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Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

It was about time for a Daring Bakers Challenge that was more fun and less annoying/frustrating/want-to-throw-all-my-baking-supples-out-the-window.

For January we were put to the scone making test! Although in this case, “scone” meant the European scone, which is actually called a biscuit in America. And biscuits in America are scones in Europe.

Backwards, right?

Anyway, we were allowed to put whatever fixins’ we wanted into the mix and I went with dill and cheddar, since I had both in my fridge. They suggested to use chives and cheddar but i’m glad I went with dill.

I served it alongside the veggie soup from the other night and they were just perfect…flaky, fluffy, flavorful, cheesy. Make these tonight!

Blog-checking lines: Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!


Cheddar Dill Biscuits

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Makes 5-8 depending on biscuit size

Recipe can be doubled

Ingredients:
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ oz) fresh baking powder
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) frozen grated butter (or a combination of lard and butter)
approximately ½ cup (120 ml) cold milk
1/2 cup grated cheese
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
optional 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops of the scones

Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.

Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If your room temperature is very hot refrigerate the sifted ingredients until cold.)

Rub the frozen grated butter (or combination of fats) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.

Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be! Mix in cheese and dill.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.)

Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick (15¼ cm by 10 cm by 2 cm thick). Using a well-floured 2-inch (5 cm) scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch (5 cm) rounds, gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch (2 cm) layer and cut two more scones (these two scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Or use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire.

Place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look to your scones.

Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set.

Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.

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Ok, no more pasta recipes for now.

In fact, I’m switching to an entirely different food category. No more dinner…on to snacks! Everyone likes snacks.

I made these little beauties as a appetizer before our New Year’s Dinner.

These taste exactly like Cheez-its. I know they don’t look the same but I promise they taste identical.

I adapted this recipe from Food52– The original recipe called for smoked paprika but I didn’t have any and didn’t feel like buying any so I used regular old paprika. I’m sure the smoked one would have added a different taste but then they would have tasted like smoked Cheez-its and that’s not quite the same.

I added quite a bit of cayenne as well. I loved how spicy they were but Nate wasn’t such a fan of his mouth tingling, so go easy on it if you have a sensitive fiance.

My only issue with these adorable little things is that they’re so tiny that rolling the dough into like 40 little balls is kinda of time consuming…and annoying. But if you have them time, then it’s totally worth it.

I hope you’re having company over soon because you need to make these! Or maybe you just want a snack. Either is fine.


Cheese Crackers

Barely Adapted from Food52

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Makes about 40

1 cup all purpose flour, sifted
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon paprika (or more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)
1 cup Panko bread crumbs (I used whole wheat panko)-*note these are not regular breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 and line cookie sheets with parchment.

Put flour, butter, cheese, cayenne, paprika and salt into food processor and pulse till completely blended and a ball forms. Taste for seasoning and adjust.

Add panko and process in small pulses (as few as possible) to incorporate panko into dough.

Scoop small balls of dough (about 1/2 teaspoon) and roll in the palm of your hand. Place on cookie sheet and flatten with fork or spatula. (You can also roll the dough out about 1/2 inch thick and use small cookie cutters.) Sprinkle the tops with smoked paprika and more salt if desired.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes until the bottom is lightly browned and the crispettes are cooked through.

Remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack.

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Originally I started this blog because I loved the idea of being able to share my favorite or newly-discovered recipes with others. I love that you can usually know that if a recipe is posted on a blog, it’s a good one and making it won’t be disastrous.

But in posting to my blog for the past 11 months (WOW, has it really almost been a year since I started this thing?!), I realized it has an even better purpose. It has become a place to which I can go to find my favorite recipes and keep things organized.

Before putting in fridge...

For the past couple years, I’ve started new traditions about things that I make on certain occasions. One of those occasions is Christmas Day when I bake cinnamon buns. Last year I scoured the internet searching for a bun that could be made the day before and simply baked in the morning. I combined several recipes, pulling the best parts of each: dough, filling, frosting. They came out perfectly.

So I was upset this year when I realized that I had printed out the recipe last year but hadn’t written it down to save anywhere. I, luckily, had an email trail of when I sent it to Nate and his mom to check it out.

This year, I wanted to share this amazing recipe with you…and now I know that next year when I go to bake these tasty treats again, I will be able to find the recipe in the spot where I now have all of my favorite recipes listed, my blog 🙂


Overnight Cinnamon Buns with Cream Cheese Frosting

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makes 1 dozen rolls

Dough:
1 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/2 cup white sugar
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs

Filling:
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tablespoons butter, softened

Frosting:
4 oz.  cream cheese, softened (1/2 of an 8 oz container)
1/4 cup margarine, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/5 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 Tbsp milk

Preparation:
Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Add the butter and stir until melted; let cool until lukewarm.

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk mixture. Add the sugar, 3 cups of flour, salt and eggs; stir well to combine. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and supple, about 8 minutes.

Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 10x 14 inch rectangle. Lightly brush the far edge with water. In a small bowl combine the filling ingredients and sprinkle/spread evenly over the dough. Roll up the dough into a log (it should have the length of the long side) and seal the seam.

Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces; place the pieces in a greased 9×13 inch baking pan, or 12 inch deep dish pizza pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rise overnight. *note that they can be put in the fridge for longer than just overnight. I usually put mine in around 4pm.

The next morning, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Take the rolls out of the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes-1.5 hrs. I think that they’re better if they sit out for longer than 30 min because they still have to rise a bit. Don’t expect them to rise a ton sitting out, as they do most of their puffing up while in the oven.

Bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. Meanwhile, combine the frosting ingredients; set aside. Spread the frosting over the rolls when they come out of the oven. Enjoy hot out of the oven!

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This month’s challenge was to make sourdough bread! I had heard terms thrown around in the past about sourdough “starters” but had no idea what this actually involved. It’s pretty gross, actually. You basically mix water and flour together and let it sit in a warm place for a while, while “feeding” it every day to keep it alive and well. It ferments and bubbles, and eventually becomes so aerated and bubbly that it takes the place of yeast in the bread recipe!

It’s pretty amazing, actually, that you can create something that’s alive from just flour and water. My starter became my little pet for the week, as I had to take good care of it, make sure it didn’t starve and wasn’t too cold or hot. It was my baby.

Unfortunately I didn’t plan it very well. You were supposed to grow your starter for 4 days and then make the bread on day 5. I knew I wasn’t going to have time to make it til I got down to Nate’s mom’s house for Christmas…so I stuck my starter in the fridge. I checked with the Daring Baker’s forum to make sure this step was ok and they assured me it was fine. I was just told to “freshen” the starter the day before I’d be using it.

On Friday I carefully packed up my starter to take to work with me, as I was going to be leaving on the train to Delaware directly after work. I knew it would be fine since it was meant to be at room temperature. The next night, in preparation for making the bread on Sunday, I freshened the starter. I think I must have added the wrong proportion of flour to water, though, as it seemed thinner than it was before. This was mistake #1 I think.

The next day I followed the directions, making the leaven and letting it sit for 4 hours to bubble. I think something happened in this step because 4 hours later I looked at it and there was no bubbling going on. I should have just given up here but I wanted to keep going.

I made the dough, but added 1/2 cup more water than I was supposed to. Oops! I tried to cover it up by adding more flour but knew this was the beginning of the end.

I left the dough to rest but it didn’t really bubble or increase in size. Because sourdough bread doesn’t use yeast, the doubling in size and aerating is kind of important. However, I knew I needed to finish what I started so I could at least get pictures of my sad attempt at sourdough…so I persevered.

When I went to put the dough on the sheet pan, I realized that it was waaay too thin and would never hold a loaf shape on a pan. I knew the bread wasn’t going to come out correctly at this point, but I put it in a cake pan instead and hoped for the best.

The bread did rise in the oven a bit, but for the most part it remained dense. When I took it out of the oven it felt like a brick.

In the end, the bread tasted a bit like sourdough but had a dense, doughy consistency rather than being light and airy. I kind of enjoyed it as I like doughy bread, but since it was most certainly not correct, I threw the rest out.

I thought about saving the rest of the starter to attempt it again in the future, but I really don’t think I have the patience. Hopefully the next challenge will go a little better!

Blog-checking lines: Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

This recipe is long and involved. Rather than type it all out here, I will link you to the Daring Bakers site when it’s up.

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Sorry I’m a little late with these cookie recipes. I realize Hannukah is today and Christmas is this weekend, but maybe you’re a baking procrastinator? I hope so. But you see, I’ve been a busy girl. I found my perfect wedding dress this weekend! And I think bridesmaid dresses too…and I picked a florist. I feel very productive 🙂

Anyway, whenever I’m creating my list of cookies/candy that I will be making for my annual holiday cookie-baking, I try to get a good assortment of flavors.

I feel that it’s necessary to have at least one “seasonal” item, like a spice cookie, something fruity, something nutty, and most definitely something chocolate.

I’m a creature of habit when it comes to my cookie-making. Although I love trying new recipes, when it comes to baking the cookies, I don’t usually have the time or energy to try a new recipe and risk it turning out awful.  Because the cookies I’m making this year are mainly just for Nate and a few lucky friends, I figured what the heck!

For the chocolate cookie, I usually default to a recipe my mom discovered a few years back called Chocolate Truffle Cookies. They are even more delicious than their name implies. But since I wanted to branch out a little bit this year, I went with a different cookie I found in my mom’s recipe box called Chocolate Crinkle Cookies.

I wasn’t sure what they’d taste like, but the picture on the notecard indicated a pretty presentation. I think I must have made the cookies a bit bigger than intended, because they took longer to cook, but the result was like a crispy, chewy brownie! It’s going to be a tough call deciding whether I should make these again next year or go back to my old favorites. Luckily, I have 365+ days to decide 🙂

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
From my mom’s recipe box

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makes 4 dozen

2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla
4 egg whites

Sift flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a large bowl

In med sized saucepan, combine chocolate and oil on low heat, stirring frequently until just melted. Remove from heat, let cool slightly.

Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla til well blended. Using whisk, beat in egg whites until no lumps of brown sugar remain.

With spoon, gently stir chocolate into dry ingredients just until smooth. Cover and refrigerate 2 1/2-8 hours until firm.

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease pans.

Put remaining confectioner’s sugar in bowl. Dusting hands with additional sugar, roll dough into 1″ balls. Dredge in conf. sugar til heavily coated. Arrange on sheets 1 1/2″ apart. Bake 8-10 min til almost firm when tapped. Let stand 2 min. Transfer to wire rack with spatula.

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For as long as I can remember, my mom used to spend the weeks leading up to Christmas vacation making at least 10 different kinds of holiday cookies. It was something I looked forward to every year, both because I loved helping and because my brother and I got to sample them!

When I was younger my mom would package up the cookies beatifully in little boxes or platters and bring them around to all of my brother’s and my teachers (we went to a very small school). When I was grown and out of the house but still in college, I always missed helping make the cookies but didn’t have a big enough kitchen to make them on my own.

So when I finally was in grad school and working at my internship and therefore had a place I could actually bring the cookies, I started the same tradition of my own. I hope to continue doing it when I have kids so that they can have the same wonderful memories I have 🙂

I like to bake at least 8-10 different types of cookies. I make sure they’re all cookies that freeze well since I begin baking several weeks ahead of time.

Sadly this year I couldn’t make as many cookies as I normally do because I’ve been so busy, but a few different kinds did get baked up, and Nate was more than happy to sample them all.

I found this particular recipe in my mom’s recipe box. I’m pretty sure she’s made them before but I couldn’t remember. They were simple to make, and so buttery and delicious! The photos don’t do them justice, as they were taken after taking them out of the freezer. When room temperature or hot out of the oven, they’re super gooey!


Chocolate Pecan-Pie Bars
From my mom’s recipe box

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makes 48

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, soft
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups Caro syrup
1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease bottom and sides of 15″x10″x1″ baking dish.

In bowl, at medium, beat flour, 1/2 cup sugar, butter and salt til course crumbs. Press into bottom of pan. Bake at 350 for 20 min.

In 3 quart pan, stir corn syrup and chocolate on low til melted. Remove from heat. Stir in rest of sugar, eggs, vanilla til blended. Stir in pecans.

Pour filling over hot crust. Bake at 350 for 30 min or til firm around edges but slightly soft in center. Cool on wire rack. Cut into bars.

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The weekend that Nate and I went up to beautiful Mohonk Mountain to rock scramble, we also attempted to pick some apples.

Unfortunately neither of us realized that apple season is September til early October and that the apples are pretty much gone by late October (at least in NY). Although it wasn’t quite as fun, they had barrels of apples for purchase. Since I already had my heart set on making some tasty apple treats, we grabbed a huge bag that probably had 2-3 dozen apples.

We also grabbed some hot cider and cider donuts while we were there, so it wasn’t a total bust.

Anyway, I’m not exactly sure what I thought I’d be making with all those apples, but this recipe is one that I made last year and it was so good I knew I wanted to make it again.

The cake is super moist and not too sweet. It could seriously be one of my favorite desserts. So if you still have some apples left from your apple picking, or you just want to make this since it’s so good, head on over to Smitten Kitchen’s website where I got the recipe.

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