Saturday, December 31, 2011

Yeast Biscuits

Yeast, or Angel, Biscuits
I just felt like making a different kind of biscuit for breakfast today.  I felt this last night, and that's when I started looking for recipes on the internet.  I halved the recipe I found at The Fresh Loaf, and it made about 13 biscuits.  I think I could have put in 14, but I sort of ran out of room in my skillet.
These biscuits really are a yeast roll-biscuit hybrid.  They are very soft and pillowy on the inside,  with a slightly crisp exterior right out of the oven.  The crumb is tender, but there's a density and chew that are distinctly yeasty.  They smell heavenly, which is perhaps where they got their name.  I've eaten three already just to have something to say here.  I might need another if I want to write more.

Angel Biscuits
     Adapted from The Fresh Loaf

  • 2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
Mix dry ingredients together.  Cut in butter until well mixed.  Add buttermilk and dissolved yeast all at once.  Stir until all flour is moistened.  Store in container in refrigerator 2-24 hours before using. 
Preheat oven to 400°F.  On floured board, roll out dough to 1" thickness and cut with 2 inch biscuit cutter.  Place cut biscuits in a large cast iron skillet, preferably preheated as well. Brush with melted butter.  Bake at 400°F for 12-18 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes about 12-14 biscuits

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Fresh baked croissants.
This croissant was enjoyed with some Nutella.

The first time I made croissants, I think I was in high school.  It was a warm summer day, and they turned out flat and greasy.  Very disappointing.  I don’t think I tried them again until I moved to Iowa, at which point I was an adult with a Kitchen-Aid mixer and about 15 more years of baking and cooking under my belt. 
I was preparing for the Iowa State Fair food competition, and I wanted to make a cinnamon roll with croissant dough.  I must have tried during cooler weather, because they actually came out pretty good.  Not awesome, but not flat and greasy either.  I eventually won first place for a non-traditional cinnamon roll made with croissant dough, and in the process, I’ve honed my croissant-making skills.  I’ve also won ribbons for these butter croissants and chocolate croissants.  Now, they don’t seem like a tricky big deal.  They still do take a lot of time, but most of that time is time the dough is in the fridge.  Actual hands-on time doesn’t amount to much, so once you get the hang of them, they're pretty easy.  
In the process of learning to easily make croissants, I’ve discovered some things that I’ll pass along here:
1. If you’ve read other croissant recipes, you’ve probably seen the instructions about making a “butter square” that you either freeze or refrigerate and then envelope in your dough.  Somewhere along the way, I found a recipe that called for beating cool butter with a little flour and spreading it over two thirds of the rolled out dough.  I’ve found that this method works for me, as the butter square method produced nuggets of butter that created pools of butter that my croissants would fry in.  Gross.  I’m certain that there are tons of bakers out there who can successfully pull of the butter square, but I am not one of them.
2. Make sure your kitchen isn't too warm.  Wintertime is fine if your house is about 70 degrees, but in the summertime, the heat and humidity will mess with the dough.  I suggest keeping your house cold if you’re doing this during warm weather.
3.  Go the extra mile and use UNsalted butter for this recipe.  It makes a difference.
4.  The dough isn't as delicate as you'd think.  Don't be afraid of it.
5.  Make sure the butter you fold into the dough isn't too soft and that your dough is cold.  It keeps the butter from breaking through.
6.  A couple of handy tools are a quilting ruler (not sure of the official name, but it's big and plastic) a pizza cutter, and a clean, dry pastry brush to brush off excess flour.
7.  You can prepare the dough, and even shape the croissants, the night before you want to bake them.  The dough and/or the shaped croissants can do a slow rise in the fridge over night.  If you’ve shaped the croissants the night before, pull them out of the fridge while the oven preheats for 30-40 minutes.


  • 1 ¼ cups milk, cold
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold, but not hard
  • 1 T unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg plus 1 tsp water, beaten
1.  Whisk 3 cups flour together with the yeast, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.  Place the milk in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Add the flour mixture and kneed at low speed until a ball of dough forms.  Cut the 2 T butter into small pieces and add to the dough.  Continue to knead until the butter becomes fully incorporated and the dough becomes smooth, begins to form a ball, and clears the sides of the bowl.  Add up to ¼ cup more flour, one tablespoon at a time if the dough is too sticky.  Place dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour.
2. Place the 2 ½ sticks of butter and 1 T flour into the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment.  Beat until butter is uniformly smooth and creamy. 
3. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface.  Roll dough into 10 x 14-inch rectangle.  Spread butter evenly over the bottom 2/3 of the rectangle.  Fold unbuttered third onto the middle third.  Dust off any excess flour with a clean, dry pastry brush.  Then fold that onto the bottom third.  Seal edges with side of your hand.
4. Gently roll the dough into about a 7 x 12-inch rectangle, and fold into thirds again.  Roll out again into a 10 x 14 inch rectangle.  Make sure that the butter doesn’t break through.  IF it does, sprinkle with flour.  Fold into thirds so you have a long rectangle.  Fold once more so you have a chubby square or rectangle.  Wrap loosely in wax paper or plastic wrap and place in an unsealed gallon size zip top bag.  Refrigerate for about 1 hour.
6. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place chilled dough on a floured surface and gently roll dough into a 20-inch square.  Using a pizza cutter and ruler, cut the dough into two equal rectangles.  Cut each rectangle into thirds widthwise and then into triangles to make a total of 12 triangles.
7.  Form each croissant by taking a triangle , hold the base in one hand, and the tip in another.  Gently stretch into an isosceles triangle with two sides equal in length.  With the base closest to you, cut a 1-inch slit into the center of the base of each triangle.  Fold the two sides of the slit outward and then with both ands, roll the triangle from the base, gently stretching the dough as you roll, leaving ¼ inch of the tip unrolled.  Transfer the croissants to the prepared baking sheets, facing the croissant tips downward.  Bring the ends of the croissants toward each other to form a crescent shape. Cover the croissants loosely with plastic wrap.  Let them rise at room temperature until puffy, about 45-60 minutes.  (They will not double in size.)
8.  Preheat the oven to 400°F.  When croissants are done rising, place one baking sheet in the refrigerator while you bake the first one.  Brush the croissants with the beaten egg.  Bake until croissants are golden brown, 18-20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet front to back halfway through baking.  Cool the croissants on a wire rack at least 15 minutes.

The croissant on the left was cut from a long strip of dough,
creating isosceles triangles (see below),
and the one on the right was cut from a rectangle
that was cut into two triangles.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mascarpone Frosting Filled Chocolate Wafers

Mascarpone Frosting Filled Chocolate Wafers
The FAMOUS Nabisco Chocolate Wafers
I've been looking for these Nabisco Chocolate Wafers for what feels like a long time, to no avail.  Now that it's the holiday season, though, they all of a sudden show up on the shelves of every grocery store I go to.  Odd, but good.  
The reason I've been looking for them is because I've wanted to make this simple dessert that was brought to my school for us teachers one parent-teacher conference night a few years ago.  All this parent did was put dollops of sweetened whipped cream between Nabisco Chocolate Wafers.  There were three wafers and two layers of whipped cream in these things.  The lovely thing about them, aside from the deep chocolate flavor contrasted with the light creaminess of the whipped cream, was that the wafers were not crisp at all, but soft, like an ice cream sandwich.  So, it was like eating a small, light ice cream sandwich.  Mmmmm.  
Of course, I can't leave well enough alone, so my first batch of these babies have been made with the mascarpone frosting I've used in my whoopie pies and my chocolate birthday cake.  Oh my goodness.  Just as delicious as I'd anticipated.  Thick sweet creaminess from the mascarpone frosting, and tender chocolate flavor from the wafers.  This dessert is so easy and so quick.  I'll be doing this again.

Mascarpone Frosting Filled Chocolate Wafers

  • 1 box Nabisco Chocolate Wafers
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
 In a mixer bowl, cream mascarpone, vanilla extract & sugar.  Add cream and whip on high until stiff.  
Scoop frosting into a sturdy zip-top bag.  Snip off 1/2 inch from one corner.  Evenly squeeze about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons frosting on the bottom of a wafer and then gently top with another wafer.  Repeat until you've used all the wafers.  
Makes 20 sandwiches.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chocolate-Dipped Caramels

Chocolate Dipped Caramels
These are great.  I want to eat them all.  It's late, and I just wanted to complete this post.  I'll write more another day. 

Chocolate-Dipped Nut Caramels

  • 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
  • 1 cup walnuts, pecans, almonds, or macadamia nuts toasted
  • seeds scraped from a 1-inch segment of vanilla bean pod
  • 9 ounces of good milk chocolate, tempered (I like to use Dove Milk Chocolate) 
1. Line an 8 x 8 inch baking dish with non-stick aluminum foil.  Set aside.
2. 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.  Remove pan from heat.  Add nuts and vanilla seeds, stirring well to combine.  Pour into prepared dish.  Allow to cool for 1-2 hours.
3. Using foil as handles, lift caramel from dish.  Remove foil, and place caramel on a cutting board. Cut into 1-inch squares. (I like to use a pizza cutter and a plastic quilting ruler as a guide to get perfect squares.)
4. Line a flat cookie sheet with wax paper or parchment paper.  Melt chocolate over double boiler, and temper it.  Drop 3-4 caramel cubes into the chocolate at a time, and remove with two forks, tapping one fork on the other to remove excess chocolate.  Place carefully on prepared cookie sheet.  When all caramels are coated, set aside and allow chocolate to firm up at room temperature.
Makes 64 caramels.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Crunchy Peanut Butter Balls

Crunchy Peanut Butter Balls
I think I originally got this recipe from, but I don't know for sure if this is the right link. I've modified it a little bit because they were much too sweet with all the sugar called for. These are things I only make at Christmastime, mostly because they're pretty labor intensive with all the chocolate dipping. People love them, though, and they did win a blue ribbon at the 2008 Iowa State Fair.  
I love these for their crunch. You get the peanut crunch from the peanuts in the crunchy peanut butter, but you also get a finer crispy kind of crunch from the graham cracker crumbs. Of course, they are peanut buttery, and the chocolate just rounds out the flavor and texture and makes it all just fabulous. If you're looking for a peanut butter ball recipe, I think this is one of the best. 

Crunchy Peanut Butter Balls

  • 1 ½ cups chunky peanut butter
  • 3 T creamy peanut butter
  • 1 stick of butter, softened, but cool
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 cups milk chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (only if not tempering chocolate)
  •  1/3 cup salted peanuts, halved, for garnish (optional)
1. Mix together peanut butter, butter, powdered sugar, and graham cracker crumbs.  Shape into 1-inch balls.  Refrigerate for about 1 hour.
2.  Melt chocolate chips and shortening in top of double boiler (or melt and temper the chocolate). Dip balls into chocolate and set on waxed paper.  (Use a toothpick to poke and dip each ball, or else use two forks.) Garnish with a ½ peanut on top.  Allow chocolate to firm up before serving.
Makes about 56 balls

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Coconut Pecan Caramel Corn

I do have more pressing things to do with my time, like lesson planning, laundry, cleaning, etc.

But as I do some of those things, my mind wanders to possible yummy things I could make. As I was cleaning off my kitchen counters today, I found some leftover toasted coconut I had from my last batch of Nanaimo Bars, and I didn't want to throw it away. So I decided to add it, and even more coconut and chopped pecans to a batch of caramel corn: Coconut Pecan Caramel Corn.
It tastes great, but I'll have to tweak the recipe a little since a lot of the coconut & pecans didn't stick very well. They still taste good scooped up by themselves, but I wanted it stuck to the caramel corn.

This caramel corn is just another fun way to eat myself silly.

Coconut Pecan Caramel Corn

  • 1 C brown sugar 
  • 1 stick butter 
  • 1/4 C light corn syrup 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 4-6 quarts plain popped popcorn (I pop mine on the stove with some canola oil; air-popped is good too) 
  • 1 cup flake coconut 
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans, lightly toasted Instructions

Preheat oven to 250°.

Put brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt into a microwave safe dish. Microwave on high until butter is mostly melted and then stir to combine ingredients. Bring to a boil by cooking on high for about 2 minutes. Remove and stir to combine all ingredients; then stir in baking soda.

Put popcorn into a huge bowl and top with coconut and chopped pecans. Pour above syrup stuff over popcorn, coconut & nuts, and mix thoroughly. Spread popcorn onto two non-stick cookie sheets. Bake at 250° for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, rotating pans between top and bottom shelves. Remove from oven. Allow to cool completely on pans and then move to an airtight container.

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