Applesauce Cake with Caramel Frosting

This moist cake reminds me of a classic spice cake without all the overwhelming spice flavors of some. Delicate and delicious, even better topped with homemade caramel frosting!

Applesauce Cake with Caramel Frosting

For the cake…
1 stick unsalted butter, soft
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup chilled applesauce
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups white all-purpose flour

For the frosting…
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×9-inch square pan with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray containing flour.

In a large bowl, cream together the soft unsalted butter with the white granulated sugar. Add in the chilled applesauce and combine. Will look curdled but that is desirable. Keep working.

Beat in the baking soda, ground cinnamon and salt. Beat in the white all-purpose flour.

Pour into prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake in preheated for 40 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

To make the frosting combine the unsalted butter, light brown sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Allow this mixture to melt and cook for about 2 minutes.

Add in the whole milk and pure vanilla extract. Cook another 40 seconds and remove from heat. Gently whisk in the confectioner’s sugar.

Evenly pour and spread over cooled cake.

Cut and serve.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are incredibly incredible. Ha!

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
3 1/3 cups white all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Start by preheating your oven to 325 degrees. Line several large baking sheets with parchment paper. Adjust your oven racks to the upper and lower middle positions.

Melt the 2 sticks of unsalted butter and set aside to cool completely to room temperature.

In a large bowl whisk together the white all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt.

Beat together the cooled, melted unsalted butter with the packed light brown sugar and white granulated sugar for 2 minutes until smooth and creamy.

Beat in the large eggs and large egg yolks.

Beat in the pure vanilla extract.

Slowly add in, and stir, the whisked flour mixture. Stir only until everything is combined.

Stir in the semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Portion dough out into 1/4 cup size balls. Place 4 balls onto a prepared baking sheet at a time, leaving several inches in between each ball to allow for proper baking.

Bake in preheated oven 18 minutes, rotating and switching the sheets mid-baking. Once baked, remove and allow cookies to cool to slightly warm room temperature on their baking sheets.

Caramel Frosting

This is my favorite caramel frosting!

Caramel Frosting

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In a large pot over medium high heat melt together the unsalted butter, lightly packed light brown sugar and salt. Once melted together, stir and cook for 2 minutes until lightly brown and bubbly.

Add in the whole milk and pure vanilla extract. Stir together. Remove from heat.

Beat in the powdered sugar until smooth.

Use immediately.

CHEW THIS! New Favorite Lemon Bars

New Favorite Lemon Bars

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The following “Chew This!” column has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times”, Sunday, April 21st 2019 edition. By: Blaise Doubman

My new favorite lemon bars, updated!
Blaise Doubman

When developing recipes, I love creating something that becomes a new favorite, such as these lemon bars. Sometimes I take a favorite recipe and see if I can somehow make it even easier or tastier. Take for instance my chocolate mayonniase cake. I replaced the water in the recipe with freshly brewed coffee and the recipe instantly transformed into something even better than before! It is amazing what a little change here or there does to transform a recipe! People ask me all the time what they can do to make their baked goods taste better. My first question back to them is if they use salt in their baked good recipes. Most of the time they look at me puzzled and tell me no, salt is for savory items only! No! This is not true! Salt is very important in baked products and makes the final result taste so much better than something with no salt added. Sometimes I even sprinkle a little finishing salt on my final dessert.

I have shared a couple of lemon bar recipes in my cookbooks as well as a lemon bar recipe in a previous column that I shared here with everyone, but these lemon bars are my new favorites! I love the easy shortbread crust and the easy filling. These lemon bars are sweet and tangy without being overbearing in taste or texture. I could go on and on about how fabulous these are but I really think you need to make them so you can see for yourselves! These are also the perfect make ahead dessert bars because when left at room temperature, or even chilled in the refrigerator, the filling firms up and transforms into almost like a thicker pudding texture. Dust the final bars with powdered sugar if desired or even sprinkle a little powdered sugar and lemon zest combination on top for a little extra punch! These are perfect for the spring time!

New Favorite Lemon Bars

Feel free to dust as much, or as little, powdered sugar on top of these as you desire. I personally love them with a mountain of powdered sugar sprinkled on top but not everybody likes the taste or texture.

For the crust…
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups white all-purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon salt

For the filling…
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 ¾ cups white granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons white all-purpose flour
½ cup fresh lemon juice

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray containing flour.

In a large bowl combine the softened unsalted butter, white all-purpose flour, powdered sugar and salt with a fork. You may even want to use your hands for this. Once the mixture is combined, press lightly and evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Place into preheated oven and bake for 33 minutes.

Once baked remove from oven. In a large bowl whisk together the lightly beaten large eggs, white granulated sugar, lemon zest and white all-purpose flour. Whisk in the lemon juice last and immediately pour the filling over the prebaked crust.

Place back into preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.

The filling should be slightly giggly but still rather firm. The lemon bars will slightly thicken and firm up as they cool to room temperature.

Once cooled, dust with powdered sugar, if desired and cut into squares. Leftovers should be kept refrigerated and will last 4 days if chilled.

Ask and Answer: I have been getting a few questions about a previous column and recipe for orange bars. People have been curious if they can freeze them in advance and then bring them to room temperature before serving. Yes! You absolutely can. What I would do, is bake the bars, cool and precut them. Wrap them well in aluminum foil and freeze them either in the pan or individually. Bring them to room temperature and then dust them with powdered sugar.

CHEW THIS! Darla’s Family Favorite Cookies

Darla’s Family Favorite Cookies

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The following “Chew This!” column has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times”, Sunday, April 7th 2019 edition. By: Blaise Doubman

Darla Doubman shares secret cookie recipe…
Blaise Doubman

My Mom, Darla Doubman, is a bit shy when people ask her if she has helped develop my skills as a cook and baker. I am not sure why, perhaps she just does not give herself enough credit, but I am here to tell you that she 110% helped cultivate my love for the kitchen. I have so many memories of my Mom and I in the kitchen that continues today! When I was little, I remember helping her make chocolate cakes in the shape of hearts with chocolate frosting. I loved those cakes and miss those heart shaped pans. We made fudge together, brownies, which are her favorites, among several savory dishes as well. Spaghetti, homemade meatballs, meatloaf, cheesy potatoes with sausage, chili, tons of slow cooker meals and even recipes for the grill. No matter what she may unwillingly admit, my Mom is a wonderful cook and baker. I have so many recipes in my cookbooks that are her recipes and some of those recipes are some of my most popular. There is a recipe I shared for her goulash that I have in one of my cookbooks and I am not kidding, I have heard from more people about that recipe than just about any other! People saying it brought back childhood memories for them, people loving it and sharing it with others.

The recipe I am sharing here today is based off one of the recipes of my Mom’s that I shared with everyone in my second cookbook, “Blaise the Baker Celebrates!” and is a recipe that people just cannot believe because of its simplicity. The method I am sharing here is different that the cookbook version and is my favorite method in making these fabulous cookies! The secret to these is that you really need to chill the dough for awhile before rolling into balls because the final dough is very sticky. Chilling the dough firms up the dough and allows easier rolling and a lot less mess. 4 simple ingredients, 3 if you do not add the extract, and you will have one of the best cookies ever! I have fond childhood memories of this recipe and making them with my Mom. I also remember eating more of the dough than the cookies! Ha! The dough is dangerously addictive, so I am warning everyone now! Shout out and special thanks to my Mom, Darla Doubman, for allowing me to share this recipe and memory with everyone. My Mom is the wizard behind the curtain so to speak. I owe everything I am today to her and love her so much. I am so proud of the woman she has become, and I cannot even begin to thank her for everything she has done, not to mention putting up with me all these years! Ha!

Darla’s Family Favorite Cookies

This dough is best made ahead and chilled in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, so plan ahead with this recipe. Feel free to use any cake mix you would like but do not substitute anything fat free or low calorie. It will not only change the texture of the cookie but the taste as well. Do not double this recipe. If wanting to make more than the average number of cookies, simply start the recipe over from the beginning.

1 Devil’s Food cake mix
1 container frozen whipped topping
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar for rolling

In a large bowl combine the cake mix and frozen whipped topping until smooth and combined. Add in the large egg and pure vanilla extract and beat well. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and place into the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough into balls the size of a rough tablespoon and roll gently into confectioners’ sugar until coated on all sides.

Place prepared balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets and bake one sheet at a time in preheated oven for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on their baking sheets until ready to remove. If you need them to firm up faster, place the baking sheet in the refrigerator to chill for about 10 minutes.

Ask and Answer: I posted on my Facebook page that I was experimenting with “Air Fryer Donut Holes”. Lots of people messaged me wanting the recipe and it is my pleasure to share it here with everyone! Take a can of large flaky biscuits and cut them into fourths. Preheat the air fryer to 370 degrees. Spray the sectioned biscuits with a light olive oil mist made for using with air fryer machines. Load about 7 sections in the basket at a time. Air fry for 4 minutes, flip and air fry another 3 minutes. Carefully remove them and dip each into melted butter, followed by a dip in confectioners’ sugar. Allow them to cool slightly in the confectioners’ sugar. Remove, shake off the excess and enjoy. These are delicious hot, warm or even cold!

CHEW THIS! Grandma Barbra’s Homemade White Bread

Grandma Barbra’s Homemade White Bread

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The following “Chew This!” column has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times”, Sunday, March 17th 2019 edition. By: Blaise Doubman

Grandma Barbra’s Homemade Bread Memories…
Blaise Doubman

I have fond memories of my Grandma Barbra and I making homemade white bread in her kitchen on cold winter days with her giant white electronic bread maker. I remember thinking it was the coolest machine at the time and often wondered how it worked as it did. I think we only made white bread and never did expand into other kinds but that white bread was some of the best of my life. We would get the machine greased and ready, measure and pour everything in and prepare for the baking. It took hours, because the bread would be mixed, then it would rest, mixed again, rest, mixed again, baked and then finally cooled. Our first several loaves were always lopsided, but it did not matter. It was delicious! We did finally figure out how to maintain the shape of the loaf and then there was no stopping us! Ha! I still remember removing the bread from its container and placing it on a plate. We would try and slice the bread but would usually end up just breaking it up into chunks with our hands, buttering each piece with lots and lots of butter and eating it while still extremely hot. I have so many wonderful memories with my Grandma Barbra and I love her so much. She has taught me so much about life, in the kitchen and out of. I joke with her that I am writing a memoir of our crazy times together and that I am going to title it, “NUTS”. She always laughs at this.

When developing this recipe, I wanted to try and steer away from a bread machine, simply because a lot of people do not have them anymore. I think somewhere in the early 2000’s bread became “unfashionable” and people stopped eating, and making, bread as much. Therefore, almost eliminating bread machines completely. I am not a follower of diets, fad or otherwise, and I love bread! Of course, I limit myself, everything in moderation including moderation, but I love a slice of warm white bread with tons of butter on top. My friend, Cindy Shelton, also loves hot bread and butter. Maybe I will make her a loaf of this bread soon. If you know someone who loves bread, take a little time and make them a loaf of this bread! It makes 2 loaves so one for you and one for a friend! This also makes the perfect gift.

Grandma Barbra’s Homemade White Bread

I always use active dry yeast, not the refrigerated yeast packets that you can find at most grocery stores. I find the active dry yeast to be better, and fresher believe it or not, than the refrigerated version. I also use Kosher salt for this recipe, as well as all my other ones. I highly recommend investing in a large box of Kosher salt for your cooking and baking needs. The flakes of salt are larger, therefore you can use less salt in your finished dishes.

2 cups warm water
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 package
½ stick unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
5 cups white all-purpose flour

Start by combining the warm water with the active dry yeast in a large bowl. The water needs to be warm to the touch but not hot. If the water is too hot it will kill the yeast. However, if the water is too cold, the yeast will not bloom. I use the hottest tap water I have and then let it cool down for about 2 minutes. Add in the melted butter, white granulated sugar and salt. Stir.

Add in 2 cups of the white all-purpose flour and stir together well. Add in another 2 cups of the white all-purpose flour and stir together well, using clean dry hands if needed.

Take the dough and place onto a clean, dry, lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for 20 minutes, adding in the remaining cup of white all-purpose flour.

The dough should not be dry at this stage but instead a slightly sticky and thick dough.

Place the dough into a buttered bowl and cover the top with a kitchen towel. Place in a warm place and let rest and rise for 1 hour without disturbing it.

After 1 hour, remove the dough and knead for another 5 minutes. Place the dough back into the bowl, cover the top with a kitchen towel and place in a warm place and let rice for 1 hour without disturbing it. In the meantime, spray 2 loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray containing flour. Be sure to grease the loaf pans generously.

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide the dough in half. Shape each half into loaf shapes and place each into their prepared pans. Cover the tops of both with a kitchen towel. Place in a warm place and let rise 1 hour without disturbing it.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake the loaves, in preheated oven, for 35 minutes. Remove, cool, unmold, slice and serve.

Ask and Answer: People have been wondering if you can substitute unsweetened chocolate for bittersweet chocolate in recipes. The answer is, no! Unsweetened chocolate contains no sugar whatsoever, whereas, bittersweet contains anywhere from 10-50% sugar. If using unsweetened chocolate in recipes you will more than likely need to add sugar for sweetness. If using bittersweet chocolate, very little sugar may be asked for. They are not interchangeable.

Beef Manhattans

I love to order beef manhattans when I am out at local restaurants and often wondered if I could try to make my own homemade version. Well I did and they are fabulous! You will not believe how flavorful these are, or how simple! Use store bought or homemade mashed potatoes and brown gravy.

Beef Manhattans

4 pound boneless beef chuck roast
1 stick butter
1 package dry Ranch dressing mix
1 package au jus gravy mix
2 cups homemade or jarred brown gravy
Prepared mashed potatoes
Texas Toast

Start by lining your slow cooker with a slow cooker liner. Place in the boneless beef chuck roast.

Place stick of butter on top of roast.

Sprinkle over package of dry Ranch dressing mix. Sprinkle over package of au jus gravy mix.

Place on lid and cook 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

After cooking, remove lid and shred meat using 2 forks.

Warm prepared brown gravy and prepared mashed potatoes.

Assemble the beef manhattans by placing 2 slices of Texas Toast on a plate. Top with shredded beef. Top with mashed potatoes and finish with brown gravy.