Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Texas Fudge

Fudge, real chocolate fudge, seems to be one of those confections that delights in defying me.  I think I rebatched my fudge at least four or five times last year.  It was happily eaten but I was never really satisfied with it.  So this year, in the interest of my sanity, I spent an entire day digging through old magazines for that one fantasy type fudge recipe that always turned out great results (Christmas 1999 to tell you how long I've kept this one).  And, BONUS, I found an old favorite appetizer recipe in the same issue that I had completely forgotten about.  I'll share that one later.  Normally, I like my fudge without nuts, but this one I have always added the pecans.  It goes well, but you certainly don't have to use the nuts.  If you want to avoid the corn syrup in commercial marshmallow fluff, you can whip up a half batch in about half an hour or less.  That will give a little less than two jars worth and make for some darn fine corn free fudge.  ☺

Texas Fudge
makes 36 pieces

1 can (5 oz.) evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed)
2½ cups sugar
½ cup butter
¼ tsp salt (use ~1/8 tsp if using salted butter)
1 pkg (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup finely chopped pecans
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp bourbon

Line a 9" square pan with foil and butter it lightly.

Combine the evaporated milk, sugar, butter and salt in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Bring to boiling over medium heat, stirring to combine.  Cook at a rolling boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  (If you have a candy thermometer, we are aiming for 234-235ºF or soft ball stage.)

Add marshmallow cream and chocolate to butter mixture and blend until smooth.  Stir in pecans, vanilla and bourbon.  Pour into prepared pan and cool to room temperature.  You can score the fudge with a sharp knife now if you want.  Refrigerate until firm.

Lift the fudge and foil from the pan and peel foil from sides.  Cut through score lines or let warm up for a few minutes and cut into small pieces.  Store in refrigerator for long term.

Adapted from Holiday Cakes & Cookies by Family Circle 1999/2000

I understand you can do a white chocolate variation of this simply by subbing white chocolate in, but I think it would be tooth achingly sweet.  I would probably either try cutting back the sugar, or do a marbleized swirl version instead.

Monday, December 26, 2011

BBB - Stollen

I've never made a stollen before.  And like many people unfamiliar with the actual baked good, I had assumed it was a dry crumbly yeast rendition of a fruitcake.  Well let me tell you, no bread with this amount of butter and other enrichments could ever turn out dry unless you doubled the flour and baked it black.  My pastry cloth was practically transparent with butter oil by the time I was done rolling and shaping.  Not that butter is a bad thing...  ☺  I'd say this über rich pseudo-pastry is like a cross between a danish, a fruitcake and a croissant.  I did add the almond filling that is often seen in stollen, even though it was not in the original challenge recipe.  (Congratulations by the way to Susan of Wild Yeast, the host kitchen, on her marriage this month!)  I think maybe next time I won't need to add the filling, this was so rich and delicious anyway.  And easier to make wonderful toast out of it without the filling oozing out as it warms...  Mmmmmm.  We'll see.  If you want to try it out, here is the recipe as presented for the Buddy challenge.

Yield: 1500 grams (3 loaves, more or less)
  • Candy and dry citrus peel: 12 hours or more (can be done ahead)
  • Soak the fruits: 12 hours
  • Mix and ferment sponge: 12 hours (can be simultaneous with fruit-soaking)
  • Mix dough: 20 – 30 minutes
  • First fermentation : 30 minutes
  • Preshape, rest, and shape: 30 minutes
  • Proof: 90 minutes
  • Bake: 30 minutes
Sponge Ingredients:
  • 120 grams flour
  • 80 grams water
  • 0.1 gram (small pinch) Instant Yeast
     [or 0.13 g active dry, or 0.25 g fresh]
Soaked Fruit Ingredients:
  • 130 grams raisins
  • 75 grams dried cherries (or more raisins, or chopped dried apricots, or a combination)
  • 61 grams candied orange peel
  • 92 grams candied lemon peel
  • 82 grams slivered almonds
  • 34 grams rum
Final Dough Ingredients:
  • 348 g flour
  • 53 g milk
  • 25.3 grams (2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) instant yeast [or 18.6 g osmotolerant, or 31.6 g active dry, or 63.3 g fresh]
  • 8 g (1-1/3 t.) salt
  • 8 g (2-1/3 t.) diastatic malt powder (omit if you don’t have it)
  • 51 g sugar
  • 50 g egg (about one large egg)
  • 5 g grated lemon zest (one average lemon)
  • 5 g grated orange zest (one small orange)
  • 1/3 t. of each of these ground spices: cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, allspice, nutmeg
  • 273 g unsalted butter, at room temperature (should be pliable)
  • all of the sponge
  • all of the soaked fruits
Finishing Ingredients:
  • clarified butter
  • fine granulated sugar
  • powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  1. Toss the soaker fruits with the rum in a medium bowl. Cover and leave at room temperature for about 12 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the sponge ingredients in another medium bowl. Cover and ferment at room temperature for 12 hours.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, combine all of the final dough ingredients except the soaker. Mix in slow speed until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Continue mixing in medium speed until the gluten reaches full development. The dough should come together around the hook and should no longer stick to the sides and bottom of the bowl. This could take about 25 minutes or more, but will depend on your mixer.
  5. Add the soaked fruits and mix on slow speed just until they are evenly distributed through the dough.
  6. Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered container. Cover and ferment for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  7. Turn the dough onto the counter. Divide into three pieces, or however many you would like. Preshape the dough into balls and let them rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
  8. To shape each loaf: Form a blunt-ended batard and dust it lightly with flour. With a thin rolling pin, press down firmly, separating the dough into two parts with one slightly larger than the other. Roll out the flap of dough connecting the sections so it is about 2 inches wide. Flatten the larger section slightly with your hand, then fold the smaller section over to rest on the larger one.
  9. Place the loaves on parchment-lined baking sheets (two per sheet) and slip them into a large plastic bag with a bowl of warm water. Proof for about 90 minutes, replenishing the water when it cools.
  10. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 on convection setting or 400 on regular bake setting. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
  11. Bake for 10 minutes, open the oven door briefly to allow any remaining steam to escape, and bake for another 20 minutes. If you do not have convection, you may need to rotate the position of the baking sheets halfway through the bake to ensure even browning and keep the one on the lower rack from burning on the bottom.
  12. While the loaves are still warm, brush them with clarified butter. Dredge them in fine granulated sugar, brushing or shaking off the excess.
  13. To finish, sift powdered sugar over the loaves.
  14. Cut when completely cool. You can leave the stollen out overnight to let the loaves dry and the sugar crust up a bit.
This post will go up for Yeastspotting!

    Thursday, December 22, 2011

    Candied Citrus Peel

    Not many recipes call for things like candied orange and lemon peel until you get to a holiday season.  Or you live on a different continent.  I have never seen candied peels in any of our grocery stores.  Now I haven't really looked hard, but a friend from England tells me they are readily available there for things like Christmas puddings and such.  I happen to need them for a German Stollen.  Fortunately these little dainties are fairly easy to make at home.  And by doing it that way, I save money and can be assured that the organic fruits I choose are not saturated with pesticide residue.  After seeing how well they turned out, I may need to make some specifically to dip in chocolate.  Yum!  I am borrowing this method from Wild Yeast.  I simmered mine just a bit longer, but otherwise, it is exactly her directions.  I recommend the organic citrus because of the pesticide load on conventionally raised citrus.  Bagged organic lemons are relatively inexpensive, as are the oranges when you can find them pre-bagged.

    Make these the day before you need them.

    Candied Citrus Peels
    makes about 350g (~12 oz) candied peel and 2½ cups syrup

    10 medium organic lemons (I used 12 small lemons and 3 large navel oranges in separate batches.  Next time I would use 4.  Good stuff.)
    water for blanching
    3 cups sugar
    2 cups water

    1. Score the fruit in quarters.  Peel, leaving the fruit whole.

    (I'll be making lemon curd with these later!)

    2. In a large saucepan, cover the peels with cold water. Bring to a boil, drain, and rinse the peels in cold water.

    3. Cut the peels into strips (about four strips per quarter-lemon section).

    4. Blanch the peel strips twice more.

    5. In the large saucepan, combine the sugar and 2 cups water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

    Here are my oranges on their final sugar simmer, and the lemons on their first blanch.

    6. Add the lemon peels (make sure you lower them into the syrup; if you drop them in and the hot syrup splashes on your skin, you will be very sad). Reduce the heat and simmer until the peels are starting to become translucent, about an hour. 

    7. Drain the peels, reserving the syrup.

    8. Place the peels in a single layer on a wire rack and allow to dry overnight.

    9. Store in an airtight container, or in the freezer. Store the syrup in the refrigerator.

    Now I need to find a use for these two awesome jars of citrus infused syrup...

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    That Chocolate Caramel Crunch Cake - From Scratch

    I've had my eye on this recipe since July.  It looked so rich and decadent.  But it was one of those "cool" desserts that uses all mixes and premade ingredients.  Well, those are on the naughty list in this house.  (That would be allergy unfriendly.)  So I've been intending on "scratchifying" the thing for months now.  If you like the idea of the easy recipe, you can find it here.  I believe it was originally a Taste of Home recipe submission.  I will never make it that way.  I have sworn off Cool whip, much as I used to like it, because of the soybean oil and hydrogenated fats.  Besides, this scratch version is ridiculously rich and satisfying.  (Read: better.)  I had one tiny forkful to satisfy myself that it turned out as I had hoped.  Now I'm hiding it until I can send it to work!  It's like a Butterfinger blizzard on top of a chocolate tres leche cake.  Rich.  Sweet.  Decadent.  I also cut it down to a half batch of one 9x9" pan.  Firstly, because that's how much cake my favorite recipe made; secondly, who needs that much temptation calling from the icebox?  It can always be doubled back up to the 9x13" pan to serve a crowd.  If you want to try the scratch version, here is how I did it.  (My favorite chocolate cupcake recipe served perfectly and comes together with a whisk almost as quickly as a boxed mix.)

    (Best served the day it's made, or reserve the topping until ready to serve - otherwise you lose that nice crunch.)

    Chocolate Caramel Crunch Cake (Scratch version)
    makes a 9x9" cake

    One chocolate cake to fit 9" square pan (I used this recipe)
    ½ can (7 oz) sweetened condensed milk (freeze the rest for another time)
    ¼ cup caramel ice cream topping (I used this recipe or you can purchase)
    5 fun size Butterfinger candy bars, crushed

    1 cup heavy whipping cream
    ¼ cup sifted powdered sugar
    3 tsp cold water
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 tsp unflavored gelatin

    Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Butter and flour a 9" square baking pan.  Prepare cake batter as directed and pour into pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until done.  Cool on a rack.

    Combine caramel sauce and condensed milk in a small bowl.  Poke holes about every two inches all over the cooled cake.  Pour the caramel mixture over the cake.  Sprinkle with two thirds of the crushed candy bars.  

    If you intend to serve the cake right away, you can just use sweetened whipped cream.  I used stabilized whipped cream to prevent breaking down and weeping.  (The cream, not me.)  ☺  To make stabilized whipped cream:

    In a small pan combine gelatin, cold water and vanilla; let stand until bloomed (thick).  Place over low heat, stirring constantly, just until the gelatin dissolves.  Remove from heat and cool but do not allow it to set.  In a medium bowl, whip the cream and powdered sugar until slightly thickened.  While beating on low speed, gradually add in the gelatin mixture.  Whip at high speed until stiff.

    Spread the whipped cream evenly over the cake.  Sprinkle with the remaining crushed candy bars.

    Refrigerate cake until ready to serve.  Cut smaller pieces, this is sinfully rich but ever so satisfying.  ☺


    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Crockpot Tapioca Pudding

    Pudding is a pretty simple but satisfying treat.  We never had homemade pudding growing up and those premade cups were a few and far between occurrence.  We did the cook and serve and/or instant box stuff.  Probably because making pudding does take a little bit of time, and standing over the stove was not on the top of the list.  I do remember that tapioca was an especial treat because it was the most rarely seen in our house.  (And I think I had to wrestle my dad for it.)  So I was very happy to find a version that required little supervision and could be accomplished while I got things done around the house.  Like that pile of laundry that's been sitting by the kitchen table for two days now.  This makes a lovely rich, thick and filling pudding.  I must admit, I do love my tapioca warm and it is just as fabulous and thick before chilling.
    Update: for those wanting to use honey as a healthier option instead of sugar, be aware that honey is sweeter than sugar and so you only need 75% as much.  That's a nice bonus!  The amount of honey for equivalent sweetness is ½ cup plus 1 tbsp.  Enjoy!

    Crockpot Tapioca Pudding
    makes 8 ½-cup servings

    1 Qt whole milk
    ¾ cup sugar (you can scant this when measuring if desired)
     ½ cup small pearl tapioca (not the quick cooking stuff)

    2 eggs (farm pastured for great nutrition)
    ½ tsp vanilla
    pinch sea salt

    Stir together the milk, sugar and tapioca in a crock pot.  Cover and cook on high for about 1½-2 hours.  Stir occasionally as you walk through the kitchen.  Do watch to make sure it doesn't get to boiling though or you may have a mess to clean up.  It will depend on the cooker in use.  (Fortunately caught mine right before it boiled over the sides.)  The tapioca will get soft and start to thicken. 

    In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and salt.  Temper the eggs by slowly whisking in ½ cup of the tapioca mixture.  Do that twice more with two more half cupfuls.  Then whisk the egg mixture into the tapioca until well combined.  Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes longer until the pudding is nice and thick.  (It may not take that long, mine was practically ready as soon as I whisked in the eggs because my tapioca had boiled, but in that case you have to be careful not to scramble the eggs!)  Portion into single serving containers and chill in the fridge.  Cover with a piece of plastic wrap to avoid a skin.

    Enjoy cold or warm, plain or with whipped cream!

    Adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Quick and easy harvest granola bars

    I have another favorite granola bar recipe, nice and chewy with cranberries or whatever I decide at the time.  They're great granola bars and I do still love them.  But I think they may have been eclipsed on the basis of speed alone.  These nifty little bars come together in practically no time at all.  And they have the added benefit of being gluten free if you are careful to choose the GF certified oatmeal.  They got huge thumbs up from R and thumbs up from two school friends and their mom who happened to be available for testing at after school pickup.  And since the mom said she didn't normally like granola bars much, her surprised look of approval was gratifying.  ☺  I have orders to include these in the backpack for snack time at school.  I will happily do so as there is not a single store bought granola bar I have found that is completely okay for R to have.  I'll bet daddy will love these too.  One tip about the "glue" that holds them together.  The longer you cook it, the firmer the bars will end up being.  So you can tailor that to your liking.  I left mine on low while I was measuring out some of the dry ingredients so mine are pretty firm and chewy.  They will mellow by tomorrow, but if you want them softer, cook for less time.  You can also store them in the fridge to make them more firm, or in a jar on the counter to be a little softer.  (Oh, fair warning, Sunsweet brand adds high fructose corn syrup to all its dried fruits - BOO, HISS.  Phooey on them.  Get a different brand like Mariani (regular corn syrup) or even better - something like Kirkland brand (regular sugar).)

    Harvest Berry Granola Bars
    makes an 8x8 pan full

    1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
    ¼ cup raw or sprouted (crispy) pumpkin seeds
    ¼ cup raw or crispy sunflower seeds
    1 tbsp golden flaxseed meal
    1 tbsp sesame seeds
    1 cup unsweetened puffed millet cereal
    ½ cup dried cranberries
    ½ cup dried blueberries
    ¼ cup creamy style almond butter
    ¼ cup honey
    ¼ cup muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
    ¾ tsp vanilla
    ¼ tsp sea salt

    Lightly oil an 8" baking dish and preheat oven to 350ºF.

    Spread oats, pumpkin seeds (if raw), sunflower seeds (if raw), and sesame seeds on a rimmed cookie sheet and toast until lightly browned and fragrant, about 8-10 minutes.  (If your pumpkin and sunflower seeds are already soaked and dried or "sprouted", you don't have to toast them and will retain more nutrition if you don't.)  Combine the toasted mixture with the seeds, dried berries and cereal in a bowl.

    Mix together the almond butter, honey, sugar, vanilla and salt in a medium saucepan.  Heat over low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is blended and slightly bubbly, about 2-5 minutes.  The more you cook it, the harder the finished bars will be.  (It's like making candy.)

     Pour all the dry ingredients into the saucepan and mix with a wooden spoon until evenly coated.  Scrape into the prepared pan and firmly press down with oiled hands.  Refrigerate until firm, 20-30 minutes.  Cut into bars and store.

    Adapted from In Praise of Leftovers

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Mulled Cranberry Sauce

    Ah, cranberry sauce.  Folks usually fall into either the jellied or whole berry lines of thinking.  Me, I'm a jellied fan though I haven't been willing to buy cranberry sauce for years because of the nasty high fructose corn syrup found in most of them.  I have seen nice organic sauces at "Whole Paycheck" but never tried them because cranberry sauce is pretty simple to make.  A few years back (about the time we discovered the corn allergy), I volunteered to make the sauce and have been doing it ever since.  Funny thing was, the host forgot I was bringing sauce and opened up four cans of the main brand stuff.  They were still sitting in their dishes, practically untouched when the feast was over.  Mine were demolished.  ☺  I got a kick out of it and decided my recipe was a winner.  Give it a try, tailor the spices to your liking and leave as much whole berries in as you please.  But do try making your own one year.  I doubt you'll ever go back to canned.

    Mulled Cranberry Sauce
    makes about 2 pints

    22 oz cranberries (approx. 4½-5 cups) fresh or frozen is fine
    1 cup water
    ¾ cup Ruby Port
    ¼ cup orange juice
    2 tbsp candied ginger chips (or chopped chunks)
    1 cinnamon stick
    5 whole cloves
    1¾ cups sugar
    ½ tsp almond extract

    Wash the cranberries and drain.  Pick them over for any duds.  Combine berries, ginger, water, port and juice in a large sauce pot.  Place the cinnamon stick and cloves in a spice bag or a piece of cheesecloth doubled and tied.  Add that to the pot and boil until the cranberry skins burst.  Remove spice bag.  Purée cranberry mixture using a food mill or food processor.  (I use the medium disc of my food mill.)  Return mixture to pot and add sugar.  Boil mixture almost to gelling point.*  (Sauce will start to thicken and drop in partial sheets from a spoon.)  Cranberries have plenty of pectin so go slow or it might end up a really stiff sauce.  I like to put a small plate or custard cup in the freezer and do periodic checks with a dollop of sauce to see the cooled consistency.  ☺  Mix in the almond extract when the sauce is to your liking.  You can process the sauce in canning jars - 15 minutes in a boiling water canner if you like.  We don't do that anymore because it never lasts long enough to need canning.

    This jellied sauce will be firm enough to hold its shape in a pretty mold if you wish.  Otherwise, a straight sided jar or container makes removal easier when serving.

    * If you prefer a whole berry sauce, you don't need to do the additional cooking, just make sure all the sugar is dissolved and cook for about 5 minutes.  The sauce will thicken as it cools.

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    For the sweet tooth - Orange scented white chocolate toffee with almonds

    People have been posting toffee recipes.  I love toffee.  So I can only make toffee when there is a holiday so I can get it out of the house.  Well, there's a holiday coming up and I made some toffee that I've been looking at for months.  Toffee, or buttercrunch, is pretty darn simple.  (Dave Lebovitz' chocolate almond buttercrunch is out of this world.)  You don't even need a thermometer, as one fabulous blogger recently pointed out.  Just get a brown paper bag and boil the mixture until the color matches.  I love dark chocolate on my toffee, but hubby is a white chocolate fiend.  I find the fact amusing since he is otherwise not big on super sweet stuff.  But yes, he did indeed approve this tasty confection.  ☺

    Update:  I thought when I made this the first time that the orange scent was a bit too subtle.  So the next time I added only two drops of orange oil.  What I learned?  Subtle is better.  Stick to the extract.

    Orange scented White Chocolate Toffee with Almonds

    1 cup butter (if using unsalted, add a generous pinch of salt)
    1 cup sugar
    1 tbsp Lyle's golden syrup (optional)
    2 tbsp water
    1/3 cup crispy or dry roasted almonds, chopped, divided
    2 tsp orange extract
    1 cup white chocolate pieces

    Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment.  In a medium heavy bottomed pot, combine the butter, sugar, water and golden syrup.  Cook over medium heat until butter is melted.  Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches about 295-300ºF and a nice golden amber (brown paper bag) color.  Quickly add in the extract and 1½ tbsp of the almonds.  Boil for a few more seconds until mixture is smooth again.

    Pour out onto the parchment lined pan and sprinkle chocolate pieces evenly over.  Let stand for 10 minutes.  Then gently spread the melted pieces over the toffee with an offset spatula.  Sprinkle the remaining almonds evenly over the top.  Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or until hard set.  Then crack into chunks.

    Store in an airtight container in the fridge for longer keeping.  Bring to room temperature when serving.  (I actually like it cold though.)  Lasts, (technically speaking), a few weeks.  ;)

    Adapted from lipstick blogger

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Lotions out of the kitchen

    I've been dabbling in homemade lip balms and body care type stuff for a little while.  Had pretty good success with the balms, some a bit firm but they last really nicely on the lips.  The last super moisturizing brown sugar Shea butter scrub I made sure was super moisturizing, but also way too greasy to use except in tiny amounts.  The fragrances or something in retail lotions tends to give me hives, eek!  :(  So even though I may love that hazelnut vanilla cream lotion from Bath and Bodyworks, I can't use it for more than one day.  Sunscreens do that to me too.  Maybe it's the SLS.  The nice thing about that shea moisturizing scrub though, was that it was completely edible ingredients.  All of it.  I will never have to worry about a reaction to the homemade stuff.

    So my latest kitchen body creation was to attempt a non greasy hand and body lotion.  I am very pleased at how it turned out.  I may cut back on the Shea butter just a wee bit next time or go halfsies with cocoa butter.  (Yummy smell!)  You can choose whatever fragrance or essential oil you like to scent the lotion.  I'm sticking with the oils.  Fragrance and I are not friends.  So if you are feeling adventurous, here is how to make a thick, luxuriant body lotion.  A little goes a long way, think pea size for hands and carrot coin for legs.  I love to use it after doing the dishes or washing my hands.  They just drink it up, no greasy feel at all.  If they are just dry, it takes just a minute to soak in.  (I got all my specialty ingredients from Mountain Rose Herbs.)

    Update: you can also add 10 drops of Grapeseed extract (GSE) as a preservative.  (I put this in the leftover tub since I just scoop from it directly with fingers.)  If you choose not to add the vitamin E or GSE, I would suggest storing the unused portion in the fridge for longer keeping. Especially if you are not using a pump and may have contamination from dirty fingers in an open container.

    Creamy Aloe and Shea Body Lotion
    makes about 4 cups

    8 tbsp Shea butter
    4 tbsp almond oil
    4 tbsp olive oil
    3 rounded tbsp emulsifying wax
    3 tbsp liquid vegetable glycerin
    3 cups aloe vera gel
    10-30 drops essential oil or 1 tsp fragrance
    10 drops vitamin E oil (optional)

    In a medium saucepan, heat Shea butter slowly to 200ºF.  Turn off heat, add wax and leave to sit for 15 minutes.  Then add in the almond and olive oil.  In another pot, combine the aloe and glycerin and heat to 120ºF.  Remove from heat and slowly pour into the oil mixture, whipping with a stick blender.  Cool the mixture for 30 minutes and whip with the blender every 5-10 minutes.  After 30 minutes, add desired essential oil and Vitamin E oil, if using, and blend again.  Pour into four 8oz pump bottles.  (It may look a little runny right now, but it will thicken considerably when completely cooled so get it bottled while it's still easy to pour.)

    Take a look at the ingredient list on your favorite commercial lotion.  Then enjoy your very own skin safe lotion that is practically edible.

    Adapted from Glorious Lotion

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Cookie stuffed cookies...

    Yep, I caved.  I've seen a number of renditions of these over-the-top cookies making the rounds over the past few months.  And I had some sandwich cookies going stale, so what better way to use them up?  I did use 100% light spelt flour at least and cut back on the sugar a bit.  I must say these were delicious though, especially slightly warm.  A wonderful marriage of chocolate cookie and drop cookie.  I'd make just the plain chocolate chip cookies with whatever add ins I feel like at the time too.  It's a great ooey gooey chewy type cookie.  The way I like my cookies.  You can never have too many cookie recipes.  (I used Back to Nature chocolate creme filled sandwich cookies because they are the only brand with ingredients that are okay for R.  I am in general, highly impressed with their product offerings, quality and ingredients.)  I did make only half a batch to limit the damages...  ☺

    Cookie Stuffed Cookies
    makes 2 dozen

    1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
    1 cup light brown muscovado sugar
    ½ cup evaporated cane sugar
    2 large eggs
    1 tbsp vanilla
    3½ cups flour (light spelt or white whole wheat works great here)
    1 tsp sea salt
    1 tsp baking soda
    1½ cups mini chocolate chips
    24 creme filled chocolate sandwich cookies

    In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars together.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat until mixture lightens in color.  (A couple minutes.)  In another bowl, mix together flour, salt and soda.  Combine in three additions to the egg mixture.  If using spelt, stop as soon as the flour is just incorporated.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Chill dough for at least a few hours.  Overnight would be great but not essential.  

    Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Using a teaspoon or cookie scoop, form a ball of dough and squish onto one side of a sandwich cookie.  Add another ball to the other side and seal the edges together with your fingers.  Place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to rack to finish cooling.

    Remember these are actually two cookies per "cookie", so don't go hog wild and eat a bunch at once.  They sure are great with a glass of milk though!

    I saw these most recently, of the many I have seen, on Very Culinary.

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Frosted Caramel Squares - In Memory of Papa Don

    This was one of my absolute favorite treats growing up.  The recipe came from my Grandma and we had them all too infrequently because they were so rich.  Today I am making them in memory of a beloved surrogate Grandpa that passed yesterday.  I don't know what his favorite treat was, but he was "rich" and sweet just like these are, so I think they are perfect for remembrance.  I encourage you to try these delicious and decadent bars and enjoy some wonderful memories of the special people in your life.  ♥  

    These treats have a rich, cakey blondie base, a gooey, nutty transition layer and a crisp and richly sweet meringue topping.  This is the first time I've made them for my girls and they echoed my raptures on how good the bars taste.  ☺  Recipe may be halved.

    Frosted Caramel Squares
    makes a 9x13" pan

    1 cup butter, room temperature
    1½ cups sugar
    2 eggs, + 2 yolks (save the whites for the meringue)
    ½ tsp salt
    2 tsp baking powder
    2 tsp vanilla
    3 cups flour
    1½ cups finely chopped nuts (I used crispy walnuts this time)

    2 egg whites
    1½ cups brown sugar, loosely packed (I used light brown muscovado)
    1 tsp vanilla

    Line a 9x13" pan with parchment paper and lightly grease.  Preheat oven to 300ºF.  Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl.  In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and yolks one at a time, then add the vanilla.  Add in flour mixture and beat just until fully incorporated.  Spread this mixture into the prepared pan and flatten it out evenly with wet or greased hands.  Sprinkle the chopped nuts evenly over the batter and lightly press down.  In a clean bowl beat the egg whites until foamy.  Gradually beat in the brown sugar to make a stiff meringue, then beat in the vanilla.   Pour the meringue mixture as evenly over the nuts as possible, then gently spread out with the back of a spoon or a rubber scraper.  Use a light touch or the meringue will try to pick up the nuts.  Bake for about 45 minutes.  Cut into squares with a serrated knife or the meringue will crack all over.  (It tends to anyway, but is still delicious.)  Cool on a rack.

    We used to double the meringue recipe to make it easier to spread, but if you can do it as written, it is the perfect sweet, gooey and crunchy offset for the rich base and nuts.  The picture is as written.  (Recipe may be halved.)

    Saturday, October 29, 2011

    BBB makes like a tree and... fougasse

    (Yes, you can groan at the title.  Sorry - it got stuck in my head and I had to let it out.)  Boy, just on the line for timing here, but I got my buddy bread baked today!  Elizabeth of blog from OUR kitchen decreed this to be a month for fougasse.  Whatever fougasse you pleased.  I have made foccacia, a similar bread, but never fougasse - a leaf shaped variant.  So I decided to do a recipe from epicurious, lightly scented with anise, orange and orange flowers.  I wasn't expecting too much from the recipe but I was surprised at how much I liked it after it baked up.  The dough smelled delicious, like a cardamom braid only more subtle.  After baking and cooling, which is quick for this flatish bread, I ripped off a piece to try.  It was slightly crispy with a soft and somewhat delicate crumb and lovely subtle hints from the anise and orange.  I didn't have the orange flower water but I did have cake palm sugar which has floral notes that transport me back to my honeymoon in Tahiti whenever I smell it.  A little addition of that as some of the sugar was the perfect substitute for the flower water.  This dough would make admirable dinner rolls.  I also got a very strong impression of regular pizza or foccacia dough as I noshed on it.  It is not as chewy as pizza dough but it sure speaks pizza.  A very intriguing recipe and a fun shaping method.  Give it a try sometime!

    makes 2 loaves

    For starter
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1/2 cup warm water (105–115°F)
    • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast (from a 1/4-oz package)
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

    For dough
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
    • 1 teaspoon anise seeds, lightly crushed
    • 2/3 cup water
    • 2 teaspoons orange-flower water (preferably French)
    • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest
    • 1/3 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil (preferably French) plus 1 tablespoon for brushing
    • 3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons flaky or coarse sea salt
    Make starter:
    Stir together sugar and warm water in bowl of mixer. Sprinkle yeast over mixture and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If yeast doesn't foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

    Whisk flour into yeast mixture until combined well. Let starter rise, loosely covered with plastic wrap, 30 minutes. 

    Make dough:
    Add sugar, salt, crushed anise seeds, water, orange-flower water, zest, 1/3 cup oil, and 11/4 cups flour to starter and beat at medium speed until smooth. Mix in remaining 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time, at low speed until a soft dough forms.

    Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, sprinkling surface lightly with flour if dough is very sticky, until smooth and elastic (dough will remain slightly sticky), 8 to 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled large bowl, turning dough to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

    Punch down dough (do not knead), then halve. Pat out each half into an oval (about 12 inches long and 1/4 inch thick), then transfer to 2 lightly oiled large baking sheets.

    Using a very sharp knife or a pastry scraper, make a cut down center of each oval "leaf," cutting all the way through to baking sheet and leaving a 1-inch border on each end of cut. Make 3 shorter diagonal cuts on each side of original cut, leaving a 1-inch border on each end of cuts, to create the look of leaf veins (do not connect cuts). Gently pull apart cuts about 1 1/2 inches with your fingers. Let dough stand, uncovered, until slightly puffed, about 30 minutes.

    Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 375°F.

    Brush loaves with remaining tablespoon oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake, switching position of baking sheets halfway through baking, until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on bottom, 35 to 40 minutes total. Transfer loaves to a rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

    Cooks' notes: Fougasses are best eaten the day they're made.

    This post will go up for yeastspotting.


    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    Comparing Candy Corn methods

    Update:  For the most reliable recipe I have tried yet, check out my 2012 candy corn batch

    So I mentioned that I was going to try the marshmallow based homemade candy corn recipe.  Here's how it turned out.  It was certainly easier than the cooked version, other than I did have to make my marshmallows from scratch.  I used a half batch of my Lyle's based marshmallow recipe, using invert syrup and substituting 2 tbsp honey for that much syrup.  Turned out good mallows with a just a hint of honey flavor.  The candy corn recipe is pretty simple.  Melt 8 oz of mini marshmallows with 2 tbsp water, then stir and knead in about 1 pound of powdered sugar until smooth and supple.  If you use too much it will get stiff and difficult to work.  Then it's the same job of kneading in some color, rolling out some ropes and sticking together (it may take water to stick this kind together), and cutting into corns.  I added a touch more sugar than I think it needed so mine got stiff after a while.  The recipe I used is here.  The kids loved it, but it's candy and they're not too picky since it is such a special treat.  ☺  I definitely prefer the cooked version.  It may be persnickety on temperature, but the results have better flavor and creaminess.

    Winner: cooked mellow creme candy corn

    This year's batch:

    Now I usually love Alton Brown's recipes, and his candy corn recipe is almost identical to a half batch of the one I use.  I tried his recipe twice and it turned into hard cream candy.  Went back to mine and did fine.  I think it may be the different amount of water and the ingredients I have to use.  Definitely powder the dry milk fine if using instant or the measurement is off.  The milk protein gives the corn that bit of chewiness.

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    A Corn Syrup Substitute for the holidays

    Just made a batch of invert syrup in preparation for some upcoming candy making sessions.  (Yes, mine is golden colored, but that's the sugar I used.)  Going to make this year's batch of candy corn but I am going to try out an alternate version that is marshmallow based, kind of like a fondant.  Still need the syrup to make the marshmallows.  I really love using the Lyle's golden syrup for quick and easy marshmallows, but I decided this time to go with the invert syrup for a simpler flavor profile.  I used the standard recipe I use with Lyle's but used the invert syrup and two tablespoons of honey instead.  The thought being that candy corn has some honey flavoring in it.  Not much, but a little.  We'll see if the touch of honey in the mallows translates properly into the candy corn.

    photo credit: chefeddy.com

     I've learned a few things about making invert syrup in the past couple years.  Number one, you really cannot do a small scale batch - it will crystallize on you.  You can scale down a marshmallow recipe but not the invert syrup.  Number two, if you have a gas cooktop, you will have much better success if you use a heat diffuser.  And number three, you can successfully use a less refined sugar if you so desire and don't mind a more colored result.  You will just have to do some skimming of foam and impurities that surface.  If you are trying to avoid corn syrup but still want to do your holiday confectionery magic, try some homemade invert syrup.  One to one substitution, beautifully clean flavor profile, keeps up to 6 months.  The picture above is made with extra fine granulated sugar.  (It's also that thick because it is chilled.)  The one on top that I made used organic evaporated cane sugar, which has a blonde color out of the bag.  I did have to skim about 2-3 tablespoons of foam impurities while cooking, but ended up with about 3 cups of beautiful syrup.  It is perfectly clear and thick, resting in my fridge now, not a sign of any crystallization going on.  That diffuser really helped.  (With gas stove-tops, a lot of the heat goes up the side of the pan and can affect the outcome.  This is my diffuser, I got it years ago as a requested Christmas present and have only used it a handful of times, but those times have really appreciated the option:

    It's nice and flat and takes up no room in my stove drawer.  Hooray for even heating.  So here is the recipe, taken directly from Eddy Van Damme.

    Invert Sugar
    makes ~ 2 lb 3 oz

    4 cups + 6 tbsp granulated sugar (white sugar yields a nice clear syrup, evaporated cane sugar yields a honey colored syrup)
    2 cups water
    ¼ tsp cream of tartar or citric acid (I used the cream of tartar)

    If you have an induction cook top or an electric stove use these options instead of gas. (If you have gas, use a heat diffuser.)  In a non-reactive saucepan stir to a boil the sugar, water and cream of tartar (or citric acid).  

    Once the mixture boils wash away any sugar crystals stuck to the side of the pan with pastry brush dipped in water.  Any additional water added to the pan from this process has no effect on the final outcome.

    On medium heat without stirring boil the mixture to 236°F (114°C).  Remove from heat and cover the pan. Let cool at room temperature.  Store in a refrigerator.*  Invert sugar will last at least 6 months.

    * Just in case you are wondering why you should store the syrup in the fridge, the low temperature significantly reduces the molecular movement of the sugar crystals and will slow down any crystallization that may want to occur.

    (Here's another trick to help prevent crystallization:  Use two sauce pans.  When you are close to temperature, pour the mixture into a clean pan and finish the last few degrees in that pan.  This helps ensure no crystals introduced from the side of the pan, as does cooling with the lid on.  Also, store your finished syrup in a glass jar as the surface of plastic is more likely to speed crystallization.) 

    Using the two pan method, I was able to simply pour it into the jar and not have to worry about ladling or seed crystals.  As of four days later it is still pristinely uncrystallized.  Let come to room temperature for ease of measuring.

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    Sausage and Peppers with Spaghetti... squash

    Yes, this was our first time with spaghetti squash.  I think it turned out really well.  Trying to cut back on the amount of grains and starches that get served at the dinner table can be a touchy process.  Fortunately the simple yet delicious dish that this is makes it somewhat easier.  Now I will admit that the hubby said it was good, but he would naturally prefer the old standby of a noodle or rice base.  That being said, he also went back for seconds!  ☺  Spaghetti squash is certainly not as toothsome as those other options but it carried the sauce very well and added a nice bit extra rather than just eating a plain saute.  This recipe comes from Modern Alternative Mama's ebook, Against the Grain.  I already had everything on hand for it except the squash.  Now I will definitely make it again but for a splurge, I might serve it with a little bit of spelt or brown rice pasta.  For a dish so simple, it has wonderful flavor.  I used a local mild italian sausage that we particularly like and managed to find a few leaves of basil in the garden amidst the overgrown sow's thistle.  (That's that nasty, prickly, tall dandelion look alike.)  The whole thing comes together very quickly.  If you use the microwave to precook the squash a bit, it is a 30 minute meal.  I don't use the microwave that much anymore so I started the squash an hour earlier and then prepped the rest.  Give it a try; with or without pasta, it is great.

    Sausage and Peppers with Spaghetti Squash
    Serves 4-6

    1 lb. Italian sausage
    2 bell peppers, seeded and sliced
    1 small onion, sliced
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    2 tbsp. olive oil
    1 c. diced tomatoes (fresh or canned) (I used one full 14.5oz can)
    1 tsp. basil
    ½ tsp. oregano
    ½ tsp. sea salt (or to taste)
    1 medium spaghetti squash

    Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place the two halves cut side down in a baking dish.  Use a fork to poke some holes in the squash.  Add about ½ cup of water.  Bake the spaghetti squash for about an hour, or until soft.  (I held mine on warm until the family was ready to sit down together.)  Slice Italian sausage into ½” thick rounds. In a frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  (I used a mixture of garlic infused olive oil and coconut oil.)  Add the garlic, onion, peppers, and sausage and sauté until the veggies are softened and the sausage is cooked through.  Add tomatoes and spices; cook for 5–10 minutes around medium low heat.  “Comb” the baked spaghetti squash with a fork to get the “noodles” to fall out onto a plate.  Top with sausage mixture.  Garnish with fresh basil if desired and serve with a fresh green salad.

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    Simple comforts - Tuna noodle casserole

    There it is.  It's not glamorous, but it is immensely comforting and nostalgic to me during this cold, wet fall weather.  I've decided I'm pretty much a tuna noodle casserole purist.  It's tuna, it's noodles and not much else.  Just enough stuff to have good flavor and creamy, bubbly sauce.  Of course, that also means you are perfectly welcome to add peas or whatever to your casserole if you love it that way.  The nice thing about this dish is that even though it does not rely on a can, it still comes together in about the time it takes to boil the water and noodles.  I just can't do the can thing anymore.  Bad ingredients.  Besides, homemade tastes better anyway.  Now I would love this with diced onions sauteed with the mushrooms in the sauce as well.  Next time I'll add them too.  But this simple version was great with a liberal addition of fresh ground pepper.  I might even add my obligatory soup dash of tabasco next time.  I love customizable dishes!

    Tuna Noodle Casserole
    makes enough for 4-6

    2 cups uncooked macaroni or noodle of choice
    1 tbsp butter
    3 tbsp flour
    1 cup milk (or ½ broth, ½ milk)
    chopped mushrooms to taste
    chopped onions, sauteed in butter until tender (optional)
    sea salt to taste
    fresh ground pepper to taste (be liberal with the pepper)
    1 can tuna, drained and flaked
    2 cups cheddar cheese, grated, divided

    Preheat the oven to 370ºF.  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  When the water is boiling, add the macaroni and cook until it still has a firm bite.  (Don't cook the macaroni completely or it will get mushy when you cook it in the oven.)  Drain the macaroni.

    While the noodles are boiling melt 1 tbsp butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Stir in the flour a little at a time until smooth and cook for a minute.  Turn heat to low and add milk/broth slowly, stirring to keep it smooth.  Get any lumps out early on.  Stir in the chopped mushrooms, as many as you'd like (I used a generous ¼ cup), and sauteed onions if using.  (I would use half an onion if using one.)  Return heat to medium and bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly until well thickened.  (It will be thick like a condensed soup.)  Season to taste with sea salt and plenty of fresh ground pepper.  This is your seasoning for the whole dish other than the salt in the cheese/butter, so don't be shy here.

    Combine the macaroni, mushroom sauce, tuna, milk and butter in the pot used to boil the noodles.  Stir in half of the cheddar cheese, and check seasoning one last time.  You can do this over low heat to help it come together if your noodles have cooled off a bit.  Pile the mixture into a 1½ Qt casserole dish (or an 8×8″ pan).   Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese on top.

    Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted and just starting to brown, and the casserole is bubbly.  

    The leftovers are great the next day too. ☺

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    18 hour Crock pot Chicken Soup

    We're starting to get into true Fall weather here in the Pacific Northwest.  That also means cold season.  It's soup weather all over and my kids love soups thankfully.  I bookmarked this recipe from nourished kitchen and did not make all that many changes to it.  Mostly I just used what was on hand and available.  For instance, the grocery store was running a special on regular whole chickens so they did not have any free range or organic on hand.  We actually cannot use the regular chickens because the residue of their feed in the meat (purely corn and soy and guaranteed GMO) can actually cause a stacked allergy reaction in my daughter.  So I was left with the option of packages of organic drumsticks and thighs.  That worked perfectly as well as being cheaper.  To be honest, maybe better; I have made plain whole chickens in the crock pot for significantly less time and still found that the breast meat tended to get a touch overdone.  This time I got perfectly done meat and a broth that actually gelled!  Hooray!  Talk about a nourishing soup.  And I am totally sold on the leeks in the soup from now on, I LOVED what it added in flavor.  We all enjoyed this soup the first night and my four year old and I enjoyed the leftovers for the next two days.  It reheats beautifully.  (I just have a 3Qt slow cooker, so it was quite full on this recipe, a larger one would be easier, but I did slightly scale down to fit.)  Start this before bed and it will be ready to finish up in the morning and simmer all day for dinner.  And remember to wash your leeks well to avoid grit.  ☺

    Slow Cooker Chicken Soup
    Makes about 1 gallon soup (if your cooker will hold that much)

    1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs) or one package each drumsticks and thighs
    sea salt
    fresh ground pepper
    2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced thin (I used one large leek)
    2 bay leaves
    1 onion, peeled and chopped
    6 carrots, scraped and sliced into rounds ¼" thick
    6 celery ribs, sliced ¼" thick
    1 lb potatoes, peeled and chopped (I used 3 or 4 small organic russets)
    ¼ cup fresh minced parsley (I used the equivalent of freeze dried)
    extra seasoning like lemon pepper and/or Tabasco to taste

    Rinse chicken or chicken parts and place in slow cooker, seasoning well with sea salt and pepper all over or between layers.  Add leeks and bay leaves to pot and cover all with water.  Cook on low heat for about 12 hours.  Depending on who will be eating the soup, at this point you may want to remove the chicken and pick out the meat.  Since I have little kids, this is what I did.  (I had so much meat, I decided to save half for another batch of soup.)  You can save the skin and bones for a separate batch of stock if desired.  Now add the chopped onion, carrots, celery and potatoes to the pot, top up with water if needed and continue cooking on low for an additional six to eight hours.  Adjust seasoning and stir in parsley before serving.  I love a few dashes of tabasco in my soups because the vinegar brightens up the flavors.  I like lemon pepper for the same reason.  Lemon brightens flavors.  Season to your own taste.  This was a great soup!

    And just look at that beautiful gel, I can't even get my stock to do that!

    Sunday, September 25, 2011

    BBB twists up some Soft Pretzels

    I liked that this month's BBB challenge was something completely new for me and yet still pretty easy.  And of course I chose the cinnamon sugar version of these quick little twisties.  (Though I imagine they would be great with garlic in the dough and Parmesan on top).  I think I have had a sample of those mall pretzels once in my life.  Maybe.  But I figure they are supposed to be similar in bite and texture on the outside, to a bagel.  Though softer overall.  I think these turned out absolutely perfect as far as taste and texture were concerned - soft and chewy with a tight crumb.  I think if I had made the ropes larger, they would be fluffier but I like them this way.  The only trouble I had was that I didn't grease the parchment I laid the pretzels on after forming them.  So after boiling the first one, I found that the rest wanted to stick!  Ack!  After nearly mangling one of my only six pretzels trying to get it off, (I made a half batch), I finally figured it out.  Cut the parchment around the pretzels and plop them in the water, paper side up.  Not only do they hold their shape perfectly that way, but the paper is willing to come off quite nicely after about 10 seconds.  Just in time to flip.  Yay!  I've been on a spelt kick recently so I made mine with all light spelt flour.  Very pleased.  Give these a try and top them however you choose for your favorite pretzel flavor.  Check out the original post link for nice step by step photos on how to shape.  Oh, and I didn't bother with the eggwash since I was going to cover them up with butter and sugar anyway.  They still came out pretty shiny.  (Before sugaring.)  ☺

    Soft Pretzels
    from Cooking Light OCTOBER 2005
    Makes: 12 servings (serving size: 1 pretzel)

    1 package dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons) (I used 1 tsp Instant Yeast for a half batch)
    1½ teaspoons sugar (I used coconut sugar for flavor)
    1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
    3¼ cups all-purpose flour, divided (about 14½ ounces)
    1 teaspoon salt
    Cooking spray
    6 cups water
    2 tablespoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon cornmeal (Didn't bother - baked mine on parchment)
    1 teaspoon water
    1 large egg
    2 teaspoons kosher salt

    Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl, and let stand for 5 minutes. (Not necessary for instant yeast.)  Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 3 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes). Add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly sticky).

    Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top.

    Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.

    Preheat oven to 425°.

    Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll each portion into an 18-inch-long rope with tapered ends.

    Cross one end of rope over the other to form a circle, leaving about 4 inches at end of each rope. Twist the rope at the base of the circle.

    Fold the ends over the circle and into a traditional pretzel shape, pinching gently to seal.

    Place pretzels on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 10 minutes (pretzels will rise only slightly).

    Combine 6 cups water and baking soda in a nonaluminum Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer.

    Gently lower 1 pretzel into simmering water mixture; cook 15 seconds. Turn pretzel with a slotted spatula; cook an additional 15 seconds. Transfer pretzel to a wire rack coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining pretzels.

    Place pretzels on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Combine 1 teaspoon water and egg in a small bowl, stirring with a fork until smooth. Brush a thin layer of egg mixture over pretzels; sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until pretzels are deep golden brown.

    Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

    To make Cinnamon Sugar Soft Pretzels: (see photo at top of post)
    When you put on the egg glaze in the above recipe, don't add any toppings. When the pretzels are baked and still a little warm, dip or brush them in melted butter and then dredge in a cinnamon-sugar mixture. I used ¼ stick of melted butter (and there was plenty left over), plus ½ cup sugar and about 1 teaspoon cinnamon but use the cinnamon amount that suits your taste.

     We'll put this up for yeastspotting

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    Sourdough brownies

    I decided to give these a try because I had neglected my starter, yet again, and needed to refresh it.  Wow, I am really impressed.  Almost akin to a flourless chocolate cake, these are dark, rich and yes, melt in your mouth chocolatey brownies.  I first saw the recipe on Wild Yeast; I do love her recipes.  I tweaked just a little bit and of course my starter was old and hoochy.  They might have more tooth to them with properly fed starter.  These are not as sweet as most brownies, but super rich and satisfying.  I'll see after school if they appeal to kids or just adults.   

    Oh yes, they definitely appealed to my 2nd grader. ☺  "Mom, will you send one of those brownies in my lunch today?  And bring one after school for my snack..."

    Sourdough Brownies
    make one 9x13" pan (Adapted from Wild Yeast)

    300g 72% cocoa bittersweet chocolate (I used a 90g bar of 65% chocolate and 210g semisweet chocolate chips)
    226g unsalted butter (1 cup)  (I used salted butter so I cut the salt to ½ tsp)
    200g sugar
    1 tsp salt (less if using salted butter)
    2 tsp vanilla
    1 tbsp honey (optional)
    3 eggs, room temp
    30g dark cocoa powder
    10g malted milk powder
    pinch of cinnamon
    220g mature sourdough starter 100% hydration (I used unfed starter with hooch, straight from the fridge)
    a couple extra handfuls of chocolate chips (optional)

    Preheat oven to 325ºF.  Prepare a 9x13" baking dish by buttering, lining bottom with parchment and buttering the parchment.  In a saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter and chocolate together, stirring constantly.  It shouldn't heat up too much to the touch, just enough to melt and come together.  Stir in the sugar, salt and vanilla and cook and stir over low medium heat for about two minutes, just until the sugar starts to dissolve a bit.  (That will give the shiny top.)  Stir in the honey if using.  Add eggs, one at a time, combining well after each addition.  In a bowl, stir together the cocoa powder, malted milk powder and cinnamon.  Sift over chocolate mixture, stirring in as you go.  The mix should change viscosity now and really come together.  Gently stir in the sourdough starter until completely combined.  Stir in some extra chocolate chips if desired.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean from near the middle.  Cool for about 20-30 minutes before removing from pan - it should firm up quite a bit.  Carefully lift the whole slab out with the overhanging edges of the parchment paper.  Finish cooling completely on a wire rack.  For clean edges, wait to cut until completely cool!  Cut these into small squares, they are very rich and densely chocolatey.
    Break out a glass of milk and enjoy!