Texas BBQ Pot Roast

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It’s January. It’s cold outside. In most parts of the country, the weather is pretty crappy. It still gets dark pretty early in the evening. It’s Friday afternoon.

And you-know-who is now the president.

All of the above means that we deserve some MAJOR comfort food.

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I almost didn’t post this recipe. Almost. The lighting on the day I cooked it was REALLY bad, to the point where there was barely any sunlight outside at all and very little natural light to shine on the food.

All my fellow food bloggers out there know that shooting pictures of monochrome ‘brown’ foods like beef are difficult enough as it is, but without sunlight? Eh. It’s not picnic, I’ll tell you.

But ultimately I decided, what the heck? It’s a few hunks of beef. I think it looks like a few hunks of beef. Maybe not as pretty as they could be, but what makes a dish at the end of the day is the taste.

And I promise you, it does not fail to deliver on that.

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There’s not many bells and whistles to this dish. It takes the sweet and tangy flavors that remind me of barbecue and infuses them into a hunk of beef that is cooked low and slow in the oven until fork tender. It’s no grilled so we obviously don’t have that charred, charcoal flavor, but…it’s still pretty great stuff.

In fact, upon tasting, my older sister remarked that the sauce that it produces is VERRRRRRY close to the homemade barbecue sauce that our grandmother always made for holidays when we would grill out.

Which suffice to say, is very high praise indeed.

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The low roasting temp makes the beef come out so juicy, moist and tender. The sauce that it makes is the perfect blend of sweet and tangy flavors. It made for an absolutely delicious sandwich, guys. I mean, wow. I ate mine with caramelized onions and peppers and pickled gherkins, as pictured. But however you’d like to eat it, I guarantee you’ll be satisfied.

Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #155. Y’all be easy.

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Texas BBQ Pot Roast

Recipe Adapted from Family Circle Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 1 pot roast (about 4-5 pounds), such as bottom round or chuck (I used a London Broil cut)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1 cup bottled barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory Brown Sugar)
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken or beef broth
  • 1/8 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon or Honey Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 large onion (1/2 pound), chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, sliced
  • 4 large cloves garlic, crushed and minced

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prick the meat all over with a fork or knife on both sides.

In a small bowl, combine the onion powder, smoked paprika, pepper and seasoning salt. Rub the mixture evenly over both sides of the meat.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch Oven or pot over the stove over medium high heat. Just before it starts to smoke, sear the meat in the pot until a crust forms on surface, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove the meat to a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Set aside.

Place the onions and green pepper together in the Dutch oven and sauté them in the residual oil and drippings until just tender/translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about one minute more until the garlic is fragrant.

In a medium bowl, combine the barbecue sauce, vinegar, broth, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and chili powder. Pour into the Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Add the meat back into the pot, cover and place in the oven. Roast for about 3 to 4 hours, until the meat is fork tender, turning the meat every hour or so.

Let the meat stand in the pot for about 30 minutes. In the meanwhile, drain off about 2 cups of the liquid from the pot and place in a small saucepan. Bring the liquid in saucepan to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer until thickened into a sauce. Skim off the fat on the surface, then serve with the meat.

Curry and Ginger Crackers

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I know what you all are thinking.

Crackers. This chick actually took the trouble to make crackers? Like, from scratch?

But…why? For what? There are grocery stores with entire aisles of shelves holding droves and droves of crackers. Good ones. Some, *really* good. So, what is even the point of this post?

I can explain. Not only the why and how of me taking the trouble to make crackers, but why they’re actually something that I think YOU should be taking the trouble to make for yourself as well.

The first reason is that they’re actually not hard to make at all. They come together VERY quickly, the ingredients are not only minimal, they’re ALL recognizable and easy to pronounce–something that can’t be said of many of the mass produced popular name brand crackers out there.

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A few weeks ago, I started making my own ginger syrup. I’ve been drinking water diluted with lemon juice and the ginger syrup to ease some digestive issues that I’ve had for a while; the stuff really works. Maybe I’ll get around to sharing the ‘recipe’ to that one of these days, but the main takeaway for today’s is that to make the syrup I would simmer raw ginger slices in water and sugar until their flavor infused the syrup. The ginger was ‘candied’ by the syrup, then I rolled it in some white sugar and let it chill out in the fridge overnight. Voila: crystallized ginger that comes MUCH cheaper than the pricey stuff in the spice aisle.

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There are many things you can do with crystallized ginger, most involving a dessert of some kind.  My first instincts before resolving to make a cake or gingerbread or something like that, was to see if there was something else I could do with it using the ingredients that were already in my house as opposed to buying extra stuff. A quick scanning of the index of my King Arthur Flour cookbook brought me to this recipe. I’d never made crackers before, but the instructions did look very easy to follow, the flavor combination was intriguing and finally I figured hey…I hadn’t done it before, after all. Why not?

I’ll be upfront with you guys: besides these, I’ve already made 3 OTHER cracker recipes in the last few weeks. This is NOT the last you’ve seen of my homemade cracker endeavors. I’m kinda hooked on it. That’s how much I liked these.

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Look, I know they’re far from pretty. This WAS my first time. I’ve gotten better with practice, but for these, I just cut them out in haphazard shapes with a pizza cutter. But that’s the thing: the recipe is so easy to follow and hard to mess up that you can cut these out however the heck you want, and it won’t make a lick of difference because they’re just so damn tasty. The combination of the ginger with the curry powder is a match made in Heaven: it’s a perfect blend of sweet & balanced spice. There’s a kick in the aftertaste for sure, but it’s a subtle one that’s quite pleasant. ANDAND! Ginger and turmeric are natural remedies for upset stomach/nausea. Sooooo, how cool would it be to have these around for an absolutely delicious alternative to plain ol’ saltines? I’m pretty sure this is a cracker you can’t find on just any grocery store shelf anywhere–and in my humble opinion, these can compete with the best of them. Just saying.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #154. Have a great weekend everyone.

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Curry and Ginger Crackers

Recipe Courtesy of King Arthur Flour Baking Companion

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups (8 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup crystallized/candied ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • About 6 tablespoons cold water
  • Coarse sugar or salt, optional

 

Directions 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a blender or food processor, combine 1 cup of the flour and candied ginger. Process until the ginger is very finely diced.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour-ginger mixture, the rest of the flour, salt, curry powder, turmeric, sugar and cayenne pepper if using. Cut in the butter using a fork, working it into the dry ingredients until the mixture forms small and even crumbs. Add enough of the water to form a smooth, workable dough.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces and roll each out to a flatness of about 1/8 inch thick. Using a pizza cutter, a bench scraper or a sharp knife, cut the dough into squares and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Freeze the crackers for about 15 minutes. Using the tines of a fork, prick the crackers evenly, pressing down all the way through to make holes. Sprinkle with either the coarse salt or sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until they’re a very light golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Shakshuka

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Today, we’re going to have a little chat about eggs and tomato sauce.

More specifically, egg and tomato sauce for breakfast.

Say whaaaa?

I know. That was my initial reaction too. But just hear me out, because it’s not as out there as it may sound.

 

I know more than a few of you guys have heard of Eggs in Purgatory, right? How about Huevos Rancheros?

This really isn’t so far off from those dishes.

I first heard of Shakshua from watching a cooking show where the host said that they first tried it at a tiny hole in the wall spot in Jerusalem, Israel. It was a meal that was regularly eaten for breakfast/brunch. Normally, I tend to not go much more ‘savory’ than an omelette for breakfast in my preferences, but this dish caught my eye because it just looked SO good. It stuck in my head–and you guys know what happens when a particular dish gets stuck in my head. I just have to try it for myself.

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So. Shakshuka. After you’ve tried to say it three times fast, you’re probably wondering what it is, right?

The base is a tomato sauce of peppers and onions that’s heavily seasoned with garlic and smoky spices, then has eggs poached inside of it. It’s also mostly eaten with pita bread that gets dunked in the sauce. The foundation was a great starter for me to start with, then add some of those personal ‘Jess’ touches.

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Most of the traditional Shakshukas I’ve seen were vegetarian friendly, with either chickpeas or mushrooms giving the sauce the ‘meaty’ texture. But, well um…we’re carnivores around here so I knew that there was no way that meat was NOT going to make an appearance in a dinner I made. Not a lot; but enough to make it’s presence known. I used ground beef, but ground turkey or sausage would work just as well for any other carnivores. (Oh, and you can absolutely throw in the chickpeas WITH the meat too. Extra protein is nice.)

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The second major addition I made to the recipe was a particular spice that I got introduced to a little while ago called ras el hanout. It’s a Moroccan spice blend that’s very smoky, slightly sweet, a little bit spicy, and extremely delicious. It’s often used in curries or in rice/couscous, but I thought that it would work pretty well to liven up that acidic and potentially flat tomato flavor of the shakshuka sauce. I was right. For my American friends, you can find a pouch of the ras el hanout at World Market for a very inexpensive price. If there are any Middle Eastern markets in your area then they’ll most likely have some there too. You can of course find it on Amazon too. However, if you’d rather do without, that’s fine: just substitute it with additional cumin.

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After you give the sauce time to cook down, it becomes robust and slightly thick with the added body from the meat and veggies. The flavors are really outstanding. You’ve got the acidity from the tomato, the smoky punch of flavor from the ras el hanout/cumin/paprika, the slight sweetness from the honey and the added flavor that the meat itself gives to it. You’ll kinda feel a little indulgent adding the eggs to finish the dish off, but who cares? I sure didn’t. Cook them until just set, then feel freed to spread and drag that runny yolk all through the sauce.

I got myself a short stack of sturdy pita bread and ate this dish entirely with my hands, using the bread as a spoon to dip and scoop up every single bit of the meaty/eggy sauce. And yes; I absolutely did use it to scrape the last bits up off the bottom until I’d pretty much wiped the bottom clean. Do.not.judge.me.

I hope you guys at Fiesta Friday #153 are hungry. I brought some Shakshuka and pita to share. Thanks to this week’s cohosts, Quinn @ Dad What’s 4 Dinner and Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes.

Shakshuka

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • One large sweet Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
  • One red bell pepper, thinly sliced,
  • 7 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 heaping tablespoons ras el hanout (Moroccan spice blend)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons cumin
  • 1 heaping tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 (28 ounce can) of pre-crushed tomatoes (or 1 -28 oz. can of whole, peeled tomatoes that you crush with a potato masher or whisk yourself)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • About 1 1/2 cups of browned ground beef, turkey or sausage (optional)
  • 4-6 large eggs
  • Handful of spinach, roughly chopped
  • Pita bread, for serving

 

Directions

Heat the canola oil in a large cast iron or non-stick skillet that’s around 2 inches deep. Add the red bell pepper and saute until softened and pepper begins to get limp, around 3-5 minutes. Add the onions and stir together with pepper until both soften and become slightly charred.

Add the garlic and continue to cook until fragrant about 1 minute more.

Add in the tomato paste,  ras el hanout, cumin, and smoked paprika. Allow to cook for about 2 to 3 more minutes until the spices release their fragrance, stirring frequently.

Add the crushed tomatoes, honey, bay leaves and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to just barely a simmer. Stir in the meat, if using. Allow to cook for about 15-20 more minutes until flavors have blended and sauce has begun to reduce/thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt & pepper if needed. (If sauce becomes too thick, you can always add about 1/2 cup of water and stir to loosen)

Using a spoon, make small wells in the sauce around the perimeter of the skillet. Carefully crack eggs into the wells, spooning some of the sauce onto the whites and sprinkling some salt & pepper onto the eggs. Cover the skillet, reduce heat to lowest setting and allow to cook until eggs have cooked— whites just barely set and yolks have begun to firm—about 5-8 minutes.

Sprinkle sauce with the spinach and serve with the pita for dipping.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Kale Salad

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Whelp. As the song goes, this is The End.

The end of 2016, that is.

Wait, what; did you guys think I meant…THE end?

I mean, I dunno. Maybe it is. Check back with me after January 20th.

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For today however, let’s just keep the main focus on the fact that we’ve reached the end of the year. There is but one more day left in 2016. Crazy.

I won’t say this year’s went by particularly quick; it hasn’t really felt like that for me personally. I will say that it brought LOTS of change. Lots of new. Lots of different. There’s room for pessimism but the thing about starting a new year is that there’s also room for some new optimism. If things can get worse, there’s no reason not to hope that they can and won’t just might get better too, right?

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Some of us may choose the simple practice of optimism going into the new year. Others like to engage in certain practices that across cultures are supposed to bring especial luck to individuals if done on New Years Eve. I’m sure you guys are familiar with plenty of them.

Healthy amount of libations consumed.

Kissing a significant other or a… whatever you want to call them, at the stroke of midnight.

Opening doors and windows wide at night to let the ‘bad luck’ out of a house.

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There are plenty of places worldwide where people will consume particular foods, whether through tradition or believing that the foods themselves will provide good luck because of what they symbolize. Noodles consumed in Asian countries symbolize and are supposed to bring life longevity. In Spain, eating 12 grapes for each month of the year is supposed to predict the kind of year you will have (sweet for good times, sour for bad). There’s a certain Greek bread called Vasilopitta that I swear I’m gonna get around to trying myself one of these days. In the American south, black eyed peas, corn bread and leafy greens eaten at years end/new years are supposed to bring good luck.

If I’m being completely honest, I really don’t know or care whether or not eating greens of any kind will bring good luck. I’m gonna eat ’em regardless. But if the taste of today’s recipe was any indication, I’d say I was feeling pretty lucky this afternoon.

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Prior to this, the only ways I’d had kale previously was eating it raw, then eating it in the crispy chips you bake in the oven. Both are fine, but they’ve never really ‘wowed’ me into thinking kale was all that special. This recipe changed my mind. The kale is quick roasted in the oven, just to the point where it’s soft without being completed deflated. Sweet potato is roasted until it’s soft, but not quite mushy; it’s still got body to it. Both are then gently tossed together with some dried cranberries in a sweet and tangy dressing for a salad that is just REALLY delicious. The best part is, it tastes even better the next day after the flavors have had enough time to meld properly. The firm texture of the sweet potato is preserved and the texture of the kale in my opinion is improved: whereas raw kale is tough and fibrous, the quick roasted kale that’s been tossed in the dressing has this robust chewiness that’s a really great bite.

Truth to be told, it’s gone now and I’m already missing this stuff.  Oh yeah: and did I mention it’s pretty darn HEALTHY? And I actually want it. That’s always nice.

Linking this post to Fiesta Friday #152, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Ginger @ Ginger & Bread.

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Roasted Sweet Potato & Kale Salad

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes peeled, seeded, quartered, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bunch (about 8 ounces) kale
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup (about 6 ounces) dried cranberries or cherries

Directions

Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 400°F. Toss sweet potato pieces with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until potatoes are tender throughout and well browned around the edges, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before attempting to remove from foil. Carefully remove potatoes from foil using a thin metal spatula and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, pick leaves off of kale stems into a large bowl and roughly tear with hands; discard stems. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with salt and pepper, and massage until well-coated in oil. Transfer to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake until wilted and crisp in some spots, about 7–10 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to bowl with sweet potatoes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together shallot, maple syrup, mustard, vinegar, cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg, cloves, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar . Whisking constantly, drizzle in remaining 1/4 cup of the oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add cranberries to bowl with sweet potatoes and kale,. Toss with half of dressing, taste, and add more dressing as desired. The dressed salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Let it come to room temperature or briefly microwave until warm before serving.

Cinnamon Star Bread

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Hey guys.  So yeah… about this.

This is bread. Just cinnamon, sugar and bread. That’s it.

I know right? I’m not even going to make an attempt at humility with this one. Quite frankly, this is pretty awesome and I feel kinda awesome myself for having actually made it. I was excited after the second proof before the thing even went in the oven: it was already just so darn pretty.

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I’ve spoken before about my love for the Great British Bake Off/Baking Show. If you’re a fan of cooking & baking in general then I assume you’ve already seen it yourself–if not, you should as it’s a great show. In every episode there is a Show-stopper round, where the contestants have to take the subject of the week and use it to create a ‘showstopping’ work of art that is every bit as delicious to look at as it is to eat.

Rest assured, I will most certainly not be competing on a baking show at any point in time–however if strictly hypothetically speaking I did happen to compete on Bake Off, this Christmas star would almost DEFINITELY be my centerpiece for the showstopper round of Bread week.

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Number one: it’s GORGEOUS. Probably one of the prettiest things I’ve ever baked. Number two, it’s also deceptively simple to put together. No, but seriously: IT IS. I didn’t believe it at first glance either, but after reading the step-by-step illustrated walk-through on the King Arthur Flour website, I knew that this was something I could at least try to pull off for myself.

Plus, I couldn’t think of a better occasion for it than the 12 Days of Christmas series.

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I almost didn’t want to cut into this at all, but you guys should know that the recipe yields beautiful results both to look at and to eat. The bread bakes up soft and chewy and the cinnamon sugar gives it a subtle sweetness that makes it great for enjoying with coffee. I’m sure I also don’t have to point out the obvious; that if you were to take this into just about ANY breakroom, anywhere then it would most definitely disappear with all quickness. The twists on the star points make for easy tear-and-share portions and I assure you that there’s plenty to go around.

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I decided to keep things simple for my first go-around with the bread, but now that I see how easy it is to put together my mind is already formulating new renditions to give this. The cinnamon sugar can easily be substituted for a blend of chocolate & nuts. A layer of fruit spread. Nu-friggin-tella. I could also even possibly see a savory twist given to this where it’s layered with cheese and herbs. The possibilities here are endless and the results for this just can’t be beat. Because I like to share, I’ll be sharing my Christmas star with all of us showing up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #151–where it’s pretty crowded already I see. The more the merrier.

Well. Here we are again. We’ve reached yet another end to the 12 Days of Christmas series. Thanks to all of you who followed along with me. Hopefully it stirred up the baking elf in you and gave some inspiration to whip up some Christmas cheer in your own kitchens. Just as I have every day, I’ll include the links to all of the recipes in this year’s series below. Feel free to check them out if you haven’t already done so.

Have a very VERY Happy Holiday, you guys. Bless up.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

Day 6: Spiced Cookie Bark

Day 7: Demerara Sugar Buns

Day 8: Sugared Shortbread

Day 9: Hot Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

Day 10: Cranberry Scones

Day 11: Pebernodder Cookies

Day 12: Cinnamon Star Bread

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Cinnamon Star Bread

Recipe Courtesy of King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Dough

  • 3/4 cup + 2 to 4 tablespoons lukewarm water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 1/4 cup potato flour or 1/2 cup instant mashed potato flakes

For Filling

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup cinnamon sugar (1/3 cup of white sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon)

 

Directions

In a medium size bowl combine the flour, nonfat dry milk, potato flour or instant potato flakes and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer combine the water and yeast. Sprinkle the sugar on top. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes, until frothy.

Using the whisk attachment mix in the butter. Switch to the dough attachment and gradually fold in the flour mixture, kneading until a smooth dough forms, about 10-12 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Allow to rest for 1– 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size.

Cut dough into four equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, cover them and let rest ofr 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 piece of the dough into a 10 inch circle. Place this circle on a piece of parchment and brush with a thin coat of the beaten egg. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the cinnamon sugar mixture on top and use your fingers to lightly press into the dough, leaving 1/4 of the outer circle bare. Set the parchment nearby.

Take a second piece of the dough and repeat the process, placing on top of the completed cinnamon sugar disc. Repeat with the others, LEAVING THE TOP DISC BARE.

Place a 2 1/2″ to 3″ round cutter in the center of the dough circle as a guide. With a bench knife or sharp knife, cut the circle into 16 equal strips, from the cutter to the edge, through all the layers.

Using two hands, pick up two adjacent strips and twist them away from each other twice so that the top side is facing up again. Repeat with the remaining strips of dough so that you end up with eight pairs of strips.

Pinch the pairs of strips together to create a star-like shape with eight points. Remove the cutter.

Transfer the star on the parchment to a baking sheet. Cover the star and let it rise until it becomes noticeably puffy, about 45 minutes. While the star is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Brush the star with a thin coat of the beaten egg. Bake it for 12 to 15 minutes, until it’s nicely golden with dark brown cinnamon streaks; the center should register 200°F on a digital thermometer. Remove the loaf from the oven and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Pebernodder Cookies

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So here’s my full disclosure on the subject of today’s post: it was my original intention to make Pebernodder cookies apart of 2015’s 12 Days of Christmas.  I first heard of them through this baking recipe card collection I had and because I thought they looked and sounded delicious, I decided to give it a whirl.

It didn’t work out very well.

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To this day, I have no idea what the heck was wrong with that stupid cookie dough. The problems started showing themselves with the very first test cookie. It spread too much. The edges were coming out weird. The consistency of the finished cookie wasn’t even close to what one should’ve been.

And Believe me, I tried everything I could to fix it. I altered how I rolled out and cut the dough. I froze the dough for a while. Baked it more. Baked it less. Changed the position in the oven. Nothing worked. It was just…off.

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I finally remembered the other batches of cookies I had to bake and decided to write the Pebernodder off as the L that I was just gonna have to take for that year’s Christmas baking. I binned the remaining failed dough (of which there was unfortunately quite a bit), shook off the irritation, and just kept it moving.

In the back of my mind however, I resolved that for the next go around in 2016, I was absolutely *going* to get it right.

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I should probably go into just what is ‘right’ for a Pebernodder for you guys, huh?

Well the word ‘Pebernodder’ is actually Danish for Pepper Nuts (I think so anyway. I also don’t speak a syllable of Danish, so don’t quote me on that one). They’re traditionally very tiny cookies strongly flavored with spices like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and even pepper. Some variations use black pepper, while others even use the even more potent white pepper that give them an extra ‘kick’ that juuuuust toes the line between sweet and spicy.

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Aside from the combination of the spices, the main appeal of the cookie to me was the tiny, portable size. They just look like cookies that are meant to be piled in a big Christmas tin, wrapped in bow and presented as a gift or brought to an office party to share.  There’s plenty to go around with this batch, that much I can assure you.

Now remember, these are called Peppernuts for a reason. They’re supposed to be round and tiny so that they kinda resemble nuggets. So keeping that in mind, here are a few tips for handling this dough that should give you the results you want:

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The dough should be rolled into long and thin logs, then cut into very tiny pieces, like balls. Provided the dough is cold enough AND that you follow the tip of crinkling up the parchment paper, the cookies should have VERY minimal spreading. The tiny size of the cookies and high temperature of the oven also makes them bake very quickly despite the recipe yielding such a huge batch. You won’t be in the kitchen forever, promise.

Spice, spice and more spice: that’s the best way I can describe the taste of these. There’s just enough sugar to balance the bite of the spices. I know that other variations of these come out crisp, but my cookies came out rather soft and chewy–not that I’m complaining mind you. I heard nothing but praise from these and I’m very happy with my redo of the Pebernodder.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

Day 6: Spiced Cookie Bark

Day 7: Demerara Sugar Buns

Day 8: Sugared Shortbread

Day 9: Hot Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

Day 10: Cranberry Scones

Day 11: Pebernodder Cookies

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Pebernodder Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Rikke Gryberg

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/10 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • A few shakes of black pepper (optional, use if you prefer a ‘bite’ to the cookie, leave out if you prefer it on the sweeter side)

Directions

In a medium bowl, use a fork to mix the flour, cinnamon, cardamom, ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, baking power, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In the bottom of a standing mixer bow, use the wire attachment (or a handheld mixer) to mix the butter, white sugar and heavy cream.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, about 1/2 cup at a time. It should form a smooth dough. Separate into 4 portions and place in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes, until dough holds together firmly.

Take each individual portion and divide it into about 3 to 4 balls. Roll each ball into long strips/ropes, about 8-10 inches long. Place the ropes on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the freezer for another 10-15 minutes

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take a sheet of parchment paper and crumple it up in your hands thoroughly. Smooth it back out onto a baking sheet. (Repeat this process for as many sheets of cookies you plan on baking. The ridges and bumps made in the paper will keep the cookies from spreading too much.)

Remove the cookie logs from the freezer. Using a bench scraper or a sharp knife, cut each log into little pieces, about 1/3 inch thick. You can line the logs up next to each other and cut them all at once if you wish to save time. Place each piece about 1 1/2 inches apart from each other on the sheet (these cookies don’t spread much, so don’t feel the need to place a lot of space between them)

Take one baking sheet and bake in the oven for 7-8 minutes until the cookies have just started to turn golden brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 60 seconds before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the rest of the dough, keeping what you’re not currently baking inside the freezer or the refrigerator so as not to let it get too soft (which will cause them to spread).

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.)

Cranberry Scones

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As the song goes, “Christmas is the time to say I love you”.

I’ve got a few different love languages, but as you can probably imagine, my primary one is through cooking and baking. I don’t do either for just anybody.

I don’t love just anybody. If I’m feeding you, I care about you. I like you a lot. You’re my peoples. (That or I’ve got an overabundance of food I want to get rid of. Or you’re paying me to do so; my ‘love’s’ for sale in that respect.)

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If I’m fluent in the love language of baking, then I’d say it’s a fluency in the ‘dialect’ of coffee shop pastries. There’s just always been something about the goodies in the big display cases of coffee shops that makes me excited.  Cinnamon rolls. Banana bread. Muffins. Donuts. Bagels. Coffee Cake. Cookies.

SCONES.

C’mon, how can all that buttery, sugary goodness NOT scream ‘I love you’ when you’re hungry and salivating?

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I’m convinced that there’s nobody who won’t feel loved if you feed them a scone. A good one anyway. I’ve heard some people say that they don’t care for/hate scones and immediately I know that they’ve just never had one that was made right. Made with love.

I feel sorry for them–because everyone deserves one of those.

More specifically…one of these.

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I had some leftover cranberries chilling in my refrigerator and I didn’t want them to go to waste. I figured that cranberries were a nice ingredient to complement both the Christmas season and the theme of the series we’re in.

I also just felt like making scones; it’s been a while since I have, about a year and a half I think, and as far as I’m concerned that’s just far too long to go without.

Making a good scone is very similar to making a good biscuit; how you treat the butter and handle the dough is going to determine the success or failure of just about the entire result. So, a couple things:

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it once more: freezing your butter ahead of time is the best decision you can make. The colder the butter is, the more flaky the scone will be. Having said that, I’ve found that the best way to ‘cut’ it into the dough is to use the large holes on a box grater. The pieces will be just the right size and they’ll distribute far more evenly into the flour that way than they would if you just cut the stick of butter into cubes with a knife.

I’m wary of using cups or biscuit cutters to cut my scones (and biscuits). Supposedly so long as you don’t twist when you press down, it doesn’t affect the layering, but I’ve never found that to be the case. For some reason, it always hinders the rise for me. So, I always just default to using my bench scraper to cut the dough into squares or wedges. Works every time.

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Finally, just before I bake I will always let my cut scones (and biscuits) chill out in the freezer for about 20 minutes. I can’t remember where I read it or the scientific explanation, but this also helps the finished product expand and rise higher. So don’t skip that step if you can help it.

Following all of the above tips will get yo these: and don’t they just look delectable? Buttery, flakey dough with plentyof layers. Sweet and tart fruit throughout. Crunchy sugary goodness sprinkled on top. The Christmas “I love you.” that you’ve been craving all year.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

Day 6: Spiced Cookie Bark

Day 7: Demerara Sugar Buns

Day 8: Sugared Shortbread

Day 9: Hot Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

Day 10: Cranberry Scones

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Cranberry Scones

Recipe Courtesy of The Kitchn

Print

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 small orange or clementine, zested
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup milk
  • Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling, optional

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F and prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment or lightly spraying with spray oil.

In the bowl of a food processor, whiz the cranberries with the brown sugar and orange zest until lightly chopped. Remove to a separate large bowl. Back in the food processor, whiz the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and pulse with the flour in the processor just until roughly crumbled.

Mix the flour and butter mixture with the cranberries in their bowl. Add the milk and stir just until the dough comes together; it’s fine if there is still crumbly flour.

Sprinkle the countertop or a board with flour, and dump the dough out on it. Cut out rounds using a biscuit cutter or glass, or pat into a thick circle and cut into wedges.

Sprinkle the scone tops with the turbinado sugar. Freeze for 25 minutes.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until just golden. Serve warm.