Peter Reinhart’s Best Biscuits Ever

November 18, 2011

After making all of these wonderful jams (Strawberry Balsamic, Blueberry Lemon & Chilli, Vanilla Bourbon Blackberry and Hard Cider Apple Butter), I decided we needed some sort of delicious biscuit to perch these stellar spreads upon. I’ve mentioned before that I am a huge fan of Peter Reinhart’s. Well, I noticed in his book, Artisan Breads Every Day, that he had a recipe for the “Best Biscuits Ever”. How could I resist the best biscuit ever? So I got busy baking them. These biscuits are a cross between a cream biscuit and a flaky buttermilk style biscuit. Quite tasty, though I’m not sure they win my “best biscuit ever” award. I once made these Bacon & Cheddar Skillet Biscuits that were pretty high up on the “best” scale. But then I guess that is no surprize…I did mention they had bacon in them right? (note to self…blog about those biscuits soon) But these biscuits are certainly close behind those and are great for non-enhanced (ie. full of bacon and cheese) biscuits.

Just look at those flaky layers!

I know I’ve previously mentioned the absolute necessity that you purchase a copy of Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day, but in case you missed it, here it goes again…you must buy this book! Its full of all sorts of great recipes and information. For example, he gives you the “Keys to a Successful Flaky Biscuit”. I’d say that is pretty valuable information to have. Basically it boils down to cold dough and hot oven. Though he explains things much more interestingly, eloquently and thoroughly. He also mentions that you can also make these biscuits using buttermilk in place on the cream, which I think I will try next time. (So…you can see we really did like them…we’re already thinking about the next time we make them!) If you’re looking for a great home-made biscuit for your thanksgiving table, or a spectacular vehicle for jams and apple butter that can stand all on its own, look no further. You’ve found your biscuit!

Peter Reinhart’s Best Biscuits Ever

recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day

yield: 10 Three inch biscuits or 20-24 two inch biscuits

ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons ( 1 oz/ 28.5 g) apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice
  • 1 cup (8 oz/227 g) cold heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz/113 g) cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (4 .5 oz/128 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (3.50z/99 g) pastry flour (if you do not have pastry flour, use all-purpose flour or see tip below for making it yourself)
  • 1 Tablespoon (0.5 ox/14 g) sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (0.5 0z/14 g) baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (0.13 oz/ 3.5 g) salt, or 3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Directions:

Stir the vinegar into the cream to acidify it, then refrigerate it to keep it cold. Place the butter in the freezer, for at least 30 minutes, to harden.

Whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a mixing bowl.

Place cheese grater in / over the bowl of dry ingredients. Remove the butter from the freezer, unwrap it and grate it through the large holes into the dry ingredients, tossing the butter threads in the flour mixture as you grate to distribute them. (An alternate method is to use the grater attachment on a food processor, with the dry ingredients in the bowl below).

Use your fingertips to separate and distribute the butter pieces evenly. Add the cream mixture and stir with a large spoon until all of the flour is hydrated and the dough forms a coarse ball. Add a tiny bit more cream if necessary to bring the dough together.

Transfer the dough to a generously floured work surface, then dust the top of the dough with flour. Working with floured hands, use you palms to press the dough into a rectangle or square about 3/4 ” thick. Use a metal pastry scraper to lift the dough and dust more flour underneath. Dust the top of the dough with flour as well, then roll it out into a rectangle or square about 1/2″ thick. Then, using the pastry scraper to help lift the dough, fold it over on itself in three sections as if folding a letter. Rotate the dough 90 degrees, then once again lift the dough and dust more flour underneath. Dust the top with flour as well, then once again roll it out into a square or rectangle about 1/2″ thick and fold into thirds. Give the dough another quarter turn and repeat this procedure again. Then, repeat one final time. (four roll outs in all)

After the fourth folding, dust under and on top of the dough one final time, then roll the dough out to just under 1/2″ thick, in either a rectangle (for triangle or diamond-shaped biscuits) or an oval ( for round biscuits).

Cut the biscuits with your preferred cutter. A 2″ biscuit cutter will yield 20-24 small biscuits. The 3″ cutter yielded 10 biscuits.

Transfer the biscuits to an ungreased sheet pan (lined with parchment paper or a silpat) placing them about 1/2″ apart.

Let the biscuits rest for 15 to 30 minutes before baking to relax the gluten; this will create a more even rise (even better, place the pan of biscuits in the refrigerator to chill).

About 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C).

Transfer the biscuits to the oven and lower the oven temperature to 450°F (232°C). Bake for 8 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 6-10 minutes, until both the tops and bottoms of the biscuits are a rich golden brown.

Place the pan on a wire rack, leaving the biscuits to cool on the hot pan for at least 3 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

***If you are having a difficult time finding pastry flour, you can make your own by combining all-purpose flour and cake flour. To make two cups, combine 1 1/3 cups (185 grams) all-purpose flour with 2/3 cup (90 grams) cake flour.

To read more about flour take a look here :http://www.joyofbaking.com/flour.html#ixzz1abHvzDfV


Halloween Popcorn Balls

October 20, 2011

It’s getting to be that spooky time of the year. Recently when walking our pup through the neighbourhood, I’ve noticed tiny cemeteries full of scary tombstones and skeletons springing up where the flowers used to grow among the otherwise pristine lawns. There are a plethora of ghosts to be seen fluttering from every tree branch. And we couldn’t help but notice the twin 8 foot tall grim reapers standing vigil at the end of the driveway across the court. Yup…pretty dang spooky everywhere you look. This can only mean one thing Yay! It’s Halloween! (At least I hope so or my neighbourhood has really taken a turn for the strange!) Halloween is one of my favourite holidays. I have been wanting to make popcorn balls for some time now, so there’s no time like the present.

Popcorn balls are great as they can be customized for almost any holiday. I made these particular ones “Halloween” popcorn balls because I added good old candy corn to them. Really you could add anything”halloween-y” that you wanted, say M&M’s – plain or peanut, or chopped up bits of any of your favourite halloween candies. I’ve even heard M&M’s are making a white chocolate M&Ms in candy corn colours for this year’s festivities. Apparently you can only get these at Walmart, and I don’t have a Walmart close to me. But for those of you who do, they might be worth a try. I was quite happy with the simple addition of candy corn and since I didn’t use any chocolate, that meant my dog could enjoy a bite or two as well, which made him quite happy.

"Hey! Does anyone else see this treat here on the edge of the table?"

"Guys...this smells like popcorn!"

"Guys...this smells like popcorn!

"Oh Please! Oh Please!"

"Score!"

These treats are super easy to make and a real crowd pleaser! Essentially they are Rice Krispie Treats but with popcorn used instead of the puffed rice. And don’t forget the addition of the fabulous, seasonal candy corn (or “root canals in a bag” as we used to call it in the dental office. (Remember to brush and floss folks :) )

I do have a couple of hints to offer before you get to work on these beauties. After you pop the popcorn for the treats, remember to add salt to it as you normally would as if you were going to be eating it as a snack. I am a total sucker for that salty/sweet combo. Also, once you add your candy corn to the melted marshmallow/ popcorn mix, work quickly, because that candy corn will start to melt. Once the marshmallows, popcorn and candy corn are all combined, you can use an ice cream scoop to form the balls if you like, but I usually just butter up my hands and shape them that way.

Have a Happy Halloween!

Halloween Popcorn Balls

Yield: 12 popcorn balls (medium sized)

Ingredients:

  • 9-10 cups of popped corn – salted as you like it
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) bag of mini marshmallows
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 bag candy corn or whatever your desired Halloween treats might be

Directions:

In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Add popcorn and stir gently until combined with melted marshmallows. Quickly add desired amount of candy corn or treat of your choice. Remember, work quickly once your treat is added as it may melt.

Butter an ice cream scoop, or simply butter your hands. Shape popcorn mixture into balls and place on parchment paper lined baking tray to cool.

Enjoy!


Spicy Chorizo & Cheese Empanadas with Avocado Cream

September 22, 2011

Let me just start off by saying “Dios Mio” these empanadas were fan-freakin-tastic! I am totally serious! I had never attempted to make empanadas before, but was definitely interested in them. They are essentially latino meat pies. I LOVE meat pies, no matter what country they spring from, be they Cornish pastys, bridies, peirogis, pot pies or calzones. All awesome and all grab my undivided attention the second they make their appearance! So it is no surprize that when I saw the recipe for Chorizo Empanadas over at Handle the Heat, I could not resist. I had always assumed that these delicious little pastries originated in Mexico/Central/South America. However, apparently empanadas trace their origins to Spain and Portugal. From there they were carried to Latin America and the Philippines by the Spanish and Portuguese colonists. Once introduced, each country added their own special regional flavours to the dish. Baked or fried, they are, ladies and gentlemen, the perfect comfort food. They are a bit time-consuming to prepare, however you can make the dough and filling up to two days ahead of time and leave the actual assembly of the empanadas for the day you plan to serve them. Then, while they are baking, you can just whip up the avocado cream sauce. Easy peasy!

These particular empanadas are baked. The crust is just a buttery perfection, the filling spicy and cheesy and loaded with good, old spuds! (Another big favourite of mine – no matter how they’re prepared.) They were unbelievably yummy right out of the oven and were also just as good – if not better – reheated a couple of days later. Though to be honest, I don’t know how they made it that long around here because they really were stunning. And if they weren’t good enough on their own (and they were) the avocado cream will put you right over the moon! Your really have to make this dish!

Oh and the other simply wonderful thing about this recipe is that I had quite a bit of that mouth-watering filling left over. You might think, “Hmmm. Well I’ll just cut the amounts in half.” No! Don’t do it!!! Make every bit of the filling as the recipe calls for, because it tastes great and you will be able to feast on it in other dishes you’ll prepare later that week. For instance, we made a Spicy Chorizo & Cheese Frittata:

Spicy Chorizo Frittata

As well as a very adventurous Cilantro Pesto Pizza topped with the Spicy Chorizo & Cheese filling.

Spicy Cilantro & Chorizo Pizza

I really must say, that pizza was really delightful. And yes….spuds do go great on a pizza! Who’d of thunk it? So don’t delay, get to making some empanadas today!

Spicy Chorizo & Cheese Empanadas with Avocado Cream

recipe very slightly adapted (I merely added some cheese) from Handle the Heat

yields: 20 empanadas

Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • pinch paprika

Filling:

  • 1 pound Mexican chorizo, casings removed
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 2-3 medium Yukon gold potatoes (or other waxy potatoes), peeled, finely diced, and boiled
  • 1 cup mexican blend shredded cheese

Avocado cream:

  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 2 avocados
  • kosher salt

Directions:

For the dough:
Heat water and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until butter has melted. Let cool slightly. Mix flour, salt, and paprika in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Pour melted butter mixture into flour mixture and mix with your hands until you get a wet, oily dough. Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
For the filling:
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add chorizo, breaking apart into small pieces, then add onion. Saute until chorizo is cooked through. Turn off heat, add diced and boiled potatoes, and let cool completely.
To assemble:
While the filling is cooling, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick spray or line with parchment. Tear off pieces of dough to roll about 20 golf-sized balls. Using a rolling pin, roll out dough balls on a lightly floured surface into 5″ circles. Place 2-3 tablespoons of cooled filling into the center of each dough circle. Sprinkle shredded cheese over the filling. Fold dough over filling and cheese to make a half-moon shape and press edges firmly to seal. Crimp with the back of a fork. Place empanadas on baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Let cool.
For avocado cream:
While the empanadas cool, place sour cream, half and half, lemon juice, and jalapeno in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Peel, pit, and dice the avocado and add to blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Season with salt. If not serving immediately, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, pressing plastic onto the surface of avocado cream to prevent browning.
Enjoy!

S’mores Stuffed Cookies

August 18, 2011

Talk about a nostalgic, childhood memory…how about them S’mores? Sitting around a campfire, toasting marshmallows and just when that marshmallow is perfectly toasted, browned and gooey, plopping it right down on the chocolate bar covered graham cracker that you already have assembled and waiting, then smashing another graham cracker down on top. Deee-lish! The perfect campsite dessert! Never you mind that I don’t believe that I ever actually encountered a true-blue, made by a camp fire S’more until I was in college. Sure I knew they existed. I think I might have seen them on the Brady Bunch or Scooby Doo or some such show. But I didn’t experience one til college. That’s o.k. At this point in my life I can be nostalgic about the good ole college days, right? No matter how you look at it, the one thing that is true is that S’mores are awesome.

They are very popular on the food blogs recently too. I’ve seen S’mores, Adult S’mores, S’mores French Toast, S’mores Brownies and of course these S’mores cookies. I figured I’d start with these and work my way through all those tempting s’mores treats. I mean, I don’t want to miss out on anything – you know? And these cookies were not a bad starting point if I do say so myself. The S’mores Stuffed cookies had a wonderful texture, crunchy – but not so much so that the cookies shattered into a million little cookie shards when your teeth contacted it – chewy – just enough so that you knew you were working on eating something fantastic and sweet – but not so much that you feared going into some sort of sugar induced coma. This is without a doubt a “keeper” of a recipe. I knew it would be. It came from one of my favourite blogs, Buns In My Oven. If you’re in the mood to drool, check this site out. And then get out there, light a big ole bonfire in your back yard and make some honest to goodness real S’mores. On second thought, it might just work out better for you if you simply make some S’mores Stuffed Cookies. You know… in your kitchen. Thereby hopefully avoiding any contact with the local fire brigades. I’m just saying…

S’mores Stuffed Cookies

Recipe from Buns In My Oven

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup chocolate chunks or about 12 little Hershey’s Bar pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs, salt, and baking soda. Add to the butter mixture and mix well.

Scoop out a tablespoonful of dough and roll it into a ball and then flatten it into a disc in the palm of your hand. Place a couple of mini marshmallows and chocolate chips (or a single Hershey’s Bar piece) in the center. Roll out a second tablespoonful of dough and flatten that into a disc. Place on top of the marshmallow and chocolate filled disc of dough and seal the edges. Smoosh together to ensure everything is sealed in good. Repeat until all cookies are filled. I couldn’t resist adding a couple of chocolate chunks and marshmallows on top as well!

Bake for 8 – 10 minutes. Cookies should be lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.


Blueberry, Lemon & Chili Jam

August 11, 2011

I was so pleased with my Strawberry Balsamic Jam, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I was back at it again. For my second foray into the wonderful world of home-made jams, I chose Blueberry, Lemon & Chili Jam. The blueberries this year have been every bit as good as the strawberries and Jay and I both love spicy chili flavours as well, not to mention that there’s cilantro in this recipe too – another favourite – so I was really excited to try this jam out.

The recipe comes from the blog Local Kitchen. If you haven’t been by this site, you should definitely check it out, wonderful, interesting recipes with an emphasis on eating locally, sustainably and seasonally. Oh and you will find some beautiful photography there as well. This jam was actually quite easy to prepare. There was one little mishap when I rubbed my eye after having chopped up some jalapeno peppers and Habanero chili…I highly advise that you take every precaution to prevent that from happening to you. Otherwise everything was easy-peasy. I did get a bit nervous while the jam was cooking. It seemed like it was going to be outrageously spicy judging from the eye-watering fumes wafting up off of the mixture. However, once it had finished cooking and cooled down, I found that the sweetness of the jam really offset the spiciness of the chilis and you were just left with a little satisfying heat in the finish. Overall a great jam. Highly recommended.

Blueberry, Lemon & Chili Jam

recipe from Local Kitchen

yield: About 4 cups (or four .25 l jars)

Ingredients:

  • 7 cups blueberries, divided, rinsed & stemmed
  • 2 cups raw sugar (organic turbinado)
  • 2 medium lemons (preferably organic)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 small green jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped to yield 2 tbsp minced
  • 1/2 small orange Habanero pepper, seeded and chopped to yield 1/2 tsp minced
  • scant 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:

Combine 6 cups of blueberries and sugar in a large stockpot. Mix to coat berries and allow to macerate while you prepare the other ingredients.

Zest the lemons with a sharp vegetable peeler (taking care to remove only the yellow and not the white, bitter pith) and then cut the strips into a fine julienne. You should yield a generous 1/4 cup of zest (add more zest from another lemon if necessary).

Juice the lemons, straining out seeds & pulp (about 1/2 cup juice), and add juice & zest to the blueberries, stirring well.

Toast the cinnamon stick, either by holding with tongs over an open flame, or in a dry, heated skillet, for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant and darkened.

With a potato masher, mash the blueberries until mixture is soupy and berries are well mashed.  Add cinnamon stick, chile peppers, and salt. Mix well and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until jam is thickened and begins to spit when you stir it, about 45 minutes (about 218 degrees F).

Meanwhile, sterilize your jars and lids.

Once you feel your jam has reached the correct consistency, either judging by the thermometer or place a bit of jam on a chilled plate, if it does not run down the plate when it is tilted, it is ready. Add remaining 1 cup of blueberries and chopped cilantro. Taste and adjust flavors; remove cinnamon stick.

Bring to a boil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes (to allow berries to heat through). Remove from heat and fill hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch head space; wipe rims, affix lids and place back in the boiling water in which your sterilized the jars for 10 minutes.

Remove filled jam jars from boiling water and allow to rest on countertop. Middle portion of lid will suck down as jam cools signaling you that jars have sealed.

Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year. Refrigerated, should last at least 1 month.


Struan – Celtic Harvest Bread

July 18, 2011

Struan, a soft, enriched multigrain loaf, is my all-time favourite bread, hands down! The bread likely originated in Scotland and was a once-a-year harvest bread which contained all of the grains and seeds which were available from the harvest. Don’t get me wrong, I really love Irish Brown Bread and Irish Soda Bread. But Struan is just so versatile. It’s great for sandwiches and unbelievably awesome when toasted. Up until recently, I had never baked it myself. Believe me, I had found a reliable source for the precious loaves. Lucky for us, Atwater’s, which does a fabulous rendition of Struan, has a stand at the Falls Church Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. I would venture down there every 6 weeks or so and buy 4-5 loaves at a time. It freezes fantastically well! Of course this meant that our freezer was largely occupied by stacks of bread, but hey…we loved this bread so much that limited freezer space seemed a small price to pay. Then I got the crazy idea that I would just go ahead and try to bake it myself. I have actually always been a bit apprehensive of baking any kind of yeast bread. Quick breads were no problem, but the whole yeast thing seemed rather mysterious and somewhat scary to me. Peter Reinhart, whose pizza dough recipe is in high rotation in our house, has a recipe for Struan in his Artisan Breads Every Day book. This book is fantastic! It’s chock full of great recipes and explains the technique, in simple language, that you need to master in order to produce these world-class breads. If you are at all interested in bread baking, it really is a must. I have not managed to work my way through the book entirely, but he hasn’t disappointed us yet! So my desire to taste freshly baked Struan bread, right out of the oven, trumped my irrational fear of yeast breads and I gave his Struan recipe a go. Once I actually got into it, I found it really wasn’t very difficult to do at all. It did take a bit of time what with the planning ahead stuff and rising time, but I felt so completely self-satisfied and proud when my gorgeous, home-baked Struan bread came out of the oven.

Not to mention, it was truly delicious! Slightly different from our Atwater’s standard in that it was not as dense, definitely lighter, but still had great texture. I was very pleased with the whole experience and am already planning to bake my next couple loaves. Actually, truth be told, I need to go ahead and bake more as we’ve already managed to devour the first two! :) I think Atwater’s is going to miss me!

Struan

Makes 2 Loaves or many rolls

Recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups (22.5 oz/638 g) unbleached bread flour
  • 1/4 cup (1.5 oz/42.5 g) coarse cornmeal (polenta grind)
  • 1/4 cup (1 oz/28 g) rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons (0.75 oz/21 g) wheat bran or oat bran
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz/56.5 g) cooked brown rice
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz/56.5 g) brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (0.66 oz./19 g) salt, or 3 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons (0.66 oz/19 g) instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (1 oz/28.5 g) honey or agave nectar
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz/340 g) lukewarm water (about 95°F or 35° C)
  • 1/2 cup(4 oz/113 g) lukewarm buttermilk, yogurt, or any other milk (about 95°F or 35° C)
  • Poppy seeds or sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

Do Ahead

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for  2 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes to fully hydrate the flour.

Once again, mix on the slowest speed with the paddle attachment for 2 minutes more. The dough should be very tacky or slightly sticky. *

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, then dust the top fo the dough with flour. Lightly knead the dough for 2-3 minutes, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will still be soft and sticky but should hold together to for a soft, supple ball. With oiled hands, reach under on end of the dough, stretch it out, then fold it back onto itself. Do this from the back-end and then from each side. Flip the dough over and tuck it into a ball.

Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Repeat this entire process three more times, completing all repetitions within 40 minutes.

Place dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight for up to 5 days.

On Baking Day

Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 hours before you plan to bake. Shape the cold dough into one or more sandwich loaves using 28 oz of dough for 4 1/2 x 8 inch loaf pans and 36 oz. for 5×9 loaf pans. (After making this bread many times, I generally take all of the dough from one batch and shape it into one sandwich loaf which I bake in a 5×9″ pan. I used to divide the dough and make two loaves, but I prefer the fuller loaf that I get by just using the one pan.) The dough can also be shaped into any size freestanding loaf you desire; or into rolls using 2 oz of dough per roll.

For sandwich loaves, proof the dough in greased loaf pans.

Brush the top of the dough with water and sprinkle with poppy seeds (if you wish) then mist with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Let the dough rise a room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until increased to about 1 1/2 times its original size. In loaf pans, the dough should dome at least 1 inch above the rim.

About 15 minutes prior to baking preheat the oven to 350° F (177°C).

Bake the loaves for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan. The total baking time is 45-60 minutes for loaves and only 20 – 25 minutes for rolls. The bread is done when it has a rich golden color, the loaf sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, and the internal temperature is able 185°F (85°C)

Cool for at least 20 minutes for rolls and 1 hour for large loaves before slicing or serving.

*Sticky dough means the dough will stick to a dry finger when you poke it. Tacky dough behaves more like a post-it not, sticking to your finger but peeling off easily. With very tacky dough it means a little bit of dough may stick to your finger, but most of it peels off easily.


Oreo Stuffed Brownie Bits for Bitly’s Three Year Birthday Party

July 14, 2011

Last Thursday, July 7th, Bitly turned three years old! Jay and I travelled up to New York to the Betaworks office to celebrate with the Bitly team and to further mark the event, I baked a whole lot of Oreo Stuffed Brownie Bits. Over 100 of those little devils! Oh, and that is “Bits” not “bites”. Get it….bits for Bitly? Anyway…I’m sure by now many of you are wondering “What in the world is Bitly?” Bitly is a URL shortener which allows its users to not only shorten their long URL’s, which is very important in these days of 140 character tweets, but also aids them in sharing and tracking their links. Furthermore, it allows them to view complete, real-time traffic and analytics data as well. You may have noticed “Bit.ly” if you use Twitter, but Bitly also powers more than 10,000 custom short URL’s. So if you see a short URL, Bitly is most likely behind it.

Bitly Icon

My husband is the Architect for Bitly, and wrote the first rev of the product three years ago, hence our inclusion in the festivities, which were held at Madam Geneva’s on Bowery and Bleeker. Madam Geneva, which was named for the 18th Century English slang for Gin, is a hip bar and lounge with a speak-easy vibe located adjacent to the Double Crown restaurant.

Bitly crowd at Madam Geneva

They serve a tasty specialty cocktail which consists of your choice of several different jams or preserves served over ice with gin or vodka. Yummy!

Jammy Cocktail's at the Madam's

We had a great time and I’m delighted to say folks seemed to enjoy my Oreo Stuffed Brownie Bits. I think they were a perfect treat for a Bitly-centric party, compact – like their URL’s – but packing a powerful punch! The mini Oreo cookies do get a bit softer during baking, but still provides a nice crunchy contrast to the gooey, fudgy brownie surrounding it. Not everyone in the office knew that a mini Oreo was secreted away in the middle of those little morsels, so it was quite amusing to occasionally hear after someone’s first bite, “Oh my God…there’s a freakin Oreo in here!”

I adapted this recipe from an Oreo-Stuffed Brownie recipe on Sing For Your Supper. They made regular sized brownies with their favourite King Arthur Flour Brownie recipe (now a favourite of mine as well) and stuffed them with full-sized double stuff Oreo’s. As mentioned, I was looking for a smaller, easily portable treat, so I opted to make individual, mini cupcake -like treats.

Batter-Topped Oreo-Stuffed Brownie Bits and those awaiting their top layer of batter before baking

However, if you’d rather super-size your brownies, that is definitely an option. Just use full sized Oreos, full sized chocolate chips, a 9×13 pan and bake them for about 35-40 minutes. No matter what the size, these guys are addictive! Make some today!

Oreo Stuffed Brownie Bits

Recipe adapted from Sing For Your Supper

Makes 48 oreo stuffed brownie bits

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 package mini oreo cookies

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini muffin pan with mini cupcake liners or lightly grease each well of the pan.

In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the heat (or microwave) briefly, just until it’s hot, but not bubbling; it’ll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating the mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.

While the sugar heats a second time, beat the eggs, cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla until smooth. Add the hot butter/sugar mixture, stirring until smooth.

Add the flour and chips, again stirring until smooth.

Using a small cookie scoop, fill the scoop halfway with the brownie batter. Place batter in the bottom of each muffin well. Place one mini Oreo cookie on top of the batter in each of the muffin wells. Top each Oreo with another one half cookie scoop of batter. Bake for about 18 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the brownie bits for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!


Root Beer Float Cupcakes

July 10, 2011

Have Mercy! My kitchen is in shambles, every dish is dirty, it is a true, honest to goodness mess. But do you know what I have now? Root Beer Float Cupcakes! Wait…let me say it slower…root beer…float…cupcakes! Yup…you heard me. I mean, I love root beer all on its lonesome. I love root beer floats even more. And well, anyone who knows me knows I have a BIG thing for cupcakes. I’ve got all three awesome things wrapped into just one in these little dickens. They even have home-made hot fudge sauce on top. Good Lord! Now, I must admit, these little guys were not easy to make. There were a bunch of steps, and as I mentioned, LOTS of dirty dishes. Oh well, no pain, no gain – hopefully I’m not talking about weight here, though these little gems are amazingly decadent!  It didn’t help matters that I doubled the recipe. I thought Root Beer Float Cupcakes would be perfect for a 4th of July cookout I was attending and wanted to make sure there were enough to go around.

Root Beer seems pretty “American” to me and the “Float” part is quite nostalgic. Everyone loves cupcakes, a very portable and picnic-friendly dessert. So I got to work on these. and I worked…and I worked…In all honesty, I must admit, there is nothing really hard here. Just a bit time-consuming. But it paid off in the end. The cupcakes looked fantastic and got rave reviews at the cookout. So, when you’ve got a bit of time on your hands, and a hankering for a root beer flavoured delectible…I’ve got just the thing for you!

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

makes 12 cupcakes

recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons root beer concentrate
  • 1/3 cup root beer
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 4-5 Root Beer Barrel hard candies

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, whisk egg and sugar until smooth and no lumps remain. Add cream, butter and vanilla, and mix until combined. Stir in sour cream. Sift dry ingredients together and add to wet mixture. Add root beer concentrate and root beer. Mix until batter is smooth. Line a muffin tin with liners and using a heaping 1/4 cup measure, add batter to each cup. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Let cool before frosting.

Place root beer barrel candies in food processor and pulse until the candies are finely ground. Set aside.

Vanilla and Root Beer Frosting

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon root beer extract

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter until smooth. On low-speed, add powdered sugar one tablespoon at a time. I know, I know, this is tedious but will result in a frosty that is smooth and creamy, not grainy and you will likely not need all 4 cups of the powdered sugar to reach appropriate frosting consistency, if you add the sugar in slowly like this. Increase speed to bring the frosting together. Add milk and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth. Remove almost all of the vanilla frosting, leaving behind about 1/3-1/2 cup in the mixer. Set vanilla frosting aside. Add root beer extract to remaining frosting in the bowl and beat until it comes together.

Prep two pastry bags (or you can simply use spoons) and fill one with vanilla frosting and the other with root beer frosting. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, using your 1″ round cookie cutter or apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes, cutting down 2/3 of the way through the cakes. Pipe the root beer frosting into the holes, filling each cupcake to the top. Then use the vanilla frosting filled pastry bag to finish frosting the cupcakes. Sprinkle pulverized root beer barrel candy over the top of each cupcake.

Hot Fudge Sauce

ingredients:

  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1 Cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Cup scalding milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Combine sugar, cocoa, salt and flour in a bowl over a double boiler. Bring milk to a boil. Gradually add hot milk to sugar mixture. Stir constantly until mixture thickens.

Once it has reached your desired thickness – I like mine pretty fudgy, so I probably cooked it for about 15 -20 minutes or so – remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Store in refrigerator.

*This recipe makes a good deal of sauce, which will keep well in the fridge.You will have lots left over for ice cream topping, or actual root beer floats in the future!

Fill another pastry bag with hot fudge sauce, which has reached room temperature,  and pipe a large dollop of fudge on the very top center of each cupcake. The fudge will flow down the sides a bit. Place maraschino cherry on top of each cake.

Enjoy!


Strawberry, Blueberry & White Chocolate Mousse Tart

July 4, 2011

It’s hot outside. Yup…lower 90′s. Oh and don’t forget humid. We got lots of that going on here as well. It’s a typical 4th of July in Virginia. In fact, this year’s Independence Day weather isn’t as bad as some of the sweltering holidays I remember in the not too distant past where the mercury shot up to somewhere slightly above 100! That sultry temperature is more the norm this time of year. Funny that most Americans seem to mark the 4th of July holiday by holding picnics and barbeques…outside…in the heat. Seems to me, our Founding Father’s might have taken the average temperature in July under consideration when the Continental Congress adopted and signed the Declaration of Independence back on that momentous day in 1776. I’m not suggesting that they should have waited to sign such an important document until milder temperatures arrived. But perhaps they could’ve indicated that a date in late September would be much more desirable for its future commemoration.  I think they might have been lulled into a false sense of meteorological security by the unseasonably mild weather they were experiencing in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. Thomas Jefferson recorded in his journal a low temperature of 68° F and a high of  a mere 76°F. The average in hot and humid Philadelphia at that time of year is more like 85°F. I would love a 76 degree 4th…but enough about that. I’ll just turn my attention from the weather outside (oh yes, I am most definitely inside, loving my new AC unit) to all things red, white and blue for Independence Day. I’ve been chomping at the bit to make a Strawberry and White Chocolate Mousse Tart that I saw over at the Galley Gourmet way back in April. I thought I could add some lovely fresh blueberries to the recipe and have a wonderfully patriotic looking dessert to bring to my friend Jeff’s 4th of July cook-out/pool party.

This dish was very easy to make. One thing you do want to keep in mind though, is that with this dessert, you need to start preparing it at least 1 day ahead of time to allow the mousse to set and perhaps even two days ahead if you would like your tart dough to rest in the refrigerator overnight. But with a little planning, you get great results. The dish looked incredibly yummy, held with the red, white and blue, star-spangled, Yankee Doodle theme of the day and needless to say, a chilled tart was certainly a refreshing dessert on a steamy summer evening. I know I will be making this one again soon. The summer has only just begun…(sigh)

Strawberry, Blueberry & White Chocolate Mousse Tart

Recipe very slightly adapted (I added blueberries) from The Galley Gourmet

Serves 8

Ingredients:

For the Tart Dough:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 9 Tablespoons (4 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 extra large egg
For the White Chocolate Mousse:
  • 6 ounces good quality white chocolate chips
  • 1 1/4 cups chilled whipping cream, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon powdered gelatin
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 extra large egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup seedless strawberry jam
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
Directions:
For the Tart Dough:
In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, sugar, and salt.  Pulse until combined.  Scatter the butter pieces over the flour.   Process in short bursts until the butter is the size of peas.  Add the egg and process in long pulses, about 5-7 seconds until the dough has started to clump.  Place a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the dough onto the surface.  Using the plastic wrap and the back of your hands, gently press the dough into a disk.  Wrap tightly with the plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375º F.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  If refrigerated overnight, let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle, flouring the dough and surface as necessary to keep the dough from sticking.  Roll up the dough around the rolling pin and gently unroll it over an 9 1/2-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Fit the dough into the edge of the pan.  Place the tart onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Line the tart pan with aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove the weights and foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Place on a rack to cool completely.
For the White Chocolate Mousse:
Combine the white chocolate and 1/4 cup whipping cream in a large heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water) and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is completely smooth.  Remove the bowl and allow the mixture to cool until lukewarm, about 15 minutes. (I actually melted my chocolate in the microwave, stirring after each 10 seconds until it was completely melted.)  In small bowl, combine the gelatin and water.  Allow the mixture to bloom for 5 minutes.  Place the gelatin mixture in the microwave and cook until melted, about 5 seconds.  In a large bowl, beat the remaining cream and vanilla until soft peaks form.  Add the gelatin mixture and beat until combined.  Using clean dry beaters or a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff (but not dry) peaks form.  Gently fold the whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the whipped cream.  Transfer the mixture into the cooled crust and smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Chill overnight.
In a small saucepan, combine the jam and lemon juice over medium heat; stirring until the jam melts. Remove from the heat.  Arrange the sliced strawberries in concentric circles on top of the set mousse.  Add blueberries around the edges and in center of tart. Gently brush the berries with the melted jam mixture.  Serve immediately or chill the tart for up to 2 hours.  Enjoy!

Buckles & Crisps & Crumbles…Oh My! Blueberry Buckle

June 29, 2011

Now lets see…there are Cobblers, Crisps, Crumbles, Buckles, Grunts, Slumps, Brown Bettys and Pandowdies. “Oh my”,  indeed! What do all of the aforementioned things have in common? They are all rustic, regional fruit desserts, made with whatever fresh fruit ingredient is available at the time. There are a few differences however. Please indulge me as I describe each dish as best I can, though I’m sure regional differences abound. What some folks might call a crisp, I’m sure others would know as a crumble. Yet, here we go…

Cobbler: An American deep dish fruit dessert with a pie or biscuit crust. The dish can be either entirely enclosed in pastry on dotted with drops of biscuit, giving it an appearance similar to a cobbled street.

Crisps & Crumbles: A dessert which has fruit on the bottom with a crumbled topping consisting of flour, butter, brown sugar, oatmeal and/or nuts. This dish is baked. What Americans call a crisp is often referred to as a crumble in Britain.

Betty or Brown Betty: This fruit dish, most commonly made with apples, is similar to a crisp. However, instead of placing all of the fruit on the bottom and covering it with a topping, this dessert has layers of the fruit alternating with layers of buttery bread crumbs.

Grunt or Slump: These fruit desserts are very similar. They are both dumpling like puddings. A Slump is cooked on the stove top whereas a Grunt is steam cooked.

Pandowdy: This dessert is like a cobbler, but it’s crust has been broken up and pushed down into the fruit so that it can soak up the fruit juices. The result is that it becomes more like a bread pudding.

Buckle: A buckle is very similar to a coffee cake. It is a cake with berries folded into the batter that has a streusel topping. This topping gives it a buckled appearance.

What we’re dealing with here in this post, as you can clearly see now that all the definitions are out-of-the-way, is a delicious Blueberry Buckle recipe. Blueberries are in season now. Everyone is looking around to see what fabulous tasty treats they can make with all those bushels of blueberries they’ve just picked. I’m telling you…you’ve got to make this buckle! It is literally bursting with blueberries.

The cake merely serves as a thin matrix to hold all those berries together. It is really easy to prepare and every single person you feed it to will go crazy for it. I know all of my various descriptions above indicated that these fruit dishes were desserts. I can definitely see that. However, the Blueberry Buckle, being similar to a coffee cake is great for breakfast, or tea, or a midnight snack even.

Sure if you pop some whipped cream on the top or a scoop of ice cream down next to it, it’s also a most welcome dessert. I’m just saying its very versatile.  Don’t miss out on this one!

Blueberry Buckle

Recipe from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures who found it in Cook’s Illustrated

Makes one 9″ Buckle

Ingredients:

Streusel:

  • 1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, softened

Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup (4 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries (about 20 oz)

Directions:

To make the streusel: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the flour, both sugars, cinnamon and salt on low to combine and break up any brown sugar lumps.  With the mixer still on low, add the butter and beat until it is completely incorporated into the dry ingredients, about 2-3 minutes – the mixture will resemble wet sand.  Transfer the streusel to another bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F with a rack in the lower third of the oven.  Line the bottom of a 9-inch round pan with a round of parchment, then spray the parchment and the pan with nonstick cooking spray. Dust with flour.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder together then set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, salt and lemon zest at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Beat in the vanilla.  Add the eggs, on at a time, beating well after each addition.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture, beating until just about incorporated.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to finish stirring – the batter will be very thick.  Gently fold in the blueberries.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan; spread in an even layer.  To top with the streusel – pick up a handful of streusel and squeeze to form a clump.  Break this large clump into smaller pieces and sprinkle over the batter.  Continue until you’ve used all of the streusel.  Bake for about 55 minutes, or until the streusel is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool for 15-20 minutes.  Run a thin knife around the edges of the cake then invert it onto the rack.  Remove the parchment then turn the cake streusel side up and let cool on the wire rack.

Enjoy!


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