Orange Cranberry Buns

Well, it’s about that time of year again, y’all.

For those of us on the States side, with Thanksgiving officially over, the holiday season officially gets kicked into high gear. And here on the blog, that holiday season gets kicked off in a very special way:

The 12 Days of Christmas.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that every year I set aside twelve days during the month of December (and sometimes one or two days in late November) for a series of holiday themed recipes. I grew up in a household where Christmas baking was a yearly and very dearly loved tradition. It put a sprinkle of extra Christmas spirit on my childhood that I’ve never lost a nostalgia for, and now that I’m an adult I find that I still feel that nostalgia when I bake myself for Christmas.

Late 2019 I took an unexpected blogging hiatus, and it was the first and only time in the nearly seven years I’ve been food blogging where I didn’t do a 12 Days of Christmas. It was a huge mistake. Christmas wasn’t the same for me at all without my holiday baking and I made a promise to myself at New Years that come what may, I was going to resume blogging AND resume the 12 Days of Christmas come holiday season 2020.

I’m a girl who keeps her promises. So here we are.

I’m kicking off this year’s series with bread. I bought a wreath-shaped baking pan that I wanted to try out and the holiday season seemed a pretty perfect occasion to break her in. Bear in mind though, you defintely don’t need a wreath shaped pan to bake these. You can always bake them on a pizza stone, or a large baking sheet and arrange them in a wreath shape. You could also just bake them in rows in a regular baking pan. I promise, it won’t affect the taste.

Orange and cranberry taste like Christmas to me. This dough is flavored with both, along with a warm holiday spice mix. After baking, I brushed them with an orange honey glaze, then after the glaze had set, drizzled on an orange icing.

Don’t they look festive? A pretty good way to start 12 days of Christmas goodies, if I may say so myself.

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Orange Cranberry Buns

Recipe Adapted from Bake from Scratch

Ingredients

For Buns

  • 2¼ cups dried cranberries
  • 1¼ cups warm no-pulp orange juice (180°F/82°C to 185°F/85°C)
  • 1½ cups warm whole milk (105°F/40°C to 110°F/43°C)
  • 6¾ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 10 cups all-purpose flour, divided*
  • 1½ teaspoons  kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon  ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon  ground allspice
  • ½ cup  unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 tablespoons, freshly squeezed orange juice, strained
  • 4 large eggs, divided
  • 1¾ teaspoons  orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons water

For Honey-Orange Glaze

  • ½ cup clover honey
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice, strained

Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • A tablespoon or two of orange juice

Directions

In a large bowl, combine dried cranberries and warm orange juice. Cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for at least 20 minutes, and up to overnight. Strain, discarding excess liquid.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine warm milk and yeast. Sprinkle ¼ cup (50 grams) sugar over yeast and milk. Let stand until mixture is foamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together 5 cups of the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and remaining ½ cup of white sugar.

With mixer on low speed, add half of flour mixture to yeast mixture, beating just until combined. Beat in melted butter, freshly squeezed orange juice, and 3 eggs. Transfer dough to a large bowl, and gradually add remaining flour mixture, stirring with a spatula or a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. (Because this is such a large amount of dough, you will need to incorporate ingredients in a larger bowl.) Stir in drained dried cranberries and zest.

*Knead until smooth, about 8 minutes, adding more flour as needed. You may not need to use all of the flour; this varies depending upon the time of year and where you live. (But the dough should not be sticky by the time it’s ready.)

Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough in bowl, turning to grease top. Loosely cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1½ hours.

Meanwhile, make the honey glaze: In a small saucepan, bring honey and orange juice to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Let cool completely.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Either spray two wreath pans or line a 15-inch round pizza pan or stone with parchment paper, and spray with cooking spray.

Lightly punch down dough, and let rest for 5 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, turn out dough. Divide dough into 18 pieces, and roll each piece into a ball. Arrange balls on prepared pan in a wreath shape, leaving little space in between them. (You don’t have to make a wreath shape at all; these will bake just fine in straight rows as well) Cover with plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel and let stand in a warm, draft-free place (75°F/24°C) until puffed and rolls are touching, about 25 minutes. (Rolls will rise to edge of pan/pizza stone, but will not spill over during baking.)

In a small bowl, whisk together milk and remaining 1 egg. Brush tops of rolls with egg mixture.

Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. (Bread is done at an inner temp of 190 degrees Fahrenheit) Brush warm rolls with Honey-Orange Glaze. If desired, stir icing ingredients together in a small bowl and then drizzle icing over the buns once glaze had set.

Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #356

Chicken Taco Stew

I think that I’ve mentioned this before on here, but because it’s relevant to this post/recipe I’ll say it again: I don’t like soup.

I never really have, even as a child. I didn’t really know why back then. Now that I’m older and have embraced my love of my food, I have a very clear awareness of what I like, what I don’t like, and the reasons why. My reasons for disliking soup can be summed up in one word: consistency.

I just don’t like the consistency of soup. When I was a child I can remember never really liking Campbells’ soup from a can, but I can also remember holding a particular preference, even a like for Dinty Moore’s stews. Looking back, I can say that the preference came from the consistency of the food.

I never really liked having to ‘slurp’ my food, the way you would have to slurp a broth. In my mind, slurping has just always been for beverages and chewing has always just been for food; the lines between the two just don’t need to be blurred. I like my food to have texture, richness and ‘body’ to it; body is just something that to me, most soups are lacking. They lack heartiness to me. I’m never full after I eat them, and for that reason I don’t cook or eat them very much at all.

What does that have to do with today’s post? Well, in the spirit of full disclosure, the inspiration for the flavors of this recipe came from another recipe that some of you may have heard of: taco soup. I’ve seen it floating around mainly Pinterest and it’s become pretty popular as most iterations of it are low calorie, low fat and great for dieting. The flavors in taco soup are supposed to emulate eating a taco; a food that is safe to say, not low calorie or low fat. I like tacos, for sure; soup? Not so much.

So this is my riff, or rather, my improvement on taco soup: Chicken taco stew.

I can’t speak for how low carb, low fat or low whatever my taco stew is, y’all. That’s really not my ministry. What I CAN tell you, is that it is absolutely delicious.

I make the base of my stews to be rather thick and hearty. Again, it’s all about the consistency for me. In my mind, the perfect ‘broth’ of a stew can form a coating on the back of a spoon. The thicker and richer the base, the more I can appreciate the flavors of the food itself.

Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients here. It’s mostly seasoning, and the actual process of putting everything together is very straightforward and easy to follow. Combined with the heartiness of the base, the chicken and the beans, this is comfort food to the nth degree. It really is like eating a bowl of tacos that wrap you and your stomach up in a warm hug.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe.

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Chicken Taco Stew

Recipe from Jess@CookingisMySport

Ingredients

  • 5-6lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large or 2 mediums yellow sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • (2) 14.5 oz. cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • (2) 4 oz. cans diced green chiles
  • (1) 15 oz. can corn
  • (1) 15 oz. can black beans
  • (1) 15 oz. can pinto peans
  • (4) 1 oz. packets of taco or fajita seasoning
  • (1) 1 oz. packet of dried ranch dressing seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  •  64 oz. chicken broth
  • 1 cup water or milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Divide the cubed chicken into two 1 gallon sized plastic bags.

In a medium size bowl combine 2 cups of the flour with the onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cumin, black pepper, and cinnamon. Stir together with a fork.

Evenly divide the flour mixture between the two ziploc bags. Seal tightly, then toss to coat thoroughly, so that there is an even layer over meat.

Coat the bottom of a large non-stick stockpot or Dutch Oven with a few tablespoons of canola, vegetable or olive oil. Brown the floured meat over high heat on the stovetop. Don’t worry about it cooking all the way through, just cook long enough to give it some color. When it’s browned, temporarily move the meat to a sheet pan. Don’t overcrowd the pot, you’ll have to repeat/do this in about 2-3 batches to get through all of the meat.

When you’re finished browning the meat, add a little bit more oil to the pot, then add the onions. Cook over medium heat until they’re softened and translucent, 5-10 minutes. Remove the onions from the pot and place them with the browned chicken.

Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of flour into the pot. Allow it to cook over medium heat until it’s browned and smells toasty, about 3-5 minutes (don’t walk away from it, it can burn easily.)

Once you can smell it begin to toast, pour in the chicken broth, the diced tomatoes, green chiles, taco/fajita seasoning, ranch dressing seasoning, bay leaves, honey, and the water/milk. Use a wire whisk to stir to dissolve the flour clumps quicker.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Salt and pepper to taste. Depending upon your taste preferences you may need to add a little more cumin, or onion powder too.  Allow it to cook for about 10 minutes, until it begins to thicken and the flavors begin to meld together.

Taste and adjust for seasoning, then add the chicken and onions back to the pot.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer stew, uncovered for about 45 minutes, until the chicken is fork tender.

Add the beans and the corn to the stew, stir with a large spoon and allow to cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Serve with chips, salsa, sour cream, cilantro or melted cheese on top.

Linking this post to Fiesta Friday #355, co-hosted this week by the lovely Jhuls@The Not So Creative Cook.

Giant Blueberry Bun

Hi y’all. What a week.

On the plus side, America made the right decision in our presidential election. No matter what that toddler says or whines on about, it was a clear, fair and decisive election, and he lost. We’re going to have our first woman, and woman of color Vice President. Those are all reasons to celebrate.

On the other hand… there’s everything else that’s happened in the election’s wake. I’ve fluctuated a lot between immense relief and immense apprehension over the past week. Cooking and baking has helped.

Now seems like a good time to announce that I do intend to resume my annual 12 Days of Christmas baking series for 2020. In my hiatus last year, I skipped it. That was a huge mistake. The holidays just didn’t feel the same to me and I realized that baking is an integral part of my holiday experience. It truly lifts my spirits, and in a year like 2020 I think that we all should be doing everything we can to lift those as high as we can. I’ve already gotten a headstart and I’m really excited about this year’s recipes. So stay tuned for that to kick off towards the latter end of the month.

Today’s recipe I’ve actually had in my drafts folder for a long time. It was one I made before my hiatus and never got around to posting, which is a shame because it’s really VERY good. As you can see, fresh blueberries are baked right into the dough, then they burst creating those lovely pockets of fruity goodness. I usually will ice a bread like this, but it was honestly good enough for us without it. The brown sugar inside gets exposed from the swirls and creates a delicious, textural sugary topping that’s plenty sweet enough on it’s own.

I also think that it would also be great to cube up the leftovers, leave them to dry out overnight, then make this into an AMAZING bread pudding. Just a suggestion.

One last thing. Y’all, know that this has been the year from Hell for so many reasons and that it’s still not over yet. I know that the holidays are coming up and that large family gatherings are the norm. But please. Please.

Don’t do it. Only leave the house if you absolutely need to, and social distance. Wear a mask. Things are as bad with this pandemic as they’ve ever been in the US and if we don’t all act responsibly and like sensible human beings with compassion for someone other than ourselves, they’re only going to get much much worse. This is not false hysteria or fear-mongering; this is science. I’ll say it again and I’m going to keep saying it:

Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe.

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Giant Blueberry Bun

Recipe Adapted from Bake from Scratch

Ingredients

  • 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon white sugar, divided
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg

For Filling

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark, doesn’t matter which)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup fresh blueberries

 

Directions

In a medium saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of the butter with the milk over low heat until it reaches 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from the heat.

Sprinkle yeast on top of the warm butter-milk mixture. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the sugar on top of that. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until yeast is proofed and frothy.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or a large regular bowl) combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the 1/3 cup sugar, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Beat the egg in a small bowl.

Add the butter-milk mixture and the beaten egg to the dry ingredients and use the paddle attachment (or a large fork) to stir just until combined. Switch to the dough hook (or continue using the fork). Continue to add flour to the dough in 1 cup increments.

Continue to add the flour in about 1 cup increments, just until the dough begins to come together around the hook. (You may not need to use all the flour, this is dependent upon the time of year and your location).

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..

Place the dough in another greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Place in a warm place for about an hour.

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan or baking dish.

In a medium bowl, stir together brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Make sure the remaining 1/2 cup of butter is softened.

Sprinkle flour on your clean work surface and turn out the dough. Lightly punch down and allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Roll out the dough to a rectangle, around roughly 10 inches wide and 12 or more inches long.

Use a small spatula to spread the softened butter across the rolled out dough, leaving a one inch border all around the edge. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture on top of the butter; it will form a thick layer. Sprinkle the blueberries on top of that.

Starting from the shortest end closes to you, carefully roll the dough into a log. If any filling falls out, just tuck it back in. If the dough sticks to the counter, use a bench scraper to gently pry it up. When done rolling, pinch the dough to seal it closed. Dip a very sharp knife in water and gently, but swiftly, slice the log down its entire length, creating two halves with lots of layers (kitchen shears will work for this too.)

Turn the halves so that the layers are facing up. Press the two halves together at the top, then twist the halves around each other, creating a spiral. Press the halves together again at the bottom. Wrap the braid into a round, courounne shaped loaf.

 Carefully lift the loaf into the center of the greased cake pan.

Cover it with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow it to rest until puffy and risen, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake on center rack of oven for 15 minutes. Loosely cover with foil, and bake until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 190°F (88°C), about 1 hour more. (Check it early though, mine baked fast)

Allow to cool for about 15-20 minutes on a wire rack before slicing.

Linking up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #354, co-hosted this week by Liz@Spades, Spatulas & Spoons

Sausage Gravy and Biscuits

I debated very seriously whether or not to do a post this week at all. In light of the tense and stressful circumstances in my country right now, I wondered if making a post about food would be tone-deaf, insensitive or whatever you want to call it. Apart of me still feels like it is.

On the other hand, the truth is that for me personally, finding ways to mitigate feelings of anxiety is to focus upon things that make me feel happy, relaxed or at least distracted. Cooking is my sport, and a huge stress reliever for me– that includes posting on this blog.

One thing I knew I wasn’t going to do if I did post today was pretend as though the election wasn’t happening, that it didn’t matter, or that I don’t feel very strongly about who I wanted to win. If y’all have been following me for a while, you probably already know how I feel about it. My fingers are crossed, my breath is held, I’m knocking on wood, and hopefully we will be swearing in a new president come January 2021.

But regardless of what happens in this election, I’ve resolved to keep an attitude of trying to plan for the worst, hope for the best, and to keep my head up. Y’all try to do the same.

It’s now November, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean colder weather for everybody, around this time of year I still find myself craving stick-to-your-ribs comfort food.

There can’t be many foods that are more stick-to-your-ribs (and in my case, the hips, thighs and derriere) than biscuits and gravy. It’s such a simple but satisfying dish and I’m surprised it took me this long to get around to putting together a recipe for it.

Making sausage gravy really isn’t complicated. You probably have most of the ingredients that you need in your house already, and the whole thing comes together in little under an hour. Biscuits do take a tad bit more effort, but ohhhh how worth it that effort is for these.

I’m telling y’all, sour cream does godly (or ungodly depending on how you look at it) things to biscuits. They rise SO high, and still come out SO light and tender. I was ready for the best nap of my life after I finished eating this; isn’t that the best indicator for how comforting and delicious a dish is?

Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe.

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Sausage Gravy and Biscuits

Recipe from Jess@CookingisMySport

Ingredients

For Sausage Gravy

  • 1 cup flour
  • 6 cups of milk
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 lbs ground pork sausage
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground sage
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • salt (if needed, see note)
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 bay leaf

For Biscuits

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, frozen
  • 3 cups self rising flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark, doesn’t matter)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • About 1/2 cup of buttermilk, plus more if needed

Directions

For Biscuits

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and brown sugar and 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 and 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 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 two to three 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 square cookie cutter, or a knife to cut the remaining dough into squares, about 2″ each.

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). Freeze until cold, about 15 minutes.

Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

For Sausage Gravy

Brown the sausage in a large skillet until no longer pink and formed into crumbles. Drain (but reserve the sausage grease!) and remove to a separate bowl.

In a large pot (I used my Dutch oven) over medium heat, pour in the flour. Stir with a metal spoon or spatula for about 1-2 minutes, just until you smell it start to toast. (Don’t let it get too brown, this is supposed to be a white gravy.)

Pour in the milk, water, oregano, sage, onion powder, black pepper and bay leaf.

(A thing to keep in mind: sausage is very salty on its own. In lieu of salt, I added a few tablespoons of the reserved sausage grease to the gravy so that it had both salt and meaty flavor. If you prefer to use salt, you can, but just be careful with how much you use.)

Bring the mixture up to a boil, stirring constantly until smooth. Lower heat to a simmer and allow to cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, tasting and adjusting for seasoning. It should begin to thicken into a gravy-like consistency.

Pour in the reserved sausage, stir and turn the heat down to low, allowing to cook for an additional 10-15 minutes.

Split the biscuits in half and serve with the gravy spooned on top.

Linking to Fiesta Friday #353