Monday, December 24, 2012

What's Baking?: Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

This month's What's Baking? challenge was to bake something using peppermint.  How wonderfully seasonal!  I had recently seen a Paula Deen show where she was making cookies and dipped them in white chocolate and then into crushed candy canes, but it was with butterscotch cookies or something of the sort, which didn't seem to me to go at all!  I did think it sounded like a great idea to do on chocolate cookies, however, so when this challenge rolled around, I knew what my plan was!

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies (adapted from Martha Stewart)

  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter
  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate chips (roughly 1 c.), divided
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • White chocolate or vanilla coating
  • 1 box of candy canes, unwrapped and finely crushed

Melt the butter and 4 oz. of the chocolate chips in the microwave.  Beat in sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract.  Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt, and stir into the chocolate mixture until mostly combined.  Stir in the remaining chocolate chips.  Chill batter overnight.

Scoop the batter out by tablespoonful (or 1 1/2-in cookie scoop) onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 325* F for 15 minutes, or until edges are set.  Let cool completely.

Melt the white chocolate coating in the microwave.  Dip each cookie partially in the white chocolate coating, and shake excess white chocolate off.  Immediately dip coated part of cookie in crushed candy cane.  Let set, and then enjoy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What's Baking?: White Chocolate Coconut Cranberry Pie

Yay for What's Baking? posts!  This month's theme was pie, hosted by Kim of Just Baked.  I actually had trouble coming up with an idea for this theme!  I've done a fair number of pies already, since it's probably my favorite kind of dessert!  The FiancĂ© (more on that in another post!!!) and I had been talking about his mom's coconut cream pie recently, and I realized that although I've blogged a few different cream pies, that one was not one of them!  I wanted to make it a little bit more seasonal, though, because coconut seems very summery to me, so I decided to add cranberries.  And since cranberry white chocolate cookies are so good, I decided to add white chocolate.  And that, dear readers, was how the white chocolate coconut cranberry pie was born.

Now, please forgive the picture.  I think the fat content of the white chocolate threw off the chemistry of the pie a bit, because it didn't set up quite as well as usual, and it separated a bit after sitting a few days.  So, in the recipe below, I adjusted the cornstarch amount to account for that.

You'll also notice that there is no added sugar in this pie.  It's not a typo, I swear!  It is plenty sweet with the white chocolate and sweetened coconut!  If you use unsweetened coconut and have a real sweet tooth, you may want to add maybe 1/4 c. sugar.  If you're like me, and prefer desserts that are slightly less sweet, use unsweetened coconut without any added sugar.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!  If you use a store-bought graham cracker crust, you'll have a bit of filling left over--just pour it in a bowl, and enjoy like pudding!  ;)  I think homemade ones are a bit bigger, so it should fill those ones fine.  Pecans would also make a lovely addition to this pie, either in the filling, as a garnish, or as part of the crust!

White Chocolate Coconut Cranberry Pie (adapted from Andrew's mom's coconut cream pie recipe)

  • 1 9" graham cracker crust
  • 3 c. milk
  • 6 Tbl. cornstarch
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 oz (roughly 1/2 c.) white chocolate chips
  • 1-2 Tbl butter
  • 1 to 1 1/2 c. dried shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
  • 1/2 to 1 c. dried cranberries

Heat the milk in a medium saucepan until it just comes to a boil.  Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch, egg yolks, and vanilla.  When the milk has been scalded, temper the eggs by slowly adding about 1 c. of the milk to the egg mixture, whisking the eggs constantly.  Once they have been tempered, add the egg mixture to the saucepan of milk, and whisk to combine.  Continue to cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until it thickens considerably.  When it does, remove it from the heat and add the white chocolate chips and butter.  Let the mixture stand for about 5 minutes, whisking occasionally, until the white chocolate has melted.  Stir in the coconut and cranberries, and pour the mixture into the graham cracker crust.  Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pie to cover it and prevent a skin from forming.  Let the pie chill for 6 hours or overnight, and then dig in!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bacon Cayenne Snickerdoodles

So, Boyfriend wanted his teenage son to learn how to cook this past summer.  His son was surprisingly amenable to and good-natured about the idea.  Boyfriend taught him to grill and smoke meat, and I taught him how to saute, sear, wilt, sweat, stir-fry, pan-fry, cook, and bake pretty much everything else.  At the end of the summer, he made snickerdoodles all by himself.  And they turned out really well!  Boyfriend's son was so excited because he loves snickerdoodles.  LOVES snickerdoodles.  Who can blame him, really?  Chewy yummy salty-sweet cookies with that delicious cinnamon sugar coating?  Yes, please!  Anyways, I was trying to talk to him about how, once you've got the hang of a recipe, you can play with it.  Off the top of my head, I spouted off the idea of bacon snickerdoodles.  You should have seen his eyes lit up!  Oh my, was he ever interested in that idea!  So, I decided to make some to ship to him for his birthday.

I had a general idea about how I wanted to make these, but there were surprisingly few bacon snickerdoodle recipes out there!  I figured someone would have figured it out already!  This recipe caught my eye, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for.  It was good inspiration to add the cayenne, though!  So, I went for a standard snickerdoodle recipe and adapted it.  These were quite the success!  Just a little hint of heat and the right amount of bacon make these the perfect combination of sweet, salty, and spicy!  Boyfriend commented that the cayenne creeps up on you just enough so that you notice it after the fourth cookie or so and decide to stop eating.  Can't say I ever ate four of them, but I'll take his word for it.  It obviously didn't slow Boyfriend down too much, though, given that he ATE THEM ALL before I could ship some to his son.  But that's ok.  Once I post this recipe, his son can make them himself.  Because he learned how to cook.  And now, he can impress all the ladies with these easy gourmet treats.

Bacon Cayenne Snickerdoodles (inspired by Food Beast, adapted from Allrecipes)

  • 1/2 c. bacon grease (I save mine every time I cook bacon and keep it in the refrigerator.  I highly encourage you to do this.  Makes it SO much easier to add a bit of bacon-y goodness to anything and everything!  Sub shortening if you don't have enough.)
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. plus 2 Tbl. white sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/4 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp. salt (use 1/2 tsp. if using crumbed bacon)
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp. cayenne (use less if you don't like spicy food, more if you do!)
  • 1/2 c. cooked, crumbled bacon (optional ONLY if you're using the full amount of bacon grease)
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

Cream together bacon grease, butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 c. white sugar.  If you don't have any (or nearly enough) bacon grease, you can make up the difference with shortening.  Once the fats and sugars have been creamed together, beat in eggs, one at a time.  Sift together the dry ingredients, and stir them into the butter mixture.  If you had the full amount of bacon grease, feel free to leave out the crumbled bacon.  If you leave out the crumbled bacon, use 3/4 tsp. salt.  Use 1/2 tsp. salt if you are using bacon.  Stir in the bacon, if using.  Form the dough into 1- to 1 1/2-in balls.  Mix together remaining 2 Tbl. sugar and the cinnamon.  Roll the dough balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture until coated.

Place dough balls on a cookie sheet, roughly two inches apart.  Bake 8-10 minutes at 400* F, or until edges are just set.  Remove from oven, let cool for 10 minutes, and then remove from baking sheet.  Devour.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Veggie-ful Spice Cupcakes

I can tell that the weather is getting colder by what's showing up in my CSA box.  We've gotten a lot of squash and root vegetables lately.  This has meant getting pretty creative, since Boyfriend HATES squash.  And I mean HATES squash.  I've successfully hidden it in chili and mac and cheese so far.  The risotto was not successful.  We've also been getting beets.  And I HATE beets.  I had two bunches of beets, again from the CSA box, sitting in my fridge, staring at me.  The only thing that I have made in the past where I could tolerate beets were cupcakes.  So, I decided to run with that again.  When I made them last time, it was basically like a spice cake or carrot cake, but with beets instead of carrots.  So, since my mom makes the best carrot cake EVER, I decided to adapt her recipe, and just sub beets for carrots.  But, I was making them for my dance instructor's birthday, and he's constantly complaining that he's on a diet.  So, I decided that I needed to lighten up the recipe a bit.  My mom usually substitutes applesauce for some of the oil in her recipe, but I didn't have any applesauce lying around.  I pondered a bit more and remembered that I've heard of people using baby food or other fruit/vegetable purees instead of oil, too.  And then the seed of an idea formed.  I could roast and puree that acorn squash that I'd been trying to figure out how to surreptitiously feed to Boyfriend and use THAT instead of some of the oil!  I'd hide not one, but TWO hated vegetables in these cupcakes!
I made sure to make them when he wasn't around and not to tell him what the secret ingredients were until AFTER they were all gone.

Mission accomplished.  We both liked the cupcakes, AND I got rid of two bunches of beets and an acorn squash.  So, next time you're dreading a vegetable, try to figure out how to turn it into a dessert.  Butter and sugar make everything taste better, right?

P.S., Mom, I'm sorry for bastardizing your cupcakes.  But not really.  Because they were tasty.

Veggie-ful Spice Cupcakes (adapted from my mom's carrot cake recipe)

  • 1 c. applesauce or pumpkin, sweet potato, or acorn or butternut squash puree
  • 1/3 c. canola oil
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 c. spiced rum (optional)
  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbl. cinnamon
  • 3 c. shredded beets or carrots

Combine the oil, sugar, and puree, and mix until thoroughly combined.  Beat in the eggs, two at a time.  Mix in the spiced rum, if desired.  Sift together the dry ingredients, add them to the wet ingredients, and stir until mostly combined.  Stir in the shredded beets or carrots until everything is mixed.

Evenly divide the batter into greased muffin tins (an ice cream scoop works well for this!), and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350* F.  You'll get ~two dozen cupcakes out of this recipe.  Alternatively, pour into a 9x13-in cake pan and bake for 40-50 minutes for a single-layer, rectangular cake, or divide between two 8- or 9-in round cake pans and bake for 30-40 minutes for a two-layer round cake.

Top with your favorite cream cheese frosting, caramel frosting, brown butter frosting, or whatever floats your boat.  Just don't do Greek yogurt frosting in an effort to get the tangy effect of cream cheese without running to the store to buy it.  It will never set up.  Ever.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What's Baking: Peach Bread

Time for another What's Baking post!  This month's challenge was to make a quick bread.  Quick breads are breads that are not made using yeast--since there's no rise time, they're quick to make!  I made this one in one bowl, so the cleanup was quick, too!

I have been subscribed to Horse and Buggy, a CSA, since the spring.  Basically, I pay a set amount to have whatever produce the lovely folks at H&B are currently harvesting delivered to my door each week!  The freshest local produce, delivered right to my door!  It doesn't get any better than that!  We also get meat and eggs from them, too.  If it weren't for dairy, I'd never have to go grocery shopping any more!  It has been a fun challenge trying to come up with meals that use up the produce, and it has been really interesting seeing how the offerings change seasonally.  Colder-weather veggies, like winter squashes, have started to appear in the box, and last week was the last week for fruit boxes.  I took advantage of the opportunity and used my end-of-the-season peaches, nectarines, and raspberries in a delicious quick bread to fit the What's Baking challenge!

I forgot to soften my butter, so I swapped it out for canola oil.  I don't recommend this.  I could REALLY taste the difference, and the butter is SO important to complement the delicate flavor of the peaches and raspberries.  So, don't forget to soften your butter!  You can always throw it in the microwave for 10 seconds, in a pinch, if you forget, though!  Also, the original recipe called for orange juice concentrate, but I wanted to make it really peachy, so I substituted peach wine.  You could use milk, a sweet white wine, syrup from a can of peaches, peach nectar, or the original orange juice concentrate, instead!

Peach Bread (adapted from

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons peach wine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 medium peaches, diced
  • 1 clamshell raspberries

Cream together butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Beat in vanilla extract and peach wine.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir dry ingredients into the wet ones until mostly combined.  Gently fold in fruit.

Pour batter into a 9x5" loaf pan that has been greased and floured.  Bake at 325* F for 60-75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool completely.  Wrap up and deliver to friends!  ;)

You could also bake this as muffins, for a change!  That's the great thing about quick bread batters--they're very versatile!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What's Baking: Pasticiotti

This month's What's Baking? challenge was to bake your happy place.  Bake something that reminded you of a happy time.  That didn't take too much thinking on my part!  Sitting down with my whole family to a big pasta dinner is awesome in and of itself, but when it's followed up by a tray of Italian pastries, then it's REALLY my happy place!  So, I decided to make one of my absolute favorite Italian pastries--pasticiotti.  Pasticiotti are little tarts that have a sweet, almost sugar cookie-like crust and are filled with either vanilla pudding, chocolate pudding, or ricotta filling.  The ricotta is my favorite, so that's what I made here.  My dad likes the vanilla pudding.  It's all up to your taste!  I customized the recipe a bit to suit my tastes (of course), but I haven't strayed too far from the original, and I've kept pretty traditional Italian flavors.  These were not difficult to make, and they really weren't very time-consuming, either!  The pudding fillings would take a bit longer to make, so be sure to factor that into your plans!  I was really happy with the way these turned out.  The one thing I would say is to make sure that you seal them well--I had the tops start to lift off on a few of them!  But, so long as the South has a tragic lack of Italian pastry shops, these will help keep my cravings at bay in between trips to the North to get my fix!

Pasticiotti (adapted from Diana's Desserts)

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar 
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1/4 cup milk 
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 large egg, well beaten 
  • 2 lbs ricotta (low fat works fine)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift or whisk together the first 4 ingredients (flour through salt).   Cut the butter into the flour using two knives, a pastry cutter, a food processor, or your hands until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.  Mix together the milk, almond extract, and egg until well combined.  Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, and stir to combine.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Meanwhile, make the filling.  Stir together the ricotta, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract.  Told you it was easy!

Separate the dough in half.  Roll half of it out to about 1/4" thick.  Use a biscuit cutter to cut rounds out.  Fit them into the bottom and up the sides of your tart pans (muffin tins would work in a pinch, too!).  Fill the tart shells most of the way with filling.  Roll out the remaining dough, and cut rounds for the tops of the tart shells.  Make sure you seal them well!  An egg wash might help here.  The original recipe also recommends an egg wash on the tops, which I did not do, and I should have--they were not nicely browned.

Bake pastries at 425* F for 12-15 minutes, or until tops are golden brown.  This makes about 1 dozen 3-inch pasticiotti.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Leave the gun, take the (baked) cannoli!

So, I had been eyeing Joe Pastry's recipe for cannoli shells for quite some time.  They're one of my favorite pastries, but I'm incredibly picky about them and so the opportunity to make my own grants maximum opportunity for customization.  There was only one problem--it was way too hot to fry.

This lead me to a fantastic innovation--cannoli cups!  I rolled out Joe's dough recipe using my pasta machine, sliced it into squares, and baked them in a mini muffin pan until they were golden.  I was surprised how crunchy and realistic the texture ended up being.  The bottoms of the cups did puff up a bit during baking, so it's not a bad idea to throw some rice or beans inside to keep them flatter.

Here's Joe's recipe, with my edits in parentheses:
6.25 ounces (1 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (I omitted)
1 tablespoon superfine sugar (I used powdered)
2 tablespoon vegetable shortening
6 to 7 tablespoons Marsala wine (I subbed brandy + wine)
1 to 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten (You don't need those if you're baking)

It's made very similarly to an enriched pie crust--cut/rub the shortening into the flour (with the salt if using).  Beat in the wine until the mixture becomes cohesive.  If you're using a pasta roller, this will do some of the kneading for you, but you should let it rest (just like a pasta dough) before using the machine to make it thinner.  My pasta roller goes to 7, I do ravioli on 6, and on that scale, these should definitely go to 7. 

Cut squares (about 2 inches each works for mini tins) and press into muffin pans.  Bake at 375 degrees until the tips begin to brown (12-18 minutes).  Sorry for the cell-phone photos and lack of food styling--this is my office kitchen.

Pipe with your preferred ricotta cream recipe just before serving (make sure you press/drain the ricotta for at least 3 hours, and use powdered sugar, not granulated).  If you want to add mini chocolate chips or citron, I recommend doing that after you pipe the cream (they clog the tip).  Here I just garnished them with a few chips on top.  If you plan on going the traditional route, I highly recommend checking out Joe's page--he has a hilarious rendition of "Paulie the Sicilian" that makes for great reading.  But if you want a one-bite no-fry cannolo, give this method a try!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Watermelon Un-Margaritas

So, I'm breaking slightly from desserts, the usual focus of this blog, to tell you about one of my other favorite parts of the meal--the drinks!  Given the fact that I have 5 recipes tagged "wine" (and don't even get me started on the Baileys, bourbon, brandy, champagne, Chardonnay, rum, tequila, and Triple Sec tags), you've probably figured out that I like my drinks.  This particular one is a great fruity drink for a hot afternoon or sitting out on the porch watching the sun set.  It's refreshing, potent, and relatively healthy, for an alcoholic drink, anyway (there's no added sugar)!

Now, I've called these drinks un-margaritas because I made mine with rum, since I'm not the biggest fan of tequila.  The boyfriend made his with tequila.  The recipe is written so that you can pick your poison.  If you're using rum, you may want to rim your margarita glass in sugar.  With tequila, salt will, of course, work.  I like my drinks pretty strong, so feel free to decrease the amount of liquor to suit your tastes.  Without further ado, here's the recipe!

Watermelon Un-Margaritas (adapted from We Are Not Martha)

  • 1/2 medium seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • 1/2 c. lime juice
  • 2 c. Triple Sec
  • Tequila or rum
  • Lime wedges
  • Salt or sugar

Puree the watermelon in a blender (you may have to do this in batches).   You'll want about 8 c. watermelon puree.  Combine the watermelon puree, lemon juice, lime juice, and Triple Sec in a pitcher.  Refrigerate until cold.

Run a lime wedge around the rim of the margarita glass.  Pour salt (for tequila) or sugar (for rum) onto a small plate.  Invert the glass onto the salt or sugar and twist a bit to coat the rim.  Add a few ice cubes to the glass, then up to 1/4 c. tequila or rum and 1 c. of the watermelon mix.  Stir to combine, and drink up!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

What's Baking: Fresh Blueberry Pie

Woo hoo!  It's time for another What's Baking? post!  This month's challenge was to bake with summer fruits.  I am really excited to share this recipe with you because it showcases one of my absolutely favorite desserts: blueberries!  And even better, what makes this blueberry pie recipe unique is that most of the blueberries are left uncooked, so it really showcases their fresh flavor.  So while frozen blueberries might be fine for traditional blueberry pie where the whole thing is baked, don't you dare use them in this pie.  I mean it!  And be sure to check out the full lineup of seasonal fruity goodness over at Sweet Beginnings!

Fresh Blueberry Pie (from Andrew)

  • One pre-baked pie crust (see this post for a recipe)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbl. cornstarch
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 c. water
  • 4 c. blueberries, divided
  • 1 Tbl. butter
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 3 Tbl. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Whisk together salt, cornstarch, sugar, and water in a small saucepan.  Add in 1 c. of blueberries, and bring mixture to a boil.  Boil until mixture thickens considerably.  Remove the mixture from heat, and stir in the remaining 3 c. blueberries, butter, and cinnamon.  Pour into the pre-baked pie crust, and refrigerate overnight or until set.

Meanwhile, whip together the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form.  Spread the whipped cream over the pie, and enjoy this fresh taste of summer!

Monday, May 28, 2012

What's Baking?: Berry Rhubarb Pie

I'm back!  I hope you enjoyed Brownie's contribution to last month's What's Baking? challenge!  This month, the challenge was to bake something using seasonal ingredients, chosen by Adventures in My Kitchen.  This was actually pretty simple for me, because I recently signed up for a CSA through Horse and Buggy Produce!  Every Wednesday, I get a box of fresh, local, seasonal produce delivered straight to my doorstep!  And because of it, I have tried kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, and a whole host of other yummy vegetables for the first time!  When last week's box arrived, I received rhubarb and some frozen blackberries from a previous year's harvest.  That was all the inspiration I needed!  I've never made a rhubarb pie before, and the boyfriend said that he had a great recipe, so he and I tackled this one together!  There wasn't a whole lot of rhubarb in the box, so we adapted his recipe to use some berries in it, too.  It turned out deliciously!

Berry Rhubarb Pie (from Andrew, original source unknown)

  • Your favorite double pie crust recipe (or two store-bought refrigerated pie crusts if you're starting this project at 9 pm on a weeknight)
  • 4 Tbl. butter, divided
  • 6 Tbl. flour, divided
  • 1 c. sugar, divided
  • 2 c. chopped rhubarb
  • 2 c. assorted mixed berries (we used blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries), drained of excess liquid if they were previously frozen
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 450* F.  Put one of the pie crusts into the bottom of a 9" pie plate.  Melt 2 Tbl. of the butter, and lightly brush the crust with it.  You may not need the full 2 Tbl.  Chill the crust.

Combine 2 Tbl. of flour with 2 Tbl. of sugar.  Sprinkle over the chilled pastry.  Mix the rhubarb and berries together, and then mound them in the crust.  Mix the remaining flour and sugar with the eggs, and pour this mixture over the rhubarb and berries.  Dot with the remaining 2 Tbl. of butter.  Fit the top crust over the bottom one, trimming and sealing the edges.  Make sure to cut steam vents!

Bake the pie in the preheated oven at 450*F for 15 minutes.  Shield the edges of the pie with foil or a metal pie shield.  Drop the temperature to 350*F, and continue cooking for another 45 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.  Enjoy a new way to get your vegetables!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What's Baking: Challah and Pain Polka

It's that time again--another What's Baking? post! The challenge this month was to bake something involving yeast. Despite having made pizza dough last night, I decided to bake TWO things with yeast because I just love carbs that much.

And I have a confession to make--despite that love of carbs, I had never eaten challah before today. This presented a slight problem as I was making it--I knew that it was going to be a rich, brioche-like bread, but having never tasted it, I had to just trust in my recipe *gasp* with no intuition for texture. I've also only braided dandelions before, having only ever had fairly short hair, so doing a 4-plait braid took a couple of attempts. But if I can do it, you certainly can!

Without further ado, the recipes:

Recipe from Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter's The Bread and Bread Machine Bible

1.25 pounds flour (you should use bread flour; I was out of vital wheat gluten so I used plain AP)
2 tsp salt
.75 oz fresh yeast (I used dried and cut the amount down)
1 cup lukewarm water
2 Tbsp caster/superfine sugar (I used normal granulated)
2 eggs
6 Tbsp butter/marg, melted and cooled slightly (I used marg because I'm a cheapskate)

Proof yeast in a bit of the water with the sugar.  Stir the flour and salt together.  If you're doing this by hand, make a well and start adding the liquid ingredients to form a soft dough.  If you're doing this in a mixer, you can just start off with the dough hook (no paddle necessary) and add the yeast-water, eggs, and butter (make sure it's not still hot).  Knead for 10 min by hand or 6 min by mixer (low to medium speed).
Let rise 1 hour, then punch it down and let rise another hour.  This is a good time to go grocery shopping, say, if you used up your last eggs on the dough and need another for the glaze.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (if you're doing a 4-plaited braid; you can do more or fewer if you wish).  Stretch/roll them to about 18 inches in length--I just went by the length of my cookie sheet (smaller than a half sheet); I think they were about 1.25 inches in diameter at this point.

Squeeze one end of each strand together to form the end of the braid.  Now imagine that going from right to left, your strands are A-B-C-D (so D-C-B-A).  Move A over B and C over D.  Then take D (your original D, not the new left-most strand) and pull it over top so that it's between A and B.  Now relabel the strands A-B-C-D (D-C-B-A) and repeat.  Squeeze together the ends of the braid (it's okay if one strand is longer; it brings it to a nice taper) and let proof another 30-45 minutes.

Mix an egg yolk with 1 Tbl water and brush onto your proofed plait.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds if you like and bake at 400 degrees for about 30-40 min, until just browned.  I usually poke my breads with a thermometer to be sure--if they've hit 200 degrees, they're done (99% of the time).  Soft breads like challah and brioche are done at a lower temp.

The verdict?  I'm not sure if this is what challah is supposed to taste like, but it's darned good.  I cut off a bit of the end to check out the crumb, and upon trying said piece, I was surprised to see how light it is.  It's not that much butter in there, and although the crumb looks dense it's quite springy and soft, like a nice dinner roll.  I've heard that challah makes killer French toast, so if there are leftovers, that's where this is going!

Pain Polka
Recipe from Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter's The Bread and Bread Machine Bible

8 oz leftover dough (I used some leftover pizza dough from last night), divided into pieces
.25 oz fresh yeast (again, I used dried and cut this amount down)
1-1.25 cups lukewarm water (I used just over 1 but my pizza dough was pretty hydrated)
16 oz bread flour (again, I used AP)
1 Tbsp salt

I neglected Christine and Jennie's directions for mixing and just went on the basic "flour + proofed yeast-water + other ingredients," mixed it a bit, then threw in my dough pieces and kneaded for 4-5 minutes in my mixer until the dough became smooth.

Let rise in a bowl for about 1.5 hours, then punch down on a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball.  Place on baking sheet and let rise for another hour until doubled.

Sprinkle flour over the top of the loaf and cut the boule fairly deeply in perpendicular direction. Be careful with your slashing motion to get a consistent depth across the loaf.

Because I didn't.
Let rest for 10 minutes, then bake on a baking stone (if possible) in a preheated 450 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until browned.  If you have a spritzer bottle, spray the oven several times in the first 15 min of baking.  If you don't you can put a dish with ice cubes/cold water in the bottom of your oven to generate steam.  Using the baking stone cut the time down to about 20 minutes for me. 

You probably noticed that both these recipes come from the same book.  I bought it several years ago (2009 edition) when I started baking bread.  There's a new edition coming out in July which you can preorder on Amazon for $13 at present.   I've only made a handful of recipes from this book as I rarely use cookbooks, but the Georgian Khatchapuri recipe is another one that is to die for--I think I've made it 6 times now.  Disclaimer: I don't know the authors and don't profit personally from the sale of the book or you clicking the link provided.  I just think it's a informative, well-illustrated book with some great formulas in there.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

What's Baking: Baileys Cream Pie

It's that time again--another What's Baking? post! The challenge this month was to bake something St. Patrick's Day-inspired. After thinking about car bomb cupcakes or some sort of car bomb cheesecake, I realized I was short on time and needed something that would come together a little more quickly. The boyfriend wanted to make butterscotch pie (his specialty), but that's obviously not very Irish! However, it did get me thinking about cream pies. Now, I love cream pies. I've made Spiked Eggnog Cream Pie and Butterscotch Pie in the past, and I've enjoyed eating many other kinds. But how could I make it Irish? Then it hit me--Baileys Cream Pie! I've never had it before, but I love Baileys Irish Cream (who doesn't, really?!), and I love cream pies, so why not combine them?

I've adapted Martha Stewart's Rum-Vanilla Cream Pie recipe for other purposes before, and it has always worked well, so that was my starting point here, as well, but I adapted it very heavily. Interestingly enough, it didn't occur to me to simply Google "Irish cream pie recipe" until after I had finished making the pie. I was curious, so I did, and most of the ones that I saw involved Cool Whip or boxed pudding mix or things like that, so I think this is a fairly unique recipe. I am both happy and sad to report that it was gobbled up so quickly that I did not get a chance to take a picture. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Baileys Cream Pie (a Brownies and Blondies original)

  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. Baileys Irish Cream (or other Irish Cream liqueur)
  • 1 3/4 c. milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 4 Tbl. butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Pre-baked graham cracker crust (I used regular, but chocolate would be fantastic!)

Combine sugar, salt, Irish Cream, and milk in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture just starts to bubble (unless you want to cook the alcohol off, in which case, boil it for a good two minutes, stirring frequently). Meanwhile, whisk together egg yolks and cornstarch in a small bowl until the mixture is smooth and thick.

Once the milk mixture starts to bubble, remove from heat. Temper the egg yolk mixture by slowly drizzling and stirring in about 1 c. of the hot milk mixture. Once tempered, add the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan of milk, and return it to the heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens significantly.

Remove pan from heat and stir in the softened butter, 1 Tbl. at a time. Stir in the vanilla. Pour the custard into the graham cracker crust, and press plastic wrap over the surface of the custard, working out any air bubbles. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight. Feel free to top it with whipped cream for serving, if you like. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Brownie Returns--Super Bowl Strawberries

So I hope I'm not looking too much like a one-trick pony with the strawberries I did last year and now strawberries again.  I was between these and football shaped devil dogs (whoopie pies for anyone not related to us), and the strawberries seemed like they offered some redeeming health value.

Without further ado, here are your instructions--

1. Dip strawberries in melted chocolate.  I prefer it to be a bit on the darker side, so I use half milk and half semisweet (because I didn't have any actual dark chocolate).  Go for whatever combination you like.  I'd suggest dipping in a deep, narrow-necked vessel to give you maximum coating time (it gets tricky towards the end if you have a shallow chocolate puddle).  My new trick is spearing the berries on a toothpick and then sticking them into styrofoam (that I've covered with foil just in case).  It doesn't really matter for these since they'll be decorated, but it's good for getting a smoother finish.  If you happen to overcrowd your styrofoam and can't insert a berry along the edge, stick a second toothpick in from the opposite side and give it a quick jab.  The toothpick will go into the styrofoam and you can pull the top one out--as long as the chocolate hasn't become tacky it will fill the hole right back in!

The speared strawberries

Resting on a tray that had been in the freezer

Decisions, decisions
2. Decide on your weapon of choice.   On the left, we have a microwaveable decorating bottle.  Convenient for melting, but the tip size isn't adjustable.  Mine worked fine for the lines, but not the laces--too thick a bead for my taste.  On the right, a FREEZER quality plastic bag.  Regular storage bags tend to split.  You'll go through two of them and end up spending the same amount of money with more frustration.  Or you could be classy and use a decorating bag and tip.  That would probably work best.
3. Pipe your first line--go as close to the top as you can.  You want to go a little more than half way around, since the strawberry might be viewed from the side.  It's easiest to start off the berry and finish off the berry.  Repeat with the smaller line 1/4 to 1/3 up from the bottom.
The straightness of my lines left something to be desired...
4. Add the laces line.  By this time your white chocolate may have cooled, leaving you with slight bumps where the cooled chocolate clogs the tip.  You should reheat it so yours look better than mine.  I just soldiered on because I was tired.

They're even somewhat football-shaped!
5.  Add your laces--4 or 5 of them.  Do your top and bottom ones first, and then see if you think you can fit 3 more.  If so, do the middle first.  Here's your comparison shot--the left strawberry laces were done with the bottle (thicker lines) and the right ones were done with a plastic bag.


Friday, January 27, 2012

What's Baking: Kitchen Sink Cookies

It's that time of month again--the one time that I actually update the blog. It's time for What's Baking? This month's theme was snow day treats. When I started thinking about the theme, I realized that if it's really snowy out, I'm not going to want to be driving to the grocery store to buy all sorts of ingredients to make something. So, when I thought of a snow day treat, I thought of something simple, something that I could make with ingredients that I already had on hand.

Now, if you're anything like me, you've always got partial bags of baking chips, nuts, etc. lying around the cupboards because a recipe called for 1 c. or 3/4 c., and you never got around to using up the rest. Well, today, I'm going to share with you a simple cookie recipe that I call kitchen sink cookies, because you can add in whatever mix-ins you want, except maybe the kitchen sink, and you can use up all those partial bags! In my case, the mix-ins were coconut, walnuts, hazelnuts, and white chocolate (about 3/4 c. coconut, 1 c. white chocolate, 1/2 c. walnuts, and 3/4 c. hazelnuts) chips, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand--baking chips, nuts, candies, or whatever else is lying around your cupboard!

Kitchen Sink Cookies (adapted from

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 c. butter, melted
  • 1 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 c. mix-ins of your choice

Sift or whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, mix together the melted butter, white sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in egg, egg yolk, and vanilla into the butter/sugar mixture. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and stir until mostly combined. Add in the mix-ins, and mix until combined. Refrigerate for approximately 1 hr.

Drop cookies by rounded tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 325* F for 12 minutes, or until the edges are set. Take the cookie sheet out of the oven, and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for another 10 minutes before removing them. Makes ~2 dozen.

The boyfriend said that these were the best cookies that I had ever made after devouring about 4 of them in a row! So, I encourage you to try these out next time you're snowed in or just need an excuse to clean out the baking cupboard!