Thursday, December 27, 2012

Flaky Apple Turnovers

Yummy flaky apple turnovers
When I was growing up, my dad liked to have some sort of dessert every night. It could be just about anything, as long as it was sweet: frozen snack-size Snickers candy bars, orange sherbet, ice cream, Drumsticks, cookies, whatever. My dad never has been super picky with his desserts. There was one period of time, around the 80s, that my mom would buy Pepperidge Farms Apple Turnovers to bake for my dad for dessert. (I think I've already mentioned this in my Puff Pastry post.) I loved that puff pastry and I still marvel at its magic, puffing up to at least 3 times its original thickness, all thanks to sneaky little layers of butter. Ah-mazing.
Well, I've been making a lot of Jaarsma's Dutch letters as of late, and although the pastry for that is not a classic puff pastry, it works just as well, and it's way easier to make. Of course, I thought about those amazing apple turnovers, and now that I'm on Christmas break, I decided to make them, and here they are. They don't look exactly like Pepperidge Farms, but they're just as delicious and I made them all by myself. I like that I can freeze these unbaked so I don't have to worry about overeating or throwing away stale leftovers. 
These are super good, so if you're willing to put in the time to make the pastry, they will be well worth it. Trust me.

Flaky Apple Turnovers

  • 4 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (1 pound) cold butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1 batch of apple filling (recipe below)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar mixed with 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream & 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, for icing, if desired
In a large bowl, stir together the flour and the salt. Cut cold butter into half-inch slices and add to the flour mixture. Toss until butter pieces are coated with flour and separated from each other.
Stir egg and ice water together and then pour all at once into the flour/butter mixture. Using a spoon quickly mix until you see no obvious wet spots. Butter will still be in large pieces and "dough" will be in shaggy bits and there will still be lots of flour that's not mixed in yet.
Turn the dough out onto a large sheet of parchment paper (or a lightly floured pastry cloth if you have one). Knead the dough ten times or so by pressing and pushing dough together, using the parchment between your hands and the dough, to form a rough square shape. Using a little extra flour for the rolling pin, roll dough into a 15x10 inch rectangle. Fold 2 short sides to meet in the center. Bring the top edge down to meet the bottom edge to form 4 layers. You will now have a long rectangle about 7 1/2 by 5 inches.
Repeat rolling and folding process once more. Wrap dough in the parchment paper you're using, and then wrap that in plastic wrap. Chill dough for 20-30 minutes. Repeat rolling and folding process two more times, and then chill the dough another 20 minutes before forming turnovers.
Once dough is chilled, and the filling is cooled, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut dough into 4 equal pieces. Refrigerate remaining pieces while you work with one piece at a time.
Roll the fourth of dough out into a 11x11 inch square. Trim the sides with a pizza cutter to "square it up" and made the edges clean.* Cut the large square into four equal squares. Moisten two adjacent sides of one of the squares and scoop about 1/3 cup of apple filling into the middle. Fold the square into a triangle and press edges slightly to create an initial seal. Then take a fork and go around the seams and press firmly to seal. Then take a sharp knife and poke 2 or 3 vents in the top of the triangle. Repeat with remaining squares.
Place turnovers onto the parchment-lined, leaving about 2 inches between turnovers. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20-22 minutes, or until puffed and deep golden brown on the tops and bottoms. 
Remove to a wire rack to cool. When turnovers have cooled about 10-15 minutes, you can drizzle them lightly with icing, or eat them as is.

NOTE: Unbaked turnovers can be frozen on a parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet. When frozen solid, place turnovers in a large zip-top bag for later baking. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until puffed and deep golden brown on tops and bottoms.

*You can bake the scraps up just for fun and snacking...or you can freeze them for the next time you make Chicken Pot Pie Soup and you can eat that with the soup instead of the pie crust. YUM!

Makes 16 turnovers

Unbaked Apple Turnover

Apple Filling

  • 4 medium granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 cups water (or 1 cup water + 1 cup apple juice)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar 
  • 3 T cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

In a large bowl, toss diced apple with lemon juice and set aside.  Pour water (or water + apple juice) into a high-rimmed saute pan over medium heat.  Combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt, & nutmeg.  Add to liquid in pan, stir well, and bring to a boil.  Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add apples and return to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until apples are tender, about 10-12 minutes.  Stir in raisins. Transfer to a heat-proof bowl and cool completely before using.

Monday, December 24, 2012

"Candy Cane" Cookies

"Candy Cane" Cookies
Okay. It's time to blog about the legendary Candy Cane Cookie. First of all, don't let the name fool you: these cookies are not minty at all. Actually, they're barely even sweet. My mother-in-law usually makes these every Christmas, but this year I decided to take them on because I wanted to blog about them, and because I wanted to finally see what went into these cookies. Over the 22 years my husband and I have been together, I've eaten these cookies every Christmas we've lived near his mom. They're a bit of a joke to my husband, and, well, to the rest of us too. My sister-in-law has always loved them and I too now look forward to them each year. They taste like Christmas to me now. I can't say I recommend this recipe to most people, but if they interest you even after I describe them, then perhaps you might want to give them a try.
The Candy Cane Cookie is what I would call an oatmeal shortbread. As you can see, there's barely any sugar in the cookie itself, so most of the sweetness comes from the small bit of red icing on top. The texture varies from year to year, but when I made these today, they turned out nice and tender. Not soft, but easy to bite into and a bit on the dry side (that's the way I like them, though). They're somewhat buttery and the vanilla flavor really comes through. All in all, I'd say if you're a shortbread fan, and you're not big on sweets, these might be the cookie for you. If you do try them out, please let me know so that I can get an outsider's perspective on these odd little cookies that I have come to love.

"Candy Cane" Cookies

  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons half and half or milk
  • red food coloring
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
I large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment), cream the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and water. Add the oats, salt, and flour and mix just until completely combined.
Scoop about 2 tablespoons of dough into your hand and roll it like you would a wad of Playdough into a snake shape that is about 3 1/2 to 4 inches long. Place on prepared cookie sheet and form into a hook. Leave about 1 inch between candy canes. When pan is full, bake at 325 degrees for about 20-22 minutes, or until edges start to brown.
Remove from oven and move cookies to cooling rack to cool completely.

When cookie are cool, prepare frosting. In a small bowl, stir the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of half and half/milk. Add more sugar or milk as needed to achieve a pipe-able consistency. Add food coloring and stir. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small round tip, or just transfer to a small zip-top baggie and snip away about 1/8 inch of a corner.
Pipe icing onto cookies, trying to make them look like candy canes with red stripes. As you can see, I didn't achieve perfection on mine.

Makes about 30 cookies.

Unbaked Candy Cane Cookie
Baked and unfrosted Candy Cane Cookie

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies
I've already got plenty of chocolate chip cookie recipes that work great for me. Sometimes I like them small and crisp, sometimes I like them thick and cakey, and sometimes I like them dense and chewy with some crispiness around the edges. I think this chocolate chip cookie is like that: It's got a lot of chew and a lot of chocolate and it's got a buttery crisp edge. Very nice. 
I wasn't really looking for a new chocolate chip cookie recipe, but if you spend enough time on Pinterest, you get sucked into some amazing looking pics of chocolate chip cookies that take you down another rabbit hole of cookie baking. This rabbit hole was worth it. I used a whole two bags of Dove Dark Chocolate Promises on this recipe, so it had better be worth it, right? 
I'll have to take some better pics of these, but for now, the ones I have will do. If you're looking for a generally great chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe, look no further.  For Me-For You got it right when she called this "The Only Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe I Will Need to Know For the Rest of My Life." I don't know if I'd go THAT far, but if you're looking for that ONE awesome recipe, use this one.

Jaques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies
       --adapted from For Me-For You who in a roundabout way got it from Jacques Torres

  • 2 cups minus 2 Tbsp. cake flour 
  • 1 2/3 cups bread flour (I used King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour)
  • 1 ¼ tsp. baking soda

  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder

  • 1 ½ tsp. coarse salt, such as kosher

  • 2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 ¼ cups packed light brown sugar

  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp.  granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs
 (room temperature)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 20 oz. good quality semi sweet chocolate chips/chunks/discs (I used 2 9.5 oz bags of Dove Dark Chocolate Promises, unwrapped an chopped into large chunks.)
  • Sea salt or kosher salt for garnishing
Combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Put dry ingredients through a sieve to sift them together. Set aside.
Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until very light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low/stir; then add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined. Add the chocolate chips, and mix briefly to incorporate. Place in an airtight plastic container, and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Once chilled, you can bake or scoop dough balls to freeze for later baking.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the bowl of dough from the refrigerator, and allow it to soften slightly. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
Now here is where you have to decide what size to make the cookies (unless you made the balls earlier for freezing). I used a medium sized Pampered Chef cookie scoop, which is probably about 3 tablespoons. Bigger is probably better with these cookies. (For Me-For You used a 1/3 measuring cup for hers.) Place scoops onto parchment lined cookie sheets and leave about 2 inches between cookies. Sprinkle each dough ball with a little bit of sea salt or kosher salt. Bake cookies for12-14 minutes or until puffed and browned at the edges. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies onto the rack to cool a bit more. 
Enjoy with a tall glass of cold milk. Mmmm...

I'm not sure yet how many cookies this makes.

Lots of chocolate. LOTS.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chex Scotchy Muddy Buddies

Chex Scotchy Muddy Buddies
What do I do on a snow day five days before Christmas? I bake. I make things with the ingredients in my house. I stay cozy. Today I made these Chex Scotchy Muddy Buddies. I had the milk and butterscotch chips from Scotcheroos last month, and I had the Chex from Crispy Caramelized Chex Mix last week. So... with a whole day on my hands, I decided to bake up a new batch of Dutch Letter sticks to pass out for Christmas. And then I made these Scotchy Muddy Buddies. I love the flavor of scotcheroos, so I thought that this would be a natural and delicious thing to make. 
I like these, but as with most muddy buddies, they're delicious, but pretty sweet, so I'll be taking these to work tomorrow as a little dessert for our pizza we're all planning to have for lunch on our last day before winter break.  Good times.

Chex Scotchy Muddy Buddies

  • 9 cups Chex cereal (rice and/or corn)
  • 1/2 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
Place Chex cereal in a very large bowl. In a microwave safe bowl, place the butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir for a couple of minutes to melt the chips the rest of the way. If they are not melting very well, you can microwave it on high for another 20-30 seconds. Stir until smooth.
Pour chocolate mixture over the Chex in the large bowl and stir/fold carefully with a rubber/silicone spatula making sure to evenly coat all of the cereal. 
Pour half of the powdered sugar into an extra large zip top plastic bag or a large paper grocery bag. Pour in the coated cereal. Pour in the rest of the powdered sugar. Seal bag or fold top of paper bag twice and carefully shake/jiggle until cereal is evenly coated with the powdered sugar.
Store in an airtight container.
Makes 9 cups

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ants On a Log

Ants On a Log
If you look around this blog long enough, you'll probably notice a glaring lack of vegetable dishes. Vegetables are not a favorite, and they are the part of a meal where I fall apart. Growing up, I don't think I ever ate celery with peanut butter. My mom might have, but I was super duper picky, and I was not forced to eat too many vegetables. Just enough to keep me alive. My son Ezra introduced these to me after they made them in his first grade class, I think. He was so excited about them and loved them so much, he asked me to make them at home. So, every time I buy celery (like I did the other day for meatloaf), Ezra asked me to make him ants on a log. I made one for myself too, and was reminded that they are, in fact, delicious. The celery is crisp and fresh, the peanut butter salty, sweet, and creamy, and the raisins are sweet and chewy. This snack has everything, AND it's pretty healthy. Right? Well, it passes for super healthy around these parts.
I'm blogging about them mostly to remind the rest of you about this healthy and tasty snack option.

Ants On a Log

  • Celery stalks
  • Peanut butter (or cashew butter or Sunbutter...)
  • Raisins
Wash, dry, trim and cut celery stalks into 4-6 inch sticks. Use about 1 teaspoon peanut butter per celery stick and spread into the "hollow" area. Use more or less to fit or meet your preference. Top peanut butter filled celery sticks with 4-6 raisins at regular intervals.
Enjoy your relatively healthy snack!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gluten Free Cheese "Crackers"

Gluten Free Cheese "Crackers"
as tasty as the original

I've had a couple of jars of Kraft Old English Cheese Spread burning a hole in my cupboard since before Thanksgiving. It was around that time that I decided to force my older son into a very gluten-limited existence in the hope of clearing his brain/emotional fog (it's been working, by the way), and now that I've found Better Batter Gluten Free Flour, I thought I'd try it in my Cheese Crackers ala Marilyn recipe. The results: they taste FABULOUS. Max, though, who normally likes the cheese crackers, didn't really care for them. That's okay, because Ezra and I gobbled them up through the course of the day. I had to microwave mine for a few seconds, but, mmmm...mmmm...mmmm. They were salty, chewy, cheesy, crisp around the edges--PERFECT. They spread a little more than the original, but that may have been due to me inadvertently adding a little too much butter. I do that sometimes. Anyway, another gluten free success, even though my gluten free buddy didn't want to eat them.
I'm going to have to do some regular recipes here soon. I seem to be on an extended gluten free kick here.

Gluten Free Cheese "Crackers"

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick foil. (I think they can also be baked on an ungreased cookie sheet, but it's been a long time since I've done it that way.)
In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix the cheese spread, softened butter, and salt with a spoon.
Stir in flour until incorporated.
Scoop about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the dough and roll it into a ball.  Place balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees for 11-12 minutes, or until edges are browned and cheese crackers are puffed and starting to brown on top.  Remove to a plate and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before attempting to eat.
Makes about 18 cheese crackers, depending on how big you make them.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gluten Free Asiago Cheese Bagels

Gluten Free Asiago Cheese Bagels

These have the perfect bagel texture.
Without going into too much detail and specifics about my son's "condition," I'm trying to limit my older son's gluten intake again. One of his very favorite (and disastrous) gluten-y eats is the asiago cheese bagels they have at church every Sunday morning. For the past month or so, I've had to deny my poor kid the joy of eating his half bagel on Sunday morning, because it just made him too weird come Monday at school. 
I tried a frozen gluten-free bagel a couple of weeks ago, and it was so bad, I had to spit it out. It was awful. Just awful. (Side note, my other son actually LIKED that nasty bagel and asked me to prep another one for him. It really makes me question all of the times the kid has told me I'm the "best cooker in the world." Hmmmm...)
Now that I've found Better Batter Gluten Free flour, I feel like experimenting more, and I was very excited to try a gluten free bagel. My gluten-limited son says these bagels are "weird, but good."
"What do you mean by 'weird'?"
"Um...uh. It tastes kinda funny, and chewy and fluffy, but good. In a cheesy bread kind of way."
We'll see if he finishes the others I placed in the freezer. 
(As for my other son, he LOVES them.)
The flavor here definitely isn't that of a wheat bagel, but my son, who knows asiago bagels, doesn't mind. I actually slice these for him, butter the cut faces, sprinkle with garlic salt, and broil in the oven, sort of like the Toasty Parmesan Garlic Bagels I love so much.
The first time I made these, I made 8 bagels from the recipe, but I think that made them too big and dense, and they didn't bake thoroughly. So the next time, I divided the dough into twelfths, and they turned out perfectly, as you can see in the pics. 
P.S. The second batch of these bagels have REALLy gone over well with my gluten-limited son. He's already breezed through this batch in less than a week, so I will be making them again this weekend. does my mom's heart good to know my son has a replacement for his beloved Sunday morning cheese bagels, AND he can enjoy them any day of the week! 

Gluten Free Asiago Cheese Bagels
     --adapted from

  • 4 cups Better Batter Gluten Free flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) instant yeast
  • 2 1/4 cups warm water
  • Better Batter Flour, for rolling
  • Water plus sugar for the water bath (1 Tbsp per 2 quarts)
  • 5 ounces grated asiago cheese, preferably good quality*
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
Mix all dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attchment. Add the water and molasses mix on low until the mixture resembles very sticky play-doh.
Lightly flour a flat work surface (it should barely be covered with a fine film of flour). Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces.
Gently roll the dough balls on the floured work surface until they’re smooth. Flatten each ball ito a disk, about 3 inches by 1 1/2 inches thick.
Very gently, with floured hands, poke a hole into the center of the dough an work it until the hole is about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Repeat with all the dough. Let the bagels rise for 40-50 minutes, or until puffed (they won't double in size).
Heat a pan full of water, at least 3 inches deep to boiling. Add about a tablespoon of sugar per 2 quarts of water. Drop two or three bagels in at a time. They swell quite a bit as they boil, so don't crowd them.
Boil for 2 minutes, turn over, and boil for another 1-2 minutes.
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain a little on a paper towel. Place back on parchment paper. When one sheet of bagels has been boiled, carefully place about 2 tablespoons of cheese around each bagel. If some falls into the center, that's fine. It makes a nice cheesy center. Place in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until well browned and puffed.
Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Let cool completely before slicing.

Makes 12 bagels

*I say use a "good quality" asiago cheese because the ones you see pictured here were made with Target's Archer Farms brand asiago cheese. I tried Target's Market Pantry brand last time (which was also pre-shredded, as opposed to the Archer Farms chunk), and the Market Pantry asiago cheese turned a deep mahogany color. Still edible, but not as delicious as the previous ones.

Bagels set to rise
Boilin' some bagels.
I tried adding about 3 tablespoons of baking soda
to the boiling water to make these bagels
more pretzel-like. I don't think it changed the flavor,
but they do look nice, in my opinion.

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