Saturday, February 8, 2014

Makin' Bread

It was pretty cold last weekend and I really wanted to make some bread, so I went about looking for ways to proof dough.  I've successfully used the microwave before, but my present microwave is barely big enough to reheat a plate of food, certainly not big enough for a big ball of bread dough. Then I remembered I had this:
I looked it up, and found a few sites that said a crockpot should work just fine for this purpose.  You want to use the coolest available setting (this one here is warm, low, high.... warm is the option to go with).  

Next step was finding the recipes.  I gave Scott my pinterest boards for baking to look through and two caught his interest, so I decided to make both.

I did make a bit of an error, in that I forgot to mix in the olive oil in my dough formation.  It is quite possible that forcing it in after the first rise gave me a different result than doing it right would have given me.  But my failure to follow instructions and make up the difference still resulted in a lovely bread.

The ingredients are pretty simple (especially because I have some wonderfully full rosemary bushes in my front yard)
And using the crock pot, with a parchment liner and plastic wrap cover worked really well for the proofing.  It did come out a little warm to the touch, but the rising worked nicely, both times.
After first rise completed
2nd rise I put back in the crock pot and cranked the dial to high... covered with new plastic wrap and some dish towels for added insulation.  The goal was to attempt to bake it this way.
Unfortunately, after 45 minutes it was still doughy at the top center.  I pulled it from the pot at that point and finished in the oven.  It tasted great, but lacked that lovely crust I would have gotten with a traditional baking.

These were wonderful.  I always imagined that pretzels and pretzel rolls would be really hard to make. That is so far from true.  The dough starts just like any other, basic yeast, flour, salt, water and a touch of sugar.  Pulled together with the dough hook on my kitchen aid, but would have been possible the old fashioned way (lots of elbow grease and a bit of time).

Again I looked to my crock pot for the initial rise, then for the second time around as well.   Set my cookie sheet atop the heated bowl, covered with a tea towel and left it alone.
Once they finished their second rise, they each got a quick bath in some water & baking soda.  
This part was a little like magic.  Even though they had some time to proof, they opened up just a little bit more after their hot water bath and made this novice baker really excited to see the finished product.  Little bit of patience needed for the x marking, the soda water makes the skins a little tough so the dough was hard to score without using too much pressure.
A short time later with the help of a hot oven, these beauties were ready to eat and boy were they delicious.  All the wonderful flavor you expect from a pretzel, and no more time than it takes to make a regular kneaded yeast bread.   I think I'll be making some more tomorrow.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Protein & Chocolate

I've been really wanting to make something on the healthier side in the sweet family.   I was also inspired by the idea of getting more protein in the form of a cookie.   So again, on the hunt for ideas.  ifoodreal has a recipe for Double Chocolate Protein Cookies that got me most of the way to my finished product.  She's offered a lot of tips on what benefits each ingredient has and it looks like a nice recipe.  I didn't happen to have any avacado so I couldn't make it completely as she did. Plus, there is no whey protein powder in our house out of kindness to the lactose intolerant among us.

Even though there is no added sugar, I found these to be sweetly satisfying.  The apple sauce adds a bit of moisture if your banana's aren't ripe enough (mine could have used a couple of more days). If you've got properly over ripe banana's you may be able to leave out the applesauce.  The chocolate is more than enough to satisfy any chocolate lovers craving too.

Please do experiment. The chia & flax are easy enough to add if you have them, but can be left off if you don't.

With that said, here is the basic & simple recipe.

1/2 cup peanut butter
2 medium ripe banana's
2 scoops protein powder
4 tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)
3 tbsp dark chocolate chips/chunks
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tbsp applesauce (unsweetened)
1 tsp flax seed (ground)
1 tsp chia seed (ground)
1 tbsp quinoa (ground)
1 tbsp unsalted, dry roasted sunflower seeds
wooden spoon
medium sized bowl
cookie sheet
sheet liner
potato masher

Coffee/Spice Grinder
works well on the seeds
Preheat to 350 F
yields 12-18 cookies

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • In medium bowl, mash together banana's & peanut butter.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until combined.
  • Using a lined baking sheet, and a 2 Tbsp disher, I was able to get 18 cookies.  Bake for about 12 minutes.  Cool until easy to touch and enjoy.
My intention is to have these for breakfast for a couple of days, but if you're going to store much longer than that freezing is probably best.

According to my Lose It! tracker, each cookie of 18 works out to 70 calories, 5.2 g fat, 1.2 g sat fat, 52.9mg sodium, 4.9 g carbs, 1.1g fiber, 1.7g sugar, 3.4g protein

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Now & Later #2

In round 2, Some flank Steak, simple veggies, & Some Common Asian ingredients ... makes a simple main dish protein on the 1st night & an elegant& satisfying second night meal.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Now and Later #1

We found this book at our local discount book store, you can find it at Amazon   It's full of delicious and healthy recipes that you turn into other recipes. This is the first book I've found ever where I've wanted to try almost everything in it. So we picked out 7 pairings,  that's dinner and next day lunch for two of us for two weeks.  Went shopping and got everything we need for about $150, (Including pantry stock items like vinegar that we were out of).

The first meal was pretty tasty considering it was mostly chicken, potatoes, and carrots. For the second day you add a little bit more chicken stock, shrimp, spinach, canned tomatoes and a touch of hot sauce. Makes a really delicious and satisfying soup.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Chocolate Strawberry Mini Oatmeal Muffins

We found some perfectly sweet strawberries at the farmers market, then on Pinterest I found Chocolate Covered Strawberry Muffins by Sally's Baking Addiction.  Her recipe sounded really tasty, and they looked it too.  However while I really wanted to make them, I didn't want to go to the store so I needed to be able to use ingredients already in my pantry (and that does not include sour cream).  So I went on a hunt for a basic muffin recipe where I found the Brown Eyed Baker & Oatmeal Muffins with Dates, Cranberries & Pecans.  Still not perfect because my house includes one who is unable to eat buttermilk in any form... but with these two recipe ideas, and a little bit of substitution knowledge... I came up with these.  Since I was already substituting and modifying, I went for one more change that would lower the fat too. 

The final result has a nice balance of all the flavors, the chocolate and strawberry shine through nicely and you have that satisfying nuttiness of the oatmeal too.

So here we go.
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cups chopped strawberries
  • 1/2 unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • muffin tins
  • flour sifter
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • whisk
  • wooden spoon
  • spatula
  • 2 mixing bowls
Prep time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 15 minutes

36 mini muffins @ 52 kcal each
12 full size muffins @156 kcal each

1 tsp baking powder. I actually forgot to include this ingredient but it still worked out. If I had remembered to include it, I imagine they would have come out a bit fluffier and risen a bit more as well.  Without it though, I didn't' miss it. The  the mix in to batter ratio, combined with my mini tins, made me feel like I was still getting a satisfying bite.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
In small mixing bowl, combine soy milk & lemon juice, mix well and set aside.
 In large mixing bowl, combine oats, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt & cinnamon. Mix in your chocolate chips and strawberries.  (Alternately, you could add the mix in's at the very last)
In your small bowl, add apple sauce, egg & vanilla to the lemon milk.
Add wet ingredients to the dry, and mix until just combined - Resembles a loose oatmeal.
Pour out to papered or lightly greased muffin tins.  
Bake 15-20 minutes, toothpick entered in center will come out clean
Cool in muffin pan for a few minutes, then remove to cooling rack to finish.
Store in air tight container at room temperature

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Walnut Sweet Bread & Apple Pie Rose Bites

Last Monday was the birthday of a team member Ana. She was born & raised in Romania and I wanted to make something special for her. Having just finished up the holiday season I was a little bit sugared out on cookies & cakes, but I knew I wanted to make her something sweet that was also traditional Romanian. 

What I opted for is a Walnut Sweet Bread, aka Cozonac cu Nuca I won't give you the recipe here, but I can provide the ingredients list at least.

It has a lovely light taste, somewhere in between the flavors of a Hawaiian King Bread & Challah. It does take a bit of time to make (2 rising times) but it is definitely worth it and I think I'll be making it again around Easter time.

0.6 oz (16 g) Dry Yeast or 2 oz (60 g) Fresh
8.8 oz (250 g) chopped Walnuts or Pecans
2.3 lb (1 kg) All Purpose Flour
10.5 oz (300 g) White Sugar
5 Eggs
2 cups (500 ml) Milk
8.8 oz (250 g) Butter, melted
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 tbsp Cocoa Powder
½ cup Raisins
¼ cup Vegetable Oil
1 Zest from one Lemon

+ 2Tbsp warm milk, 1 Tbsp sugar, 2 Tbsp flour
+ 2 more Tbsp sugar

The link above is a pretty good guide by I do have a couple of notes to add.
1) Notice the inclusion of Vanilla in the ingredients, but not in the instructions. Another Romanian friend who was able to try the bread, remembers making this with her mom as a child.  She said you should add the vanilla into the egg white/sugar/nut mixture.

2) There are a couple of places where you will need too add additional milk or sugar & flour.  The first time it tells you how much, the second time it doesn't.  I opted for 2 Tbsp of sugar on the second time, it came out delicious.

3) The recipe is intended to create 3 full size loaves.  I wanted to be able to make a small gift loaf so I modified it just a bit and one of my main loaves is a bit smaller.  The sweet roll pan is filled with the ends from my 4 loaves.  Somehow I ended up making one loaf to wide so I had a little bit of extra width to cut.
(this makes amazing sweet bread by the way).

I also made some apple roses.  This was really fun to do and they came out great. They had a lovely delicate flavor and texture.  My only complaint is that my single pie dough recipe only left me enough to make a small amount of roses... 18.  Because the dough was a little over worked and I wasn't going to get it to pull together for a successful additional few, I used some of my leftover apples and the pie dough to make a gallete.  My husband and I had that for dessert and it was a perfect little sweet treat.

The recipe I went with is this...
Select 4-5 red apples (I used Pink Lady, but it doesn't really want a nice sturdy apple that can hold up to boiling)
4 cups unsweetened apple juice
2 cups sugar
a mandolin slicer & apple corer could make this easier too
1 pie worth of pie dough or even puff pastry - pick your favorite. I used Alton Brown's recipe

No need to peel your apples, but what you do want is even and thin slices, I cut mine down the center vertically, then in half again.. took those to the mandolin and sliced them straight into water (to keep from browning).  Once all your apples are sliced, boil in the apple juice & sugar for 10 minutes.  
Drain carefully, reserving your apple juice (collander in a bowl works great).

Give your apples some time to cool so you don't burn your fingers and put your juice back on the stove to reduce further.  (You'll end up with a really nice apple flavor syrup that is not only used to drizzle over the top of your finished roses, but makes a really great pancake syrup).

Peek over here to see how they are assembled.  

Bake at 400 Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes.  This was more like an experiment.  Yo might find a lower temp and longer time gives better results. I was watching for my dough to be cooked through and the tips of my roses browned.  

After removing from the oven, drizzle your apple syrup over the top, let cool and enjoy.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Years Clock Confetti Cookies

With the help of Pinterest, I've been eyeing these confetti pinata cookies and wanting so badly to
make some.   Here are just some of the prettier ones I've found as made by other folks.

Candy Corn @ Becca Bakes
Cookie Pinata @ She Knows Food & Recipes
Pumpkin Treasure Cookies @ Glorious Treats
Christmas Tree @ Wilton
Trick or Treat @ Not Martha
Valentine Box @ Glorious Treats

Then just this last week I came across these at Repeat Crafter Me
With the help of this for inspiration & of course my blog goal for 2014, I decided it was finally time to give it a try. I have a team of 15 people at my work, so I had plenty of folks to share it with to and I was able to give them all a new years surprise cookie.  Everyone loved the idea and I have to say it was really very fun to do.

 So first I needed a recipe.

I chose one from the Favorite Brand Name Cookie Collection that I think I found at my local dollar books store. (so love that place).
Available at Amazon

  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 8oz softened cream cheese 
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 3 1/2 cup - all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
    • ALSO
  • sprinkles/confetti
    • Royal Icing 
  • 5 Tbsp Meringue Powder
  • 2/3 tsp Cream of Tartar
  • 2 lbs powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp glycerin
  • oil free gel food coloring
  • 1 tsp oil free vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp oil free almond extract
  • 1/3 tsp oil free butter flavoring
  • Stand Mixer / Paddle Attachment
  • Rubber Spatula
  • Small Bowl
  • Sifter
  • Measuring Cups
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Cling Wrap
    • Also
  • Rolling Pin
  • Rolling Surface
  • Cookie Cutters 
  • Cookie Sheets
  • Silicon Baking Mat or Parchment Paper
  • Piping bag & tips
Prep time:
dough mix 15 minutes
1 1/2 chilling time
5-10 minutes baking time
2+ hours assembly time

I made 22 2 1/2" cookies
(that's 66 rounds)
& 7 2" cookies
(21 more rounds)


In stand mixer, cream together butter & cream cheese.  Add Sugar, beat until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla & almond extract, mix all until well combined.
In separate bowl sift together flour & baking powder. Add dry ingredients to cream cheese mixture and combine well.
Divide dough in half, wrap each half in cling wrap and refrigerate for about 1 1/2 hours.

Prepare Royal Icing
If you don't already have a royal icing ready to go, now is a great time to make one.  I'm not going to go through the instructions on this piece, but I will offer that I've only just made my first Royal Icing & this is where I got the recipe: Sugar Kissed .net. I have included the ingredients above for your shopping trip though.

Rolling Dough
The book recommends an 1/8 inch thick cookie, and baking at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  I found that in my oven 8 minutes burned the bottoms.  From then on I dropped to about 5 minutes with a careful eye and that gave me better results.  I suspect dropping the temperature to 350 would also be advisable.   I lined my sheets with either my Silpat, or parchment paper - both worked well though I think the parchment might have even done just a bit better.

There is a trick to cutting the cookies out.  You want to be sure you have two different cutters.  Your primary outside shape, and something smaller to make the center cut out.  I ended up using 2 different biscuit cutters, and the tube for my mini plunger measuring cup.

Best practice - Cut your larger cookie shape out and place it on your baking sheet.  Then while on the sheet go to it with your smaller cutter to remove the centers of 1/3 of your cookies.  If you do this from the baking sheet you don't have to worry so much about keeping them all the same shape.

After baking, remove to a wire rack for cooling.

All cooled and ready to decorate.  Notice the colors of some are a little over golden.  This recipe tastes best if you can get your cookie to just set, with little to no added color. Make sure you flip 1/2 of your whole cookies upside down so the outside is pretty all around.
Decorating.   Pictures shows icing a ring around the bottom cookie.  I found though, that it was easier to ice the ring and set it to the bottom.  Once you've got the first cookie attached to the ring it's time to fill them up.  I used mini m&m's, some sugar sprinkles and some sugar confetti.  When you've got them all filled, time to ice the ring again and put on the tops.

Before you move on to icing the tops, I recommend you give them a short while to set up, then come back around each cookie and look for any gaps that might be in your seals.  It ruins the surprise if the insides fall out before they get delivered. 

Then it's time to decorate the tops.  I used a plain white base, and added a ton of water colors (because I didn't buy any gels) to do the piping on the clock face.  Not a professional look by any means, but for my first attempt ever at not only making royal icing, but also working with it, I think they came out kinda pretty. 

Wrap in pretty little packages to deliver & enjoy.