Golden Sandwich Rolls

I have a theory. I can’t prove it beyond question but, I just don’t think I’m wrong.

Theory: A lot of people are scared of baking because of poorly written recipes–especially poorly written recipes for bread.

I struggled a lot in some of my more advanced science classes in college, and I’ll always remember especially struggling when having to complete an experiment as part of the assignment in labs. The directions were almost never very detailed–at least, not detailed enough for me to understand them.

Baking is, essentially, a science experiment. A poorly written science experiment is most likely going to go poorly, especially when the person reading the directions is not familiar with the material. The order in which ingredients are added in a science experiment matters–the same is true with baking just about anything.

Adding the flour into a cake batter before the butter and sugar is creamed will result in a cake that has the texture of a rubber tire. Mixing an egg directly into hot milk (rather than tempering them first) will result in scrambled eggs instead of custard. Room temperature, unchilled chocolate chip cookie dough will result in cookies flat as pancakes, every time.

Baking directions need to be clear and concise, leaving very little room for interpretation because more often than not, there isn’t much room for it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read bread recipes (in cookbooks authored by very famous bakers, or on very popular websites, by the way) and seen them read something like this:

“Combine all ingredients together to make a smooth bread dough, and allow to rise.”

Like…what?

How is someone (who is not a baker) supposed to follow that?

Using yeast used to make me nervous too. In the beginning when I was first starting out learning how to bake, I too avoided bread recipes because when I read through a lot of the recipes, they just weren’t clear enough to where I felt comfortable enough to try. I get it guys.

Whenever I post a bread recipe on this blog, I try to ensure that it’s written as clearly and concisely as I can make it. I know that I do make some things that seem ‘advanced’, but I still want them to be accessible for people who aren’t used to baking and may want to try it out.

Today’s recipe is another where I tried to write it out to make baking with yeast incredibly easy. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, it’s nearly fail-proof. They’re a simple golden, rich sandwich roll that I think would be perfect for sliders, or breakfast sandwiches (which is how I’ve been enjoying them). Feel free to add fresh or dried herbs to give them added flavor. The crumb inside is soft and fluffy, yet also toasts very well. This is one experiment that I can guarantee won’t go wrong, and that you’ll be very happy that you tried it out.

Golden Sandwich Rolls

Recipe Adapted from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried herbs of your choice
  • 3 teaspoons of dry active yeast
  • 2 tablespoons of softened butter
  • 2 eggs, room temperature and beaten
  • 5 1/2-6 cups of all purpose flour (you may not need it all depending on time of year and your location)
  • sesame seeds, optional

Directions

Place the warm water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water. Sprinkle one tablespoon of the sugar on top of the yeast. Allow it to sit for ten minutes, until proofed and frothy.

Pour the yeast-water mixture into the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the dry milk, remaining tablespoon of sugar, salt, pepper, dried herbs and beaten eggs. Use the paddle attachment to mix the ingredients until combined. Switch to the dough hook attachment and add the softened butter, mixing just until butter is absorbed (it’s okay if it looks a little curdled).

Add the flour in one cup increments, just until the dough begins to come together around the hook. Once it has, turn off the mixer and scrape the dough out onto a clean work surface that you’ve sprinkled with flour (like a pastry mat or a smooth countertop). Use your hands to firmly knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10-12 minutes. You can use additional flour (about 1/4 cup at a time) if it’s still too sticky; I also prefer to rub my hands with canola, olive or vegetable oil before kneading and that helps a lot without having to add more flour.

(The dough is ready when you can stretch one piece of it out very thin, and it’s translucent enough to see through.)

Grease the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow it to rest until doubled in size, 1 1/2 hours.

Place two sheets of parchment paper onto two sheet pans. Turn dough out onto your clean work surface and punch down to deflate air bubbles. Divide it into 2 halves, keeping one half covered with plastic wrap while you work with the other.

Roll dough out into a rectangle that’s about 1/2 inch thick. Use a 2 1/2 inch cutter (square or circle, doesn’t matter) to cut out individual rolls. Place the rolls on the lined sheet pans. Repeat until you’ve used up all the dough. Cover both sheet pans of rolls with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towels. Allow to rest and rise until puffy and grown (they may not be doubled in size, but they should’ve grown at least a little) about 50-60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly spray the tops of the rolls with cooking spray and sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 15-20 minutes (check them early, mine baked quickly).

Remove to a wire rack to let cool completely.

*Thump the bottoms of the rolls with your thumb and forefinger; a hollow sound means they’re done. Bread in general is finished at an inner temp of 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit.*

Sharing this post at Fiesta Friday #260, co-hosted this week by Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

Chicken Lo Mein

There are usually only three things that I’ll want when ordering Chinese takeout. These three things are also the standard by which I judge whether or not the place has good food or not. I figure that they’re deceptively simple; not hard to do per se, but also so simple that they’re easy to mess up. When they’re done badly, they’re awful. When they’re done well, they’re fantastic.

Sesame chicken.

Lo mein.

Egg rolls.

Together they’re the perfect trifecta of takeout. The only thing better than finding a great place that makes it, is being able to make it yourself at home. (Not to mention, it’s cheaper.)

I’ve been making my own egg rolls and lo mein for several years now. I posted the recipe for the egg rolls here shortly after first starting Cooking is My Sport, but I waited to post my recipe for lo mein. I wanted to wait and see if I could improve it while also keeping it pretty simple, with ingredients that could be found in most general grocery stores.

This is a great weeknight meal to make. Once you get all of the ingredients together and prepped, the dish comes together pretty quickly. I used cabbage and carrots with the noodles and chicken, but if there is any other vegetable that you prefer to have instead, feel free to use it. Stir fries are very flexible recipes and this one is no exception. The sauce for the noodles is sweet from hoisin, salty from the soy sauce and tangy from the rice wine vinegar. It’s delicious, and I’ve found myself using it for more than just a stir-fry sauce. I’ve used it as a dipping sauce for egg rolls, spread it on sandwiches–it’s that good.

Now I just have to get around to making my own Sesame Chicken. TBC.

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Chicken Lo Mein

Recipe from Jess@CookingisMySport

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • onion powder
  • ground ginger
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

For Stir Fry

  • 1 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 20 oz. shredded cabbage
  • 10 oz. shredded carrots
  • About 15 oz of your choice of Asian style noodles (I prefer wide and flat ones, like Guan Miao Sliced Noodles)
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint, chopped
  • 2-3 stalks of green onion, chopped
  • peanuts and sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

Arrange chicken in one layer in a sheet pan. In a small cup, stir together 1/4 cup of soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar.

Sprinkle an even coating of onion powder, ground ginger and black pepper on both sides. Pour the soy sauce-vinegar marinade over the chicken, stirring it a few times to make sure it’s evenly coated. Allow to sit for about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a glass measuring cup combine the 1 cup of hoisin sauce, 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar and sesame oil and whisk together with a fork. Set aside.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a wok or other large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken to the wok and cook on both sides until it’s cooked through. (You may have to do this in batches).When the chicken is done, remove it to a separate platter and keep loosely covered.

When chicken has finished cooking, heat some more oil into the wok. When it’s nice and hot, add the carrots and cabbage to the wot and allow to cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the skillet to another platter, and wipe the skillet clean.

Meanwhile, cook your noodles according to the package directions and drain when they’re finished. Keep the heat on the stove up on high and add 1 more tablespoon of oil to it. Add everything back to the wok/skillet: chicken, vegetables and noodles, and stir together. Pour the stir fry sauce from the glass measuring cup over the lo mein and stir quickly so that it’s evenly mixed. (You may not need to use it all; it all depends on how ‘saucy’ you want the lo mein to be. Use your own discretion.) Allow to cook for 1-2 more minutes–this is just to make the sauce coat the noodles.

Remove from the heat and add the fresh mint and green onion to the lo mein. Sprinkle with the peanuts and sesame seeds.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #259, co-hosted this week by Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Cinnamon Stamped Cookies

So, here’s a random but I think very useful tip for those of you who love to bake: the prettiest cookies do not have to come from cookie cutters, or cookie stamps.

At least, not most of them. I will say that certain springerle molds can make absolutely beautiful, unreal looking cookies. The problem with most springerle molds is that because they’re hand-crafted wood, they don’t run cheap.

I got into collecting cookie stamps a little while ago and although I got some pretty nice ones, the designs weren’t as elaborate as the springerle molds, which was what I really wanted. Then one day, I was surfing the web for cookie stamps, and stumbled across something different. They were called moon cakes. Mooncakes are Chinese pastries that are typically eaten during the Mid-Autumn festival. I’ve never had one and had never heard of them until then; all I knew that the designs on top of them were beautiful.

Traditional mooncakes are made with what’s called a mooncake mold. It’s a plunger like tool where the ball of filled pastry gets pressed into a shaped mold, then imprinted on top with the intricate design. After I’d done my quick Google search to learn how THAT was done, I then turned to the thought that aligned with my interest: would I be able to use the mooncake mold as a cookie stamp?

Since they were much, MUCH more cheaper than springerle molds, I decided to take a chance and ordered a set of mooncake molds to put my theory to the test. They came in a couple of days and within hours I was in the kitchen rolling out cookie dough. What do you y’all think? Was I right, or was I right?

A couple of things: first, this is a recipe that can be made with ANY cookie stamp, mold or cutter you have. The dough is a basic butter cookie that is flavored with cinnamon and vanilla but you can always switch the flavors up to what you’re inclined towards. It bakes up crisp on the outside and tender on the inside–just as a butter cookie should be. Second, if this post has inspired you to buy and test out mooncake molds for yourself, I would recommend to always use a cookie dough that has been designated as a cut-out cookie recipe. There’s no point in going to the trouble of using the mold if the recipe is one that doesn’t hold it’s shape or design after baking.

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Cinnamon Stamped Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing just until combined and yellow disappears. Add the vanilla extract.

In a small bowl combine the flour with the cinnamon and salt, stirring together with a fork. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 1 cup increments, mixing just until combined.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray.

Roll dough out on a clean and floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Dip your cookie stamps into powdered sugar, then tap to remove excess. Press firmly into the dough. Use a slightly larger round cookie cutter to cut out shape, then transfer to cookie sheets. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the dough.*

Freeze cut out cookie dough for 10-20 minutes

Bake in the oven on the middle rack until just golden brown, about 9-12 minutes. Allow to set on sheets for about 60 seconds before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

(Note: no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

Linking to the Fiesta Friday #258, co-hosted this week by Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

Ginger Pound Cake

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope you all had a great holiday season that was filled with great food, relaxation and time spent with loved ones. It’s crazy that we’ve already left 2018 behind. I have a lot of optimism that 2019 will be a good year with lots of much needed change. After I finished the 12 Days of Christmas, I needed a wee break to recoup from all that baking. I’ve got my rest and I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. So, let’s start this year’s recipes off the right way, shall we?

I’ve spoken before on here about my love for ginger. You can search the Recipe Index for the various recipes I’ve used it in in; it’s a great ingredient. There are a lot of uses to be found for it and lately, I’ve always seemed to have a stalk or 2 of it in my fridge. Ground ginger often finds its way into desserts like gingerbread, but my favorite way to use and eat it is when it’s been candied/crystallized.

The only downside to candied and crystallized ginger is that most of the time, it doesn’t run cheap in the stores. In my opinion at least, it’s often overpriced. Not to worry though. There’s an easy way around that. You can always just make your own.

It’s easy. It’s MUCH more inexpensive. It’s worth it. (Check out my instagram now for the step by step instructions) And when you’ve finished looking that over (and after you’ve made some crystallized ginger for yourself), come back here and check out today’s recipe. Trust me, we’re going to put it to good use.

A pound cake is the perfect dessert/blank canvas to test out a wide variety of flavors. It’s already plenty delicious on its own–any added flavor you give to the batter will serve to just amplify the finished cake. I’ve done quite a bit of it here on the blog already, and now I’m pleased to share this new addition to the Pound Cake Pantheon of Awesomeness (I totally came up with that on the spot, can’t you tell?)

The recipe uses ginger in two ways: ground ginger that gets sifted in with the other dry ingredients, and crystallized ginger that gets steeped in milk for a few minutes. Both the ginger and the ginger flavored milk are then mixed into the batter.With six eggs in it, this is going to be one very tall cake. If you’re not sure if your bundt pan can fit up to 16 cups, then I’d recommend splitting it between two loaf pans, just to be on the safe side.

The texture of this cake is sublime. It’s rich, buttery and moist enough to where you could eat it plain and still be totally satisified–or go the extra mile and throw on the ginger flavored icing. Combined with the richness of the cake itself, the ginger here adds a spicy sweet flavor that’s got great bite, but still isn’t overpowering. I really enjoyed this cake and I think you will too.

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Ginger Pound Cake

Recipe Courtesy of The Southern Cake Book

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 ounces of crystallized ginger, finely minced
  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • A few tablespoons of milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 16 cup (10 inch) Bundt or tube pan.

Simmer milk and ginger together in a small saucepan over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until thoroughly heated. (Don’t let it boil.) Remove from the heat and let it stand for 10-15 minutes. Add the vanilla extract to the milk.

Stir together the flour with the ground ginger in a bowl with a fork, and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a handheld one) beat the butter at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add the sugar, about 1 cup at a time, beating 5-7 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until the yellow disappears. (Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as you’re doing this to ensure even mixing.)

Add the flour to the butter mixer alternatively with the milk (begin and end with the flour). Beat at a low speed, just until combined after each addition.

Pour the batter into the cake pan. Lift and tap it down on the counter a few times (this will prevent air bubbles from forming). Place the cake pan on a sheet pan, then bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour and 25 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean and cake reaches an inner temp of 205-210 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stir together the ingredients for the icing together in a bowl. It shouldn’t be too runny, just loose enough to drizzle. Use the tines of a fork to drizzle the icing over the cake in a decorative design. Allow to to sit for about 30 minutes, just until icing has set. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #257, co-hosted this week by Suzanne @apuginthekitchen and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives.