Rollos de los Muerto (Rolls of the Dead)

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I first heard of & learned about Dia de los Muertos when I was in the eighth grade. There was an assembly where a traveling performance group put on a show for us that was supposed to be about a Mexican holiday in October that when translated into English, was called The Day of the Dead.

Basically, it’s a holiday that honors the passing of loved ones. The indigenous peoples who it originates from believe that on October 31st, the gates of Heaven are opened at midnight and the spirits of deceased children will be able to briefly reunite with their families for 24 hours. The spirits of deceased adults come next on November 2nd. Elaborate altars are made to both remember and honor the deceased loved ones with pictures, delicious food, presents and candles.

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I was intrigued by it then and I still am now. I love the idea of a holiday centered around honoring loved ones who have passed away. I love the elaborate, colorful sugar skulls that get decorated and sold. I love the beautiful face makeup designs; works of art in and of themselves , really.

And yes. Of course: I love the food aspect of it too.

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Probably the most well known food from Dia de los Muerto is the Pan De Muerto, translated into English as the bread of the dead. They’re sweet egg breads typically molded into large loaves with shapes of skulls and bones on top.

I made a loaf of Pan De Murerto for the first time two years ago, and posted it on the blog. This year I found myself thinking about it again and how I wanted to give it another go,  this time maybe giving it a different spin.

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So this year, instead of making one big loaf of pan de muerto, I decided to go ahead and make a batch of rollos de los muerto: rolls of the dead. This is a dough that in my research I’ve seen is often flavored with anise. I included a full tablespoon of anise seeds in mine to really make sure the flavor came through.  Although the original recipe for this calls of orange blossom water, I didn’t have any on hand and to be perfectly honest also didn’t feel like buying an entire bottle of the stuff only to end up using one teaspoon’s worth for just one recipe(because that stuff really packs a punch even in small doses). I found that the cheaper and much more readily available option to most people is just going with the option of using the zest from an entire orange. It isn’t the exact same floral flavor as the orange blossom water, but it’s still nonetheless just as yummy.

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Lastly, most pan de muerto just calls for white sugar to be sprinkled on top of the dough to finish. With this batch of rolls, I decided to add on an orange flavored syrup that gets brushed on them at the very end of their baking, THEN sprinkled with white sugar on top once they’re taken out of the oven. The flavor combination of the anise and orange is one that works EXTREMELY well. The dough has that subtle licorice flavor that’s then given a fresh citrusy aftertaste from both the orange zest and the orange syrup. The white sugar gives it a pleasant crunch on the outside to compliment the soft chewiness of the dough inside.

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With shaping, I decided to keep things simple. I rolled out individual balls of dough, then pinched off smaller balls that I split in half to form the crosses. In retrospect I was a bit concerned that they resembled hot cross buns a bit too much. Then I remembered that Hot Cross Buns are made for another holiday that celebrates a resurrection of the dead of sorts. In thinking of it that way, the resemblance seemed kinda ironic.

These really are delicious. The sugar on the top does give a sweetness to them, but they’re not overly sweet. I think they’d still work very well to eat alongside a salad for lunch or even a heavier main course for dinner.

Happy Dio de los Muertos/Halloween, and Fiesta Friday #143, cohosted this week by Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju and Maggie @ Spoon in a Saucepan!!!

Rollos de los Muerto (Rolls of the Dead)

Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit

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Ingredients

  • 1 ¼-ounce envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
  • 5⅓ cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon anise seeds
  • teaspoons kosher salt
  • Zest from one large orange
  • ¾ cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon, divided
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus 6 tablespoons melted, divided
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray

For Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • Granulated or coarse ground sugar

Directions

Mix yeast, 1/3 cup  of flour, 1/4 cup warm water in the bottom of a standing mixer bowl with a wooden spoon or spatula. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of white sugar on top. Let it sit uncovered for about 35 minutes, until the mixture is frothy and begins to form bubbles on top.

Whisk eggs, anise seeds, kosher salt, orange zest and 3/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl until the mixture starts to look foamy and sugar is dissolved. Then, add this egg mixture to the yeast starter along with the remaining 5 cups of flour. (Note: don’t add the flour all at once, about 1 cup at a time is what you want to aim for).  Using the dough hook attachment, alternate adding the flour with adding the softened butter, beginning and ending with flour until a soft dough forms, about 5 minutes.

Increase speed to medium and and continue to mix until sugar is dissolved and the dough is elastic, 8-10 minutes.

Take the dough out of the ball and lightly grease the bowl with 2 tablespoons melted butter or canola oil. Transfer dough back to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Let rise in warm, draft free place until doubled in size, 2 hours.

Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and coat the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.

Punch down onto a well floured work surface. Pinch off a piece of dough slightly smaller than a tennis ball and shape into a round. Pinch off a second piece that is about the size of a ping pong ball, the divide this piece in half. Roll each half into a long rope that will extend over the sides of the tennis-ball dough round. Arrange each rope in a criss-cross  shape over the dough and tuck the ends underneath the ball to keep from shrinking. Place the finished round on the parchment paper.

Repeat the previous step with the remaining dough. Brush the rolls with the 6 tablespoons melted butter, then cover them with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Let rise for 45-minutes to an hour. (Note: they may not double in size during the proofing time, that’s okay. Mine doubled in size while baking.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. While dough is proofing, make the glaze: Combine the sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and continue stirring and cooking frequently until it has reduced to a syrup, about 5 minutes. If it bubbles up, just take it off the heat for a few seconds then put it back on. Remove from heat.

Bake the rolls for 20 minutes, then remove from oven. Brush generously with orange syrup then return to the oven for about 5 minutes more. Remove from oven (inner temperature should be 190 Fahrenheit degrees for fully baked rolls), then sprinkle immediately with white sugar so that it sticks. Allow to cool before serving.

   

My Favorite Thick and Chunky Chicken Stew

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Can I ask a random but still perfectly serious question?

Why do people make/eat/like watery stew?

I don’t get it.

Whenever I see a dish given the name of a ‘stew’ with chunks of stew and vegetables literally swimming, no DROWNING in a broth bath I just cringe. It really hurts my feelings, guys. Because I know that person is selling themselves short and settling for something that I reallllllly wouldn’t call a stew.

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Call it a soup. Maybe even  call it a ‘stoup’ like Rachael Ray does. Just don’t call it a stew, k? That’s kinda disrespectful.

For me, if I could put it in one word, the biggest difference between a soup and a stew really does come down to as TEXTURE. The base of a good stew just has a different texture than a soup. It SHOULD have a very different feel to it both when you stir it up in the pot, and when you’re eating it. If you can’t tell the difference between a soup or a stew, or a stoup and a stew, then it’s very likely that your stew’s texture is…off.

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Should it be pasty thick? No. After all, it’s not a pot pie filling. However, it does need to be robust and have some body. It’s got to be thick enough where the liquid coats the back of the spoon when you dip into it. You shouldn’t be able to ‘slurp’ it up like a broth, but at the same time it should be loose enough where you can dip biscuits and/or rolls in it and soak up the extra goodness.

If all this sounds a little complicated, well…good. Now you realize how serious this is. Watery stew is no laughing matter. A good chicken stew was one of those things that when I was learning how to cook, I knew I wanted to nail early on. And I really do think that at this point, I have.

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My chicken stew is one of the recipes on the blog that three years after I first posted it, still gets some of the most traffic. And you know what? I don’t mind blowing my own horn a tad bit by saying that I really do understand why.

It’s a damn good stew. It’s become a staple dish in my house and my family is always very enthusiastic when I make it. It’s pretty easy to do, coming together in about an hour. It’s one of those dishes you can make a huge batch of and have enough to last throughout the week. Not only that, it’s also a perfect comfort food dish for this time of year.

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So why am I doing a revamp? Well for one, I think you guys deserve better pictures of it than the bunch I churned out three years ago when I knew jack-squat about food photography.  Second, since then I’ve added a few ingredients to my chicken stews that I make now that I think make it taste even better than the original. Third, I’ve also made a new provision in the recipe for those of you out there that don’t have the time or inclination to chop your veggies. Because yes, sometimes even Jess uses those bags of veggies on the frozen foods aisle. No shame in my game.

This stew is everything I love about fall and comfort food; thick chunks of chicken (breast, cause you guys know me by now), a medley of my favorite vegetables: sweet potatoes, corn, carrots, mushrooms– all simmered together in a rich and robust gravy–NOT A BROTH.

Because we know better. Right? Of course right.

Happy Fiesta Friday #142, co-hosted this week by Elaine @ foodbod and Michelle @ O Blog Off.

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My Favorite Thick and Chunky Chicken Stew

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport.com

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Ingredients

  • 2 and 1/2 pounds of skinless, boneless, chicken breasts, cut into bite sized (about 1 inch) chunks
  • 1/2 cup flour
  •  1 Heaping teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 Heaping teaspoon of onion powder, plus 1/2 tablespoon
  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into equal bite sized chunks
  • 8 oz of cipollini onions, cut in half (one medium size yellow/sweet onion diced will also work fine)
  • 8 oz of fresh or frozen corn
  • 8 oz of baby bella mushrooms, stems and gills removed, caps roughly chopped
  • 8 oz of carrot chips
  • 1 teaspoon, plus 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, divided
  • 1 1/4 cup of stout beer
  • 3 cups of low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup of water, plus 4 tablespoons, divided
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1-2 tbsp of Dijon mustard
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons of corn starch

Note: The vegetable options for this dish are very flexible. If you don’t feel like chopping them up yourself, I’ve used a 16 oz. bag of frozen mixed veggies with this recipe before with perfectly fine results. Use what works for you.

Directions

Mix the flour, onion powder, garlic powder and 1 teaspoon of pepper together in a Ziploc bag. Add the chicken chunks to the bag, seal, then toss to coat thoroughly, so that there is an even layer over meat.

Coat a large on-stick pot or Dutch Oven with olive oil. Brown meat over medium- high heat. Don’t worry about it cooking all the way through, just cook long enough to give it some color. Don’t worry about the thick layer that forms on the bottom of the pot: it’s supposed to be there.

De-glaze the pan with the stout beer. Once the bottom of the pot is no longer sticky, add the chicken stock, water, honey, dijon mustard, sweet potato, onions, carrots, mushrooms, bay leaves, corn, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and 1/2 tablespoon of onion powder and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer stew covered, for 45 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste, if need be.

Dissolve the cornstarch in 4 tablespoons of cold water and add to the stew. Cook uncovered over medium heat for an additional 30 minutes, until thickened. (If stew still has not thickened after 30 minutes, you can add 1 additional tablespoon of cornstarch. It’ll thicken. You’ll see.)

   

My Grandma’s Angel Biscuits

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This week marks the third anniversary of Cooking is My Sport. My blog baby is three years old, guys.

Should I feel like a proud mom? Cause I kinda do.

I still remember when CIMS was first ‘borned’. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to format my posts, write out the recipes, take the pictures.

It was actually kind of a hot mess.

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Kinda like my first major solo effort at baking.

Let me just give a useful piece of advice upfront for any of my followers who are excellent cooks, but not so excellent bakers: start with something easy.  Something that doesn’t require too much know how or technique. Something you’d have to try REALLY hard to mess up.

Don’t be like me. Don’t make your first baking experiment biscuits.

Chances are, you’re going to mess them up. Like I did.

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I didn’t realize that a good biscuit dough still has visible chunks of butter it. I didn’t know that it wasn’t like bread dough and therefore should NOT be kneaded.  I didn’t know that finding a warm place to let the dough proof did NOT count as setting it on top of the preheated oven–which made the bottoms of the biscuits start baking before I even placed them in the oven.

I was completely clueless guys. It wasn’t pretty. Don’t be like me. There are plenty of novice baker recipes on this blog I can recommend for you to try if you’re just trying to get your feet wet.

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But for those of you who are a little more wet behind the ears with baking, then I really do think you ought to pay attention. Cause you really do want to make these. Trust me.

The recipe for my grandmother’s angel biscuits was actually the first recipe I posted on the blog. I decided to start with that one for a number of reasons: first being it’s a family recipe and therefore very close to my heart. Second, it was around the time that I was learning from my mistakes & getting pretty good at making them. And third: they’re some of the best biscuits I’ve ever had.

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As the blog’s birthday came around, I was considering what recipe I would make to celebrate it. Cake was obviously something I considered, but if you’ve been following along lately you’ll know that I’ve done a few over-the-top cakes over the past few months already. I’m kinda over cake (at least for now) I felt I should try and do… something else. That something else is a flashback post where I remade the recipe for my grandma’s angel biscuits, and also did some tweaking to the language of the initial recipe that better reflects the lessons I’ve learned from trial and error making them.

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I’ve made these biscuits for breakfast where we ate them smothered in sausage gravy, or schmeared with butter/jelly or butter drizzled with syrup. I’ve made them for dinners where I fried chicken cutlets and had myself a homemade chicken biscuit that can more hold its own against anything Chick-fil-A cranks out. I’ve made them for holidays where we eat them on the side with our epic feasts. And, I’ve also made them for no other reason at all than just because I felt like having one (or two.) The leftovers, if you have any, also refrigerate very well. Whenever you want to reheat one, you can either slice it in half and reheat in the toaster, or cover with a damppaper towel and microwave for about 20-25 seconds. It’ll taste just as tender and flaky. Promise.

Taking me and my biscuits to this week’s Fiesta Friday #141, cohosted this week by Julianna @ Foodie on Board and Zeba @ Food For The Soul.

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My Grandma's Angel Biscuits

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport.com

Ingredients

  • 1 package of regular or quick acting active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 cup shortening (I put mine in the freezer overnight to make it as cold as possible)
  • 5 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 tsp divided
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups buttermilk

Directions

 Grease 2 to 3 round cake pans (one or two half sheet pans will work as well)

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Sprinkle the one tsp of sugar over the yeast. Let it sit for ten minutes. (If the yeast does not foam with small bubbles on top after 10 minutes, the water was probably either too hot too cold. Think ‘baby bottle warm’: this is what you want.)

Cut shortening into pre-sifted dry ingredients with a pastry blender, with 2 forks OR (my personal preference) by running the shortening over a box grater in 4 qt. bowl until mixture looks like bread crumbs. 

Stir in buttermilk & yeast mixture until dough leaves side of bowl. (The dough is going to be VERY sticky and soft. To avoid a mess, rub extra flour on your hands, or on a rubber spatula when mixing.)

Turn dough onto generously floured surface. Gently roll in flour to coat, shape into a ball. Knead lightly 25 to 30 times, sprinkling with flour if dough is too sticky. (This is where it gets a little tricky. I reallyreallyREALLY want to emphasize the important of the word GENTLY here. My own past missteps have finally made me realize that when handling biscuit dough, the less you actually ‘handle’ it, the better. Avoid even clenching your palms around the dough. I use my fingertips to pat. Your palms carry heat, and heat will melt those marvelous shortening chunks that create tender, flaky biscuits.)

Roll or pat 1/2 inch thick. Cut with 2 1/2 inch round cutter. (You can also use a knife or bench scraper to cut them into squares) Place about 1 inch apart in cake pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in preheated oven until the biscuits have doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Heat the oven to 400°. Remove plastic wrap from pans, then place them back into oven and bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Spread tops with butter.

   

Browned Butter Banana Bread

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Hey y’all. Sorry about the hiatus. You know how things go; sometimes you can get it together enough to crank out a post, other times it just doesn’t happen.

But I made it happen today, in more ways than one.

A little over a month ago, I used browned butter for the first time in a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. It was a huge success. I knew right away that I would definitely be finding a way to incorporate browned butter into my baking repertoire for other classic recipes.

And now, I’m glad to say that I’ve found another great way to do just that.

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I don’t know anybody that doesn’t like banana bread.

I don’t know if I want to know anybody that doesn’t like banana bread. It’s just one of those things that we can all probably agree upon and bond over.

Besides that, I think we all can relate to our trying to be health-conscious and whatnot, buying a huge bunch of bananas, then letting them sit on the counter for days on end, just chilling until one day we look up and bam: they’re too spotty and soft to be able to eat anymore and we feel the guilt for not eating them raw when we had the chance.

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Don’t feel bad. We’re all guilty of it.

But as we all know, overly ripe bananas can become a blessing in disguise because of what they can be transformed into. The easiest and probably most popular of these, is the almighty banana bread.

I’m not gonna lie guys. There really aren’t many tricks or frills to this recipe. It’s quick and stupid-easy to put together, and although I briefly considered doing something different to jazz it up, like adding a pecan streusel or drizzling an icing on top or something, ultimately I decided against it and decided to just let things be and keep it simple.

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I actually ended up very pleased I didn’t add anything else to it, because what really makes this recipe shine is the inclusion of the browned butter. It’s what takes this from being an ordinary loaf of banana bread and elevates it to something really special. Like I described in my chocolate chip cookies post where I first used it, browned butter has a very rich, nutty and toasted smell/flavor. My best way of trying to describe it is that it takes standard flavors in a sweet dish, and deepens them. There’s a noticeable toasted, caramelized taste to them that once you’ve tried, you just can’t get enough of.

I thought that I loved chocolate chip cookies before, but trust me: I love them even more when they’re made with browned butter. Same thing here.

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The ingredients for banana bread are usually ones that most people already have in their fridges/pantries already, so that means most of you have no excuse not to go ahead and do yourselves a favor by making this loaf, stat.

The smells it’s going to create when you make the browned butter AND bake the loaf alone were made for autumn. When it’s finished, don’t skip the step of taking the extra browned butter and brushing it over the hot loaf. It’s going to seep into the crevices of the  crumbs and when it dries, well…all will be revealed and suddenly made clear to you.

Slice the bread up thick. Put it in the toaster for a few minutes. Pop it out. Slather one side in butter. Cinnamon honey butter if you’re really feeling adventurous.

You’re welcome.

Bringing this loaf to this week’s Fiesta Friday #140, co-hosted this week by  Julie @ Hostess at Heart and Linda @ Fabulous Fare Sisters.

Browned Butter Banana Bread

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Kitchens

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and either butter or spray a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

Melt and heat the butter over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. You want the milk solids to turn a deep golden brown color. It will have a nutty and toasted smell and there should be small golden brown bits in the surface. It’ll take about 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl.

Stir the brown butter so that any of the golden brown bits that may have fallen to the bottom are distributed equally throughout the butter. Reserve 4 tablespoons of the brown butter for later on.

Whisk together the remaining brown butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl, then fold in the mashed bananas with a rubber spatula or a fork.
Fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture until just combined (the batter doesn’t have to be completely smooth, a few lumps are fine).

Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan, and bake until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Take the reserved browned butter (reheat in the microwave to re-melt if you have to) and using a pastry brush, brush the butter over the hot bread, letting it seep into it.

Run a knife around the edges, and let cool completely in the pan on a rack.