Archive for October, 2012

Homemade Goldfish Crackers

October 25, 2012

I’m just gonna put it out there.  I’m awkward with kids.  I mean, I’m probably not as awkward as I think I am, but in my head, no one can be more awkward.  So when I was invited to a 2 year old’s birthday party, I had a slight panic attack.  Do I shake the kid’s hand?! (No, said my sister).  Do I bring a present?! (Of course, said my mom).  Do I just hand the gift to the kid when I get there?! (Do you know how little a 2 year old’s hands are, said my dad).  So I prepped and rehearsed and was semi ready.  But I also knew that I would have to do something that would impress the adults a bit more, because my interaction with the children just wasn’t going to cut it.

So I decided to make homemade goldfish crackers!  What could be better – a nostalgic, kid-friendly treat that’s made at home!  The other guests would be so impressed!  I had it in the bag.  And that’s when there was a fire in my oven.  I can’t tell you how it happened, but all I know was all of a sudden, there was so much smoke in my apartment that I couldn’t even find the oven door.  My little gold fishies ended up looking like this:

Not impressive.  The one batch that did survive was delicious.  Like little fish-shaped cheese pastries.  But I didn’t have enough to take to the party.  When the smoke cleared and the fire department left, I had no choice but to buy a baked good item in shame and take myself over to the party.  Turns out that kids are not that hard to please.  Laugh at them and they laugh back.  Make a funny face and you’re in.  The adults on the other hand, I owe them some homemade goldfish crackers.

Homemade Goldfish Crackers (slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Want to make other homemade nostalgic treats?  You have so many options!  How about some oreos?  Or graham crackers?  Soft pretzels?  Or my personal favorite – samoas!

1 1/2 cups shredded orange sharp cheddar
4 tablespoons butter, cold is fine, cut into cubes
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, running the machine until the dough forms a ball, about two minutes.  You can also do this by hand, like I did, if your food processor has temporarily decided to shut down, by cutting in the butter with a fork and kneading the dough until it comes together.

Chill the dough in the fridge for 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.

On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out 1/8-inch thick. Cut out shapes with cookie cutter, dipped in flour.  If you’re making goldfish, take a skewer and poke out an “eye” (this sounds violent – it’s really not), and with a toothpick, carve out a little smile.  Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.   Hope for no fires, and bake for 12 minutes, or until they are ever-so-slightly browned on the edges.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Sticky Buns

October 18, 2012

There are some foods that are on my baking wish list.  I have been really wanting to make a crepe cake lately.  Without reason, really, as I’ve never made a single crepe before.  Nor do I really love crepes (I know…gasp!).  Or obviously, I have been wanting to get on the French macaron bandwagon.  Which, I’m not going to lie about – I’ve tried to make several different times now, but each time they have melded into 1 single cookie sheet o’ macaron.  Which, as you may imagine, simply does not photograph well.

But the dish that I have been eyeing forever, and I really mean a long long time, has been cinnamon rolls.  I would always think that it would take too long, or it would be wasted effort.  But then I would just sit there, imagining what warm, homemade cinnamon rolls would taste like, and I would start bookmarking recipes all over again.  People, I have over 70 recipes of cinnamon rolls bookmarked.  And I haven’t tried a single one.  Intimidation, maybe?

Well, you will be happy to know that I conquered my fears!  And not even with cinnamon rolls – I did one better with sticky buns.  Caramel sauce!  Pecans!  Flipping the buns over before eating!  These are like the more popular version of their cinnamon roll cousin.  I basically rolled over (ha!  “rolled”) the breakfast of my dreams to make the dreamiest breakfast ever.  I haven’t deleted the 70 recipes yet, though – cinnamon rolls haven’t been crossed off the baking wish list quite yet.  Maybe after the crepe cake.

Sticky Buns (ever so slightly adapted Flour via Food Network)

For Caramel Sauce

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • scant 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For Buns

  • 1/2 recipe of Basic Brioche Dough, recipe follows
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped

To make the caramel sauce, melt the butter on the stove over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar, stirring, to combine. Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, and salt. Let cool for about 30 minutes, or until cooled to room temperature.

On a floured work surface, roll out the brioche into rectangle about 12 by 16 inches and 1/4-inch thick. Position the rectangle so a short side is facing you.

Stir together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and half of the pecans. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Starting from the short side farthest from you and working your way down, rolling tightly. Cut off the ends.

Cut the log into 8 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2-inches wide.

Pour the sauce into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, covering the bottom evenly. Sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly over the surface. Arrange the buns, cut side down, evenly spaced, in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm spot to proof until almost tripled in size, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350.  Bake until golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool in the dish on a wire rack for 20 minutes. One at a time, invert the buns onto a serving platter, and spoon any extra sauce and pecans from the bottom of the dish over the top.

For the Brioche (recipe directly from Flour via Food Network)

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 packages (3 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast o
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 3/8 cups (2 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 10 to 12 pieces

Using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water, and the eggs. Beat on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until all the ingredients are combined. Stop the mixer, as needed, to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Once the dough has come together, beat on low speed for another 3 to 4 minutes. The dough will be very stiff and seem quite dry.

With the mixer on low speed, add the butter, 1 piece at a time, mixing after each addition until it disappears into the dough. Continue mixing on low speed for about 10 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. It is important for all the butter to be thoroughly mixed into the dough. If necessary, stop the mixer occasionally and break up the dough with your hands to help mix in the butter.

Once the butter is completely incorporated, turn up the speed to medium and beat until the dough becomes sticky, soft, and somewhat shiny, another 15 minutes. It will take some time to come together. It will look shaggy and questionable at the start and then eventually it will turn smooth and silky. Turn the speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute. You should hear the dough make a slap-slap-slap sound as it hits the sides of the bowl. Test the dough by pulling at it; it should stretch a bit and have a little give. If it seems wet and loose and more like a batter than a dough, add a few tablespoons of flour and mix until it comes together. If it breaks off into pieces when you pull at it, continue to mix on medium speed for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until it develops more strength and stretches when you grab it. It is ready when you can gather it all together and pick it up in 1 piece.

Put the dough in a large bowl or plastic container and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the dough. Let the dough proof in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to overnight.  The dough will be ready to make sticky buns.  You can freeze the other half for up to 1 week.

Brioche with Apple Butter

October 11, 2012

Nope.  I wasn’t kidding.  The apple-fest continues.  And this apple butter recipe uses seven and a half pounds of apples, so, really can you blame me for making this?

The good thing is that this recipe isn’t so much about the apples as it is about the vehicle to eat the apples: brioche.  I have explained my woes with yeast in the past, and have even overcome some issues I’ve had with it.  But this had to be a no-fail situation for me.  It had to work.  I mean, brioche!  You know what I’m saying: sweet, eggy, buttery bread that’s light and fluffy and just perfect.  And once you master brioche, think about the possibilities: sticky buns, brioche filled with pastry cream, rolled in cinnamon sugar.  Yum.  I really thought that yeast would give me a break and let me win this one.

It did not.  My brioche did not rise.  It was neither light nor fluffy.  It was dense and crumbly and, dare I say, even slightly dry.

People, it was delicious.  The lesson of the day is, even though yeast may not be your friend, and may even hate you, if you use it in a recipe that also calls for 5 whole eggs and 3 sticks of butter, well, whatever you are making is just gonna be divine.  It was pound-cakey and sweet and just lovely.  Lightly toasted with a slather of apple butter, and you are simply in breakfast heaven.

Brioche

(recipe from Flour via Food Network)

I spent a good majority of a morning and afternoon making this brioche dough.  Spent another half day actually baking it.  And after all of that, still lost my ongoing battle with yeast.  So no, I will not be taking the time to rewrite the recipe here.  Because I’m tired!  And defeated!  (Even though the bread was quite tasty.)  The link will take you exactly where you need to be.  And you follow those directions and have faith that you will overpower the yeast.

The apple butter, on the other hand, did not take too long to make.  I lie, it took 6 hours.  Time consuming, but not labor intensive.  And with only several ingredients, I’m more than happy to type here.

And to continue with this tangential passage, you will be happy to know that even though my brioche did not turn out in the most…traditional of manners, this actually did not matter when turned it into an aforementioned brioche treat!  I speak from experience.  You just stay tuned.

Apple Butter

7-8 pounds of apples, a variety, peeled, cored and diced into 2 inch pieces

2 cups apple cider

scant 1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. all spice

In a large stock pot, cook the apples and apple cider on medium low to low heat for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.  The apples will create a lot of liquid, boil up and then settle.  Add sugar and spices, and continue to cook on low for an additional 3 hours until the apple butter turns a deep brown, caramel color.  Adjust spices and sweetness as necessary.  Blend with immersion blender, or let cool slightly and blend in blender.  Or do neither because you are tired from all the brioche making and apple picking and enjoy the slight chunkiness.

Apple Pie

October 4, 2012

As you may recall, the last time we went apple picking, I went a little overboard.  I get that it’s hard not to.  You drive 2 hours out of the way just to pick apples, you start picking them, and you just..can’t..stop.  This year, I swore that we would control ourselves.  Let’s enjoy the nice day!  Let’s sip on some apple cider!  Let’s just grab a few apples to munch on while we’re at the farm!  This, my friends, is what we came back with:

I mean, you honestly give up on the idea of controlling yourself as soon as you get to the farm.  You look at all the varieties of apples and just get giddy!  As you fill your bags and buckets, you start thinking about the amount of apples you’ll need for apple butter.  Then you think that putting some homemade applesauce in cakes is not a bad idea.  And then you imagine the apple cake that you will use the applesauce in.  …All recipes forthcoming.

For the time being, I went with the classic.  Juicy, sweet, spiced apples in an almondy, buttery crust.  I haven’t had apple pie in a while, and I’m now thinking that I may just use the rest of the apples to just keep making more.  Or maybe I’ll just go back to the farm.

Apple Pie (adapted from Simply Recipes)

For Crust:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1/2 cup almond flour, or finely ground almonds
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, chilled in freezer for at least 15 minutes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp. ice cold water

For Filling:

  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 pounds apples, peeled and cored, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Crust: Place all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Roughly mix to incorporate.  Distribute the butter evenly into the dry ingredients and mix together with two forks, rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is the size of peas.  Drizzle the water over the dough and quickly fold together until a dough forms together.  If it still seems too dry, add another tablespoon of water.  Quickly form into a ball, and split in half to form 2 discs.  Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for about an hour.

For Filling: Mix together the apples, sugars, spices, flour, lemon juice, and vanilla, until everything is well combined, and every piece of apple is coated.  Set aside.

Arrange an oven rack to the bottom third of oven.  Preheat oven to 375.  Take both discs of dough out of the oven.  Using a floured surface and floured rolling pin, carefully roll out one disc to about an 11 or 12 inch circle.  Carefully lift into pie pan and press down on bottom and sides of pan.

Fill the bottom crust with pie filling, spreading evenly.  Roll out second disc of crust, to the same size as first.  Gently lay on top of filling, crimping the edges of the pan.  Cut slits on top pit crust, allowing the steam to escape.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.  Turn the oven down to 350, and bake for another 1 hour to 1 hour, 15 minutes, until the top crust is golden brown.  Let pie cool for 3-4 hours before cutting into it.