Tag Archives: baking

Parmesan Herb Crackers

Today I went to a Change of Command ceremony. For you non-military peeps, that’s when a new boss takes over for an old boss. It’s very traditional and symbolic. I love attending these ceremonies because they just make me proud to be part of the military.  Before I left I had written a draft post about how good crackers are hard to find in stores and how easy they are to make at home.

 

Now I feel compelled to share with you the words of wisdom I heard from the outgoing commander, a man who has been a pleasure to know these past couple of years. My husband worked for him the first year we were here before moving on to another job.

He said a lot of great things but what really stood out was this piece of advice: Do your job. That sounds pretty simple, right? But think about it for a second. How often are you worrying about what someone else is doing instead of just focusing on what you should be doing? It happens a lot, especially for Perfectionists like Me. We’ve all worked with someone who was a slacker and we had to pick up their slack. Think about how easier your job would be if the slacker just did their job! And think for a second about the job you have to do. If you are spending all your time worrying about what the person next to you is doing, what’s happening to the job you are doing? It suffers. This doesn’t just happen at the office. It happens everywhere and in every aspect of life.

So do your job and do it the best that you can. Everything else will work itself out. Can’t ask for much more, right?

Thanks, Peaches. We’ll miss you!

 

Why, yes, I did drink that wine in this photo. I couldn’t let it go to waste. One of the downsides of using wine as a photo prop! 

One year ago: Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

Parmesan Herb Crackers

Inspired from Pastry Affair and NYT

Yield: Several dozen 1 inch crackers

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 20 minutes to prep, 20 minutes to bake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan
  • 1 TB fresh herbs, chopped
  • 3 TB cold butter
  • 1/4 cup +2TB  milk, divided
Procedure

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Prepare two baking sheets with silpat or parchment.

2. You can use either a food processor, a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, a pastry cutter, or your hands! I think the food processor works best but mine broke while making these the first time. It is not a good year for small appliances in my kitchen.

3. Using your tool of choice, mix together the dry ingredients. Add  the parmesan and herbs. Cut your butter into small cubes and mix with the dry ingredients until it resembles fine cornmeal.

4. Add in the 1/4 cup of milk. If the mixture is still dry, add one tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together nicely. It should not be wet, but should form a ball easily.

5. If it is warm in your kitchen, and it probably is considering how hot the whole country is right now, wrap the dough in plastic and chill for about 30 minutes. This will make it easier to roll. When you are ready to rock and roll, divide the dough in half.  You should not need any additional flour for dusting, but if you do, use as little as possible. Roll to 1/8″ or smaller. The most I have the patience for is 1/8″ but you will have crispier crackers if you can get them thinner. Using your rolling pin to help, roll some of the dough onto the pin and transfer to a baking sheet. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 1 inch squares (no need to separate, they will not rise or spread). It is much easier to cut on the baking sheet than try and move all those little crackers to the sheet! If you want bigger crackers, by all means knock yourself out. Do the same with the second half of the dough.

6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven and how crispy you want your crackers. I wanted mine crispy so I baked mine a little longer.

7. Let cool completely. They will crisp up as they cool. Enjoy with cheese, olives, and wine for a delightful snack!

Notes: You can use any cheese you want, just make sure it is finely shredded so it mixes in with the dough. If you don’t like herbs, feel free to leave them out. I liked the white whole wheat flour here because it gives that nice nutty wheat flavor, but still easy to work with like white flour. You can find it in most grocery stores now.

 

 

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Easy Challah Bread

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

I was pretty excited about this month’s challenge. My hubby and I love challah and I love any excuse to make it!

Challah bread is definitely a bread that anyone can make. It’s pretty forgiving and easy to shape. I have no idea just how traditional this particular recipe is (not much challah bread up in North Dakota where I grew up), but it is tasty. This could also be easily made into rolls for those summer time burgers now that grilling season is here with Memorial Day.

Thank you to all who serve on this Memorial Day! Thanks to my grandfather who served 23 years in the Air Force, my father-in-law who served 20 years, and my brother-in-law who also served 20 years. And especially to my wonderful hubby who is still serving – you make me proud every day!

Challah Bread

From Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen

Yield: 2 loaves

Difficulty: Intermediate

Time: 30 minutes hands on; additional 2 to 3 hours for baking and proofing.

  • 8 oz water (temperature will vary depending on your kitchen – warm kitchen equals cool water)
  • 1 TB + 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 20 oz bread flour
  • 4 oz egg yolk (about 6 to 8 eggs)
  • 1.5 oz sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 oz oil
  • egg wash

1. Put all the ingredients into a mixing bowl starting with the water. If using a stand mixer, mix on speed 2 for 4 minutes (using your dough hook) or until all the ingredients come together into a ball, or use a wooden spoon to mix until it is ready to knead. At this point I like to finish kneading by hand, but feel free to finish in the mixer on speed 3. Knead until smooth.

2. Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise until about double, about 1 to 2 hours.

3. Gently deflate and cut six equal strands. Roll each strand to the length of your sheet pan. Place three strands on each sheet pan and braid. Pinch the ends and tuck under. Brush with egg wash and let rest for another hour or until about double again. Preheat oven to 400F.

4. Brush with egg wash again. Bake about 25 minutes, rotating half way through. Loaves should be golden brown. Check temperature if needed – bread should be no less than 180F in the center.

Let cool completely (it will be tough!) before enjoying! This bread makes a fantastic french toast, but it is also great all by itself! Enjoy!

Note: I know there are no pictures of the process and the instructions might be a bit vague for those who haven’t made bread before. Please shoot me an email or comment below if you need further clarification! It really is an easy bread to make!

Check out more bread ideas at Yeast Spotting

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Spice Coffee Cake

The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenges, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeast dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee style cake.

While the Nazook looked utterly amazing and mouthwatering, I had no time to make it this month due to my crazy busy schedule right now. (This is the part where you pity me, of course). Thankfully, the nutmeg cake rocked and I’m so glad Jason introduced us to it! It’s incredibly easy and quick to make and tastes delightful, especially with a cup of coffee (huh, wonder if that’s why it’s called a coffee cake?). It  has a crust like a cheesecake and texture like well, a dense cake. No icing or glaze needed but I’m sure that wouldn’t hurt things. Don’t let it’s simple exterior fool you. The flavor is quite complex.

This cake would be easy to personalize to meet your taste buds. I didn’t find the nutmeg overwhelming but I do love nutmeg. I also added a pinch of cinnamon. Nutmeg and cinnamon are just meant to be together, in my humble opinion. But if they aren’t your favorite spices, just add whatever suits you. This cake has a beautiful caramel taste. The edges get a little more done than the center but that was actually my favorite part. A little bit chewier and caramel-y.

Did I mention it was quick? Less than 20 minutes, maybe closer to 10 but I wasn’t really counting, to pull together and about 40 minutes to bake. I love quick recipes that taste awesome, don’t you?

Nutmeg Cake

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups (280 gm/10 oz) AP Flour
  • 2 tsp  baking powder
  • 2 cups  (400 gm/14 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 3/4 cup (170 gm/6 oz) butter, unsalted, cubed
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, or any nut of your choosing. I used pecans.
  • 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg

1. Preheat your oven 350°F.
2. Mix the baking soda (not baking powder) into the milk. Set aside.
3. Put the flour, baking powder, and the brown sugar into your food processor (mixer will work too). Pulse until uniformly mixed.
4. Toss in the cubed butter. Pulse until uniformly mixed into tan colored crumbs.
5. Pour HALF of the crumbs into your springform (9”/23cm) pan. Press out a crust using your fingers and knuckles.
6. Mix in the nutmeg and cinnamon
7.  Add the egg, mix until combined.
8. Pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until a slightly lumpy tan batter is formed.
9. Pour the batter over the crust in the springform pan.
10. Gently sprinkle the nut pieces over the batter.
11. Bake in a preheated oven for 30-40 minutes. It’s ready when the top is golden brown, and when a toothpick comes out clean. It took 40 minutes in my oven, but I started checking at 30 minutes.
12. Let cool for a minute or two, then run a knife around the pan. Remove the outer part and let cool. If you let it cool in the pan it may stick. Make coffee and enjoy!

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Chocolate Chip Hazelenut Biscotti

Biscotti, how I love thee!

Ok, I know, I’ve been out of commission for what, six weeks now? I have lots of good reasons, and probably a few that aren’t so great. First, I’m taking a couple of online writing classes, which is the biggest reason I’m not blogging since I’m busy writing for a grade. Second, everything that can break seems to have broken, including my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer (insert tears here).  That will be a separate post.

In the meantime…I’m making bread by hand and making other doughs with my hand mixer (also a Kitchen Aid…). Biscotti was perfect for the hand mixer, other than me being annoyed at having to stand there holding it. Yeah, I know, I’ve gotten lazy with my big, (sort of) powerful stand mixer. I have to actually pay close attention now! Can you imagine? Hmph.

This is an easy recipe and is actually the same as the Cinnamon Hazelnut Biscotti, but I took out the cinnamon and added espresso and hazelnuts. I originally had espresso in the title but that was bordering on obnoxiously long. And you could really use this recipe as a base for whatever you wanted. And for me, biscotti really hits the spot first thing in the morning when you are sitting down for coffee after a good workout or yard work. It’s a great way to start your day.

Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Biscotti

adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts

  • 3 cups unbleached AP Flour
  • 1 TB baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I prefer sea salt)
  • 2 tsp espresso powder (optional, but adds a nice touch)
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and husked*
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, somewhere in between room temperature and cold.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

*To husk the hazelnuts: spread in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake in oven at 350F for about 10 minutes until very fragrant. Cover with a towel. Cool slightly and then rub together.   The skins will come off fairly easily.  Don’t fret if you don’t get all the skins. A little won’t hurt.

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare two baking sheets with either silpat or parchment. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

2. Chop hazelnuts in food processor until slightly chunky. How chunky depends on your preference.

3. Place butter, sugar, vanilla, and zest in stand mixer and mix until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl after each addition. Add flour mixture. When flour is almost completely mixed, fold in the chopped hazelnuts and chocolate chips.

4. Divide the dough in half and place on prepared sheet pans. Flatten dough into an even rectangle. If you want to cut them diagnol, keep it narrow and long. If you want to cut just straight, make it wider. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden on the edges. Remove from oven (but keep oven on),  let cool slightly and carefully move to a cutting board. Slice slightly on the diagonal. Return pieces to the sheet pan. Bake about 10 minutes. Flip pieces, bake 10 minutes more, or until desired crispiness. Careful that they don’t burn, but also make sure they are golden enough to be crunchy. Make coffee, and enjoy!

 

 

 

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Lemon Blueberry Ricotta Muffins

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lisa! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

I’m having a love hate relationship with these muffins. My favorite muffin forever has been blueberry. So of course, I decided to make blueberry muffins for this challenge, but work towards developing my own. I started with this recipe from King Arthur Flour. I modified it quite a bit before actually making the original recipe. Not always the best idea, but well, I was in a hurry. At first I hated them and almost threw them all in the garbage. After sitting, however, I liked them again.

I think the issue is that these are slightly healthier muffins. Not a health food, but healthier than say, a Starbucks muffin. There isn’t much fat, not much sugar, and flax for that I-feel-less-guilty-when-eating-these. I’m trying to add more flax to our baked goods, since it has so many health benefits, particularly all those Omega-3s. But when eating a muffin, most of the time we expect it to be sweet. These aren’t overly sweet, so once I got past that, I really liked them. My taste buds just needed a moment to adjust. I didn’t particularly care for the whole flax seeds, but the flax meal was not noticeable.

All that being said, these are a work in progress. But for now, they are a decent muffin, quite good with coffee. I used Meyer lemons since they are in season but traditional lemons will work fine. I’m posting two recipes: one with the healthier additions (which is the one I made) and the less healthier muffin for those days when you just need a muffin.

Lemon Blueberry Flax Muffins

Yield: 12 to 15 muffins

Time: Less than one hour including bake time

Difficulty: Very Easy

One Year Ago: Leaning Tower of Red Velvet

Modified from King Arthur Flour

  • 2 Cups AP Flour
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 TB butter, room temp
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 TB lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup ricotta (or 3/4 cup milk)
  • 1 1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • Sanding (coarse) sugar for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a muffin pan with papers or grease.

2. Whisk together dry ingredients: flour, flax, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. Cream together the butter, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition. Add the ricotta, mix until just combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix untilalmostcombined. The key to tender muffins is to not over mix!

5. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the blueberries. Continue folding gently if needed until all flour is mixed in.

6. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full, sprinkle with sugar,  and bake in preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until toothpick comes out mostly clean. Let cool completely – they taste better after sitting for a while.

Lemon Blueberry Less Healthy Version

  • 2 Cups AP Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 TB butter, room temp
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 TB lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup ricotta (or 3/4 cup milk)
  • 1 1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • Sanding (coarse) sugar for sprinkling

Follow the same instructions as above.

Enjoy with coffee!

 

 

 

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Mini King Cakes

Today is Mardi Gras. A splurge day before you must behave until Easter. Or something like that.

Mardi Gras has a rich history, particularly in New Orleans. I have been to New Orleans, pre-Katrina, but I was there during the off season and it was still crazy. Did you know that Mardi Gras originated in Mobile, AL? I’d always assumed New Orleans!

I’d never had a King Cake before, but essentially it is brioche (the “cake”) and gold, green, and purple sprinkles. Williams-Sonoma did a fun blog post on King Cakes describing the sugars as “…purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.” Those are some seriously loaded sugars.  Newer versions of King Cake include various fillings, such as cream cheese and praline. And in true Alabama fashion, their version of the King Cake is deep fried. I would expect nothing less.

I’m sure you’ve heard of hiding a prize inside the King Cake. In past years it would be jewels (the wealthy), beans (the poor), almonds, and in most recent years…a plastic baby. The plastic baby really creeps me out for some reason. I mean, it’s a piece of plastic in your cake! I just find that odd, so I omitted that part. Forgive me. But the main point of the prize is that whoever gets the prize is in charge of bringing the King Cake next year. I don’t mind making them again. They were easy and very tasty.

I found my recipe from King Arthur Flour but you could really use any brioche recipe, add some lemon and nutmeg, glaze it, sprinkle some sugars and voila! King Cakes! This brioche recipe is a little bit “cak-i-er” and less “bread-i-er” than other brioche and it was fast and easy to make. Less than four hours including bake and rising time! Can’t beat that.

If you don’t have gold, green, and purple sugars, make your own. Just add a little food coloring to your sugar. Easy. I had gel food colors so I put a dab on a toothpick, spritzed with water, and added to the sugar. It doesn’t take much at all.

Mini King Cakes

Yield: 10 to 12 mini King Cakes

Time: about 4 hours, including baking and rising

Difficulty: Easy

One Year Ago: Chocolate Souffle

Recipe from King Arthur Flour

Dough

  • 1/2 cup (8 TB) butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm milk
  • 2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, white reserved
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup dry milk
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 3 1/2 cups AP Flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp instant yeast

Icing

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla or lemon extract (I used Fiori di Sicilia, but careful – a little goes a long way)
  • 1 TB + ½ to 1 tsp milk, enough to make a thick but pourable glaze

Topping

  • yellow, purple, and green sparkling sugars

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients for dough into mixer. Mix with dough hook for 5 minutes on speed 1 until dough comes together. Increase to speed 3 until dough forms a smooth ball. You may need to sprinkle more flour into the dough. I had to add about an extra 1/2 cup because the dough was just too soft. It should be soft and slightly sticky, but still have some shape. If it is just a sloppy mess, you will have a hard time with it. Sprinkle one teaspoon at a time and let mix completely before adding more. This step may take 15 minutes total.

2. Let dough rise, covered, for about one hour in a warm place, like your oven with the light on (but oven turned off!). See before and after rising:

3. Scale into 12 equal pieces (I did 10 since I only have 10 brioche pans). Shape into rolls. This will be very easy to do since the dough is easy to work with. Place into greased muffin tins or brioche pans.

4. Let rise for another hour (but not in your oven this time) covered loosely with a towel. While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 350F.

5. After rising, combine the reserved egg with  about a tablespoon of water, mix thoroughly, and brush on the cakes. Bake the cakes for 35 to 45 minutes, tenting if they brown too fast. Check the temperature about the 30 minute mark. It should read at least 180F  when they are ready.

6. To make the glaze, just combine all the glaze ingredients together, adding more milk if needed. After the cakes have cooled, dip in the glaze and sprinkle with sugars. Eat!

Check out more bread recipes at Wild Yeast.

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Love and Whoopie….Pies

Red velvet whoopie pies with a raspberry marshmallow center. Does that say Valentine’s Day or what? I finally decided to jump on the Valentine’s Day band wagon and make something with red velvet.  It is one of my favorite cakes, after all, and I’ve had red velvet on my To Bake list for, oh, a year maybe?

And at this point I am retyping my entire post, minus the paragraph above, since WordPress was so kind to crash and not register my last save! Don’t you just hate it when technology doesn’t do exactly what you want it to do?

There, just saved. Still good.

I think I said something along the lines of every day is special, no need to just use Valentine’s Day as an excuse, and yada yada yada. Maybe I was being too mushy and WordPress decided to intervene? Well, hmph.

And just saved again. Still good.

These are really tasty “cookies” with an identity crisis (I mean, they are essentially small cakes, with pie in the name, and we consider them cookies?). Chocolatey, cakey, and yummy. What more could you ask for in a cookie? Oh, that they are easy? Done. (Save).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies modified from Epicurious

Yield: about 2 dozen

Time: about 1 hour, including bake time

Difficulty: Easy

One Year Ago: Granola Bars

Cookie (Cake)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup  unsweetened (natural) cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 2/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring (2 tablespoons) OR 1 tsp gel food coloring dissolved in 2 TB water
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Sift your cocoa powder, then whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
2. Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until combined well and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in egg, scrape the bowl, and then the vinegar.
3. Reduce speed to low and alternately mix in flour and buttermilk in batches, beginning and ending with the flour until combined.
4. Add the red food coloring and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined.
5. Spoon 1 tablespoon mounds of batter 2-inches apart on lined baking sheets.
6. Bake, switching positions of baking sheets halfway through baking, until rounds are puffed and set (check with a toothpick), 8 to 10 minutes.
7.  Spread about 1 tablespoon of icing (two choices below) on flat-side of half the rounds; top with remaining rounds, flat side down, to form whoopie pies.

Marshmallow Icing from Smitten Kitchen

This is the one I used. No refrigeration needed. Made a lot, so you could cut the recipe in half.

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract OR chambord
  • pinch of salt

Combine icing ingredients in a metal or glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and beat with a handheld electric mixer at high speed until frosting is thick and fluffy, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat until slightly cooled. Add food coloring if desired. Use frosting the day it is made. It will still be good the next day, just won’t be as fluffy.

Cream Cheese Icing from Epicurious

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Beat together cream cheese, butter, lemon juice, vanilla, salt, and sugar until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes.

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