Just a Little Snack

April 29, 2008

I don’t really need more forms of bread in my life. A true carbovore, I actually have to ration the amount of bread I eat every day, or I will just eat the entire loaf in one sitting. Seriously 🙂

HOWEVER, when I saw this very easy recipe for homemade crackers I decided right away that I just had to make them. Yes, you read that right. Homemade Crackers. The only hard part (well, besides actually trying to make them last) was what spices to use… rosemary? garlic? parmesan? Italian herbs? something with sugar and cinnamon? mmmmmm

The site I got this from, Straight From the Farm, is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Not only does she seem to be as smitten with homemade bread as I am, but I think it’s pretty great that all her recipes include something from her farm. Pretty cool, huh?

I figured this would be a good way to start in on my “more spices” resolution. I went back and forth on it for a while before finally deciding on rosemary, garlic and pepper.

I cannot tell you how great this dough smelled while I was kneading it. I just wanted to keep sniffing it the whole time. 🙂

Artisan Herb Crackers
Source: Straight From the Farm

2 ½ c. flour
3 t. dried herbs/seasonings
1 t. salt
4 T. olive oil
¾ c. cold water
coarse salt for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Mix dry ingredients together in a medium bowl being sure to get everything well blended.  Add the oil and half of the water and begin mixing.  Add more water as necessary to form a rough dry dough.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just until it comes together into a cohesive ball.

Divide dough into even quarters.  On a piece of parchment paper, roll dough as thin as possible.  Cut the dough into squares or other desired shape and use a fork to prick each square two or three times.  Sprinkle with course sea salt. 

Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown, turning the sheet once half way through.  While the first batch is baking, roll out another quarter of dough.  Let baked crackers cool before breaking apart.  Store in a ziplock bag. 

These things are great for any day, but considering all the rain we’ve been getting, what could be better than a bowl of soup and some homemade crackers?

I think I added too much pepper, and they definitely needed more garlic, but they were really great and a lot of fun to make. And again this is a recipe that’s only limited by your imagination. I am thinking about trying a cinnamon sugar blend next 😉

Bite Sized Heaven

April 27, 2008

It’s always a little difficult to come up with decent treats for a gathering of any sort, and much more difficult to come up with something not only easy, but impressive as well.

When I saw this recipe on Joy of Baking, I thought it would be something fun and tasty. I had no idea it would be easy too.  You have to work kinda fast, so it’s a good idea to have everything set up before hand, but it is incredibly tasty; and who could resist something this cute??

I was really surprised at how easy this was. You just bake the dough and it puffs up to this beautiful hollow pastry that you can fill with anything you like. I chose a chocolate whipped cream this time, but the sky is really the limit 🙂

Pate a Choux
Source: Joy of Baking

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
2 large eggs

Egg wash:
1 large egg
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 400F. Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Set aside.

Lightly beat each of the eggs in a separate bowl.

In another bowl mix the salt and egg for the egg wash.

Place the butter and water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and quickly mix in the flour mixture with a wooden spoon. Return to the heat and stir constantly until the dough forms a thin dry film on the bottom of the pan.

Dump the dough into another bowl and beat for a minute or two to release the steam. Let dough rest until lukewarm. Beat in the eggs one at a time until the dough forms a thick smooth paste. Spoon into a zip lock bag, cut off the tip and pipe into mounds on the parchment paper. (Note, you do not have to pipe into mounds. You can make the dough into any shape you want. Be creative and have fun with it!) If you want they nicely rounded be sure to flatten the tips lightly with your fingers.

Brush the dough lighlty with the egg wash, then bake for 15 minutes, turning the tray halfway through. Reduce heat to 350F and bake for another 30 minutes (turning halfway through again.) Turn the oven off and with the door proped open, let the shells dry out further. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. When you split them open they should be completely dry and hollow inside.

Unfortunately I don’t know the exact measurements for the whipped cream. I didn’t quite have enough heavy whipping cream for a full 1/2 cup, and even though I put 1 teaspoon of chocolate liqueur at first, after whipping I decided to add another splash of it. It was approximately 1/2 cup whipped cream, 1 teaspoon cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 1-2 teaspoons of chocolate liqueur. Just keep beating it until stiff peaks form.

Then you just pipe or spoon into the cut open pastry, sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy. Your imagination is really the limit on these things cause you can literally do whatever you want. Just have fun with it and enjoy 🙂

Tasty Tweaks

April 22, 2008

It’s always fun to adjust recipes and try to perfect them to your own tastes. Most of the recipes that I have posted here so far, I have changed at least a little bit to make it perfect. A little extra butter, more sugar, less this, more that. Whatever it might take to make them perfect for me.

Well these rolls have been on my mind since I first made them. I assumed that adding sugar to the dough, maybe a little extra honey or something like that might give me what I was looking for, but they didn’t really turn out. That little bit changed the recipe just enough so it wasn’t quite as good as they were before, and the crust wasn’t the least bit crispy so I put it aside once again and continued to let it turn in the back of my mind, hoping to come up with something.

A couple days ago I was looking at the notes on The Fresh Loaf on substituting instant yeast for active dry yeast for another recipe I wanted to try, and a light bulb came on. Check it out…. “using less yeast and letting it rise more slowly will result in a more flavorful loaf.” Total epiphany moment.

So that is what I have done here. I reduced the yeast by a whole 1/2 teaspoon. I will probably do a less drastic reduction next time, but this is exactly what it needed. Now not only are they super pillowy soft inside and gloriously crispy outside; they are huge, and incredibly tasty. Don’t you just love when a recipe comes together like that??

Crispy Rolls Redux
Adapted from Harvest King Flour Recipe

3 1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons honey

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and yeast. Stir in the water and honey then mix in the salt. Mix well by hand then dump out onto a work surface.

Knead the dough for approximately 10-15 minutes until soft and slightly sticky. You can add more flour or water as needed.

Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Grease the top of the dough then cover with a clean towel or saran wrap and allow to sit for two hours or more until doubled. This will take longer to rise than normal.

De-gas the dough, then cut it into eight even portions. Cover all but one.

Take the ball you are working with, flaten it and fold the edges in. Flaten and do it again, stretching the dough a bit as you go. Repeat until the bottom is smooth and flat. Place on a clean surface with the creased-side down and cover with a wet towel. Do the same for the other pieces.

Cover the rolls and allow to rise for another hour until doubled. Preheat oven to 450F. Put cookie sheet in oven about 5 minutes before you’re ready to bake them.

Place the rolls on a sheet of parchment paper on a pizza peel or sheet of stiff cardboard and carefully slide onto the cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, rotate the cookie sheet then bake for another ten minutes or until a thermometer inserted inside reads approximately 200F.

Remove from oven and immediately brush with melted butter. Allow to cool before diving in. Enjoy

As you can see I didn’t cut the tops this time and I kinda like the look it gave. It was also kinda cool to hear the crust cracking as it cooled.

These things are just so incredibly tasty, I will be using this recipe often myself. Let me know if you decide to try them.

Taste & Create VIII – Naan

April 21, 2008

This month’s taste and create actually took me out of the country, to India!…Okay, so I didn’t actually go anywhere, but my partner this month has a blog called Cooking 4 All Seasons, and she makes lovely traditional Indian dishes.

It’s kinda exciting. I actually found a few recipes that I am tempted to try, but decided to go with Naan, a traditional Indian bread, and apparently one of my partner’s favorites. I only hope I’ve done it justice.

The recipe actually calls for cooking it in a tawa, which, from what I can figure out is much like a wok, only cast iron. Unfortunately I do not own a wok, or a tawa, so I just used a frying pan. So very American of me, right? It isn’t nearly as pretty as hers turned out, but it tastes damn good and it was actually lots of fun to try something like this.

She didn’t have exact amounts on some things, but thankfully all the bread I have been making recently gave me enough experience to make it work out.

Source: Cooking for All Seasons

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 cup warm milk (not above 100F)
1 tsp sugar
Sesame Seeds

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the milk. Let rest approximately 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix well the flour with the yeast/milk mixture then mix in the salt. Knead until soft and elastic. Cover with a damp towel and leave in a dark place to rise until doubled, about two hours.

Remove the dough from the bowl, degas gently then divide into ten even balls.

Roll out into triangles, dusting lightly with flour as needed. I discovered that the thinner you roll out out the better.

Heat up a frying pan, generously brush one side of the dough with water, and begin to cook on medium heat, then brush the other side. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and as a triangle by dusting it with the flour. The dough should bubble a bit as it cooks, just leave it on the heat for a few minutes, then flip it to cook the other side for a shorter amount of time.

Move to a plate a generously butter. Enjoy.

My partner recommends having this with her Chicken Tikka Masala. If you try either of them, let me know how it turned out.

This recipe, especially the cooking part took a bit of trial and error since a frying pan is so not a tawa, but it was still a lot of fun. Can’t wait to see who I am paired with next month!

Simply Sweet

April 19, 2008

I have a pretty big event that I am gonna be baking for in the near future (yay!), so a lot of the recipes coming up, including this one, are gonna be practicing for that. Most of the recipes I want to use are things that I have done often, but as a few are new, I of course want to try them out first, make sure I can actually do them before attempting to do them in bulk 🙂

I don’t know what it is about shortbread cookies, but for some reason I love them. They are a very simple, delicate cookie. They are kinda sweet, so that could be part of it, (you all know of my sweet tooth) but it is just something about the combination of that specific texture and the taste that makes me very happy…it could also have something to do with the fact that I have always been able to convince myself this is healthier than other cookies 😉

I also wanted to practice working with white chocolate since it is so very different from milk/dark chocolate, so some of these are dipped or decorated a little, but they are great plain too. Just make yourself a nice cup of tea, grab a few of these things and unwind.

Shortbread Cookies
Source: Joy of Baking

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sale
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small bowl whisk the flour with the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently stir (do not beat) in the flour mixture just until incorporated. It will seem very flaky and dry but that’s okay.

Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350F with the rack in the middle of the oven. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick. You might have to knead the dough a bit to work it. If it starts sticking to the rolling pin, lightly dust the pin with flour. 

Cut cookies as desired and place on cookie sheets and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. This will firm up the dough so the cookies maintain their shape. Bake for 5 minutes, turn the cookie sheet and bake for 5 more minutes or until lightly brown. Cool on a rack.

 These are better the next day. They taste a little too much like powdered sugar that same day but after they get really good.

If you’d like to decorate them with chocolate, chop up the chocolate and melt in a double boiler. After that it’s up to your imagination. Swirl, drizzle, dip…whatever you please.

I also played around with chocolate covered oreos. I obviously need to work on my technique a little but it was still much fun and very tasty.

Even Treats Grow Up Sometimes

April 12, 2008


So my friend Kim, (the fiancee of my dear friend Dean, whom I have mentioned before) finally turned 21 last month! We were all very excited about it, and of course I just had to make something special for her.

It took me quite a while to come up with a great gift. I thought up, and shot down a few ideas before coming up with something I liked, but I don’t think I wavered once on this treat.

You see, Kim is a chocoholic like me. Which makes it easy to come up with ideas, and to top it off when she and Dean came to my place for a season finale party, she couldn’t resist the brownies I had made. Granted, being such a good friend I kept moving the plate right in front of her, but still, they seemed to make her really happy so I was already leaning that way when I saw a recipe on Culinary Concoctions by Peabody for liqueured brownies!

Yes, my dear friends, brownies, like the hot chocolate I made last month, have finally grown up 🙂

Because I really like the brownie recipe I made back in February, I decided just to take the concept from Peabody and use my own recipes. I’ve used that same brownie recipe here, added a little liqueur (okay, a lot of liqueur) and instead of her buttercream frosting I used a powdered sugar glaze. With liqueur instead of water, of course 🙂

Can you imagine anything better than these after a long hard day? You get tons of rich fudgy chocolate AND just enough alchohol to make the stresses of the day melt away.

Boozy Brownies

source: CookingClub.com

1 cup butter, melted
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 bag dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup creme de cacao

1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon creme de cacao

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 8-inch square pan. In large bowl, whisk together melted butter, sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Whisk in eggs until well-combined.

2. In medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Gradually stir flour mixture into egg mixture until well-combined. Stir in chocolate chips then spread in pan.

3. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean but with some crumbs attached (brownies may sink in center). While brownies are still hot, generously brush liqueur over the top then allow to completely on wire rack.

4. Once cool, cut brownies, place them on wire rack with a little space between them. Mix the ingredients for the glaze, adding a little more liqueur if needed. Pour into a zip lock bag, cut off the tip and drizzle over brownies.

As you can probably tell, adding so much liqueur after they were baked made them a little gooey, almost like they were underbaked (even though they weren’t!) If you try it yourself, you might want to overbaked them a little. Then again, gooey chocolaty, boozy brownies are always good.

I am really happy with how these things turned out. They are rather potent, so make sure little hands don’t stray to the wrong plate, but they really are great.

Update: I sent some of these home with Kim, and brought some into work. Dean dove into the home ones immediately and loved them, and at work they were gone almost instantly, so this is definitely a winner 🙂

The Joining of Two Loves

April 7, 2008

It’s no secret that I love bread. I’ve mentioned it before, and as I love cheese as well, it is understandable that I have a certain weakness for cheesy bread. The lovely soft, chewy texture of bread covered with oozy melted cheese or golden and crusty on top, infusing the bread with the tastes of great cheese. It’s really hard to resist.

This is one of those breads. With great cheese kneaded into the crust, the only thing that could make it better (besides a glass of wine) is melting more cheese on top once it’s done baking and serving it warm. Mmmmmm

This made a beautiful, crusty loaf, and though at first I was thinking a sharp cheddar might have been better, the more I eat, the more I believe the gruyere was the perfect choice.

Cheesy Braid Loaf
Adapted from recipe on Cookie Baker Lynn

1 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
6 oz gruyere cheese, shredded

Vegetable oil

In a large bowl, whisk the yeast into 2 cups of the flour, then mix in the water, sugar, eggs and butter. Mix well with your hands to make sure all the butter is blended in well, then mix in the salt and as much of the remaining flour is needed to make a very soft, pliable dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until smooth and elastic. Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl, lightly greasing the top. Cover and let rise for 2 hours, or until doubled.

Punch the dough down lightly, dump out onto your work surface, form into a rectangle then spread most of the cheese on top. Fold into thirds like a letter a spread more cheese on top. Repeat until you’ve used all the cheese then knead the dough to work the cheese into it evenly.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Divide the dough into thirds and roll each segment into a rope, about 1/2 thick, 15 inches wide. Place each of the ropes on a sheet of parchment paper and braid lightly, being careful not to stretch. Pinch and tuck each end under, brush lightly with oil, cover and let rise another hour or so, until doubled.

Carefully transfer the dough and parchment to a cookie sheet and stick in the oven for 5-10 minutes, turn and bake for another 20 minutes until golden brown and a thermometer inserted inside reads 200F. If your loaf is browning too quickly cover loosely with aluminum foil and continue baking until done.

Allow to cool for at least an hour before diving in. Enjoy.

You can definitely cut this like a regular loaf, but I personally think it’s a lot more fun to tear off each of the braided bits. The original recipe also called for cubed chunks of cheese, which gives a more melty bread, but this way, instead of getting occasional pockets of cheese, the whole thing is absolutely infused with it.

Easy, beautiful and delicious, this one is definitely worth making again.