December 28, 2009

Christmas Cookies

This Month's Easy Bake cOven recipes were Sour Cream Sugar Cookies or Herbed Focaccia bread chosen by our member Laura.

Laura is an amazing cookie baker (she does this for a living) and was kind enough to share one of her favorites with us. I wasn't able to fit in the focaccia but it turned out Emily (also a member of the club) brought it to our Christmas party. I made some cookies to share at work and also for the party since the recipe made so many. I may have gone a little overboard decorating all of them. It was my first attempt at large scale cookie decorating with Royal Icing. I had great intentions of making a gingerbread house this month so I made a huge batch of Royal Icing for it, but I ran out of time to make one. Instead I used it for the cookies - rather than using the cream cheese frosting that comes with the recipe. I think most Decembers are like this.... You have to finish all of your shopping, while attending ten holiday parties, and preparing for company or travel, and on top of it all you want to bake six different recipes - some new some old - all making your kitchen a disaster. December was a like this for M and I. I actually appreciated getting snowed in in Ks this year because it forced us to do nothing for a while. (We did get a little stir crazy mind you).

I hope all of you have had nice holidays and enjoyed company, and have averted sugar comas. If you are still attempting to eat as much sugar as possible, do try the cookies! 

Be sure to check the cOven for other entries for December! 

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. margarine
2 egg yolks
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. sour cream
5 c. flour

Mix ingredients in this order, adding one at a time. Make dough and chill at least 2-3 hours or over night. Roll out on a floured surface and cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 350˚ for 9-12 minutes, depending on how soft you like sugar cookies. I baked mine for about 10 minutes each with 1 minute on the cookie sheet before cooling on a wire rack. 

After the cookies are completely cool, decorate with Cream Cheese Frosting recipe below. You can also use Royal Icing if you prefer. Decorate with candies as desired. 

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 lb powdered sugar
1/2 c. margarine
8 oz. cream cheese
1 T. vanilla
water, to desired consistency
food coloring, if desired

Royal Icing 
Courtesy of Alton Brown and the Food Network

3 ounces pasteurized egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar
In large bowl of stand mixer combine the egg whites and vanilla and beat until frothy. Add confectioners' sugar gradually and mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated and mixture is shiny. Turn speed up to high and beat until mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks. This should take approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add food coloring, if desired. For immediate use, transfer icing to pastry bag or heavy duty storage bag and pipe as desired. If using storage bag, clip corner. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

December 22, 2009

Pumpkin Extravaganza Continued

I know it has been a while since I posted about pumpkin or posted anything for that matter, but that doesn't mean I haven't been using it (it just means I'm really busy). I still need to use up the rest of my pumpkin but it may have to wait until after the holidays.

I have a recipe for pumpkin cookies that I really like a lot. They are easy to make (I haven't tried it with fresh pumpkin yet) and taste like little pumpkin cakes. Amazingly, they get better over time. I wanted to pack some up and send them far across the sea to my brother in law for Christmas but I didn't know if they would make it a week in the mail. (I sent fudge and candied pecans instead!) The original recipe came from Allrecipes and I have managed to edit it to my liking. They were originally supposed to be glazed, but this reminds me of the pumpkin scone at Starbucks - drenched in frosting and sickeningly sweet, eew. I like sweet but sweet overload in a two bite cookie is a little much. Anyways, these are always favorites among friends so I invite you to try them! And apparently I've never taken a photo of these so try and picture the the cutest little puff of pumpkin cookie you can imagine....

The other pumpkin journey I traveled on was Pumpkin Butter - think Apple Butter - not creamy butter spread. It is a very simple combination of ingredients you probably have on hand (and you can use canned or fresh pumpkin) and stores for about a week. This would make a lovely present for holiday hosts, or you can keep it for yourself in a pretty little jar. I've been secretly dreaming of owning some canning jars by WECK for a while now. I want to try canning sometime and I'd like to as who wouldn't with these pretty little products.

I made some bread too. I meant to make some Italian Feather Bread (Beard's bread book) but ran out of time. Instead, I tried it on some nice white bread-machine bread. A huge slice perfect for toasting. I coated it generously with butter, and topped with a thick layer of Pumpkin Butter. This would make a nice light breakfast, or a great snack with coffee or tea (or hot cocoa). I will admit I tried it while waiting for M to get home from work. I was hungry, what can I say. If only there was a toaster at work, I think my co-workers would enjoy this treat.

Pumpkin Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350˚. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt. 

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet with a cookie scoop or tablespoon. 

Bake for 12-15 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool on parchment or waxed paper and store in an airtight container. 

Pumpkin Butter
adapted from Pioneer Woman

1 C fresh pumpkin puree (or canned)
1 C plain yogurt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 heaping C powdered sugar (more to taste)

Mix ingredients together and add more sugar to taste. Let sit for at least 3 hours or overnight in an air-tight container. Use liberally! Stores for about a week in the fridge.

December 13, 2009

Mint Brownie Chip Ice Cream

I'm pretending to be Ben (or maybe Jerry). Picture me lounging on the couch reading cookbooks, wishing ice cream would appear out of thin air. If only I owned a multi-million dollar corporation with an endless supply of ice cream at my fingertips.  I do this often (the part about reading cookbooks I mean). I am pretty sure I have read 90% of each cookbook I own, but I can't remember all of those recipes so I visit them often in search of inspiration. I was craving some ice cream recently and since it was M's turn to choose the recipe he made it very difficult and said "mint with chocolate." Ben and Jerry know ice cream, but so does David Lebovits. Oh, how do I choose with all of those beautiful ice cream photos?

I have a slight tendency (ok a huge tendency) to not make decisions... mostly to questions that don't matter too much, like "where do you want to eat?" or "did you have any place in mind for drinks after work?" which I typically respond with either "I don't really care" or list off three places that may work. I'm trying to be better, it is just a tough habit to break. I am very decisive when it comes to work related stuff, but baking is a different creature. There are too many options, and usually too many recipes I want to make all at the same time. Faced with the vague comment of "mint with chocolate" I turned to my two ice cream cookbooks and found nothing. Haha. It is true. Nothing really sounded good. I kept pestering M with more questions to try and force some legitimate information from him (like chocolate chips or shavings) and he wasn't very much help. He has similar tendencies... what a couple we make! 

In the end I finally decided I wanted to make something with brownies and chocolate chunks. Chunks in ice cream are very important, chunks in jello we could all live without. I used the Ben & Jerry's Sweet Cream base for this one and added my own slightly larger portions of mix-ins than the recipe called for. It turned out wonderful. I might have liked more brownie chunks and less chocolate chips, but the mint and chocolate combination was successful. Next batch is my choice... wish me luck... or tell me your favorite ice cream and maybe I'll make it. 

December 6, 2009

Cookies and a Start on Christmas goodies

I don't make cookies very much any more. I'm not sure why, because I usually have lots of cookie ingredients on hand and they are so quick. I had some leftover oats from a breakfast I cater at my church every now and then (oatmeal for 160 women!) and I was inspired to make chocolate chip cookies - with oatmeal of course. I used a recipe from the biggest book of cookies possibly ever published and changed it a bit to suit my taste. The recipe made so many I had to send a bunch to work with M and myself. Always a hit. I think people just love baked goods, or possibly just sugar. 

I'm going to try and make some fun Christmas cookies this year and I'll be sure to keep you updated on the progress. I probably won't come close to the amount of cookies M's aunt makes (tradition for her to make at least 10 probably more - varieties for their Christmas party each year). I think I'll include some favorites for you all to try. Candied Pecans, Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies, and Candied Orange Peel - they make a great gift and they will disappear before you know if left out for holiday guests to enjoy.  

What are you making for Christmas this year? 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 C butter 
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 C flour
2 C rolled oats
1 C semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375˚. Cream butter for 30 seconds, add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add baking powder, soda, and spices. Beat in eggs one at a time and then the vanilla. Add in as much flour as possible with the mixer. Stir in oats and chocolate chips. Drop onto cookie sheet and bake for 9-10 minutes. cool on sheet for one minute before moving to a wire rack (or a sheet of parchment). Makes a ton of cookies! about 5 dozen cookies. 

Candied Pecans
1 egg white
1 T water

one 1 lb bag raw pecans
1 tsp cinnamon
1 C sugar

Preheat the oven to 250˚ and center the rack. Whisk the egg white and water until frothy. Add to a large ziplock bag. Add all pecans to the bag, close, and shake vigorously until all of the pecans are coated. Whisk together the cinnamon and sugar and add to the bag. Shake again until pieces are coated evenly. Spread onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 1 - 1 1/4 hours stirring every 15 minutes. 

Candied Orange Peel
I used the step by step ingredients from Use Real Butter and the recipe below adapted from the food network.

6 thick-skinned Valencia or navel oranges
4 1/2 cups sugar, plus extra for rolling
1 1/2 cups water

8 oz dark chocolate 

Cut tops and bottoms off of the orange and score the orange into quarters, cutting down only into the peel and not into the fruit. Peel the skin and pith of the orange in large pieces, use the orange for another recipe. Cut the peel into strips about 1/4-inch wide. Put the orange peel in a large saucepan with cold water to cover, bring to a boil over high heat. Then pour off the water. Repeat 2 more times. Remove the orange peels from the pan.
Whisk the sugar with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 8 to 9 minutes
(If you took the sugar's temperature with a candy thermometer it would be at the soft thread stage, 230 to 234 degrees F.) Add the peels and simmer gently, reducing heat to retain a simmer. Cook until the peels get translucent, about 45 minutes. Resist the urge to stir the peels or you may introduce sugar crystals into the syrup. If necessary, swirl the pan to move the peels around. Drain the peels, roll the peels in sugar and dry on a rack, for 4 to 5 hours. Melt Chocolate in a double boiler and dip orange peels in chocolate if you wish. If you roll them in sugar first be ware that some of the sugar will fall into the chocolate. You can also dip just the end in the sugar and the rest in chocolate if you like the look. 

Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies
These are one of my favorite! 

1 1/2 C flour
1/2 C cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 C butter
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C peanut butter
1 egg
1 T milk
1 tsp vanilla

3/4 C sifted powdered sugar
1/2 C peanut butter

sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350˚. Combine flour, cocoa and soda and set aside. Cream butter, sugars, and peanut butter until combined. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in milk and vanilla. Add as much flour as possible and beat any remaining with a wooden spoon. If the batter is too sticky to roll add in more flour until you can roll a ball without it sticking to your hands. 

For the filling, beat powdered sugar and peanut butter until it also can be rolled into balls. 

Dive each of the doughs into 32 equal pieces and roll into balls. Take a ball of chocolate and flatten it out into a nice round patty. Add a peanut butter ball to the center and close the chocolate ball around it sealing up the edges. place on an ungreased cookie sheet. dip the bottom of a glass into the sugar bowl and slightly flatten each cookie. Bake for 8 minutes or until the surface just starts to crack. Cool on cooke sheet for one minute and cool on a sheet of parchment. 

November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Goodness

Thanksgiving this year was small (I mean people definitely not food). We shared it with 3 other close friends and our host's 17 lb turkey was definitely big enough to fill us. M and one of our hosts had their annual Thanksgiving "Turkey Trot", a 3.7 mile run in the city so they were prepared to feast. This turkey was a champion too, it decided to cook itself two hours faster than it should have and somehow remain moist and tasty. Does diligent baking and dishwashing count as exercise too?

Dessert and Rolls are what M and I claimed for Thanksgiving this year. We also threw together a cranberry relish, because what is Thanksgiving without cranberries? Last year I made two different types of cranberry dishes because we received so many cranberries in our CSA box (I had never made them from scratch before). This year we managed to make the favorite of the two and somehow it seemed better than last. We did reminisce about the cranberry sauce that comes in a can and kind of slurps out. I used to love the stuff when I was a kid... oh how things have changed. The relish was probably the easiest and least time consuming of the recipes we made - 5 minutes tops. The Creme Brulee wasn't too difficult to prepare, it required 2 hours chilling time, and the rolls needed ample time to rise in our freezing apartment (thank you gas stove for staying warm while you weren't baking to help out the process).

Rolls, rolls, giant rolls. They were so good (and we have some leftover... yeah!) M managed to recreate his mom's roll recipe from scratch very well this year. I'd say he is a pro after only one year of practice. He decided it would be best to make them really big. I'm pretty sure he was really hungry while making them and may have altered his reasoning for size of roll discernment. I asked M to say a little something about his bread making...

"I love these rolls. I grew up with them at Thanksgiving and Christmas and it's the one food item I refuse to go through the holidays without. They take a good amount of love to make, with excessive amounts of kneading and careful oven monitoring and can easily go south quickly. Too little or too much kneading, cheap yeast, too little butter spread, too much poppy seed, a minute overcooked, a minute undercooked, a burnt tip... It's an investment in time and patience and will leave your muscles sore from stirring and kneading dough. This year I'm happy to say they were perfect and I was like a giddy little kid stealing a fresh-out-of-the-oven roll to enjoy, plus it gave me an excuse to wear an apron."

needs more flour

kneading - I think he was getting tired

expert slicing with the handy pizza cutter

8 rolls per third of dough - this is what made them the size of your face

perfect rolls

M devouring fresh from the oven rolls

M may have eaten the whole basket if I hadn't been watching

Look at that buttery goodness!

I'm pretty sure this is going to be his traditional dish for Thanksgivings to come. And whether they show up next year the size of your face I guess we'll wait and see.

I was flipping through a cookbook and stumbled upon some interesting pumpkin recipes like Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse and Pumpkin Creme Brulee, and after a vote the Brulee won. I haven't ever made any type of Creme Brulee and I was excited to try it. Thanks Em for letting me borrow ramekins so I didn't have to clutter the tiny kitchen with dishes that are very seldom used.

I actually made my own pumpkin puree from my cute little sugar pumpkin from our Farm Fresh box. Making your own puree is time consuming but very easy. I used the wise words of The Pioneer Woman to make mine, and I definitely had to add water to make the right consistency. I was very proud to say the least. My little pumpkin made about 2 1/2 cups so I'll be making something else to contribute the the pumpkin extravaganza. I have my eyes on Pumpkin Butter and possibly a pumpkin cheesecake just for fun.

I only had one judgement issue for the creme brulee and that was "the brulee will be done when they give a uniform jiggle" and it was hard to discern when the jiggle was "uniform" or if it was too jiggly. Needless to say, I may have overcooked them just a hair. After the cooking they needed to cool for a couple of hours. Before serving all you have to do is torch them. You can also use your broiler if you don't have a torch. I would have used the broiler had our hosts not had a torch. It worked well, and it was fun to watch the sugar liquify. The only thing more satisfying was breaking through the sugar into the pumpkin creme below. They were tasty little pots of goodness.

In addition to our contributions, we had a deliciously moist turkey with sausage stuffing, mashed sweet and russet potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole with mushrooms and onion, and fruity jello pudding salad (one of those midwestern roots dishes). Our meal was great and our company was too. All of our suffering was worth it though. Thanks everyone for sharing a great holiday with us.

Cranberry Relish
makes about 3 cups

1 small navel orange (or 2 clementines - which is what we had on hand)
1 pear
1 12-oz bag cranberries
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4-1/2 tsp salt to taste
3 T chopped toasted pecans

Slice the orange and pear into segments and toss into the food processor (keep the rind on both). Add the sugar and cranberries and salt and pulse a few times. Process until you get a coarse chop for all of the fruits, stopping to stir if necessary. We processed ours a little smaller this year which may have made it a little juicier than typical. Cover tightly and refrigerate for two hours. Sprinkle the nuts on top just before serving.

The relish is also delicious as a topping for waffles or pancakes! I hope this comes in handy for the Christmas season.

November 27, 2009

Easy Bake cOven - Thanksgiving Pie

For this months Easy Bake cOven recipe, Elisa chose pie. Since this month begins the holiday season and seems to require a lot of baking, Elisa thought it would be best for our recipe to contribute to the Thanksgiving meal. Why is pie so traditional anyways? Maybe because it is so delicious.... I made another dish to accompany our Pie, Pumpkin Creme Brulee, which I will post about separate from the Easy Bake cOven pie.
It was hard for me to veer away from pumpkin pie since I am obsessed with it, but M thought it would be best not to have two desserts of the same origin. I made Chocolate Pecan Pie instead because I had all of the ingredients on hand. I can't believe we went through so many eggs in one day (an entire dozen in only 3 dishes). The pie was one of Emeril's recipes which I find can be hit or miss. It looked really nice and the crust came out flaky and crispy.
The filling was incredibly rich, and I would recommend refrigerating this after it is cool so the filling firms up a little more. When we cut into it, the pie was a little bit runny. I don't know if this had to do with the ratio of liquid to solid - or if I should have baked it a few minutes longer (covered of course). It was good, runny or not. Having a slice of this pie actually took me over the edge just a little. We drank a great bottle of Merlot with it (Merlot + chocolate is an amazing combination) which made the pie so much more intense. I love this holiday, I don't love the feeling you get after you eat way more than you should in one sitting. I'd like to compare this recipe to my mother in law's just to see if there was something I could change to help it solidify. Oh, and Emeril has a caramel sauce to top it with, but that seems a little excessive. I can't imagine making a rich pie even more intense!
I didn't use the crust recipes Elisa included because I wanted to try a new one from my new cookbook. It turned out so well I want to share it with you all.
Pie Crust
Yields 2 crusts
2 1/2 C flour
2 T sugar
2 sticks butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 C ice water
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar champagne vinegar (i didn't have either and used vodka instead)
Cut butter into one inch pieces (really big chunks) and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes. Sift flour and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the frozen butter and salt and mix for about 2 minutes or until the butter looks like walnut pieces. Stop the machine and pinch any remaining large hunks of butter by hand. Mix the vinegar with the cold water, turn the mixer on low and add to the dough all at once. Mix until the dough just comes together -15 seconds or so. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut into two pieces and roll out. You can keep the extra crust in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for 3 weeks.
Be sure to check out the cOven in the next few days to see everyone's Thanksgiving pie creations - or check below for those who linked their blog to mine! Happy leftover eating!
The Lovely Lady Baker

November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Ideas

Hopefully all of you have already planned your thanksgiving dinners, but if you are attempting to find one more thing to make I have some ideas. Well, not quite ideas, but great direction. On my daily blog search I have come across a few good resources for you. Some are more informational, some are recipes, but they have one thing in common.... they all look delicious. I'm looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with close friends - great food and wine as well.
Photo: Pioneer Woman, Turkey
Will you be able to master all of the foods you can't live without! Good Luck!
Trust the Pioneer Woman and her schedule for cooking and if you like to brine your turkey you might want to start soon!
For all of your Pumpkin cravings.... I think this guy might like pumpkin more than me (if that is possible) and he has some Thanksgiving ideas as well...
and Smitten Kitchen has some very non traditional ideas too.
Photo: Smitten Kitchen, Brussel Sprouts and Chestnuts in brown butter

November 18, 2009

Baby Cake

There is going to be a new baby amongst our group of friends soon. I feel like a lot of my friends I grew up with are already experiencing this or have experienced it or have their own baby. For M and I things are a little different. People in the city tend to wait longer to have children than our midwestern roots, so we haven't experienced the baby craze just yet. I'm pretty sure it is just beginning and it is quite fun. I really love babies. They are so cute and sweet and once they start to cry you can give them back (hehe at least for now).
Baby is coming in less than a month so of course we had to celebrate. Our friend organized a very non-traditional couples shower where we only played one baby game that had nothing to do with melted candy bars in diapers. More like a regular party with lots of food and drinks, I think our couple had a good time. They also received some cutesy baby gifts and a bunch of babysitting offers.
I was asked to make a cake. Go figure... The funny thing is that the dad-to-be is allergic to pretty much everything so I had to default to a known favorite that I knew wouldn't kill him. Gingerbread Cake. I made it for his last birthday and they both really liked it. Safe. I also had intention of making it really cute since there wasn't going to be much of that at the shower. I have been looking for a reason to try out fondant too. I made marshmallow fondant in a very small quantity for my nephew's birthday cupcakes (coming soon) but never covered an entire cake with it. I got some tips from a friendly salesman at the baking supply store and it turned out great.
Fondant is pretty simple. I would like to try and make my own sometime but for now I stuck with Wilton. Once I kneaded it enough it was easy to roll. I didn't really figure out how to cover the corners of a square cake so I decided to drape it around like a little blanket. It looked really cute and no one would have known otherwise. I also wanted to make block letters and they turned out super cute too. Thanks to my lovely assistant and friend Emily (who makes amazing cookies by the way) for ideas and help finishing the cake. "baby" blocks and polka dots. This was great practice to cakes to come (at least I hope).
Gingerbread Cake
(1 9 inch cake) Printer Friendly
1 stick butter
1/2 C brown sugar (light or dark)
1/2 C molasses
2 eggs
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C buttermilk
Lemon Frosting
4 T butter
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp lemon extract
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 C sifted powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350˚. butter and flour a 9" pan. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in the molasses and eggs one at a time. Mix together all of the dry ingredients. Add the vanilla to the buttermilk. Alternate 1/3 flour and 1/2 buttermilk until completely blended. Smooth the top and bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool completely in the pan, run a knife around the edge and un-mold onto a wire rack. Optional - Cut cake in half and spread with Lemon curd, or raspberry preserves. It is best when left overnight to absorb the filling. Frost and serve.

November 14, 2009

Monkey Bread

I love monkey bread. It never occurred to me that people did not know what this delicious bread was until I was making it for brunch. My friend told me she never heard of it until college and she was on the phone with another friend who had never heard of it either. So, for those of you in the same boat I welcome you to the land of deliciousness... Monkey Bread is a sweet pull-apart bread made of mini rolls dipped in a sugar/butter mix and baked into a sticky gooey mess. It is great for brunch or even dessert and unfortunately has nothing to do with real Monkeys.
I like my monkey bread gooey. If it isn't gooey it just isn't as good. I haven't made this since high school probably when I used my best friends' mom's recipe. She used frozen dinner rolls and some butterscotch pudding packets and some other things I can't remember. It sounds weird but tastes delicious. It is also super easy to make since you let the rolls rise overnight. The one I made for brunch I made from scratch. It also had currants which I have never seen before, but my cookbook says this is the original way to make it (and I happen to keep them in the pantry). The taste was great but my yeast was almost dead. The bread didn't rise as much as planned so it was pretty dense.
Making these the morning of your breakfast is a little difficult since the bread requires a lot of rising time. Not so terrible if you are a morning person and you are having a brunch or late breakfast. I think I was a morning person once.... Making this from complete scratch is a toss up for me. Had the bread turned out light and fluffy as it should have I might have loved it enough to make it from scratch again. I should go ahead and try since the yeast was a major factor in taste and texture. Only then will I be able to fully decide whether or not this bread should be a scratch dough or not. Maybe I'll do a side by side taste test of both. Hmmm, maybe the perfect addition to Christmas breakfast....
I have attached the recipe for all of you curious bread makers (who either love Monkey bread or are interested in giving it a try). Good luck, and buy new yeast!
Monkey Bread
2 packages yeast
1 C sugar
1/2 C warm water (110˚-115˚)
2 sticks butter divided
1 1/2 T salt
1 C warm milk
3 eggs + 2 yolks
6-7 C flour
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C currants plumped
Proof yeast, sugar and water in a large bowl. Stir 1 stick butter into the warm milk. Add to the yeast mixture and stir in eggs. Beat until combined. Add the flour one cup at a time until you get to 5 cups. Then turn it out onto a floured surface and knead in as much of the 2 C as you need to make a silky dough. Knead 10 minutes. Shape into a ball and put it in a buttered dish, cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place until it doubles.
Punch down and let it rest for 5 minutes. Knead a few turns with 1 T flour and rest for another 5-10 minutes (I told you it would take a while). Butter a 10 inch tube pan. In a saucepan melt 1 stick butter and the brown sugar in a saucepan. Add in the currants and remove from heat. Pinch off dough in golfball size amounts, roll into balls and then into the butter mixture. Layer into the bottom of the pan. Once all are in, pour remaining butter mix over the top, tent loosely with foil and let the dough rise to the top of the pan. Bake in a 375˚ oven for about an hour. It will be done with the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Invert onto a serving dish and serve warm to pull apart.

November 13, 2009

Pumpkin Extravaganza

Have I mentioned before that I adore pumpkin. Really anything from the squash family I will eat without question. I'm looking forward to fall and all of the interesting winter squash our Farm Fresh produce will bring. If anyone has any great recipes to share, I'd love to cook something new.

For now (whilst my dear pumpkins are decorating the house for the season) I have been busy with the canned version. Over the next few posts I hope to share some of my favorite pumpkin recipes including this first post about a very versatile bread base. I found a recipe a few years back on the website that I have altered many times to cut the fat. It can be turned into loaves of bread or muffins, or a combination if you use the whole recipe. It tastes great with nuts or chocolate chips, and this time I made a loaf with green pumpkin seeds. All delicious.

Pumpkin is something I never grow tired of, and one of the first pies I made from scratch. It is so simple to use from a can, especially since the canned pumpkin folks haven't added strange life extending chemicals to the mix. I am happy to say that my can of pumpkin contains solely "pumpkin". Pumpkin from scratch is good as well but a lot more work. First you have to cut it in pieces which may be a challenge if you don't have a super sharp chef's knife. Then you wait around while it roasts, then you scoop out the contents, then you blend it up and hope your pumpkin was big enough to yield more than enough for you recipe. I enjoy cooking it from scratch every now and then, but typically I am using a butternut squash and making an amazing soup. Maybe this year I'll try and recreate one of my favorite dishes, pumpkin curry with chicken....

I used the entire recipe below and made muffins - half with chocolate chips and half with a crumb topping. I had the crumb topping left over from the apple crisp and will say that it was not the most interesting addition to the muffin. Chocolate chips on the other hand are amazing. Pumpkin and chocolate go together well. I was mildly depressed that I hadn't just made the whole batch with chocolate chips (I think M was too). The other half of the batter I dumped into my loaf pan and topped it generously with green pumpkin seeds. These are really tasty seeds and when added to the top of the bread toast very well. I don't much like my muffins to taste like they should be a dessert so I steer clear of the cream cheese filling. A dear woman who my sister and I call "grandma Blanch" makes a very heavy pie with cream cheese and lots of whipped topping. I can only eat a sliver of it. I can however eat a decent slice of pumpkin cheesecake (which I should make for this Extravaganza). I hope you find some canned pumpkin to try out the upcoming recipes with. If you have any great ideas let me know!

Pumpkin Bread Base

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

4 eggs

1/2 C vegetable oil

1/2 C plain yogurt

2/3 C water

2 C white sugar

3 1/2 C all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground ginger

and a splash of vanilla if you feel like it

1/2 C chocolate chips, 1/4 C pumpkin seeds, 1/4 C walnuts or almonds chopped

Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease and flour one 9x4 inch loaf pan and line 12 muffin cups. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, yogurt, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Fill the muffins 2/3 full and pour the rest into the loaf pan. Bake muffins for 25 minutes and the loaf for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

November 8, 2009

Mini Fruit Pizzas

Every time I make these I wonder why I don't make them more often. They are so delicious and very easy individual desserts for a group. I learned to make fruit pizza with my mom when she was a Pampered Chef consultant around the time I was in middle school. They were always one of my favorite things to help with, especially slicing the kiwis with the fancy egg slicer. I don't have an egg slicer now (and probably don't need one) but making them was just as fun.
M and I actually made these in tag-team fashion. We were making some foods for our monthly family dinner and the theme this month was "baby food" in honor of the host family and their little one on the way. We didn't eat mashed up foods (though I was surprised no one made anything resembling baby food) and instead ate miniature sized foods - like sliders and croissant wrapped wieners. We also had pot stickers, stuffed mushrooms, mini quiches, and an assortment of small veggies and fruits. (our hosts even bought mini limes for our cocktails.) We made roasted beets sliced on toasted baguette with a schmear of goat cheese, sprinkled with toasted walnuts and fresh thyme. We also decided to make mini fruit pizzas with cream cheese frosting and a sugar cookie base.
I used to cheat and buy the pillsbury log of sugar cookie dough and roll it out into a large round disk about 1/4 inch thick (which is totally fine) but decided to make the sugar cookie dough myself. I wanted to find a recipe that would be a good addition to the box for cut out sugar cookies. I think I found a good match but the true test will come when it is not loaded with cream cheese and fruits. Thankfully I have 101 cookie cutters waiting to test out the dough. I baked the cookies and M finished them with frosting and fruits. He did a fantastic job I must say, arranging them with a slice of kiwi, banana, pear, strawberries and a raspberry. Yum! Had they not been 3 inch cookies I may have gone for a second (maybe eating a few mini s'mores and petit fours didn't help the decision).
The cookie baked up nicely. It wasn't crispy like some sugar cookies can be and was delicious after a short period of refrigeration. I will have to remember to make these again. Maybe M will help that memory since he seemed to enjoy them so much.
Mini Fruit Pizzas
Sugar Cookie Base
Yields about 30 1/4 inch thick cookies
3/4 C butter softened
1 1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 C flour + 1/2 C as needed
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer with the paddle attachment for 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs one at a time. Add in the vanilla. Whisk the dry ingredients and add into the mix all at once mix on low speed until fully incorporated. If the batter seems to sticky add up to 1/2 C more flour. Divide dough in half and wrap each with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out shapes and bake for 6-8 minutes at 400˚. Cool completely on a wire rack. Frost as desired.
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Cream together with a mixer and frost the cookies equally.
Another option for frosting:
8 oz cream cheese
1 jar marshmallow fluff
Allow cream cheese to come to room temperature. Mix together with fluff with an electric mixer. Frost. (this was the traditional Pampered Chef Frosting)
Any assortment of seasonal fruit that is ripe and won't brown too much sliced thin and arranged on top of the frosted cookie. If you find your fruits are sliding, use an extra dollop of frosting on the top of some fruits to make them stick.

October 31, 2009

Orange Coconut Bars

Yum! Why are bars so delicious? I really like lemon bars but decided to use the fruits of Farm Fresh and try an orange version of the classic Lemon bar. I made them for a friend's birthday and since it was at a wine bar we needed something portable and bite sized. I had most ingredients on hand so that made the recipe decision much more simple.
The bars are fairly straight forward, they have a pecan crust and an orange juice, zest and coconut filling. I sprinkled them with powdered sugar and they looked really pretty. They keep well in the fridge if you need to make them in advance. I used part sweetened coconut and part shaved coconut. I liked the combination. It didn't get too sweet which was one of my worries had I used all sweetened coconut. The orange flavor was mild enough that the pecan crust came through.
Our birthday girl loved them (though she seems to enjoy my baking). I got a lot of good comments from the tasters as well and think that these will make the repeat list. The original recipe actually suggests these might be good for breakfast... I guess they are not super sweet and would probably work, but I suggest making them as an hors d'oeuvres instead.
Orange Coconut Bars
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Cookies
1/2 C all purpose flour
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C butter
1/2 C finely chopped pecans
2 eggs
3/4 C sugar
2 T flour
1 1/2 tsp orange zest
3 T orange juice (about 1 1/2 juicy oranges)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 C sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 C flaked unsweetened coconut
Preheat oven to 350˚. In the bowl of a food processor grind the nuts until finely chopped but not paste, add the 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup sugar and pulse a few times. Then add the butter and pulse until you get pea sized crumbs. Press into the bottom of an 8x8 inch pan. I like to line it with foil which makes it cleaner and easier to get out. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden.
To make the filling, combine sugar, eggs, juice, zest and baking powder. Pour into the baked crust and return to the oven for about 20 more minutes. The edges will be light brown the the center set. Cool in pan on a wire rack. At this point you can refrigerate the whole pan for 1 hour which will make it easy to get the bars out. Pull out the bars, peel off the foil, and cut into squares. I made tiny 1 inch squares but you can make 16 bars by cutting the pan in half and then into 8 segments. I also prefer to slice off just a small amount of the edge because it tends to brown more than the rest. Dust with powdered sugar if you like.

October 24, 2009

Easy Bake cOven: Molasses Cookies

I just finished baking cookies. It's a Thursday night, and after one of the best episodes of The Office ever... I enjoyed a tasty gingerbread-esque cookie. This month for the baking club our Dynamic Baking Duo chose two recipes, Molasses Cookies and Apple Pie Cupcakes. I had all intentions of making both, but had a lot of projects going on this month. The cookies were great - after a little tweaking.
I really do love gingerbread in all forms. Cake, bread, cookie, rolled cookie... flat cookie eh hem... Yes, I made a rather thin version of this cookie by accident. I followed the recipe exactly and it turned out a really moist batter (too moist) so the cookies flattened out into little ginger crisps in the oven. They were still delicious and thankfully being skeptical, I only made 9 as a test run. I ended up using quite a bit more flour than the recipe called for to get the dough to hand-rolling consistency. Much better! The cookies turned into the little puffs you see in the original recipe. They did flatten out a tiny bit after cooling, but kept their deliciously crisp crust and chewy interior. I saved some dough after deciding these were best just out of the oven and M and I polished them off within a week. (I think he took some to work and I did give some to our neighbor). Too good to pass up.
I saved the flat ones in the freezer because I wanted to attempt an Ice Cream Sandwich cookie. I've only done this once before and it is quite messy... and the cookie has to be the right consistency to be eaten half frozen or all the ice cream will just squeeze out for lack of breaking the cookie with your teeth. Pumpkin Ice Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream, Cinnamon Ice Cream. All seemed to be good choices to use with this cookie. I bought some pumpkin ice cream (though I'm thinking after halloween my pumpkins might make a debut in a pumpkin ice cream creation) and decided to go for the sandwiches.
Spicy Molasses Cookies

1 C sugar 3/4 C Crisco 1/4 C molasses 1 egg 2 1/2 C flour 1 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp ground cloves 1 tsp ground ginger 1/4 tsp ground cardamom 1/4 tsp salt 2 1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350˚. Mix sugar, shortening, molasses, and egg together until well blended. Dump in dry ingredients, stirring dry ingredients together lightly. Mix together until dough is a smooth consistency. Roll dough into 1 1/4 inch balls, then generously coat each ball with sugar. Place balls on a baking sheet and bake for 9 to 11 minutes, keep on rack for one minute after removing from oven. Cool on a wire rack. They are as the original recipe says best while warm.

Thanks Pioneer Woman

Don't forget to check out the Easy Bake cOven for other entries and of course below!

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