paper towls to the first plate if needed for the next finished batch.

Repeat until all the batter is gone and you have about 30 beautiful and golden brown hush puppies! I like to eat my hush puppies with several types of condiments, mustard, catsup, tarter sauce use whatever you like, but watch out, they can be addicting.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Housewarming with Southern style food!

So my goal in 2015 was to do more blogging, then I ended up getting my own place again and the last 3-4 months have been chaos of packing, moving unpacking and various travel and projects that were already on my calendar before I found my new place.

One of the trips was to North Carolina for a family wedding. I was reminded while down there how many wonderful southern style dishes there are that I cannot get in California. So for my upcoming housewarming party I have been experimenting with various recipes..

I have done two batches of fried chicken, batch one I did not like and due to the size of my new kitchen(TINY!) doing a lot of chicken pieces was really a crazy idea so I did a second batch on this past Friday making more of a chicken tenders version with boneles skinless chicken breasts, light mayo and a bisquick dredge plus spices..and boy it was sooo much tastier than the other recipe.

Tonight I try to make my first ever batch of Hush Puppies...I will also be making biscuits w/gravy and creamed corn will share everything in new post after the weekend!

Here is a tiny peak of what I did for the chicken, serving size: ONE!

One bonless skinless chicken breast cut into three pieces
1/3 cup bisquick
1/4 cup light mayo in a bowl
Lawry's season salt
Ziploc bag
Vegetable oil
Meat thermometer
7-8" or 3 qt stainless steel pan or pot
Splatter guard

In a small stainless steel pan (7-8" or a 3 quart pot) put in about 1.5-2" of vegetable oil and place over medium heat.

Dry the chicken then add some pepper, Lawry's and paprika. Also add  a liberal amount of these three spices to the bisquick mixture in a ziploc bag as well as into the mayo. Smear/dredge the chicken pieces in the mayo until all sides have a light coating then place each piece, one at a time, into the ziploc bag of bisquick and spices and shake. Pull each piece out of the bag gently and let sit on a plate to rest for a couple minutes; if needed recoat if you notice spots missing the coating.

Once the oil is hot enough that water sizzles and jumps in the pan place each piece of chicken in the pan and cover with a splatter guard. Cook the first side for 3 minutes then turn and cook for another 3 minutes. Using a meat thermometer check the temperature of the meat if it has reach 165 remove to a plate covered with paper towels to drain the oil. If it has not reached the desired temperture flip again and cook for another 2 minutes on each side until it reaches 165. Chicken should be served at 170 removing it at about 165(no LESS than 162)  will prevent it from over cooking while you let it rest.

Let it rest fliping ithe pieces, and the papertowels once to blot the oil from both sides then serve.

The mayo adds a slight tang but is lower in fat than the skin, especially if you use light mayo as I did. I cannot eat hot and spicy food but of course if you like that kind of thing you could also add chili powder to give your chicken some kick.

My chciken was tender and still a little juicy, I saved a piece for a couple of days to see how it would got a tiny bit dry after being reheated in an oven for 15 minutes at 250 and the coating was not crispy anymore but it still tasted good. Still I would not really recommend making this dish ahead of time.

More details after my party.