Vanilla Wafers

This week’s episode of the Cooking is My Sport show is entitled “But Jess…Is It Really Worth It, Though?”

Thank you for tuning in. It’s going to be a good one.

Over the past few years on the blog, I’ve shared recipes for things that many of us could, theoretically buy from elsewhere rather than make ourselves. It is easier and more convenient go to our local grocery store and buy something with little to no trouble.

I could buy quite a few of the things that I post here–if not from a grocery store, then from a bakery or something. And though even EYE I am not going to go to the trouble of making something like, puff pastry, for the most part, I really do cook or bake most of what we eat. Why do I do this?

Because I believe it’s worth it. I really do.

If you ask, “But Jess, is it REALLY worth it, though?” to bake Christmas cookies rather than just buying some in a store, I’m going to say yes. It’s worth it.

Ask “But Jess, is it REALLY worth it, though?” to bake your own cake from scratch, then go to the trouble of making your own buttercream and skip the store bought cake with that greasy, lardy crap, I’m going to say yes. It’s worth it.

Come to me with, “But Jess, is it REALLY worth it, though?” to make biscuits from scratch when they’re available at the local chicken joint, I am DEFINITELY gonna say, yes. It’s worth it.

(My biscuits are better than any others that you can buy anywhere else anyway. Including Popeyes. Yeah, I said it.)

I shared the recipe for my grandma’s banana pudding on the blog years ago. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever made–but up until recently I had always made it with store-bought vanilla wafers. I’ll be honest and admit that is the way that she makes it, and it tastes fantastic. But recently, I decided to see what it would be like if I went the extra mile and made the pudding with vanilla wafers that I made by myself. Any guesses on how it went? Anyone?

OHMYGODGAMECHANGER.

From the beginning, I had two major concerns for the recipe as a whole: the short, crisp texture of store-bought wafers and the intense vanilla flavor. If I wasn’t going to get a comparable or superior result to the store-bought version, it just wouldn’t be worth it in the long run to make them. I’m pleased to report that this recipe delivers on both. They are crisp, but the butter keeps them from being too crunchy or crumbly. They’re not too sweet, and that vanilla flavor is spot on. Even if I had no intention of making banana pudding at all, I still would’ve considered this time well spent–it’s that tasty a cookie.

Go ahead and ask me: “But Jess…is it REALLY worth it, though?”

Yes. It’s worth it.

************************************************************

Vanilla Wafers

Recipe Adapted from Williams Sonoma

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the flour with the salt, stir together with a fork and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a hand-held one) cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you mix. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Stir the flour into the butter mixture, just until blended. (If it’s a little dry, you can add a few tablespoons of milk, one at a time, just until it holds together.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Sprinkle a rolling pin and clean work surface (like a pastry mat, wax paper) with powdered sugar.

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Keep the other 3 in the fridge while you roll out the 1 portion to about 1/4 inch thick. Use a small (1 1/2 inch), round cookie cutter to cut out rounds. Place the rounds on the sheet pans.

Refrigerate the cookies on the pans for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle each one with white sugar, then bake the cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until the edges and bottoms are golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks and let cool completely.

(Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #242, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Jen @ Apply To Face Blog.)

Potato Herb Bubble Bread

Everyone knows and agrees that (s)mashed potatoes are wonderful. At least, everyone should know and agree about that. I don’t know if I trust you if you don’t like (s)mashed potatoes. I threw in the ‘s’ because I prefer smashed potatoes with a bit of texture to the creamy mashed ones, but regardless of which one you like they’re all delicious.

There’s only one thing that’s not so great about (s)mashed potatoes….they don’t really make the best leftovers. Once they’ve sat in the fridge overnight, they seize up and become pasty and stiff. True, you can revive them with a little bit of milk and butter but eh…they’re probably not going to be as tasty as the day you first made them.

So, what DO you do with them?”

You could make fried/sauteed (s)mashed potato croquettes. You could make potato pancakes. You could make shepherd’s pie. You could waffle them. You can even be like me and make a ‘spread’ out of them for turkey sandwiches. (Try it sometime, it’s fantastic).

Or, if none of the above tickles your fancy, you can always bake bread.

That’s right, folks. You can take those leftover mashed potatoes and turn it into a yummy loaf of bread. It’s not magic, but the taste sure can give that impression. Curious about what adding the mashed potato does for the bread? The mashed potato acts as both a moisturizer and flavor enhancer. Interestingly enough, it will also make the dough lighter. I don’t completely understand how, but I’m no food scientist. I’m just a home cook and so long as it turns out a nice finished product, it’s fine by me.

Don’t feel restricted when it comes to shaping this bread. The recipe is flexible enough to where you could make one simple loaf with no frills, individual rolls, a braid, a round loaf in a cake pan–anything really. I took the idea of a previous post I did of Corn Bubble Bread and decided to go with it here too. The method is really simple: you divide the dough into tiny balls them layer them on top of each other in a tube pan. After the dough’s had it’s second rise and bakes off, the top forms a ‘bubble’ pattern.

If your mashed potatoes are a little stiff and/or pasty after sitting in the fridge, I would recommend thinning them out with a little bit of milk, just to make them easier to incorporate evenly throughout the dough. I also strongly suggest that they be seasoned ahead of time–this will help your bread come out tasting even better. Also, don’t be shy when it comes to adding your favorite herbs. Your efforts will be rewarded with a featherlight, chewy, savory loaf of bread that is pretty to look at, a treat to eat and simply PHENOMENAL when toasted.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #238, co-hosted this week by Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau and Mikaela @ Iris and Honey.

******************************************************************

Potato Herb Bubble Bread

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Print

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup, plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 cup cold mashed potatoes (if they’re on the stiffer side, I recommend thinning them out with some milk. They don’t need to be soupy, this is just so that they’re easier to incorporate into the dough)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of your favorite fresh herbs, finely minced (I used sage and thyme)
  • 4-4 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Directions

In a small bowl, pour the water. Sprinkle the yeast on top and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the sugar on top of that. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until proofed and frothy.

Whisk together the eggs and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or a large bowl) pour in the yeast mixture, remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, beaten eggs, softened butter, mashed potatoes and herbs. Use the paddle attachment (or use a wire whisk) and mix together until just combined. Switch to the dough hook (or use a wooden spoon) and gradually add in the flour, one cup at a time. It’s okay if the dough is sticky. (You may not need to use all of the flour, this varies according to location and time of year.)

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead it with your hands, about 8 minutes until dough is only slightly sticky and mostly smooth. (It should form one solid mass) Grease the mixing bowl, then place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Allow to proof until doubled in size, about 1 1/2- 2 hours.

Grease one 10” tube pan. Sprinkle your work surface with flour and turn dough out onto it. Punch dough down a few times to deflate air bubbles. Use a bench scraper or a sharp knife to divide into 32 equal pieces; first 2, then 4, then 8, then 16, then 32. Roll each of the 32 pieces into balls, then arrange the balls into 2 layers in the bottom of the tube pan. Cover with plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Allow to proof until doubled in size, about 1 1/2- 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°.  Remove the plastic wrap & towel, place the tub pan on a half sheet pan, then bake in the oven until golden brown and hollow on the bottom, about 40-45 minutes. (It browns/bakes fast, so check it early and cover if browning too quickly. Bread is done at 190° inner temp.) Allow to cool for about 15 minutes on a wire rack before turning out and allowing to cool completely.

Glazed Yeast Doughnuts

One of the earliest food memories that I have is a love for glazed doughnuts. My mom’s taught Sunday School for practically my entire life and every Sunday morning on the drive to church I remember sitting in the back seat, still groggy, but also silently praying in my mind that she would stop by a cornerstore down the street from the church that sold the most delicious doughnuts for dirt cheap. My favorite one to get would be a plain glazed doughnut ring.

No sprinkles. No frills. No bells & whistles. A plain, glazed yeast doughnut was really all I would want. The Sundays when I got one were instantly brighter Sundays. Perfectly glazed doughnuts were delicious enough to do that all on their own–they still are.

I know there’s nothing quite like a glazed Krispy Kreme, especially when it comes hot off the belt. (Seriously, I’m drooling just thinking about it now), but I will also say that making glazed doughnuts at home can deliver the goods as well.

Last week, I gave my own personal definitions/differences between donuts and doughnuts: donuts are those made without using yeast as a leavening agent, much like these cake donuts. Doughnuts do use yeast as a leavening agent. In any case, that’s how I choose to define them.

I thought that a perfect glazed doughnut would be the perfect example to use for today’s post.

So aside from the inclusion of yeast, what makes yeast doughnuts different from cake donuts? The biggest difference is texture. Cake donuts are given that name for a reason: the texture is going to be soft, but dense. I think of it almost being like a coffee cake that gets deep fried, then dunked in cinnamon sugar. Yeast doughnuts are much more lighter and airier on the inside. See what I mean?

With yeast, there’s going to be a bit more time needed to set aside for the dough because unlike cake donuts, the yeast will need two rising times. The first is for the whole mass of dough, the second is for after you’ve shaped them into rings–OR, if you wanted to get creative with it, you can form them into cruller twists like you see in the pictures.

This dough is admittedly, lightly sweetened. It’s main flavors are vanilla and nutmeg–they’re simple flavors that leave plenty of room for the real star of the show: that glaze. After you dunk the still warm doughnuts in the glaze,  you then allow them to sit for a few minutes so that they can drip off the excess and allow the residual glaze to set.

Don’t they look just divine? I promise you that they tasted even better than they look, which is why I encourage all of you to give them a shot yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #236, co-hosted this week by Julianna @ Foodie on Board and Debanita @ Canvassed Recipes.

*************************************************************************

Glazed Yeast Doughnuts

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Print

Ingredients

For Doughnuts

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk, warmed to about 110° F
  • 2 tablespoons melted and cooled butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1—2 tablespoons milk (or enough to make a smooth glaze)

Directions

In a small bowl pour the warm milk. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Sprinkle the 1 tablespoon of white sugar on top of that. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until proofed and frothy.

In a small bowl combine the beaten egg, melted butter and vanilla extract. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment combine the flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, salt and ground nutmeg until just blended. Switch to the dough hook. Pour in the yeast mixture as well as the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until a soft dough is formed. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes.

Knead the dough for 6-8 minutes until it’s smooth and soft. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn it over once, then cover with a piece of plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel. Allow to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2-2 hours, until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and gently deflate. Roll out to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out doughnuts with a 2 1/2″ to 3″ round cutter, or form them into cruller twists that you pinch at the ends. Remove to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and let the doughnuts rise for 30 minutes to an hour, until doubled in size.

Meanwhile heat 2 inches of oil in the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot to 350°. Prepare 2 baking sheets; one lined with paper towels, another lined with foil on the bottom & a wire rack on top. In a shallow, wide dish mix together the powdered sugar & milk with a fork. Keep the dish nearby.

Carefully place the doughnuts in the oil, 2 or 3 at a time, and fry until golden brown, about 60 seconds per side. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on the baking sheet lined w/paper towels. Wait 1 minute or 2 until doughnuts are warm (but no longer piping hot), then dip the tops in the glaze. Gently turn over and dip the bottom in the glaze before removing to the foil lined baking sheet on top of the rack. Allow to sit until glaze has set on doughnuts. Eat immediately or keep refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Cinnamon Cardamom Cake Donuts

I think that it’s pretty safe to say that all of us love donuts/doughnuts, right?

If you don’t then you may as well stop reading because this post (as well as next week’s) aren’t really for you. This is for all of us who love donuts/doughnuts.

Why did I give it two spellings? Is there a difference between donuts and doughnuts? I’m not sure if there’s an actual technical difference in the terms, but I do know how *I* personally distinguish the difference.

For me, it really just comes down to the method/ingredients. When I think of ‘Donuts’, I think about the method that does not include yeast. ‘Doughnuts’ do include the yeast in the dough. Don’t ask me why this is. Both donuts and doughnuts create ‘doughs’, but my mind just automatically associates the yeast with the ‘dough’, so there it is.

One big difference between donuts made without yeast and doughnuts that are made with yeast is the inner texture. The donuts made without yeast usually use baking powder/baking soda as their leavening and produce a denser, ‘cake-like’ texture. As a result, these are often called cake donuts. Donuts made with yeast have a lighter, airier texture.

A few weeks back, my niece was asking me if we could make doughnuts together. Because I like giving her what she wants and because it had been a while since I’d made doughnuts myself, I decided to make a day long project of it. She couldn’t decide which one she wanted, so we ended up making two different kinds–Cake Donuts AND Yeast Doughnuts. Cake Donuts will be today’s post. (Yeast Doughnuts will be next week’s, so stay tuned for that.)

Cake donuts are a tad bit easier than yeast doughnuts to make since you don’t have to worry about dealing with yeast and rising times. I already described the interior as dense and cakey, while the outside is rough and craggy–this is perfect for catching up whatever topping you choose to put on them, whether it’s icing or sugar. The dough itself for these is flavored with lemon and vanilla. The cinnamon sugar topping I flavored with both cinnamon and cardamom, just to give it an extra spicy note to complement the sweet. In short, these were great. The sugary topping gave a nice crunch to the soft inside and the flavors were spot on. I really wouldn’t change a thing.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #235Fiesta Friday #235, co-hosted this week by Mara @ Put on Your Cake Pants and Hilda @ Along the Grapevine.

************************************************************************

Cinnamon Cardamom Cake Donuts

Recipe Courtesy of “Glazed, Filled, Sugared & Dipped” by Stephen Collucci

Print

Ingredients

For Donuts

  • 3 cups cake flour (all purpose flour will work as well)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Cinnamon Cardamom Sugar

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a medium size bowl, combine the buttermilk, melted butter, egg yolks and vanilla extract with a fork. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest. Add the beaten egg and mix on low for a few seconds. Add the buttermilk mixture and mix until just combined into a stiffish dough.

Place a piece of parchment paper on clean work surface and sprinkle it with flour. Flour your hands or a spatula and scrape out the dough onto the piece of parchment paper. Flour a second sheet of parchment paper and place it on top of the top. Use a rolling pin to flatten it out until it’s 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick. Place the dough on a baking sheet and refrigerate it for 45 minutes to an hour (it’s ready when it no longer sticks to the parchment paper when you peel it away).

Towards the end of the refrigeration, heat 1 1/2-2 inches of oil in a heavy bottomed pot to 350°. Prepare 2 sheet pans; one lined with paper towels and the other with a piece of foil on the bottom and a baking rack on top. In a shallow dish, combine all the ingredients for the cinnamon cardamom sugar together with a fork. Keep the dish near your frying station.

Peel off the top sheet of parchment paper and flip the dough over onto your clean work surface that you’ve dusted with flour. Peel off the second sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle the dough with more flour. Flour your cookie/donut cutter and cut the dough into 2 1/2-3 inch rounds.

Fry the donuts in batches (don’t crowd the pot, no more than 3 at a time) until golden brown, 1-2 minutes per side. Drain on the paper towel lined baking sheet. While the donuts are still warm (but not piping hot) toss them in the cinnamon cardamom sugar and place them on the baking rack lined sheet pan. Eat immediately, or store for up to 2 days.

Orange Spice Babka Ring

It’s been quite a week.

First, our A/C had a malfunction. Broken air conditioning + tiny apartment + upper floor = stuffy, hot misery. Plus, turning on the oven to cook or bake anything just wasn’t an option. Which, wasn’t fun.

Fortunately after 3 days, it was fixed and now things can get back to normal.

Orange Spice Babka Ring5

There’s a story behind today’s recipe. Ready to hear it?

I really needed to wash/condition my hair, but I also really wanted to bake. So I decided to do both. I made the dough, then left it for it’s first rise. I went away to wash/condition my hair. I came back, shaped it, then left it for it’s second rise. I rinsed the conditioner out of my hair. I came back and put the bread in the oven to bake. I blow-dried my hair. The bread finished baking.

And that’s it. That’s the whole story. I was multi-tasking. Pretty exciting, huh?

The ‘how’ may not be too enthralling, but I promise you everything else about this babka certainly is.

Babka’s made an appearance before on this blog a few years ago during the 12 Days of Christmas with this Sticky Caramel Pecan Babka Loaf. The word ‘Babka’ itself derives from Bábovka, a yeast based cake from Eastern Europe that manifests in German, Jewish and Polish baking. The dough is usually very enriched, buttery, eggy and spiced. There are countless variations out there and this time I decided to put a little different spin on it from the one I did before.

The last babka was flavored with cinnamon brown sugar and pecans. This one’s filling has a bit more: there’s brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger inside, along with some orange zest. If you’re fond of them, I did include an option to include golden raisins and walnuts to that mixture (I left them out of this loaf, but please do include them in yours in you’re a fan). As you can see, the filling forms a lovely ribbon on the inside once it’s baked, which brings me to the next step.

The method starts out the same as before: the babka dough is rolled out into a large rectangle after the first rise, the filling is sprinkled on top, then the whole thing gets rolled tightly into a thick cylinder. Then, you take a pair of kitchen shears or a very sharp knife and cut down the middle of the cylinder to create two halves. Those two halves get braided together.

Now, whereas before I arranged the braid straight into a loaf pan, this time I laid the braid into my tube pan and smushed the two ends together to form a ring. After you let the ring rise and bake it off, you get…this.

It’s perfectly fine on its own, but if you’re feeling naughty you can go ahead and add the orange flavored icing on top that literally takes under 5 minutes to throw together and drizzle on top.

I’m telling y’all: the extra effort that comes with baking babka is SO WORTH IT. You won’t regret a single step. I never do–not even when I’m multi-tasking with other things to do around the house. And you certainly won’t regret one single bite of this rich, spiced bread that smells and tastes like pure Heaven.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #234, co-hosted this week by Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog and Deb @ Pantry Portfolio.

********************************************************************

Orange Spice Babka Ring

Recipe Adapted from Tyler Florence

Print

Ingredients

For Babka

  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For Filling

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins, optional
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
  • 1/4 cup melted butter, cooled

For Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • A few tablespoons of orange juice

Directions

In a large bowl of a standing mixer, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the white sugar on top of that. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until proofed and frothy.

Add the remaining sugar, melted butter,  eggs and vanilla extract to the bowl and use the paddle attachment to mix well until combined.

Switch to the dough hook and add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating switching to kneading with hands as dough thickens. (You may not need to use all 4 cups, this varies according to location & time of year). Continue to mix until the dough holds together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl; the dough should still be very soft.

Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto it and use your hands to knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed.  Grease the standing mixer bowl with the vegetable oil, place dough back inside and cover with plastic wrap and a damp clean cloth. Let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in bulk.

Grease and flour a 16 cup tube pan. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, orange zest together in a bowl. Sprinkle the work surface with a bit more flour and roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 10 by 18-inches. Brush it down with the melted butter, then sprinkle the sugar mixture on top. (You can use a spatula to help you spread it into a even paste if you like). If you’re using the raisins and nuts, sprinkle those on top of the sugar mixture.

Starting from the short end, roll the rectangle up tightly into a log. Pinch the dough ends firmly into the log to seal. Either use a very sharp knife you’ve dipped in water, or a pair of kitchen shears to gently, but swiftly, slice the log down its entire length, creating two halves with lots of layers. 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 braid. Press the halves together again at the bottom. Gently lift the braid into the tube pan, arranging into a ring with the layers facing up, and tucking one end of the braid under the other. Cover with plastic wrap & a damp cloth and allow to rise for another 50-60 minutes until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake on the middle rack for 45 minutes to 1 hour until your babka is golden brown (covering with foil if browning too quickly if need be). Cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then turn out and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For Glaze: Mix the sugar and OJ together in a bowl, until the sugar dissolves. Whisk the glaze to smooth out any lumps; drizzle it over the top of the babka and allow to set until hardened.

Perfect Butter Cookies

Some of you may have noticed that there was no new post last week–or maybe you didn’t. I took a break last week from posting for no particular reason, but as I’m going to be taking a trip this coming week, I wanted to make sure I got one up today so that I didn’t let another week go by without updating the blog. I’m a stickler for consistency.

Having said that, because I am getting ready to travel, the theme of today’s post is short, simple and sweet.

Although I do like taking on hefty baking projects like layer cake, they do take a lot of time and effort. There are some times when I don’t have the time or energy to put in all of the work–but I’ll still want dessert. A good one.

So, what do I do?

I keep it simple. I keep it sweet. And I make butter cookies.

I don’t know, y’all. There’s just something so special about a butter cookie that’s executed perfectly. They have practically no embellishments at all, which means there’s no room for error and no other components to hide mistakes. Either that butter cookie is going to taste good, or it isn’t.

These do. In fact they’re more than good; as I’ve chosen to call them in the recipe, they’re perfect. You can call that choice over-confidence. I prefer honest. Tomato tomato.

You ready to find out how to make them? It couldn’t be easier.

There are several things that make these the ‘perfect’ butter cookie to me. The flavors are simple, but pronounced: vanilla with hints of a citrus of your choice (I chose orange.) The flavors are also going to improve in the next few days after the cookies are baked. They’re not overly sweet, but if you’re using a good quality butter you’re not going to need them to be.

The texture of these is also what I was going for. I do like soft, cakey cookies but when I want a perfect butter cookie I do prefer it to have a light crispiness. These have got it. If you’d prefer them not to, just take them out earlier.

Lastly, if y’all have been following this blog and seen a good number of my cookie posts before, you know that one of my baking petty peeves is when the cookies spread too much and become warped. I hate that. Because butter cookies are so simple, I like mine to look as clean and neat as possible. The cookies in this recipe hold their shape perfectly which means they’ll work for ANY cutter shape you want to use (hint, they’d make perfect Christmas cookies).

Okay. I think my work here is done. Have a good weekend y’all. Try the cookies–you’ll like ’em. Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #228.

R.I.P to Anthony Bourdain.

**************************************************************************

Perfect Butter Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Land O Lakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (preferably LorAnn’s Butter Vanilla Emulsion )
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • White sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

In a medium bowl combine the  flour with the baking powder and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment (or using a handheld one) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg, orange juice and vanilla and combine until just combined. Add the flour mixture in batches, mixing until just combined.

Scrape the dough out and onto a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into a disc, wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters, keeping the other 3 in the fridge while you roll out the one.

Sprinkle a clean work surface (like a pastry mat, wax paper or a cutting board) with powdered sugar or flour. Roll out the quarter of dough to your desired thickness (I wouldn’t go thinner than 1/4 inch) Cut into whatever desired shapes you like. I used a 2- to 2 ½-inch cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes and placed them on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. I then used a ¾- to 1-inch  cookie cutter, and cut out the centers from half of the cookies. Reroll and cut the scraps as necessary. Also don’t throw away the centers, as they make delicious mini cookie bites.

Place the sheet pans in the freezer for around 10 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with the sugar, and bake for 6-10 minutes.  Let cool on pans for 3 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.

Mile High Biscuits

So, a few days ago on social media, I saw some talk about their being a National Buttermilk Biscuit Day. I had no idea such a thing existed. I randomly Googled it and there are conflicting opinions on when exactly it is; some folks say May 14th. Others seem to think it’s May 29th. Personally, I don’t know and couldn’t care less what day it is–any day that’s set aside to celebrate the buttermilk biscuit is a-okay with me. I may be a little late to the celebration, but better late than never. The Biscuit Holiday Spirit is kept alive in my heart (and my belly) all year round, I assure you.

I don’t blow my horn about too many things, but one thing that I will not only blow, but blast from the rooftops about, are my biscuit making skills. They’re solid. I make excellent biscuits. It’s just a fact. This wasn’t always the case. I’ve mentioned many times before that my very first foray into baking, EVER, was an attempt to make angel biscuits. As I’ve also mentioned many times before, this was a tragic mistake. As I found out, making excellent biscuits isn’t an exercise for baking beginners. It just isn’t. There’s both a science and art form to it. Even after I became a decent baker, my biscuits still just ‘ok’ and not great, and I knew they were just ok and not great.  It bothered me. So, I started doing some research as to how to get the results I wanted: tender biscuits with LOTS of layers that rose high.

After nearly four years of baking, lots of practice, and even more ‘just ok but not great biscuits’, I think I can finally say that I’ve found the perfect method to making tender biscuits with lots of layers that rise high (and that last part was very important to me). I’ll go ahead and share all the tips I’ve learned to achieve them in celebration of National Buttermilk Biscuit Day. Some of them are ones I’ve mentioned before in other biscuit recipes I’ve shared on the blog–others are new. Regardless, pay attention and bookmark/save/pin this post so that you can go back to it later.

The first is an oldie but an essential goodie: freeze your butter. PLEASE. If you don’t follow any other piece of advice I give you, make sure that you follow this one. The use of frozen butter changed my biscuit making baking life. Why? Because great biscuits start with VERY cold fats–the colder the fats, the better they will be. The butter won’t melt/dissolve if it’s frozen. Now, frozen butter IS kinda difficult to cut, especially into even pieces. This brings me to the second tip: use a box grater to cut the frozen butter. Why? You want to make sure the butter is evenly distributed into the dough so that all of the biscuits have layers and are evenly buttery. The large holes on a box grater will cut the butter into the pea sized pieces you want that will evenly distribute into the flour without you having to rub them with your fingers–which may cause them to melt.

This third one I only recently started applying myself and it too was a game changer for me: use cake flour. Why? Cake flour is just flour that has a lower protein content than all purpose flour. It’s also been sifted many times, which results in a product with a much finer crumb. Cake flour will make your biscuits SO MUCH MORE tender and fluffy on the inside. I had read about using cake flour to make biscuits a long time ago, but for a while I just resisted trying it because it’s more expensive than all purpose. However, there is a DIY method to ‘making’ it yourself without having to splurge the special stuff.

Measure out 1 cup of flour. Take out 2 tablespoons of the flour. Now add in 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift it together through a strainer about 5-6 times.

Boom. You have now made 1 cup of DIY, work in a pinch CF. Repeat the process for however many cups of CF you need for your recipe; I’ll usually do 4 at a time.

Fourth: place a shallow pan of water in the bottom of the oven while it preheats and keep it there while the biscuits bake. Why? Water and high heat create steam when they meet. Steam makes the layers in the biscuits expand and rise. Fifth: cut the edges off of your rectangle of dough before you cut the biscuits. I’ve found that the edges of the dough tend to be tough and compressed together after being rolled out and layered several times. The biscuits’ll rise higher if you get rid of them. Sixth: Don’t twist the biscuit cutter when you cut. Why? It collapses the edges, seals off the layers and the biscuits won’t rise. Cut straight down, then quickly lift it up and keep it moving.

Seventh: place the biscuits close together on the pan. Why? The closer they are together while baking, the more steam pockets that will form between them. Remember what I just said about steam? Mmhm. This is what will make them rise upwards and form tall biscuits rather than spreading outwards and cause them to be wide and flat. Eighth: Freeze them for 10 minutes before baking. Why? This is just to ensure that the butter in the biscuits is as cold as possible before it meets the very hot, steamy oven. The ‘shock’ of that cold-meets-hot ingredients will help the biscuits to rise higher and have more layers.

Aaaaand, that’s about it. It sounds like a lot of info, but in practice it’s not complicated. Just follow the recipe and apply the tips and you’ll be fine. Have a good weekend guys.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #226, co-hosted this week by the lovely Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

*****************************************************************

Mile High Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from CountryLiving.com

Print

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cake flour, spooned and level
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup frozen butter
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper.

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredients and stir a few times to combine. Make a well in the center of the bowl.

Pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper 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.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut biscuits, pressing scraps together to make more no more than two additional times. Discard the rest of the dough.  Place biscuits, slightly touching, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill 15 minutes in the freezer.

Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. (You may have to cover the biscuits with foil if they begin to brown too quickly.