Thursday, December 27, 2012

BBB Holiday Apple Kuchen

This was such a yummy challenge for December's buddy time.  I baked mine the weekend before Christmas and it held beautifully until then.  We reheated individual pieces in the toaster oven.  The original BBB post was for a lovely apple kuchen.  I had some cranberries leftover to use up and decided they would be just perfect in a holiday kuchen.  I mean don't these colors just shout out their festiveness?

I did change the topping just a hint by adding in some oats.  So the result is somewhere between a yeasted coffee cake and a crisp.  Just delicious.  Since I used spelt, I ended up putting in another half cup of flour so it wasn't too thin a batter.  It was much more a batter and less a dough than I was expecting.  But still turned out fabulous.  We had ours with butter melting on top but it would be great with a powdered sugar lemon glaze or the yummy sounding cream cheese topping in the actual recipe.  (Mascarpone or creme fraiche would be great there too.)  And here is the recipe to try it out as provided by Provecho Peru:

Holiday Apple Kuchen [BBB]
Yield: 12 servings
Source: Adapted from BH&G Holiday Baking 2009 Magazine

    Crumb Topping  (I added ¼ c oats)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter (I used 4Tbsp)
  • Apple Kuchen
  • 2 1/4 - 2 3/4 cups flour, divided
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup Demerara // granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups apple slices (I used 3 plus 2 cups chopped cranberries)
  • 1/3 cup panela // brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon quick cooking tapioca (I don't do quick tapioca - I used 2Tbsp flour)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice (I used a homemade whatever I thought was good blend)
  • Cream Cheese Topper
  • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 whipping cream
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  1. CRUMB TOPPING: In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
  2. APPLE KUCHEN: Grease a 13x9x2 baking pan; set aside. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour and the yeast; set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat and stir milk, granulated sugar, butter and salt just until mixture is warm (120F-130F) and butter almost melts. Add milk mixture and eggs to flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping sides of the bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes or until smooth. Beat in as much of the remaining flour as you can without the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour to make a stiff batter.
  4. Spread batter into the prepared baking pan. In another large bowl, combine apples, brown sugar, tapioca, lemon juice and apple pie spice. Place apple mixture on top of the batter. Sprinkle with Crumb Topping. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
  5. Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 30 minutes or until top is browned and apples are tender. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.
  6. CREAM CHEESE TOPPING: In a small bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in whipping cream and powdered sugar.
  7. Cut into 12 pieces and serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of Cream Cheese Topper on each piece.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Shepherd's (Cottage) Pie with Garlic Mashed Potato Topping

Trying to clean out the freezer a bit, needing room for all the holiday goodies.  I wanted something rustic and comforting.  A while back I made a tater-tot casserole, something I grew up with and adored.  Liked how the bottom came out but wasn't pleased with the tots, interestingly enough.  It really is best with Ore-Ida tots but we can't get those because of the ingredients; the acceptable brand just isn't the same.  So that's out.  What else do the girls like?  Mashed potatoes.  Bingo, shepherd's pie it is.  I combined a couple recipes to make it without the canned soup.  I am very happy with how it turned out, S even requested seconds.  Hubby is not as much a casserole guy so this didn't make the leftovers stand, but he did enjoy a huge helping with a thumbs up.  And I have been enjoying the leftovers for lunches this week.  Use more or less meat depending on how frugal you wish to be, or make up the difference with mushrooms.  Leftover roast, shredded, would be an awesome addition to the filling as well.  You can make it in a deep dish pie plate or a 9x13" baking dish, depending on how deep you want it to be.  I made mine in a pie dish; let me go measure... 10-inch.   

So I guess this is really a Cottage Pie as I found that Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb and Cottage Pie is made with beef.  Still good regardless!

Shepherd's Pie
Serves 6-8

1-1½ lb ground beef (grass fed if you can get it)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup chopped mushrooms, optional

1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp light spelt flour
1 cup milk
3 dashes Tabasco
1 can green beans (or tender cooked green beans)
¼ cup shredded Parmesan
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar (or more Parmesan if you prefer)

2 lbs russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
5 cloves garlic, pressed
butter ~ 2-3 tbsp
whole milk ~ ½-¾ cup

sea salt
fresh ground pepper

Begin browning ground beef in a large pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add carrot and onion and cook until beef is no longer pink.  Add any leftovers at this point.  Add garlic and mushrooms and cook another minute or two.  Scrape into baking dish and set aside.  (Start boiling the potatoes while making the sauce - 15 minutes.  Lightly salt and pepper the water.)  Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In same pan as the ground beef, melt butter and stir in flour.  Cook for a minute, then slowly add milk.  Whisk and cook for a few minutes until thickened.  Season with salt, pepper and the Tabasco.  Stir in the desired cheeses until melted.  Taste and salt if necessary.  Stir in green beans.  Pour on top of ground beef mixture.  You do not have to combine it.  Just spread it over top.

Drain the potatoes and return to the pot.  Mash with butter and milk, the consistency should be between fluffy and creamy.  More on the creamy side.  Stir in the garlic and season to taste with salt and plenty of pepper.  Spread over the filling, close to the edges.  You don't have to seal it.

Bake at 350ºF for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is lightly browned on the peaks and the sauce is starting to bubble up around the edges.  Remove from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.  Serve as a one dish meal or add a side salad of greens or apple carrot slaw.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Garlic Ginger Stir Fry (Soy free optional)

I've been trying to be better about meal planning, but I don't seem to have a talent for planning more than two days out.  Remembering to thaw stuff out is not my forté, I'd do better to shop every other day.  At least we have multiple grocery options within ½-5 miles distance.  One of the easiest things to whip up is a stir fry and fortunately for me, hubby and girls would happily eat this three to four times a week.  This is a soy free version but you can also make it with a good tamari or naturally fermented soy sauce.  The miso is a special order but totally worth it for soy allergy sufferers.  It keeps practically forever under refrigeration.  Check out South River Miso Company to see all their offerings.  (I am not affiliated, I just love their product!)  The coconut aminos seems to have gotten better since I started using it a couple years ago.  It is an even closer taste profile to soy sauce, less sweet and more salty than it used to be.  Double check your sauce just in case though, sometimes it can use a hit of salt.  The miso tends to alleviate that need, which is another reason I love it.  This got two thumbs up from hubby.  He said it even beat out chowder and definitely made it to the "happy to take leftovers to work" category.  (A huge portion of the leftovers too!)  ☺

Garlic Ginger Stir Fry
serves 5-6

1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in bite sized pieces
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
1 medium onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, sliced
1½ cups sugar snap peas, halved
1 tbsp oil (refined coconut oil is my frying oil of choice)
½ cup Coconut Aminos or soy sauce (I recommend a good naturally fermented tamari for soy version)
1 tbsp South River Chickpea and Barley Miso (optional but awesome for authentic flavor, omit if using soy)
1½ tbsp light brown muscovado sugar (optional)
1 tbsp chili paste 
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2" knob of fresh ginger, peeled, grated with microplane
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tsp arrowroot starch

Steamed rice 

In a glass measuring cup combine the coconut aminos or tamari, vinegar, brown sugar, miso if using, chili paste, arrowroot, garlic and ginger.  Mix well and set aside.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and fry until lightly browned and done.  Remove from pan to a bowl and set aside.  Add onions and peppers; cook and stir for a minute or two and then add the snap peas.  Cook and stir until veggies are crisp tender or to your liking.  Return the chicken to the pan.  Add the sauce and cook until thickened and everything is nicely coated; one more minute.  Serve over steamed rice.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cheesy Potato Soup

I made this soup once long ago.  It was great except for one thing: Velveeta.  Blech.  It was novel as a child but aside from the horrid ingredient list, it wasn't incredibly palatable.  I mean, it wiggles.  The one thing it excels at though is being creamy.  The stuff doesn't break like regular cheese and roux does.  So the soup was nice and creamy and not grainy like my old favorite cheddar chowder recipe.  And the velveeta flavor mellowed out the next day so leftovers were even better.  But I haven't made it in years because the processed cheese is not an okay ingredient for us.  Until...  

Thank you America's Test Kitchen for showing us how to make processed cheese at home!  It's just cheddar cheese, milk, gelatin, milk powder and a pinch of tartar.  It whips up in less than 10 minutes and I will happily make it again and again for this soup.  And the only flavor that comes through is wonderful, creamy cheddar.  Or whatever cheese you choose to process!  I will probably be making batches for my friend's favorite queso salsa dip as well.  I used the powdered goat milk I have as it is the most readily accessible whole milk powder - don't use nonfat, it will add an off flavor.  Mine looked just like the picture in the processor; it sets up fast so get it in your mini loaf pan quickly.

This is a nice, homey, and very filling soup that comes together in 30-40 minutes if you have the cheese in the fridge already.  The girls and hubby made happy noises as they ate it and the hubby actually took leftovers to work!  There are very few things he is willing to take as leftovers.  Win.

Cheesy Potato Soup
serves 6-8

5 cups chopped potatoes
2 cups turkey or chicken stock
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 small onion, chopped
2 tsp dried parsley flakes
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
dash Tabasco
¼ cup light spelt flour or all purpose
2 cups whole milk, divided
1 recipe homemade processed cheddar cheese, cubed (about 1 pound)
12 oz. good bacon, chopped

In a dutch oven, brown the chopped bacon over medium high heat until lightly crispy.  Remove and set aside.  Drain all but a teaspoon of the bacon fat and save for another purpose or discard.  Saute the vegetables in the remaining fat for a few minutes until beginning to soften.  Add stock, parsley, salt, pepper and Tabasco.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until potatoes are tender.

In a small bowl, combine the flour and ¼ cup of the milk until smooth.  Add to soup and cook and stir until thickened, one or two minutes.  Stir in the cheese until melted and add remaining milk.

When cheese is melted, add bacon and heat through.
Good as a side soup or main meal.

Adapted from TOH's Golden Potato Soup

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Spelt and Kamut Loaf

Up until now, I have been trying without really good results to make a 100% spelt sandwich loaf.  (Trying to get away from modern wheat as much as possible, though I do still love King Arthur flours.)  I did like Hildegard's spelt loaf but for some reason it wasn't a favorite of the girls.  I played around with spelt in a number of recipes and I have learned a few things.  My broad bread statement that bread dough would rather be too wet than too dry does not apply to spelt.  Spelt is highly water soluble and does not like to be over hydrated or the gluten will break down and give you dough soup.  The gluten is strong but delicate at the same time.  It doesn't like to be over kneaded or handled too much.  In my research I found that the qualities kamut flour provides to the dough are the perfect balance to the spelt, while still being a more ancient grain.  The buttery kamut is also a nice foil to the sweet and nutty spelt.  So I tinkered around with a couple recipes and found a balance that gave me a winning loaf.  (The girls like it.)  The loaf pictured was the first try and it had a couple handfuls of regular white flour thrown in for insurance, but subsequent loaves were as written and turned out exactly the same.  It's a nice loaf, somewhat delicate crumb, but holds up to peanut butter sandwiches and makes excellent toast.  Don't leave out the vinegar, it helps the dough structure.  A pinch of citric acid will do the same though, if you have it.  If you're trying to avoid modern wheat, give this a try.  A good general rule for conversion to spelt in a recipe is to reduce water by 25% and reduce mixing or kneading time by half.

Spelt and Kamut Sandwich Loaf
makes 1 loaf

¾ cup water
1 egg
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1½ tsp sea salt
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp malt (diastatic or barley malt syrup)
1 cup whole spelt flour
1¾ cup light spelt flour
1 cup kamut flour
2 tbsp butter, softened
2½ tsp instant yeast

Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer or bread machine.  Knead with machine or dough hook for 7 or 8 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Cover and allow to rise for 70-90 minutes until double.  Shape dough into a loaf and place in a buttered loaf pan.  Allow to rise until not quite double, another 40-60 minutes.  Sprinkle or spritz the top of the loaf with a little water.  Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and hollow sounding when thumped on the bottom.  (This bread has a slow rise but lots of oven spring so try not to over proof or it will really bust over the top!)  Do not attempt to cut until completely cool.

Adapted from BigOven

Friday, November 30, 2012

BBB - Pocketbook Rolls

This month and the next are big baking months in this household.  I ended up making cranberry sauce, three loaves of stuffing bread, a breakfast braid, sandwich bread, two tarts and four dozen cookies to take down for Thanksgiving.  So the BBB challenge of these cute little pocket rolls got left to the last minute.  I'm actually late, but I had the dough made up and I baked them today and they are yummy.  They remind me of a cross between a good biscuit and a hot yeasty roll.  I think I was expecting more of a roll result because my dough was fairly sticky and I added more flour.  Probably didn't need to and they would have been even lighter.  Still, it was a lovely dough, easy to roll out after its chill time and the cool dough made the melted butter solidify so that it didn't stick to the towel while they were raising.  I'll make them again with the original flour measurement and I'm sure they will be fine after a chill.  When I rolled out, I really didn't flour the top, only rolled the pin over my pastry cloth so it wouldn't stick.  So my pocket's lips stayed sealed.  ☺  I also par-baked some to brown and serve later.  They really are best served warm from the oven.  For me, with butter and honey.  The girls have been happily snacking on them tonight!  Yum.

Pocketbook Rolls
makes about 2 dozen rolls
recipe adapted from The Glory of Southern Cooking by James Villas 

1 packet active dry yeast (I used instant)
½ cup lukewarm whole milk
¼ cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
¼ cup sugar
½ cup boiling water
1 large egg, beaten
3 cups all purpose flour (I used all white spelt flour)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
8 tablespoons butter, melted

Proof the yeast in the lukewarm milk until bubbly. Should take about 5 minutes, depends on your yeast though.  Meanwhile cream the shortening, butter and the sugar in a large mixing bowl. Gradually beat in the boiling water.  Add the yeast mixture and stir until well blended.  Add the egg and stir until well blended.  Add the flour and salt and mix very well.
 — from here you can keep the mixture up to one week in the fridge covered lightly with plastic wrap for further use.  

Three hours before ready to use:

        Roll out the dough. About ½ inch thick.
        Cut into rounds with a 2 to 2 ½ inch biscuit cutter.
        Fold each round in half and place on greased baking sheet.
        Brush each roll generously with melted butter, cover with a towel.
        Let rise in a warm place for about 2 ½ hours.
 Preheat the oven to 400°F
        Bake the rolls until golden brown. Should take about 7-8 minutes
        Serve hot.

    Tips: In the book it says it is essential that you let rise them at least 2 hours to attain the right feathery texture they are famous for.
    They also suggest that these rolls are easily stored in the freezer: if you intend to do so you should bake them no longer than 5 minutes, cool them and then store in an airtight container in the freezer until further use. When you want to serve them bake them in preheated oven at 400°F about 5 minutes or until golden.

Check out Yeastspotting!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Stuffing bread croutons

I love baking this bread every year.  It's a special bread that I only make this month but it smells so good while kneading and baking, I'd be happy to make an exception now and then.  Turkey stuffing bread makes the most awesome croutons for dressing and I hear it makes great sammies too.  The dough whips up fairly quick in the bread machine or kitchen aid and rises quickly too.  The shorter kneading time is to prevent the onions from breaking down and making the dough too moist.  Once it is baked up, the bread can be used for savory sandwiches or left out a day and turned into the most awesome croutons ever.  They hold together wonderfully and make fabulous stuffing and dressing.  

I make two loaves for enough croutons to stuff a turkey and fill a large casserole or two with dressing.  I use a combination of almond flour and millet to simulate the taste and texture of cornmeal, but feel free to use some organic cornmeal or granular semolina instead if you don't have those things on hand.  These croutons will not turn to mush when making dressing.  I think we put a least a full quart of broth, a couple eggs and tons of mushrooms, onions, celery, butter and giblets in there!  Maybe some rice too.  ☺

Use whatever types of flour you prefer.  This year I used spelt, white whole wheat and sprouted wheat flour, which yields a darker loaf.  The previous loaf was a 50% mix of white whole wheat and all purpose which gives a nice light colored loaf as you see the in stuffing pictures above.

Turkey Stuffing Bread
makes 1 loaf

1 cup lukewarm water
1 egg
3 tbsp butter, softened
½ small onion, diced (about 1/3 cup)
2 tsp granular coconut sugar or light brown muscovado sugar
1½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
½ tsp rubbed sage 
1 tsp celery seeds
¾ tsp poultry seasoning
1/3 cup millet flour or ground millet
1/3 cup almond flour
1½ cup all purpose flour
1¼ cup white whole wheat flour
1½ tsp instant yeast

Combine all ingredients in a bread machine or mixer.  Knead with machine or dough hook for 7 or 8 minutes.  Cover and allow to rise for 45 minutes to an hour until double.  Shape dough into a loaf and place in a buttered loaf pan.  Allow to rise until cresting the pan by an inch, not quite double.  This should take 20-40 minutes depending on the temperature of your kitchen.  Bake at 375ºF for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and done.  (Internal temp of about 200º).  Cool completely or overnight.

To make croutons, cube the bread and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake at 225º for about 1-2 hours, turning occasionally, until completely dry and just barely golden.  Another easy way is to place on a wire rack on the baking sheet to facilitate drying without having to turn.  Store croutons in an airtight container until ready to use.  I have made mine up to two weeks in advance, just make sure they are bone dry.

Adapted from Bread Machine Cookbook III

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Caramel Apple Dip

Caramel dip.  It has been a journey to find one that works the way we want and still be the flavor and texture R wants.  I tried a marzetti's knock-off that I thought turned out great but it got thumbs sideways/down.  "I like your real caramels mommy."  I have never seen a store bought caramel dip that was not made with high fructose or corn syrup.  Usually when we want a dip for apple slices, I just give R a tiny dish of honey, which she loves.  I have seen many nice looking caramel dips but they all were too runny for my taste.  That's fine for home use, but right now I want something that is (corn free!) not runny, drippy, or too messy for the school harvest party.  I have a wonderful toffee granola bar recipe that uses sweetened condensed milk for the caramel layer.  It quickly gets thick when cooked, so that function takes care of the runny, drippy.  The rest of the standard caramel dip equation applies: butter, brown sugar.  And instead of corn syrup, use golden syrup and honey.  R already likes the honey part!  I'm sure it would work with all honey and no syrup at all too.  All the adults loved it just slightly warm, which makes it flow a little more:

But it is still less drippy than the others I've seen and at room temperature, is scoopable and not runny at all.  Like taking big spoonfuls of soft caramel.  But cool or warm, it is still now my number one dip.  ☺

(The honey flavor is just noticeable in this dip, so if you don't like honey, either use a very mild honey, less honey, or all golden syrup.) 

Caramel Apple Dip
makes about 2½ cups

½ cup butter (add pinch of salt if using unsalted butter)
1 cup light brown muscovado sugar, lightly packed
¼ cup golden syrup
¼ cup honey
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

In a heavy saucepan, melt together the butter, sugar, syrup and honey over medium heat.  Stir in milk and continue to cook and stir until mixture bubbles.  Stir constantly, otherwise the milk will form little bits of darkened caramel.  Let it bubble lightly for a minute and remove from heat.  If you do see little brown flecks, you can put the mixture through a fine sieve and it will be fine.  Or you can just ignore, they don't change the flavor.  Serve at room temperature or slightly warmed.

For a creamy variation, mix 1 cup dip and 8 oz softened cream cheese.  Delicious!

Monday, October 29, 2012

This year's corn free candy corn - a more reliable method

I mentioned in previous candy corn posts that it normally took me a couple tries each year to get the candy corn to come out right.  Just dealing with temperature and properly measuring the powdered sugar really affects the outcome.  Well, I recently checked out Sugar Baby: Confections, Candies, Cakes & Other Delicious Recipes for Cooking with Sugar from the library.

I may need to own a copy now.  The thing that makes this recipe so much more reliable than my previous favorite is that it uses weights.  Doesn't matter if you sift the sugar before measuring or if you spoon too softly or firmly.  This one worked the first time.  And I love mixing it in the stand mixer - so much easier, and cooler!  Nothing like hot sugar syrup to blister your fingers...  My notes on how I made this corn free:  The recipe does not call for any flavoring so I put a tablespoon of honey in the cup before I measured out the golden syrup.  If you are using a less refined sugar like the evaporated cane sugar I use, I recommend whirling it in a food processor, blender or coffee grinder to make it superfine.  Otherwise it will not all melt before your mixture reaches the final temperature - especially in a half batch.  I neglected to do that this time and had to add a teaspoon of water and baby it into melting without getting too hot.  And it still turned out!  I used the powdered goat milk again and it turned out beautifully; a nice chewy mellowcreme candy.  And I did make a half batch - we do NOT need 400 pieces of candy.  Remember that regular white sugar will give you brighter results and you are free to make the colors as bright as you wish.  (The glycerin is something I have on hand for homemade stain remover but it is food grade.  You can find it at Whole Foods and health food stores.  I believe you can safely leave it out of the recipe as well.)

Update: I prefer to add some vanilla extract rather than leave it just plain sugar flavored.

Homemade Candy Corn - made without corn syrup
Makes 400 pieces
from sugarbaby

350g 3½ cups confectioner's sugar
65g  ½ cup powdered milk
3g ½ tsp sea salt
300g 1½ cups granulated sugar
240 ml 1 cup golden syrup (I also used 1 tbsp honey)
115g ½ cup unsalted butter
5 ml 1 tsp glycerin
food coloring

Blend the powdered sugar, dry milk and salt in a food processor until quite fine and set aside.

Combine the granulated sugar, golden syrup, butter and glycerin in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.  (You can add a tsp of water to facilitate this process without hurting the results.)

Turn down to just below medium and attach a candy thermometer.  Simmer without stirring until the temperature reaches 240ºF.  (There is some forgiveness here up to 245-7º but it will reach temperature very quickly especially for a partial batch so be careful.)

Turn off the heat and pour syrup into a stand mixer bowl.  Add the powdered sugar mix and turn on low with the paddle attachment until a smooth paste forms.  Scrape the sides down and let it cool.

Divide the dough evenly by thirds.  Color one yellow, one orange and leave the third plain.

The author of sugarbaby likes to form huge candy corns in a cast iron corn stick pan.  Well, the book is all about sugar.  That's a little excessive for us, so I make the little corn kernels.  For step by step forming instructions see my first post on mellowcreme candy corn.

Allow to dry for a few hours, flip and dry some more, then store in an airtight container for up to a week.  Keep in a cool, dry place.  (They will last longer than a week, FYI.)  ☺

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sesame Snaps

I grew up with Louck's sesame snaps as a super special - once in great while - only when we were at that special shop, treat.  I love that you can get them more easily nowadays.  I seriously am addicted to the new version with dark chocolate and I like the fact that they are produced in my own state.  Still, I wanted to see if I could make an easy version at home.  I tried a honey based recipe I saw and while the flavor was good, there was way too much honey and it turned into a hard candy that you had to suck on if you wanted to keep your teeth.  After much googling and perusing of techniques and recipes, I decided a Somali recipe produced something that fit the bill.  Something that would turn out light and very crunchy.  I do like a little bit of the honey flavor so I added some in for mine.  Sesame snaps are so super simple as far as ingredients.  At their most basic, sugar and sesame seeds.  The seeds are toasted for crunch and flavor.  I added a pinch of salt and a bit of honey for more flavor.  The trick to getting these to be really good and having that nice snap to them is to roll as thinly as possible.  Some of mine in the middle were a little tall and harder to bite (still crunchy) but the edges were wonderfully snappy.  Go for 1/8" thickness.  My youngest, who wouldn't touch the first batch with all that honey, has come back for thirds on these crispies.

Sesame Snaps
Makes 1 sheet full

2 cups sesame seeds
¾ cup evaporated cane sugar
1-2 tbsp honey
pinch sea salt

Heat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium heat.  Cook and stir the sesame seeds to toast, about 5 minutes.  

When they start to turn lightly golden, check a few for crunchiness.  Pour into a bowl and set aside.  They will make a neat crackling sound as they cool and should be nice and crunchy.

Return the pan to the heat and gradually melt the sugar without stirring.  Add it little by little as the previous layer melts.  You can tilt the pan to mix a bit.  Once the sugar is melted, add the salt and honey and stir to combine.  If there is any unmelted sugar, the honey may cause it to lump up a bit.  Just stir over the heat until it is all dissolved.

Stir in the toasted sesame seeds and mix for a minute until evenly combined.

Turn them out onto a lightly oiled surface.  Foil will work, I used parchment.  Cover with parchment paper and roll out as thin as possible.  Work quickly because the candy will harden and no longer be pliable.  Once it is at your desired thickness, and while still warm, cut/score the candy with a sharp knife.

They will break apart easily when cooled.  Store in an airtight container.  If you want to try the chocolate version, I just melted a couple tablespoons of mini chocolate chips with a pinch of coconut oil and drizzled on using a sandwich baggie as a piping bag.

If you want to watch a great how-to video, go here.  And enjoy the music!  ☺

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Instant Hot Cocoa Mix

It's a gorgeous fall day out.  Beautiful and chilly.  The calls for hot cocoa have started and Whole paycheck stopped carrying our favorite hot cocoa mix.  Probably best, as store bought is expensive and it was hard enough to find a mix with okay ingredients that didn't require heating up milk.  I like a cocoa mix that is just-add-hot-water.  I can make cocoa the other way, it's relatively easy, but I'm lazy and don't like to wash a pan too.  So I wanted to come up with my own version that did not use white or powdered sugar.  This whirls up quickly in a food processor and yields a nice fluffy mix for a rich cup of cocoa.  Vanilla bean powder is expensive, so it's okay to omit it or add a splash of vanilla to your mug if you don't already have or know where to get some.  I used a pouch of powdered goat milk since it was conveniently sized for my batch and the only available powdered whole milk.  (I can't stand powdered nonfat dairy.)  It does not have any off flavor to it and I will happily use it again.

Instant Hot Cocoa Mix
8 servings

4 oz dry whole milk powder (Enough to make 12 cups of milk/3 quarts)
¾ cup light brown muscovado sugar 
½ cup dark unsweetened cocoa (or a mix of dark and Dutched)
1 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp vanilla bean powder (optional)
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp sea salt

Add all ingredients to a food processor and blitz until well combined.  It should appear light and fluffy with no large crystals apparent.  Store in an airtight glass jar for up to two months.

To make a cup of cocoa, add boiling water to a cup with about 4-5 heaping tablespoonfuls per mug.  A standard coffee mug holds 8-9 oz while a larger mug holds closer to 10-12 oz.  Add some marshmallows or whipped cream if desired.  My kids each have their own little 6oz mug and they love them, I use 3 heaping spoonfuls for those.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

BBB - Russian Rose for World Bread Baking Day

Ahhhhh.  The rain has returned after a three month hiatus and my allergies have finally calmed down.  Now it is the perfect weather to be baking often again.  The BBB suggested a braided bread for World Bread Baking Day and invited buddies to join in.  This time I decided not to do my standard sweet interpretation.  Yes, we went garlicky with this beauty.  I think it's appropriate since garlic is sometimes known as the stinking rose.  ☺  Although since it is so pretty, I can definitely see myself making an almond/honey or cinnamon version for Thanksgiving breakfast.  I noted my changes to the recipe in red.  I did have an oh crud! moment as I was getting the dough mixed up, got all the butter incorporated and realized I had not added the yeast!  Ahh!  Run, grab yeast, dash it in, make sure it gets worked through well.  Whew!  Good thing I use instant yeast.  I also decided not to do all spelt this time since I really wanted the braid to work well.  I have some kamut now that I will experiment with in bread to cover the shortcomings of using all spelt.  They are both ancient grains but have complementary properties with regard to dough structure and elasticity.  For my filling I chose a bare spread of butter topped with a few tablespoons of pesto to which I had added half a head of fresh pressed garlic.  It smells SO awesome folks.  Sweet or savory, this is worth a try and really quite easy given how spectacular it looks.

Russian Rose
makes 1 loaf


300 grams bread flour KA all purpose flour
200 grams white whole wheat flour whole spelt flour
100 grams sprouted wheat flour
2-3 tablespoons golden flax seed meal
2.25 teaspoons dry yeast (Fresh Yeast 28g (1oz))
10 grams Sugar 10g (0.35oz) sucanat
10 grams Salt 10g (0.35oz)
50 grams Canola Oil 50cc (1.7 fl oz) 56 grams butter 96g butter, 10g garlic olive oil 
1 tablespoon White Vinegar apple cider vinegar
300 grams Water 300cc (10 fl oz) this is approximate

Original recipe called for
AP Flour 600g (21oz) total
seasoning was pesto, dusted with sumac

Filling - the options are only limited by your imagination and what's in your kitchen!
butter , softened
garlic, pressed
Parmesan, finely grated
salt , to taste
rosemary or basil


almond paste
sliced almonds
dried fruit


1. Set oven to 210c (410F) Prep: Baking Pan - 26cm (10") springform (no bottom), take a piece of parchment paper and crimp tightly around the bottom of the springform, oil the sides. Place on top of a baking sheet. Set aside.

2. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl, add the water carefully as you start mixing. Use the dough hook 2-3 mins. on low speed and 2-3 mins. on medium speed. Dough should be supple and not sticky to the touch. Add water or flour if dough is too stiff or too loose (respectively). When dough is ready, spray a bowl with oil and gently put the dough in the bowl. Spray a little more oil on top and cover. Let rise (80%) about 40 minutes to an hour.

3. Lightly flour your work area. Flatten the dough gently with your hands.
Roll the dough as thin as you can using a floured rolling pin.
When rolling out the dough, try not to lift and move it too much. You can try and gently pull the dough to stretch it thin like with Strudel.

Apply a thin layer of your filling on top of the dough (leave the edge clear 1/4").

Slowly, tightly and very gently roll the dough into a roulade (pinwheel ). You will now have a very long roulade.

4. Take a sharp chef's knife (not a serrated knife) and cut (not saw) the roulade lengthwise trying to keep the knife in the middle so you end up with two equal parts (you can cut down from the seam but it is not make or break).

5. Place the two halves crossing each other (open roulade layers facing up) to create and X shape. Gently pick up the two ends of the bottom half, cross them over the top half, and place them back down. Continue this process, taking the two bottom ends and crossing them over the top until all the roulade has been used.

6. You now have a two strand rope shape. If for some reason some of the open roulade layers are pointing down or sideways, carefully turn them so they are facing up. Gently pinch the ends to seal. Look at the braid. If one end looks a little thinner make that your starting point. If not, just start from either end. Slowly and very gently, roll the braid sideways (horizontally) without lifting your hands from the table. You should keep those open roulade layers facing up. Pinch the end delicately. The end result should look like a giant snail shell or a very large cinnamon bun.

Depending on your filling you may want to sprinkle on something (paprika, sumac, brown sugar & cinnamon). Keep in mind you don't want to cover up the effect of the shaping.

7. Carefully pick up the braid and place in the prepared springform. Keep it flat on the parchment. The bottom of the braid should set nicely. 

Cover. Let rise until the braid hits three quarters the way up the springform. Depending upon the temp in your kitchen this may take from 20 to 40 minutes.

8. Bake at 210c (410F) for 5-10 mins.,
lower oven to 180c (355F) and bake for another 20-30 mins.

There should be a decent amount of oven spring. The bread should rise above the springform edge.
When the bread is out of the oven lightly brush olive oil or butter on top and sides.
Let cool on a rack.

9. You are welcome to bake this with all white flour or any combination of flour you like.

 This post will go up for Yeastspotting!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Iced Oatmeal Cookies

It's always fun to try and re-create a childhood store bought cookie memory.  Even if you never actually got to have them at home.  Just about everyone is familiar with Mother's brand cookies.  I, like many kids, adored the pink and white circus animal cookies.  I think next in line was the iced molasses cookies.  Hubby loves oatmeal cookies much better so I settled on the iced oatmeal cookies.  This makes some dangerous dough.  Try not to eat half your cookies before they are baked.  I do love me some browned butter!  (Normally I don't specifically call for unsalted butter, but for browned butter it is better.)  I've already made these a number of times, they whip up pretty quickly and have gotten enthusiastic reviews from people who normally give a noncommittal response to baked goods.  Heck, they had my hubby digging in the freezer for the extras.  Something he's never done before!

If making cookies to freeze, you may want to freeze them un-iced, otherwise allow time for the icing to dry again as there will be some condensation on it when the cookies are thawing out.  It only takes a few minutes to dry though, if you even care!  ☺

Iced Oatmeal Cookies
makes 2 dozen large cookies

1 cup butter, unsalted
¾ cup evaporated cane sugar
½ cup light brown muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups light spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp whole milk

Preheat oven to  350º F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, brown the butter...  Melt the butter over medium low heat.  Once it is all melted, turn up the heat to just below medium.  Cook and stir occasionally until the butter starts to brown.  First there will be thick foam, then that will subside and just before it browns there will be piles of clear bubbles.  Watch it closely and stir to prevent burning, it happens fast!  You can watch the sides of the pan to see when the solids are starting to brown if you can't see the bottom through the bubbles.  Pour the browned butter into a mixing bowl or stand mixer and allow to cool slightly.

Mix in the sugars until there are no lumps.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat until completely incorporated.

Blitz the oatmeal for a handful of pulses in a food processor or coffee grinder.  Don't turn it to flour, just a coarse meal, a little finer than quick oats.  Mix the oats into the batter.

Combine the flour, salt, soda, baking powder and spices in a bowl.  Add to the batter in about three additions, just to combine.  Let the dough rest for 15 minutes to thicken up.  You don't have to, it just makes it easier to scoop.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons at least 5 inches apart onto the lined sheets.  I use almost a double scoop of my one tbsp cookie scoop.  It's somewhere between a ping pong and golf ball sized scoop of dough.  Flatten the balls slightly and bake for 12-14 minutes until golden brown.  Allow to cool on sheet for a minute before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Mix together the powdered sugar and milk until smooth.  Brush the icing on the tops of the cookies with a pastry brush, (a silicone one is ideal for this job).  If desired, a second layer may be added after the first is dry if you really want a thick white icing.  Those pictured are one layer.

 Let icing dry to a hard finish before storing in an airtight container.  Hide the container.

Adapted from the novice chef