Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pita Bread

Easy and delicious home made Pita Bread

I'm sick this weekend. Very sick. High fever. I wanted bread. Pita bread is easy. This is it. It is delicious. Hit the spot. I used all of my energy to make it and type up the recipe. 

Pita Bread
    --Adapted from KingArthurFlour.com

Ingredients:


Instructions:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, mix all of the dry ingredents with a whisk. Add the oil and water. Mix dough on a low speed until it starts to come together into a shaggy dough.
Allow the mixer to knead the dough for 5 minutes on medium to medium-high. When dough is done being kneaded, form it into a nice ball, place in the bottom of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
When dough has risen, turn it out onto a clean cutting board and divide into 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a neat ball. Cover balls of dough with plastic wrap and allow to rest for about 10 minutes. Then, roll each ball out into a disk, about 6-7 inches in diameter.
Place 3 disks onto a pizza peel (if you are going to bake pitas on a pizza stone) or a parchment-lined baking sheet. Allow disks to rest for about 11-15 minutes before baking. Slide disks onto pizza stone or place baking sheet in oven. Bake for 4 minutes on pizza stone or 5 minutes on the baking sheet, until pitas are puffed and browned.
Remove to a cooling rack to cool.
Continue rolling, resting, and baking dough until all are baked.
Makes 8 pitas



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fried Zucchini (Gluten Free)

Gluten Free Fried Zucchini


Lately I've had a craving for fried zucchini. In California, Carl's Jr. sells these, and I usually get those instead of fries to go with my Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich. I live in Iowa now, though, so although we have a fast food restaurant with the same happy star logo, we do NOT have fast food fried zucchini. Sigh.
So, today, I decided to just make some myself. I'm attempting to go gluten free these days, so I made the bread crumbs with the Gluten Free French Sandwich Rolls I make weekly for my son. I also made sure to make fresh Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing because it's the best. I did not want to chance being dissatisfied with my fried zucchini. I was already unsure I could pull off something that would satisfy my craving.
Well, it all worked out beautifully, and I think I'm just calling this experiment "dinner" for tonight because I ate SO MANY. Ugh. So satisfying, though. They were crunchy, hot and tender on the inside, and with the ranch dressing...oh my goodness. Just what I was shooting for. Because of the seasoning and the frying, I can't even tell that these are gluten free. That doesn't make them any healthier, but I don't care about that today. Nope, today I have satisfied a craving that Hardees could not.
I looked up several fried zucchini recipes, but didn't follow one in particular, so I'm not putting in a "adapted from" line. Maybe I'm growing up. Or maybe I'm just too lazy to mention all of the websites/blogs I looked at today. At any rate, give thse a try. You will not be disappointed.

Fried Zucchini

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound (2 medium) zucchinis
  • 1/2 cup Better Batter Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups gluten free bread crumbs (2 Gluten Free French Sandwich Rolls made into crumbs in a food processor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup grated (powdery) Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 inch canola oil in a high-rimmed frying pan
  • salt to taste

Instructions:
Wash and trim the ends off the zucchinis. Cut zucchinis into 1/4- inch circles (I used a wavy cutter for this). Set aside.
Mix the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small shallow dish.
Beat the eggs and place in another small shallow dish.
Mix the bread crumbs, Italian seasoning Parmesan cheese, and pepper in a medium shallow dish.
Working with about three zucchini circles at a time, dredge circles in the salted flour and shake off excess flour.
Dip in the egg, and then place on the bread crumbs. Gently cover zucchini circles with crumbs and pat gently. Turn each circle over and do the same to ensure a nice coating. Place coated circles in a single layer on a clean cookie sheet.
Repeat with remaining zucchini circles.
Line a cooling rack with paper towels.
Heat oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a fork, carefully place zucchini circles in the oil, being careful to not crowd them. Fry until a nice medium golden brown color on both sides. Remove fried zucchini to paper towels to drain and cool. Continue frying the remaining zucchini.
Serve with fresh ranch dressing.
Makes about 4 servings






Monday, March 31, 2014

Brined and Grilled Pork Chops

Brined and Grilled Pork Chop
Served with Au Gratin Potatoes and steamed broccoli

My mom, my beloved cooking guru, told me the other day that she made the best, juiciest, most tender chicken the other night; and she achieved that by brining her chicken for two hours before cooking it. Hmm. I've seen brining, eaten the best brined turkey ever made by my sister-in-law, but I had not tried it myself. It seemed like a hassle. Yeah, anyone who knows me is scratching their heads because I am not one to shy away from a few extra steps in order to make food more delicious. Since my mom recommended it though, I decided to try it with the pork chops I had in the fridge for dinner the next night.
I googled "brined pork chops" and came up with TheKitchn.com. The recipe was simple and like Mom said, only took two hours to brine.
I should have thought about the salt that would be in the pork due to the brine and not seasoned the pork with any more salt, but I did it anyway. The chops came out slightly too salty, but not inedibly salty. They were perfectly moist, tender, flavorful, and fabulous. I will be brining my pork chops from now on.
The recipe below is for grilled chops, but I suppose you can prepare them however you'd like once brined at patted dry. Grilling is not a science for me, as is baking, so what you see below is my best guess. I had planned to use my timer to be able to give you exact times and such, but, well, I didn't do it. If you're used to grilling, you should be able to figure it out without details from me. If you're new to grilling, you might want to grill one chop first and see how it goes before you throw the rest on the grill. Best of luck to you. If all goes well, you should be able to enjoy a fabulous, meaty meal.

Brined and Grilled Pork Chops
    --Adapted from TheKitchn.com

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 thick cut pork loin chops
  • Italian seasoning or other low-sodium seasoning
  • canola oil

Instructions:
Place water and salt in a large bowl and stir a bit to dissolve the salt. Add the pork chops. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours (I did mine for the 2 hours).
Preheat your grill to about 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove chops from the brine and discard the brine. Pat chops dry with paper towels. Season both sides with Italian seasoning. Drizzle both sides with a little canola oil. 
Grill chops for approximately 7 minutes on each side, turning the heat down after the first 4-5 minutes of grilling. Be sure to check for flare ups and turn the heat down further if your chops are burning on the outside. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature once both sides are browned. When thermometer reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit for a chop (take the temperature of each), remove to a heat-proof dish, cover lightly with foil, and allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.
Serve with something yummy like Au Gratin Potatoes.
Makes 4 hearty servings.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bite Size Peanut Butter Cookie Buddies

Bite Size Peanut Butter Cookie Buddies

What needs to be said besides the fact that I'm on spring break and didn't travel anywhere? This is the sort of thing that happens under these circumstances. I've enjoyed way too many of these and will be taking most of what I have to my friend's house today. She and her family are quite thin, so they can handle it. 
These little gems are just what you'd imagine: yummy soft peanut butter cookie below, yummy chocolate candy on top. Truly, a winning bite size combo.
I didn't know what to name these because I already have so many variations on this peanut blossom cookie thing. Since the cookie part and the candy part are so distinct in themselves, I decided that they were good buddies. So, "Bite Size Peanut Butter Cookie Buddies" it is.

Bite Size Peanut Butter Cookie Buddies
    --Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup Crisco vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cup smooth/creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups Better Batter Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour or King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • granulated sugar
  • 2-3 bags of mini chocolate candies (like Bite Size Snickers, Bite Size Rolos, and Bite Size Reese's Peanut Butter Cups)
Instructions:
Prepare a metal brownie pan (I used a 7 cm x 11 cm pan) by lining it with parchment or wax paper. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, peanut butter, and the sugars until fluffy. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and beat until thoroughly mixed. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix on low until combined. Do not overmix.
Transfer the dough to the paper-lined brownie pan and smooth it out until you have an even layer. Place plastic wrap on top and then gently pack the dough in and leave the plastic wrap on top of the dough. Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to chill.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit about a half hour before you plan to form the little cookies. Then line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place about 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a bowl that you will use to coat dough pieces.
If you're using the Bite Size Snickers and Rolos, you might want to cut them in half while the dough chills. I leave the Reese's cups whole. Your choice, though.
Once dough is thoroughly chilled, remove from the refrigerator. Lift the dough out by using the edges of the paper. Cut the dough into about 1 to 1.25 cubic centimeter pieces, so that you end up with about a half teaspoon of dough. At this point, you can either roll each cube into a ball, roll in sugar, and place on the prepared baking sheet, OR you can just toss the little dough cubes in the sugar. Shape didn't matter to me today, so I used the cubes--much faster.  Leave about 1 1/2 inches between dough balls/cubes.  Bake cookies for about 5 minutes at 375 degrees, or until they are puffed and slightly cracked. 
Remove from oven and immediately top each cookie with a piece or half a piece of candy, cut face up if you've cut them. You need to move quickly because you have a lot of cookies and they start to cool pretty quickly. Allow cookies to cool on the pan for about five minutes.
Move cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling. Wait until the chocolate has solidified again before storing or serving.
Makes approximately 120-140 mini cookies


The candies seemed to big,
so the next batch I cut them
in half. Delicious either way.

The cut candies just seem more reasonable.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Gluten Free Croutons

Gluten Free Croutons: Just bread, butter, and some toasting in the oven.
I'm loving the combo of Chicken Pot Pie Soup and gf croutons.
Here's my convoluted story for these croutons:
Today is my husband's birthday. He requested Red Beans and Rice for his birthday dinner. I do not like beans; never have. Sooo... the logical thing to do in this situation is to make another separate meal that I can enjoy: Chicken Pot Pie Soup, right? Well, I'm in the middle of this experiment to see whether I feel, think, and function better as a gluten free eater. Sigh. I love gluten, as you can probably tell by looking around my blog. Since my son is already gluten limited, it's actually not too much of a leap. So tonight, instead of making pie crust, I've made some croutons from the Gltuen Free French Sandwich Rolls I always have in my freezer. They're super easy, and most people probably don't need a recipe, but for the sake of blogging, and for those who have never made home made croutons, here you go.

Gluten Free Croutons

Ingredients:
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
If sandwich rolls are not already sliced lengthwise, slice them lengthwise. Butter each open face pretty liberally, unless you want to go light.
With a sharp chef-type knife (you know, large and relatively heavy), cut each buttered roll half into 16ths. Place buttered pieces onto a cookie sheet (I lined mine with foil) and spread them evenly into a single layer.
Bake croutons at 375 degrees for 11-16 minutes. Shorter if you want them a little soft in the middle, longer if you want them completely crisp.

If you want to add more flavor, you can sprinkle garlic salt and/or Parmesean cheese on the buttered rolls before you cut them.

Makes about 3 cups of croutons



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Churros with Berries and Cream


Churros with Berries and Cream, aka Breakfast

It seems I am always finding new ways to enjoy berries and whipped cream with baked goods. First was the original Shortcake Biscuits with Warm Berries and Whipped Cream, thanks to my friend Jen Wilson. Next, the berries and cream tasted fabulous with waffles. Today seemed like a great day to see how the berries and cream taste with churros, and not surprisingly, they taste FABULOUS. I don't know if there's anything berries and whipped cream don't taste good with at this point. The tart sweetness and the rich creaminess go with just about any bready/cakey sort of thing. 
After eating about 3 of these myself, I had to take what remained to my friends who are meeting at church this morning. I walked away from them hearing the happy sounds of my friend exclaiming, "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!" That's what I like to hear. 
Seriously, if you've never tried anything with these berries and whipped cream, you have to do it soon. I'm not even a berry fan, and I just can't get enough. Do it. 
[P.S. Jack, if you're reading, this was my breakfast today. No popcorn. :)]

Churros with Berries and Cream
     --Adapted from Gluten Free on a Shoestring

Churros Ingredients:
  • 1 cup milk 
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/3 cups Better Batter Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (or regular all-purpose flour if gluten isn't a problem)
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • canola oil for frying
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Berries Ingredients:
  • 1 cup mixed frozen berries (blueberries, black berries, and raspberries)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
Whipped Cream Ingredients:
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Churros Instructions:
In a medium sized heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk and butter to a simmer. Stir in flour and stir vigorously for a minute or two, until the mixture comes together and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of a standing mixer (or you can leave it in the pan to cool--but it will take longer).  While dough cools, prepare the berries according to directions below.
When dough is cool enough to touch (about 10 to 15 minutes in the mixing bowl, longer in the pan), beat in the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each egg before adding the next (see below for what it should look like). 
Place a cooling rack over a sheet pan and cover with paper towels. Set aside.
In a shallow baking dish, mix the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a large sized heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, bring about 2 inches of canola oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
While oil heats, transfer batter to a piping bag fitted with a large open star tip.
When oil has come to temperature, carefully squeeze about 5-6 inch ropes of batter into the oil, and use kitchen scissors to cut the end. Fry about 4 ropes at a time, turning when one side is well-browned. If churros seem to brown too quickly, reduce heat to medium and/or add a little more oil. I ended up frying churros about 1.5 minutes on each side.
Remove fried churros to the paper-towel lined cooling rack. Squeeze more churros into the hot oil. Then place the fried churros in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and turn to coat with cinnamon sugar. Place sugared churros on another paper towel lined surface and continue with this frying and coating cycle until you are out of batter.
Makes about 1 dozen fat churros (depends on the size of your piping tip)

Berries Instructions:
In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, mix the berries, cornstarch, lemon juice, and sugar. Heat until berries come to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer on low for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat off and let berries sit there until ready to serve.

Whipped Cream Intructions:
In a medium size bowl, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla, until firm peaks form. Cover and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.



Saturday, March 8, 2014

BWW Parmesan Garlic Sauce Copy Cat

Buffalo Wild Wings Parmesan Garlic Sauce Copy Cat



There are times, as a working mom, that I have to be gone in the evenings for meetings, parent-teacher conferences, and yes, the occasional social outing. Over the last couple of years, my husband and kids have gotten into the habit of eating at Buffalo Wild Wings on those nights I am not with them. They know it's not one of my favorite restaurants (the grease and sodium levels are off the charts), even though I will eat there with my family once in a blue moon. This Parmesan garlic sauce is one of the flavors that I really enjoy there, and so does my 11-year-old son. Today he asked me if I thought I could try making the sauce at home. The kid knows me well enough to know that I would immediately look up a recipe and try it. 
The first recipe that came up when I googled "buffalo wild wings parmesan garlic" was at Raininghotcoupons.com, and it tastes GREAT, in my opinion. Salty, creamy, garlicky, herby. Yum. My son says there's something slightly differet from BWWs' sauce, but he can't quite put his finger on it. I don't eat enough BWW to know the difference.
I only had Tyson frozen chicken fries to try it out on today, and we did try it before the recommended sit in the fridge. So, later today when we go to Supertarget, we're going to pick up some chicken wings to try it out on. I'll give an update later.
*Update: 

Buffalo Wild Wings Parmesan Garlic Sauce Copy Cat
   --adapted from Raininghotcoupons.com

Ingredients:
  • 1 small head (6-7 medium cloves) garlic
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (powdered/grated)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinear
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (or plain yogurt if you want it light in calories)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 
Trim the top of the garlic head about 1/8-1/4 inch, to expose the cloves. Place on a square of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Roast at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until fragrant and soft.
While garlic roasts, mix the following ingredients in a medium bowl: salt, black pepper, basil, marjoram, oregano, red pepper flakes, thyme, lemon juice, vinegar, and corn syrup. 
When garlic is done, remove from the oven, and carefully remove the roasted garlic nuggets from their skin and place them in the bowl with the other ingredients. With the back of a fork, smash the roasted garlic into the other ingredients to make a paste. Add the mayonnaise and whisk to combine.
Cover and refrigerate sauce for a few hours to overnight before serving (at least that's what Raining Hot Coupons recommends).
Makes about 3/4 cup 




Roasted garlic skin

Gluten Free Bite Size Peanut Butter & Peanut Blossom Cookies




I've been toying with the idea of going gluten free/gluten limited myself. So far, I've been gluten free for six days. My life has not completely changed so far, but I'm looking out for it. I've been craving the Bite-Size Peanut Blossom Cookies I made around Christmas time and thought this was a perfect time to try making them gluten free. I've discovered two things with this experiment: 1. These cookies taste excellent gluten free, and 2. It is not necessary to form balls of cookie dough before baking them. I used my new favorite method of portioning dough--refrigerating cookie dough in a pan and cutting squares/cubes from the resulting slab of dough. It makes life so much easier, and they taste just as good. There's no law that says cookies must be round, right? Thank you refrigerated cookie dough manufacturers for giving me the idea.
So, gluten free peanut butter cookie fans out there, give these a try. You'll love them. I promise.

Gluten Free Bite Size Peanut Butter & Peanut Blossom Cookies
    --Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:
Instructions:
Prepare a metal brownie pan (I used a 7 cm x 11 cm pan) by lining it with parchment or wax paper. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, peanut butter, and the sugars until fluffy. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and beat until thoroughly mixed. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix on low until combined. Do not overmix.
Transfer the dough to the paper-lined brownie pan and smooth it out until you have an even layer. Place plastic wrap on top and then gently pack the dough in and leave the plastic wrap on top of the dough. Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to chill.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit about a half hour before you plan to form the little cookies. Then line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place about 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a bowl that you will use to coat dough pieces.
Once dough is thoroughly chilled, remove from the refrigerator. Lift the dough out by using the edges of the paper. Cut the dough into about 1 cubic centimeter pieces, so that you end up with about a half teaspoon of dough. At this point, you can either roll each cube into a ball, roll in sugar, and place on the prepared baking sheet, OR you can just toss the little dough cubes in the sugar. Shape didn't matter to me today, so I used the cubes--much faster.  Leave about 1 1/2 inches between dough balls/cubes. If you plan to make blossoms, put them in the oven at this point. If you want just peanut butter cookies, use a fork to press a criss-cross pattern on the top of each dough ball/cube. Bake cookies for about 5 minutes at 375 degrees, or until they are puffed and slightly cracked. 
Remove from oven and immediately top each peanut blossom cookie with a milk chocolate chip, pressing down to secure the chip. You need to move quickly because you have a lot of cookies and they start to cool pretty quickly. Allow cookies to cool on the pan for about five minutes.
Move cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling. Wait until the chocolate has solidified again before storing or serving.
Makes approximately 150-175 mini cookies


Monday, February 24, 2014

Frosted Brownies II

Frosted Brownies II

I had to repost this recipe with the main change being the type of cocoa used. I used to swear by Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate, and I technically I still do. I love the stuff; but it's gotten too expensive for me to use regularly. I can buy it from Amazon for a pretty good price, but then I'll have a three-pound container of it, and I'll make TOO many brownies. My waistline does not need that. 
At any rate, I may be one of the only people in the world who notices the difference between the Ghirardelli ground chocolate an other brands of cocoa powder. If you try this recipe here, I'm sure you'll be pleased. These brownies, as with the originals, have a great dense texture without being raw or gummy. They're thick, almost cakey, but not quite. To me, it's the perfect brownie texture, and they still have a deep chocolatey flavor. The frosting seals the deal for me, adding more sweetness and moist chocolatey goodness.
As you can see in the pics below, I only put nuts on part of the brownies. My intended audience is what helps me decide how much of the top will have nuts. This batch was just for the family, and although my one son prefers no nuts, he will still eat the nutted version. I bake the nuts on top instead of mixing them in for two reasons: #1 The flexibility mentioned already and #2 The nuts get slightly toasted on top so they have a toasty flavor along with a definite crunch. Mmmm...

Frosted Brownies II
    --Adapted from Ghirardelli

Ingredients:
  • 2 eggs @ room temp. 
  • 1  cup granulated sugar 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 
  • ½ cup butter, melted & cooled 
  • 1/2 cup ground cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional) 
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Using a spoon, stir eggs with sugar and vanilla. Add melted butter. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt with a whisk. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture. Spread evenly into a buttered 8” pan (or a pan lined with parchment paper or non-stick foil). Sprinkle nuts evenly over the top and press lightly with the palm of your hand. Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool. Frost with Cocoa Frosting (half a recipe of frosting covers one recipe of brownies) Cut into squares. Makes 16-20 brownies.


Cocoa Frosting


Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup half and half 
  • 3/4 cup ground cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup plus two tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ cup butter, cut up 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
Instructions:
In 2-quart heavy saucepan, heat half and half with butter, stirring until blended. Add cocoa and sugar, mixing with wire whip until smooth. Heat on medium-low until mixture is thick and shiny and runs off the spoon like syrup and the first bubble appears on the surface (160°F). Do not boil or overcook frosting. Cool 5 minutes, add vanilla. Place pan of frosting in a bowl of ice and water (or snow in the winter). Beat slowly with spoon until frosting holds shape. Frost cake. Refrigerate to set frosting. Makes frosting for and 8-inch layer cake.

Before frosting


Monday, February 17, 2014

Flavored Stabilized Whipped Cream


Lime-Flavored Stabilized Whipped Cream (Day 2)
I've had enough people ask me about using flavored gelatin to make stabilized whipped cream, that I finally decided to try it out today. I didn't frost anything with it--purely experimental.
I really wasn't sure how much of the powder to use, since it contains both sugar AND gelatin. I went with one and a half tablespoons, and the resulting flavor was rather faint--distinctly lime-flavored, but not strong at all. If you want to try adding another 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of gelatin powder, I would recommend microwaving the mixture after it sits and before you add the hot cream, just to make sure the sugar and gelatin completely dissolve. I don't think my gelatin and/or sugar were all the way dissolved, and you may even be able to see in my photos that there is a slight graininess.
If you like your whipped cream sweet, you'll want to either use the additional gelatin powder, and/or add 2-4 tablespoons of powdered sugar when you start whipping the cold cream, before adding the gelatin mixture. 
This recipe still needs tweaking, but I think it's safe to say, "Yes, you can use flavored gelatin powder to make a flavored stabilized whipped cream." As always, if anyone reading this tries it and has some tips, please leave a comment and let us all in on it.

I was going to wait until tomorrow to post this to see how it held up in the fridge overnight, but I ended up having a snow day today (Yay, Midwest winter weather!), so I let a bit of the whipped cream sit out for four hours (see photos below). 


Flavored Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting
     --adapted from cdkitchen

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flavored gelatin powder
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2-4 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)
Instructions:
1. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in small bowl to soften. 
2. Scald 2 tablespoon of the cream (this means you put the cream in a pan and bring it to a simmer on the stove); pour over gelatin, stirring until dissolved.
3. Refrigerate until consistency of unbeaten egg white. (This takes about 10-15 minutes.) Then, with a whisk, beat until smooth. 

4. In a stand mixer with a whip attachment, or with a hand beater, whip remaining cream and sugar just until soft peaks form; whip in the smoothed gelatin mixture, stopping to scrape the bowl twice. Whip until stiff peaks start to form, but be careful not to over beat. You will probably only need to whip it another 10-20 seconds before it's done.

Makes about two cups of flavored whipped cream


Recipe is easily doubled.


Flavored Stabilized Whipped Cream at 8:00 A.M.
Same whipped cream after sitting at room temperature (69 degrees) for four hours.




Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Crunchy Caramel Chocolate Chip Pecan Shortbread Cookies

 Crunchy Caramel Chocolate Chip Pecan Shortbread Cookies 

These little gems were born of a mistake, or rather, my inability to figure out on the first try how high a temperature to go to when I make caramel. Grrr. I have my candy thermometer in some boiling water right now to see if it's the thermometer's fault. I thought 240 degrees was the magic number, but that doesn't work sometimes. I probably need to try 230-235 again sometime soon, but I think I might need to use up my big bag of crunchy caramel crumble first. 
Anyway, I almost threw out the crunchy caramel, but somehow got the idea instead to grind it up in the food processor. What I ended up with was a half filled gallon sized zip top bag of Crunchy Caramel Crumble. Eaten with a spoon it tastes pretty good too. When I put it out to my Facebook and Instagram friends, I got some other good suggestions on what to do with the stuff. I have enough to implement all of the ideas eventually, but for now, I'm making these.
I've already made two batches of these cookies because I love them so much. They are a variation on the Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookie recipe I also have here on this blog, but the addition of the crunchy caramel crumble takes them to a new, even more delicious level. I prefer mine cooked to a deeper golden brown than what most people might like--it takes them to a slightly crunchier texture, rather than the tender feel of cookies with only slightly browned edges. Because the caramel crumble is made up of half pecans and half caramel, the cookies get infused with even more pecan flavor along with the distinct caramel flavor too. Love it.

Crunchy Caramel Chocolate Chip Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup butter,softened, but cool
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 ¼ cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ½ (heaping) cup chocolate chips, or, better yet, 12 Dove Dark Chocolate Promises, chopped
  • 1 cup Crunchy Caramel Crumble (see recipe below)
Instructions:
· Preheat oven to 325°F.
· Cream butter and sugar.
· Add vanilla and egg. 
· Sift dry ingredients together and add to mixture.
· Stir in nuts, chocolate chips or Dove Dark Chocolate chunks, and the caramel crumble.
· Drop tablespoon sized balls onto parchment-lined baking sheet (I used a cookie scoop), and press to flatten with a cookie stamp or bottom of glass dipped in flour or sugar. 
· Bake at 325°F for approximately 18 minutes.
· Remove to wire rack to cool.  Then store in an airtight container.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.



The crumble

Crunchy Caramel Crumble
    --If you don't want to go to these lengths to get this crumble, I think you could sub 1/2 cup toffee baking chips and 1/2 cup pecans and grind them together to make a slightly different crumble. I bet it will still taste good though.

Ingredients
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ tsp coarse salt
  • 2 cups lightly toasted pecans
  • seeds scraped from a 1-inch segment of vanilla bean pod
Instructions
1. Line an 8 x 8 inch baking dish with non-stick aluminum foil or parchment paper. Evenly spread 1 1/2 cups of the nuts in the bottom of prepared pan. Set aside.
2. Place remaining half cup of nuts and vanilla bean seeds in a small bowl and set aside.
3. In a large heavy saucepan, combine cream, corn syrup, sugar, brown sugar, butter, and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often.  Once it comes to a boil, cook without stirring until mixture reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer. (This is where I have my "problem." I think this temperature is too high for nice soft, chewy caramel, but I can't say for sure. This is what I did to get my crunchy caramel.)  Remove pan from heat.  Add remaining half cup of nuts and vanilla seeds, stirring well to combine.  Pour into prepared dish and run the spatula through the nuts to make sure caramel seeps into all crevices.  Allow to cool for 1-2 hours.
4. Once caramel is hard, cover with foil and then drop the pan's bottom onto a concrete surface to break the caramel up into manageable size pieces.
5. Process crunch caramel chunks in batches a food processor. Process until you get a coarse sand texture. Store crunch caramel crumbs in an airtight container. It makes a lot.



Saturday, February 8, 2014

Mini Cake Mix Scones



Mini Cake Mix Scones
Dressed up for Valentine's Day
I've had this white cake mix in my cupboard for a couple of months, just waiting to be made into some mini cake mix scones. I finally had the opportunity to make them the other morning when my school had a delayed start due to cold weather (yeah, it was maybe two degrees warmer after the two hours...). At any rate, I wanted to make these on a day I could take them to work or somehow share them because it makes a LOT of mini scones. Forty-eight to be exact. I did eat two of these, and that was plenty. I love them, but maybe too much. Better to have them out of the house. 
What I like about these is that they have all of the flavor of a yummy white cupcake, but without the sweetness. Their texture is that of a tender scone; and the butter and cream just make them all that much better. The sprinkles just make them look super cute.
The scones were gobbled up well before lunchtime at my school, and it made my teacher friends very happy. 
Oh, and I do have the recipe for the full size Cake Mix Scones on this blog too. It's really the same as the recipe here except for cutting the 12 scones into fourths. I could have just put a picture with the modification on that post, but I really wanted to feature these cuties all on their own.

Mini Cake Mix Scones

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups white cake mix
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, cold, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup rainbow nonpareils
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs
Glaze:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons half & half or whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon nonpareils for garnish
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Place cake mix and flour in a large bowl. Add cold butter chunks and cut in with a pastry blender or two knives, until mixture looks like coarse meal. Stir in 1/4 cup nonpareils.
On a work surface, sprinkle some flour and get large knife ready to cut scone dough.
Lightly beat the heavy cream with the 2 eggs in a small bowl. 
Pour liquid into dry ingredients and mix quickly with a silicone/rubber spatula until almost completely combined. Before the nonpareils bleed too much, turn dough out onto the floured work surface. Knead dough lightly so it holds together (your fingers will get quite gooey). 
Cut dough in half and one at a time, form each half into a disk about 3/4-inch thick. With your large knife, cut into 6 equal wedges. Cut each of those wedges into four triangles by cutting a little triangle out of the tip and then three from the remaining long piece. Place wedges on parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Move wedges around so they are evenly placed.
Bake at 400 degrees for 8-9 minutes, or until they start to brown on the bottom.
Remove from oven and move scones to a cooling rack to cool. Allow scones to cool almost completely before attempting to glaze.
Prepare glaze in a medium bowl by whisking together the powdered sugar, vanilla, and half & half/milk. Drizzle glaze over scones and then sprinkle with nonpareils, if desired.
Makes 48 mini scones
Hopefully you get the idea of how to cut them somewhat evenly.





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