Challah Sandwich Buns

I don’t really buy store-bought sandwich buns anymore.

In the first place, if you’re looking at the popular batch-bake hamburger buns from the popular name brands, you’ll notice that the bread itself is oftentimes soft, without much or any sturdiness to it. This may be fine for others, but I personally hate it when the moisture from my proteins seeps down into the bun and makes it soggy, making the whole thing not only hard to handle, but also less than pleasant to eat.

My preference for sandwiches are enriched bread doughs; the ones made with a sturdy, somewhat dense crumb that have a crusty exterior. They’re perfect for holding up to moisture and holding plenty of fixing. Plus, rather than just being the vessel for the filling, they can often be just as delicious all on their own.

A standard bread dough needs nothing more than flour, yeast, salt and water. Enriched bread doughs add things like eggs, butter and milk to ‘enrich’ the dough, often giving it more body, flavor and texture. Challah has become my go-to enriched bread to make. It has a relatively easy process in comparison to other enriched doughs, and the ingredients are often always on hand in my house. While it’s often shaped into loaves, as an enriched dough with a sturdy, somewhat dense crumb, I also figured that it would work well as a sandwich bun.

I’ve had the same go-to Challah recipe for several years now, so when it came time for me to put these together, I didn’t bother sampling out a new one. The only changes that I made to the recipe was in the actual shaping. I divided the dough up into individual sandwich buns, keeping things simple when it came to both the flavors and the appearance.

I have to say, these are everything I want in a sandwich bun. Challah has a sturdy, somewhat dense crumb structure to it that is perfect for absorbing moisture from sandwich proteins and condiments, but still holding together perfectly; even more so when you toast it, as is my standard practice. The egg wash on the top gives it that much more body. Plus, as a I said, it’s a pretty delicious bread in and of itself, so I find myself appreciating both the inside and the outside of the sandwich rather than just looking at the bread as the vessel for the filling.

Wear a mask. Socially distance. Get the vaccine when it’s your turn. Be kind.

Challah Sandwich Buns

Recipe Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Coarse salt, for sprinkling

Directions

In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over barely warm water. Sprinkle the tablespoon of white sugar over that. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until frothy.

Beat in honey, oil, 2 eggs, and salt. Add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating to kneading with hands as dough thickens. (You may not need all of it, this depends on location and time of year) Knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed.

Place dough inside a large and greased mixing bowl. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap, then a damp clean cloth and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in bulk.


Punch down the risen dough and turn out onto floured board or a pastry mat. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Roll/stretch out dough to a square that is about 1 1/2 inch thick. Use a cookie cutter, a glass cup or a small bowl with a sharpish edge that is about 3 inches wide in diameter to cut out circles of buns from the dough and place them on two sheet pans you’ve lined with parchment paper. Repeat until you’ve used it all up. (The scraps can be rerolled and/or shaped into extras)

Cover the buns with plastic wrap and a damp cloth and allow to rise until puffy and grown in size, about 30-45 minutes.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).


Beat the remaining egg and brush a generous amount over each bun. Sprinkle the tops with coarse sea salt, if desired. Using a very sharp knife dipped in water, quickly make diagonal slashes into the tops of the buns, to make an X shape.


Bake for about 20-30 minutes. After the first ten minutes, Keep an eye out on the tops to make sure they aren’t browning too quickly; cover with a sheet of foil if so.

Challah is done at an inner temp of 195 degrees fahrenheit. Bread should have a nice hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Cool the buns on a wire rack for at least one hour.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #375

How To Make: Biscuits

So, right off rip, I’m letting you guys know there’s no new recipes being posted today.

Instead, I’m going try something a little bit different. A few weeks back, I made a remark about my propensity for posting biscuit recipes on the blog, and that one of these days I really should get around to making a “How to” themed post solely dedicated to my personal process of making biscuits.

Consider this One of These Days.

Biscuits are a recipe that around roughly 7-8 years ago, I had little to no idea what I was doing with. All I knew was that they were one of my favorite foods, and I wanted to learn how to bake them and bake them well.

7-8 years later, and while I’m no master baker, what I can say in all honesty is that biscuits are something I’m extremely good at making. I’ve been to a lot of restaurants and tried a lot of other biscuits made by other people; I prefer my own, 100% of the time. This came about through a LOT of research, recipe reading/comparisons, and even more trial & error. It’s taken me a while but I do finally feel as though I’ve worked out a personal, tried-and true technique for biscuit-making, and I thought that I would the opportunity to share it here with all of you.

Essential Ingredients:

  1. Flour: You can’t make biscuits without flour, and the best tasting biscuits do largely depend upon the flour being used. The better the flour, the better the biscuit. I have had the best results in texture when using 2 flours in particular: King Arthur Unbleached All-purpose Flour and White Lily All-Purpose Flour. White Lily All Purpose Flour is only available in certain parts of the USA, and so I typically default to the King Arthur and don’t really notice a difference between the two. But a perfect substitute for either one of those is to either use is self-rising flour (flour with baking powder already pre-sifted in it) or cake flour (flour that’s been sifted repeatedly and mixed with a bit of cornstarch). Now, in full transparency, in time when I don’t feel like paying for I also make biscuits that taste delicious using generic, non-name brand flour as well.
  2. Baking powder: This one is important. Look at the bottom of the tin and make sure that the baking powder you’re using is still fresh. The biscuits won’t rise and they’ll have a metallic aftertaste if your BP is stale.
  3. Butter: Another essential that makes all the difference in the final product. I tend to stick to unsalted just because I like to control the salt level in my foods. When it comes to butter, the better quality you can use, the richer the biscuits will taste. Again, in full transparency I’ve made a lot of delicious biscuits with generic brand butter but if you can afford it, Land O’Lakes is a good middle ground. The European butters (like Kerrygold) are the highest quality and also on the pricier side, but ohhh the things they do to your baked goods. Finally, this is critical: FREEZE THE BUTTER. I’m talking, it should be rock solid. The colder the butter is, the more flaky and rich the biscuit will taste. I flat out will not even make biscuits anymore if the butter is not frozen, and I don’t recommend that you do either. Trust me: it makes all the difference.
  4. Milk: I highly recommend always using buttermilk for biscuits, but in a pinch, I’ve used regular milk with decent results too. As a pro-tip, you can always ‘make’ your own buttermilk by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of regular milk and allowing it to sit for 30 minutes, until the top looks curdled.

Optional Ingredients

  1. Sour Cream: I put this in the optional category, but to be honest lately it’s become more and more of an essential to me. Adding 1 cup of sour cream to my doughs took my biscuits (that were already pretty delicious) and elevated them to a place of perfection I didn’t even think they were capable of being at. They come out SO tender and melt-in-your-mouth on the inside.
  2. Spices/Herbs: A little extra flavor never hurt anything, and depending on the dish I’m making, I will typically always add about 1 teaspoon of black pepper and/or some herb to the dough. Biscuit dough is a very flexible blank canvas in terms of seasoning, so don’t be afraid to add your favorites to it.

Must Have Tools:

  1. Box Grater: Listen. This little contraption was a game changer for my biscuits. Cutting frozen butter is difficult, even more so if you’re trying to get it into evenly sized pieces. The large holes on the box grater take care of alllll that for you; the butter ends up looking like tiny wood shavings, and disperses perfectly even throughout the dough,
  2. Bench Scraper: A crucial process of making biscuits my way is cutting and layering the dough so that the biscuits rise high and flakey. Theoretically speaking, you could use a knife to do this, but most butter knives aren’t sharp, and using a butcher knife to cut biscuit dough just isn’t very practical to me. The bench scraper is sharp enough so that you’re not scraping a dull blade against the dough (which can deflate the biscuits), and it’s also not going to be as awkward and dangerous as using a sharp kitchen knife. You can make sharp, clean and straight cuts across the dough that make for quick, even and easy layering.
  3. Rolling Pin (Preferably a handle-less wooden French dowel style): Speaking of layering…unless you’re making drop biscuits, I just don’t see how you get around the fact that you need a rolling pin; one that you’re comfortable using. I hate rolling pins with handles on them. For whatever reason, I have a better grip without the handles, so a French wooden dowel is ideal for me.

Optional Tools

  1. Pastry Mat: If you make biscuits, cookies, pie crust or bread on a regular basis, I would say that a pastry mat is a necessary tool. But even if you don’t, they’re still pretty handy to have around just to keep your kitchen countertop from getting messy, which biscuit making can sometimes be.
  2. Square Cookie Cutter: If you’ve been following for a while, you’ve probably noticed that the majority of my biscuits are square rather than round. I do this on purpose, as I’ve found that square cookie cutters provide an overall cleaner cut, and don’t compress the dough down as much during cutting (which can hinder the final rise). Plus, square shaped biscuits are easier to make breakfast sandwiches out of, which I do pretty often.

Essential Techniques

  1. Freezing the Butter: I said it before and I’m saying it again: if you want the flakiest, best textured biscuits, freezing the butter is a MUST. To give you an idea of how serious, I will admit that I have gone to make biscuits, discovered I didn’t have any frozen butter on hand, and abandoned the entire mission, It’s that serious.
  2. Layering: The flakiness in biscuits comes from layering and re-layering the dough. This can be a tricky process, as biscuit dough cannot be kneaded the same way yeast bread doughs are, or the biscuits will be tough and dense. You have to work as quickly as possible, letting your hands touch the dough as little as possible. This is where the bench scraper comes in such handy. It helps you slide and move the dough around without touching it, then cut it into even rectangles that will layer together easily, and also keep the dough from sticking to the mat. I do the layering process about 5-6 times, just until I can see the frozen butter specks ’embedded’ in the dough and the dough edges look like a cohesive kind of ‘sponge.’
  3. Overnight Rest: This was something I just started doing a couple of years ago. Biscuit dough doesn’t respond well to kneading, but you have to work it to some extent just to get the layering in. After I’ve completed my layering process, I wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it have an overnight rest in the fridge. This allows the gluten in the dough to relax so that the resulting crumb won’t be close = dense. It’s another step that will give you a more tender biscuit.
  4. Trimming the edges: Basically, this means that I take the one big rectangle mass of dough, and cut off about 1/2 inch from all of the edges. The biscuits rise higher when I do. I don’t have a scientific reason for why this works so well; it just does. I don’t throw away the edges though; I gently press them into a mass on their own, and get a ‘scrap’ biscuit out of them.
  5. Pan of Water: Fill a shallow pan of water and place it in the bottom of the oven. This creates extra steam in the oven, which helps the biscuits rise higher. It also gives them a golden brown crust on the outside.
  6. Close placement: Once I cut the biscuits out, I place them very close together on the sheet pan; nearly touching. I’ve found that this creates steam pockets in between the biscuits.Once the steam gets into the dough, it forces the dough to push upwards so that the moisture can escape. This = higher biscuits.

Alright, y’all. That’s about all I’ve got. If there are any more questions about my process, the tools, the tips, or biscuits, feel free to drop me a line in the comment section. For now, I’m gonna go ahead and also include the links to all of the biscuit recipes here on the blog, for which I’ve used all of the above tools/techniques/ingredients to make. Happy Biscuit Baking!

Baking Powder Biscuits

Banana Bread Biscuits

Black Pepper Biscuits

Browned Butter Vanilla Biscuits

Cornmeal Biscuits and Honey Butter

Cornmeal Sage Biscuits

Sour Cream Biscuits

My Grandma’s Angel Biscuits

Mile High Biscuits

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Linking to Fiesta Friday #374.

Cappuccino M&M Cookie Bars

When it comes to candy, I really only still rock with chocolate. Snicker bars are the perfect candy bar. Peanut M&Ms also remain a favorite of mine.

About two years ago, I discovered a flavor of Peanut M&Ms called Coffee Nut. If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know that coffee and I are bound at the hip. I love to drink with it, and I’ve also loved finding ways to incorporate it into my cooking and baking.

But y’all, let me tell you: Coffee Nut M&Ms are unparalleled when it comes to coffee flavored anything, let alone coffee flavored candy. They are SOOOOO good.

And apparently I’m not the only one that feels that way, because whether I’m on the West or East coast, Coffee Nut M&Ms are always a hot commodity in grocery stores. It’s a toss up whether or not they have any in stock, and if they do, I always buy 2-3 bags just to stock up in case there aren’t any later. While they’re perfectly delicious on they’re own, the baker in me is always thinking about a way to repurpose my favorite ingredients into a recipe, and this was no exception.

Cookie bars are an easy and pretty foolproof way of baking cookies when you don’t have the time or energy to let the dough chill or roll out individual portions. They taste the same, they just have a tendency to be a bit more chewy and fudgy in texture–which I prefer with my cookies anyway.

When it came to these, I adapted a chocolate chip cookie bar recipe and made some modifications; first, I obviously swapped out the chocolate chips for the Coffee Peanut M&Ms, and then I added some instant espresso powder to the dough. After they were finished, I topped them off with a cappuccino flavored glaze.

If you’re a coffee lover, these are a must try.

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Cappuccino M&M Bars

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

Ingredients

For Cookie Bars

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed (light or dark, doesn’t matter)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 Cup Coffee Nut Peanut M&Ms

For Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons hot cappuccino
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with foil or parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides; coat the foil or parchment paper with cooking spray.

Beat the 2 sticks softened butter, 1 cup each granulated and light brown sugar and espresso powder with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy.

Add the 3 eggs, one at a time and the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low. Add 3 cups flour and 3/4 teaspoon each baking soda and salt; beat until combined. Stir in the M&Ms.

 Spread the cookie dough in the prepared pan or press in using damp or oiled fingers. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

Allow to cool completely. To make the glaze, combine all of the ingredients together in a small bowl until it has reached desired consistency. Use a fork to drizzle over the cooled bars.  Allow glaze to set, then cut into squares.

Fiesta Friday #373, co-hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats & Greens.

Salt & Vinegar Roasted Potatoes

I have a mild curiosity as to two things:

First, who it was who decided that salt and vinegar would be a good flavor combination to try on potatoes? Second: was the initial recipe idea for actual potatoes, or just potato chips?

It’s probably the former, but my first exposure to the recipe (probably like most of you) was through the latter. When I was a a kid, I thought that anything with vinegar was disgusting; I just couldn’t get passed the smell. As an adult, my tastebuds have done a complete 180; now Salt & Vinegar potato chips are my favorite flavor.

I don’t know, there’s just something about the contrast between the salty and the sharp sour flavors that I’ve grown to love. I’m curious as to how well the flavor combination translates into more food than just potato chips, which is probably what made me so interested to try today’s recipe in the first place.

Roasted potatoes are somewhat of a fail-proof recipe in the first place; so long as they’re properly seasoned, in my mind you really can’t go wrong. But in this case, it’s the seasoning that makes these potatoes exceptional. Apart from the combination of salt and apple cider vinegar, the addition of parsley and oregano gives them an added layer of fresh/herby flavor that really works. I wouldn’t change a thing about these.

Wear a mask. Social distance. When it’s your turn, get the vaccine. Be kind.

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Salt & Vinegar Roasted Potatoes

Recipe Adapted from RealSimple.com

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, divided
  • ¼ cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of favorite seasoning blend (I use Trader’s Joe’s 21 Seasoning Saute)
  • 2 pounds fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
  • ½ cup fresh curly parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • Flaky sea salt, for serving

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place potatoes in a plastic, resealable gallon size bag.

Whisk 3 tablespoons each vinegar and oil in a large bowl until well combined. Season with kosher salt, seasoning blend, and several grinds of pepper.

Pour the dressing over the potatoes, seal the bag and toss to coat.

Arrange potatoes, cut sides down, in an even layer on a baking sheet rimmed with foil and sprayed with cooking spray

Bake until golden on bottoms and tender when pierced with a fork, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes.

Toss potatoes with remaining 1 tablespoon each vinegar and oil on baking sheet. Fold in parsley and oregano just before serving. Top with flaky sea salt.

Linking up to Fiesta Friday #372, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Banana Bread Biscuits

Are y’all starting to notice a pattern? I am.

I think it’s safe to say we’ve now reached the point where Cooking is My Sport is a biscuit-making blog; a biscuit making blog with other recipes thrown in to eat alongside biscuits.

I have no explanation for my actions. All I can say is that before I learned how to bake, biscuits were always something I wanted to learn how to do, and do well. I was in awe of people who baked biscuits from scratch. I just had so many questions.

How does the dough come together? What makes biscuits different from yeast bread? What’s the best shape; round, square, or something else? How do they rise? How do you ensure they turn out light and flakey on the inside?

Heck, maybe there are some of you out there who have the same kind of questions. I’ve gotten good at making biscuits only because of lots and lots of practice, and trial and error. I made up my mind to learn how to make them and make them well, and I didn’t stop until I did. And even, clearly, I have no intention of stopping making/experimenting with them. I’ll be a biscuit baker probably until the day I pass on to glory.

Thinking through all those questions and the various results I’ve made/posted over the years makes me think the blog may be due for a post that’s strictly about the technique of making biscuits I’ve learned through all my trial and error. I’ll think some more about it and get back to y’all later.

In the meantime, today’s newest experiment.

I was very curious going into this one. Although I’ve made banana scones once before, I’d never heard of banana flavored biscuits. Plus, I hadn’t really perfected my technique for biscuits/scones when I first made the banana flavored ones, so I was interested to see how different I would find the experience now that I’m on the other side of a lot of new learning.

I really like these, y’all. The flavor really is just like banana bread…except it’s in the texture of a biscuit. I think they’re versatile enough to work for breakfast, or for a dessert, depending on how you want to eat them. However, the sweetness is very subtle here, it’s the banana that really shines through. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Get the vaccine when it’s your turn. Be kind.

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Banana Bread Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Taste of the South

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups cake flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2½ tablespoons baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1½ cups cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 cup whole buttermilk, chilled
  • ½ cup mashed banana (about 1 medium banana)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup salted butter, melted

Directions

In a large bowl combine the flour, spices salt, baking powder, sugar, sage and the seasoning mix. Stir together with a fork.

Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork.

In a small bowl, whisk together cold buttermilk, mashed banana, and vanilla.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring until a shaggy dough forms. Use a large fork and a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add the additional buttermilk, just until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or a clean smooth countertop with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Use a bench scraper or a large sharp knife to divide the dough in half. Roughly shape each half into a square. Stack one of the halves on top of the other and use a rolling pin to roll it together into one mass. Repeat this process 4-5 more times before patting it into one final rectangle. (This is a process of layering so that the biscuits will bake flaky).

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the biscuit dough out onto it. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a biscuit cutter, or a knife to cut the dough into rounds or squares about 2″ each. You can recut the leftover dough into new biscuits, just try not to handle it too much.

Remove the cut biscuits to the baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper, placing them rather close to each other (it will help them rise higher). Place the tray into the freezer about 15 minutes.

Spray the tops with cooking spray. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, covering them with foil if they brown too quickly.

Brush finished biscuits with melted butter; serve warm.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #371, co-hosted this week by Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons.

 

Salty-Sweet Butter Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies really should be a separate ‘genre’ of baking all on their own.

I know that they’re a classic and with classics people tend to search for that One and Only Holy Grail of a recipe, but in my experience I’ve found that there are so many ways to make a perfect one.

My mom always used to tell me that in both cooking and baking, getting ‘good’ was a matter of getting comfortable with a base recipe and/or technique, then once I grew comfortable with it, experimenting with other flavors and seeing what worked and what didn’t. It’s advice that’s never steered me wrong in the kitchen.

The older I get, the more that I notice that my taste buds tend to prefer a counterbalance to the sweetness with either salt or bitter flavors. Salt and sweet is a combination that I’m growing increasingly interested in using in baking, and today’s recipe was eye-opening in showing me just how well it could work.

A chocolate chip cookie with pecans is already a winner so far as I’m concerned, but this recipe takes things a step further. First, butterscotch, butternut or butter-rum flavor is added to the dough, which I would best describe as a rich browned butter extract that pairs VERY well with chocolate. If you can’t find it in stores, it’s definitely available on Amazon. And if you can’t find it at all, that’s fine too. The cookies will still come out amazing because of the second element.

After the dough is made, chilled and portioned out into balls, it then gets rolled in a mixture of sugar and salt. As it bakes, that sugar and salt creates a sort of crackly, salty-sweet crust on the outside of the cookie.

And y’all: that crust is where the magic happens.

In the first place, it creates amazing texture to contrast with the fudgy, chewy interior of the cookie itself. And second, the flavor of the salt in that sugar crust is INSANE. Taken together with the sweetness of the sugar, the nuttiness of the pecans, and the slight bitterness of the chocolate, it literally hit every note.

I tried these on a whim and I can honestly say they’re my new favorite way to make chocolate chip cookies, and are definitely in my top three of cookies I’ve ever made. They’re well worth trying out.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Get the vaccine when it’s your turn. Be kind.

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Salty-Sweet Butter Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups pecan halves
  • 2/3 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2/3 cup  granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons  butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon butterscotch, vanilla-butternut, or butter-rum flavor, optional
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar, mixed with 1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, for topping* (The amount of salt depends upon how much of a salty-sweet combination you prefer. I went for the full 1 teaspoon, and it was perfect, to ME.)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

Place the pecans in a single layer in a pan, and toast until they’ve darkened a bit and smell toasty, about 8 to 9 minutes. Set them aside to cool, then chop coarsely.

In a large bowl, combine the sugars, butter, shortening, salt, espresso powder, baking soda, and extracts, beating until smooth and creamy.

Beat in the egg, again beating until smooth. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is thoroughly combined.

Mix in the flour, then the chips and toasted nuts.

If you’re going to refrigerate the dough, cover the bowl, and refrigerate for about 4 to 5 hours; or overnight. Cookie dough refrigerated for 4 to 5 hours will spread moderately; chilled overnight, it will spread much less.

Mix the 1/3 cup sugar and salt for the coating, and put it in a bowl. Use a spoon (or a tablespoon cookie scoop) to scoop 1 1/2″ balls of dough into the sugar/salt mixture, rolling to coat. Then transfer to the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2″ between them on all sides; they’ll spread quite a bit. Or use a teaspoon cookie scoop to scoop 1 1/4″ balls of dough.

Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes — 10 minutes for smaller cookies made from unrefrigerated dough, 12 for larger cookies whose dough has been refrigerated (and something in between for other iterations of size and refrigeration). Their edges will be chestnut brown and their tops a lighter golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool on the pan until they’ve set enough to move without breaking. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #370.

Browned Butter Sandwich Cookies

I love when something happens that’s unexpected but really awesome.

The weekend I made today’s recipe, I had several surprises happen that were really unexpected, but still great. I was in a great mood, I had more time to experiment in the kitchen than I normally do, and so I decided on a random whim to try out something new.

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know that I am a staunch browned butter advocate. Regardless of the food, it will improve literally anything that you’re cooking, whether it’s sweet or savory.

Slice and bake cookies are another of those baking recipes that I put in my “You Can’t Mess this Up” category. The dough is very quick and forgiving in putting it together, and after you’ve let it rest in the fridge, all that’s left to do is literally slice, throw the cookies on a sheet and bake them up.

Best of all, it’s also a recipe where you don’t have to bake the batch all at once if you prefer not to. You can leave the log in the fridge or freezer, slice off as many cookies as you want (or don’t want), and save the rest for later.

Having said that, I will throw out a disclaimer in that, you’re going to want to make the whole batch of these because they’re just that good and if you have other people living with you in your house, they’re going to gobble them up and you won’t have enough ready-made for yourself to enjoy.

I can predict this, because it’s pretty much what happened to me.

If I had to describe what they taste like, I’d say they are the best pecan sandie you’ve ever had and didn’t know that you needed in your life. The cookie is delicious enough by itself; it’s crisp and full of nutty, pecan flavor. The filling is what sends them over the top: it’s rich, and full of that delicious, golden flavor that can only come from browned butter.

These disappeared in our house quick. Try ’em out.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Get the vaccine when it’s your turn. Be kind.

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Browned Butter Sandwich Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Land O’ Lakes

Ingredients

For Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs (yolks only)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For Filling

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of Half & Half, cream, or milk

Directions

For Cookies:

Combine 1 cup butter and brown sugar in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add egg yolks and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; continue beating until well mixed. Add flour, pecans and salt; beat at low speed until dough forms a ball.

Divide dough in half; shape each half into 10-inch-long log (about 1 1/2 inches in diameter). Wrap each log tightly in plastic food wrap. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut each log into 1/8-inch slices with sharp knife; place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 7-9 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to cooling rack. Cool completely.

For Filling: Melt 1/4 cup butter in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5-6 minutes or until butter just starts to brown. (Butter will bubble and foam. Watch closely.) Immediately remove from heat. Cool 5 minutes. Stir in powdered sugar,1/2 teaspoon vanilla and enough half & half for desired spreading consistency.Spread 1 level teaspoon filling on bottom-side of 1 cookie; top with second cookie, bottom-side down. Squeeze together gently. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #369.

Banana Streusel Bundt Bread

My tastes for certain foods fluctuates according to the time of year. In the winter, I want to eat hearty, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food. At the holidays, I want to eat a lot of gingerbread, sugar-and-spice and cranberry-flavored everything. In the summer, I like eating light, fresh, citrusy things. But then I also think there are some foods that for me are good and wanted year-round.

Banana bread has always been one of them.

Whether it’s winter, spring, summer or fall, I’m always up for some banana bread. Come to think of it, I’m up for banana bread at pretty much any time of day. It’s one of those things that’s sweet enough to have for dessert, but not too sweet to where you can still have it in the morning with coffee for breakfast without feeling guilty.

I had a very strong craving for banana bread, but I wanted to do it up a little more than I usually do with the typical loaf pan. Y’all know me, I’ll throw a streusel on anything and call it holy, so that’s pretty much what I went for here.

Doesn’t it look glorious?

Also, you should know that this recipe makes a lot of banana bread–no, like, a LOT. That’s never a problem for me, but be advised that this is a feeding a family-brunch size batch of banana bread, which is why it calls for so much mashed banana, and why it gets baked into a full size bundt pan.

Like I said, I can eat banana bread whenever, so I ate this both in the morning warmed up and smeared with butter, and I also ate it at night for dessert topped with whipped cream. It’s delicious both ways.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe. Be kind.

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Banana Streusel Bundt Bread

Recipe Adapted from Bake From Scratch

Ingredients

3½ cups plus 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 cups  plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar, divided
1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
4 teaspoons unsalted butter, cubed
2 cups mashed ripe banana
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs, preferably room temp
⅔ cup sour cream, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 15-16 cup bundt pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together 4 tablespoons (32 grams) flour, 2 tablespoons (28 grams) brown sugar, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and ¾ teaspoon cinnamon. Add butter; using your fingers or 2 forks, work butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumbs or slightly wet sand. Set streusel aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat banana, oil, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, remaining 1½ cups  brown sugar, and remaining 1⅓ cups  granulated sugar at medium-low speed until well combined, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together baking powder, baking soda, salt, cloves, nutmeg, remaining 3½ cups flour, and remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to banana mixture, beating until combined and stopping to scrape sides of bowl.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Tap pan on counter a few times to evenly spread batter and release any air bubbles.

Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with streusel, and bake until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking and loosely covering with foil to prevent excess browning, if necessary. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

Using a small offset spatula, loosen cake from pan. Slowly invert bread onto a wire rack placed over a rimmed baking sheet. (Some streusel will fall off.) Using a large, flat plate or a cake lifter, turn bread streusel side up, and place on wire rack; let cool completely.

Linking to Fiesta Friday #368

Brookies (It’s a Brownie and a Chocolate Chip Cookie)

Y’all. I have an announcement to make.

I’ve made a love connection.

No. Not *that* kind of a love connection. But it’s just as good. Maybe even better.

I’m in a phase right now where what I want most from my desserts is texture. Thick, chewy, fudgy texture. As a result, (and if you’ve been following along with the blog, you’ll have no doubt noticed this) I’ve been churning out a lot of thick cookies, brownies, blondies and whatnot from my kitchen because everything I make on the blog, we actually eat.

(Throwing away food is a no from me; but also, we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic, so we don’t go anywhere where I can give it away either)

This is another one of those recipes where I’d heard of it before, but I have no idea what took me so long to finally getting around to trying it out. It combines two of my favorite desserts–the brownie and the chocolate chip cookie into one truly perfect bite: the Brookie.

So how is it done? Pretty easily enough you may be surprised to find out. You make the recipes for the two desserts separately; first a cookie dough, then a brownie batter. The brownie batter is spread in the bottom of the pan and dolloped with cookie dough.

And then…a true love connection is made.

You’d think that the chocolate chip cookie layer would be overpowered by the  brownie layer, but it isn’t. It forms a crackly, brown sugar-y crust that evens out the richness of the brownie beneath perfectly. And don’t even get me started about what it tasted like with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Sinful I tell you.

You all absolutely have to try this. It’s become one of our new favorite desserts, and I guarantee that it’ll become one of yours too.

There’s a certain holiday coming up that celebrates love connections, and all I can say is that I think this a perfect dessert to make for one.

Brookies

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

For Cookie Dough Layer

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

For Brownie Layer

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

Directions

For Cookie Dough:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with butter; line with parchment, leaving a slight overhang on long sides. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat butter with both sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and beat in egg. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture; beat until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate. Set aside

For Brownie Batter

Melt butter and chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl set over (not in) a pot of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat; whisk in granulated sugar. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Whisk in cocoa and salt. Fold in flour until combined.

Pour brownie batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with an offset spatula. Crumble cookie dough evenly over batter.

Cover with parchment-lined foil; bake until just set, 20 minutes.

Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center (avoiding chocolate chunks) comes out with moist crumbs, 27 to 30 minutes more.

Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Lift brookies from pan using parchment; cut into squares.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #36.

Cornmeal Sage Chicken Biscuit

As much as I love it, I actually don’t fry chicken at home very often.

For one, it’s time consuming, especially if you’re like me and you prefer to put your chicken in a marinade beforehand to make sure it’s juicy and flavorful. It can get messy, even when you set up separate stations for flour, buttermilk, the rack for the raw chicken, then the rack for the cooked chicken–and don’t even get me started on the clean up.

But even with all the finicky details, whenever I do decide to make fried chicken, I’m never disappointed. It’s a project, but the end result is always oh so worth it.

Y’all, I’ve been so excited to share today’s recipe. It was not only worth the time and effort, it exceeded all of my expectations as far as taste. If you saw last week’s post you’ll know I said it was actually a two parter, with the biscuits being Part I. When I originally made them, I paired them with the fried chicken of today’s recipe to make one of my favorite foods of all time: the chicken biscuit.

The chicken biscuit dish is exactly what it sounds like: a piece of fried chicken sandwiched between a biscuit that’s been cut in half. It sounds simple–perhaps even too simple–but those of us who love them that it’s anything but.

Fried chicken and biscuits as individual components themselves require a certain amount of know-how to execute. A biscuit for chicken biscuit needs to rise high enough to be able to stand up to the bulk of the chicken itself, and it doesn’t hurt for it to have enough of it’s own flavor so that it’s not just bland bread. Apart from being seasoned properly, the fried chicken should also have a thick, crunchy crust to contrast with the soft texture of the biscuit.

But when you get both components right and put them together, it’s a truly beautiful and delicious thing.

This was my first time frying chicken with cornmeal in the batter and I have to say, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The texture, and even the flavor it gave to the crust was amazing. And as I said last week, the combination of sage and cornmeal in the biscuit dough gave it enough of its own flavor so as it’s not just a ‘container’ to hold the chicken. It more than held its own. This really was one of the best things I’ve cooked in a long time, and I highly recommend you give it a shot.

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Cornmeal Sage Chicken Biscuit

Recipe Adapted from A Previous Recipe on Cooking is My Sport, and Country Living

Ingredients

For Biscuits:

  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground sage
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite savory spice mix (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, (1 1/2 sticks) frozen
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2-2 cups buttermilk, plus more if necessary

For Chicken:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper, optional
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of your favorite seasoning blend; I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 c. Buttermilk
  • 5-7 chicken cutlets (about 1 lb.) halved crosswise
  • 7 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c. hot sauce (like Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 3 tbsp. Honey

For Biscuits

In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, sugar, sage and the seasoning mix. Stir together with a fork.

 Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the sour cream. Use a fork to ‘cut’ it into the dry ingredients until it forms thick clumps. Make another hole in the middle of the dry ingredients, and pour the buttermilk. Use a large fork and a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add the additional buttermilk, just until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or a clean smooth countertop with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Use a bench scraper or a large sharp knife to divide the dough in half. Roughly shape each half into a square. Stack one of the halves on top of the other and use a rolling pin to roll it together into one mass. Repeat this process 4-5 more times before patting it into one final rectangle. (This is a process of layering so that the biscuits will bake flaky).

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the biscuit dough out onto it. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a biscuit cutter, or a knife to cut the dough into rounds about 2″ each. You can recut the leftover dough into new biscuits, just try not to handle it too much.

Remove the cut biscuits to the baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper, placing them rather close to each other (it will help them rise higher). Place the tray into the freezer about 15 minutes.

Spray the tops with cooking spray. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, covering them with foil if they brown too quickly.

For Chicken:

Line a baking sheet with wax paper, foil, or plastic wrap on the bottom, then place a wire rack on top.

Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, cayenne, salt, and black pepper in a bowl. Pour buttermilk into a separate bowl. Working with one piece at a time, toss chicken in flour mixture, dip in buttermilk, then toss again in flour mixture. Transfer to the wire rack to allow batter to set, about 2-3 minutes.

Repeat dipping process one more time. Then, working in batches of no more than 3 pieces at a time, fry the chicken in the oil. Turn it occasionally and monitor the temperature of the oil (a instant read thermometer works GREAT for this) as you work until it is golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. (It may look a little pale, but it browns more when you take it out, so don’t worry) When finished remove chicken to another sheet pan lined with paper towels and a wire rack to drain.

To assemble sandwich: Whisk together hot sauce and honey in a bowl. Split a biscuit in half, drizzle chicken with spicy honey, then assemble sandwich with pickles.

Sharing this recipe at Fiesta Friday #366.