Raspberry Wine Bread

FullSizeRender-1This sweet bread with a raspberry filling and cream cheese frosting is an absolute favorite with my current (but soon to be former!) co-workers. These are best for brunch, or as a treat with a cup of coffee or tea. Since it tastes similar to a Swedish kringle, I’m not sure why this is called “wine bread,” as there is no wine used in the recipe. Does it go great with a glass of red or white? I don’t know. All I know is that I’ve been making this recipe for years, ever since it was given to me by my host mom during a Bethel College women’s choir tour. Maybe it was the break from church basement potlucks featuring red Kool-Aid and green Jell-O that made this treat especially delightful, or maybe it was the thoughtfulness of the South Dakota mom who made the effort to go beyond chocolate chip cookies to welcome her guests. In hindsight, I think the poor woman was a little shocked that a skinny little college girl (this was a while ago…), could down as many of these delicious treats as I did. She simply had to share the recipe so I could get my fix once I got home. She sure didn’t want me stalking her for more.

Don’t let the fact that there’s yeast in the recipe scare you. This is one of the easier yeast dough’s to make, as all the eggs and butter make it very pliable. I’ve included photos below of how to roll out and assemble, in case my descriptions don’t make sense. Then once you’ve tried it, give me YOUR opinion of how it got it’s name.

Makes 4 pastries, each one yielding about 8 pieces

For pastry:
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2½ teaspoons dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk
Raspberry pie filling *

For frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1½ cups powdered sugar
¼-1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sliced almonds

In small sauce pan, melt butter. Stir in sugar and salt, and stir until they are dissolved. Let cool to lukewarm. Pour into mixing bowl; fit mixer with dough hook. Sprinkle yeast on top of butter mixture. Mix eggs in small bowl, then add to butter and yeast in bowl, along with 1 cup of the flour. Stir to combine. Add milk and the rest of the flour all at once, and turn mixer on second to lowest setting. Stir until dough clings to dough hook, and no bits remain on outside of the bowl. Cover dough with plastic wrap, tucking it right on top of dough ball. Chill at least 15 minutes, or up to 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Divide chilled dough into 4 equal parts. Sprinkle cutting board with flour and drop one section of dough onto surface, and knead into a ball. Sprinkle a little flour on top. Roll out with rolling pin to about ¼” thickness. Transfer to a baking sheet. (You will need 2 baking sheets for the 4 pastries.) Spread one-quarter of the raspberry filling down middle section of the dough, then fold 1/3 over from each side on top of filling. Repeat process with other three sections of dough to form the rest of the pastries.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place each pastry on a cooling rack. Cool for about 30-60 minutes. Then make frosting. Place cream cheese in smaller mixing bowl, then add powdered sugar and cream thoroughly. Gradually add ¼ cup milk, and both extracts. If frosting is not thin enough to drizzle on pastry, add more milk. Drizzle or spread onto cooled dough, then sprinkle sliced almonds on top. To serve, slice into 1-2 inch wide strips. Store any remaining pastries in an airtight containers.

*NOTE: While I prefer raspberry pie filling for this recipe, you can also use blueberry or peach. I’ve made this with all those flavors, but usually raspberry is the fan favorite.


Cucumber Ginger Ale

IMG_1700Just three ingredients needed to make this super refreshing summer drink, and no chopping or cooking involved! A trip to Trader Joe’s will get you the non-alcoholic ginger beer and the cucumber seltzer, and maybe even the fresh mint. I grow fresh mint in buckets on my deck, so I’m always looking for ways to use it up. And how did I discover this fabulous combo? My son Justin poured me a tall, cool glass of this mix one hot, summer day, when we were setting up his non-air conditioned apartment. He even topped it with fresh mint sprigs! (How many 20-something dudes offer their mothers a drink with muddled mint?) I was like, what is this? This is fabulous! He said, “It’s just ginger beer and cucumber seltzer. Super easy!” Thanks for sharing, Justin. You’re da bomb.

Makes 1-2 drinks

Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew All Natural Jamaican Style Ginger Beer
Spindrift Seltzer made with fresh pressed cucumbers
Mint sprigs

Put ice in glass. Pour non-alcoholic ginger beer in first third or half of glass. Fill the rest of the glass with the cucumber seltzer. Rub the mint sprig between fingers to release the oils, then add to glass and stir. Enjoy your refreshing drink!

Chocolate Brownie Bars

FullSizeRenderA combo of Hershey’s cocoa and semi-sweet chocolate chips give these bars a rich, chocolatey appeal, and are pretty quick to throw together. I clipped the original recipe from a magazine ad for Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk (the same one where I got the delicious Squirrel Bars recipe previously posted), and they were called Triple Layer Chocolate Bars. Now, I’m no Einstein when numbers are involved, but I couldn’t come up with three distinct layers in these. My co-workers called these “brownie bars” when I brought them in to work, so let’s go with that. (My husband was kinda “meh” about this particular recipe, and I could see he wasn’t going to finish off the pan, so that’s why my colleagues were summoned for a second opinion. People, I’ve created a monster! His standards for baked-goods has risen significantly since I first met him, scarfing down a sleeve of Oreos after his Arby’s roast beef sandwich.)

These aren’t super sugary sweet, and hold together fairly well because of the sweetened condensed milk in the middle. They’re an easy picnic or potluck take-along, so give them a whirl and see what you think. Just don’t offer any to my husband Rich. I’m sure you can find a more appreciative audience.

Makes 20 bars

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs (1 package, plus 2-3 more crackers)*
½ cup cocoa, divided into ¼ cup and ¼ cup
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick), melted
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk!)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour or Namaste gluten-free flour blend
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 (12-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips, or 1½ cups of same

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine graham cracker crumbs, ¼ cup of the cocoa, sugar, and melted butter in medium bowl. Stir until butter is thoroughly incorporated. Press into bottom of 13″x9″ baking dish. In medium bowl attached to electric mixer, beat sweetened condensed milk, flour, egg, vanilla, and baking powder. Stir in nuts and pour mixture on top of graham cracker crust. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake 25 minutes or until set. Cool before cutting. Store tightly covered.

*NOTE: Use gluten-free graham crackers to make these if you’re GF.

Also, I wondered if maybe a step was missing in this recipe. Usually a graham cracker crust recipe has you baking the graham crackers for 10 minutes or so before adding other layers. That would make these have more distinct layers, and would make for a crispier crust. I might try that next time, and will update the process here if I do.