Honey Whole Wheat Dinner (Sc)rolls

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I remember when I was first starting to learn how to cook and was struggling with a few dishes that came out less than successful. It made me mad and frustrated. My mom, because she’s very patient and quite a great cook herself, told me that I was getting worked up over nothing and that it would be fine. I just needed to get a grasp on a few fundamentals. By fundamentals, she meant some basic cooking techniques and methods, and most importantly, the flavor of  specific spices. Once I understood and grasped the ‘basics’ of cooking techniques and what specific spices/ingredients ‘do’, I would be comfortable enough to improvise and be able to make just about any dish and make it my own.

She’s a mom and a very good one, so of course she was right.

If I had to give advice to inexperienced cooks to where they should start if they do want to cook, it’d be my mom’s: learn the basics. Very little is worse than bland food; get comfortable with spices. VERY comfortable. Learn which ones ‘do’ what. (Your nose is a great resource for this: how they smell is very similar to how they will taste) Start with a basic, easy to follow recipe for what you want to make. Make it. Make it again. And again. Then, when you’ve started to feel comfortable with both the technique and the ingredients you’re using, start adding on & altering it to fit your own style and tastes.

Making adaptations and adding personalization to one’s cooking is one thing but I will say that doing it when it comes to one’s baking is another. It isn’t impossible, but it is different.

Why?

The simplest answer is that baking is a scientific reaction. Baking scientific reactions happen based upon individual elements that combine together and react to one another. If you alter the combination, it’s very likely that you’ll alter (or in this case ruin) the reaction. However, I have found with some practice that my Mom’s advice for cooking can work for baking as well.

I’ve found that when it comes to baking, you can get away with personalizing it so long as you don’t mess with the basic chemistry and ratio of wet ingredients to dry ones. That ratio is what mainly determines the chemical reaction that results in the dish itself, so unless you’re a food scientist I wouldn’t go messing around with that too much. Most of what I do when personalizing in baking has to do with two things: flavors, and shaping. The flavors are something you can adjust in just about anything: cake, pie, cookie dough, biscuits, scones, whatever. The shaping is something I’ve learned to play around with in my bread making.

Once I understood enough of the basics and got comfortable with making bread, I started branching out to want to make more than just a standard loaf or round balls of dough I baked in cake pans. Most yeast based bread dough is flexible enough to where once you get it past it’s first rise, you can shape it into just about anything you want and it will turn out fine. If you guys have been following my blog for a while then you’ve seen some of the ways I’ve been practicing my bread shaping skills with other flexible dough (Cinnamon Star Bread, Cornflower Yeast Rolls, Golden Santa Bread).

I’ve been using today’s recipe for a while now. It was one of the first bread recipes I tried. I was impressed with not only how easy it is to make, but how delicious the bread is. I’ve already said how much I like the combination of honey and whole wheat and these have a good amount of both honey & whole wheat flour in them, so that flavor isn’t lacking at all. Instead of shaping them into basic rolls though, I decided to do something a bit different: rolling them into scroll shapes. It was for no particular reason; I just wanted to see if it would work.

It did. It’s always nice when that happens.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #172, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Su @ Su’s Healthy Living.

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Honey Whole Wheat Dinner (Sc)rolls

Recipe Adapted from Chowhound.com

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Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil, for coating the bowl
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 teaspoons fine salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), plus 1/4 cup reserved)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

For Tops:

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • About 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon yellow cornmeal

 

Directions

Combine the flour, yeast and salt together in the bowl of a standing mixer with a whisk or a fork.

Melt 8 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the milk and honey, stir together until combined and allow to warm to a temp between 105 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit, about 2 to 5 minutes.

Pour the milk mixture over the flour mixture and add the beaten eggs. Use the dough hook attachment to stir together on low until just combined. Then, increase the speed to medium high and continue kneading until formed a smooth, elastic dough—about 10 minutes.  It’s okay if it’s sticky.

Scrape the dough out of the bowl and set aside. Grease the bottom of the bowl with vegetable oil, then place dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towel. Allow to rise until doubled in size.

Melt the 1/4 cup of butter in a small bowl. Deflate the dough and roll out to a rectangle, about 11 x 15 inches.  Brush the melted butter evenly over the dough. Using a bench scraper or knife cut the dough into individual rectangular strips. Roll the strips up into scrolls.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the scrolls onto the sheets, then cover with plastic wrap and a damp paper towel again. Allow to rise until double in size, about another hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl combine the beaten egg and water. Brush over the scolls, then sprinkle with the oats and cornmeal. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the bottoms and tops are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for about 1o minutes before serving.

Berry Crisp Ham and Black Pepper Biscuits

I think that this may be the first time ever that I’ve been away from my mom on Mother’s Day. It’s certainly the first time I’ve been over two thousand miles away. Feels weird. I miss her. I wish I was back in the Mitten sometimes, but especially times like now so that I could cook my mom a good meal as a way of showing her that I do love and appreciate her.

For any of my followers that are also far away from their moms on Sunday,  if your mother has passed away, or if you just don’t have the kind of relationship with your mom that you’d like to and the holiday is difficult for you–I’m sorry for that. I hope you can find a silver lining to the day.

Food has never failed to be one for me, so let’s focus on that for the moment.

Today’s recipe was actually the meal that I made for us on Easter. However, I thought it would work this week just as well. It also piggy-backs on last week’s where I shared the second best biscuit recipe I’ve ever had or made. I do hope some of you were able to give it a try like we both know you wanted to. But if you’re STILL dragging your feet and putting it off, maybe this week’s recipe & pictures will finally put the boot in your rear and make you just do it already.

Bargain shoppers know that the closer you get to major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, the better price you can get for the huge ‘roast’ style cuts of meat like whole turkeys and hams in grocery stores. We haven’t had ham since Christmas and since we do enjoy it,  I knew for sure that I was going to wait until the last minute to buy an inexpensive one to make for Easter dinner. I just wasn’t sure of how and with what else to serve it with.

It didn’t take very long before I made up my mind. I’d been craving breakfast for dinner for a while. Since it’s just the three of us all the way out here I thought that that would be a simple, yet delicious celebratory meal: Easter Brinner.

I for one, just couldn’t imagine having a real ham brinner without the biscuits. So, I didn’t try. I cooked a ham and a batch of the newfound biscuit recipe that I was still swooning over and still wanting more of after they were gone–with some modifications that in my opinion, made it even better.

First off, I loveloveLOVE this ham. The rub I put together is sweet, zesty and with just the right amount of aromatic ‘kick’ from the cloves and nutmeg. It pairs just right with the berry glaze that gets brushed over the ham while it warms up and causes it to form that dark, bark-like, sugary crust on the outside. Using a standard/spiral ham is also pretty impossible to mess up as the thing is already cooked in the first place. So long as you don’t dry it out, which if you follow the baking time, is extremely difficult to do, it should turn out great.

The first time I made these biscuits, I left them plain, without any major seasonings added to the dough outside of some sugar and a tiny bit of salt. They were definitely delicious enough on their own. However, for Easter I did want to try and mix things up and see if they could be improved upon. I was right. They could. Best part was, the only changes I made from the original was the addition of 2 ingredients: black pepper and bacon drippings.

Just two simple ingredients and WHOA. They really did elevate the biscuits in not only flavor but the appearance. Although it’s definitely visibly flecked throughout the dough, the pepper isn’t overwhelming. Promise, it really isn’t: so do use the whole tablespoon. The biscuits also browned more evenly across the top and bottom and the layers were more pronounced than they were the first time I made them. The edges became perfectly crisp while the inside stayed light and fluffy. This  is just how biscuits ought to be.

See this?

Black pepper biscuit, sliced in half. Ham. A fried egg cooked just to where the egg white has set and the yolk is still runny. Smear both sides with the ham glaze. Smash it all together into one. This kids, is the best breakfast sandwich that I’ve ever had, bar none. And it was my Easter Brinner. (Actually, I loved it so much that I ended up having two, but mind your business).

I only wish I was back home so I could make this meal for my mom. I kinda think she’d be pleased with it.

Happy Mother’s Day and Fiesta Friday #171, where I’ll be linking this post up to.

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Berry Crisp Ham and Black Pepper Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens & King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Ham

  • 8 lb. cooked ham, liquid reserved
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • About 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup honey

For Biscuits

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat/drippings (solid or liquid, doesn’t matter)
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more if necessary

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, combine the light brown sugar, cinnamon, coriander, ground cloves, and nutmeg.

Place the ham in a large roasting pan. Using a sharp knife, score the outer skin in crisscross pattern, being careful not to pierce the actual meat. Rub the spice mixture evenly over the skin with your hands. (It may get messy, and it may not all stick to the ham. That’s fine. The excess will form a syrupy sauce in the bottom of the pan as it cooks;  yum.) Pour the chicken broth in the bottom of the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake on the bottom rack for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until heated through (inner temp should be near 140 degrees F.)

Meanwhile, pour reserved ham liquid, OJ, jam, berries and honey in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for about 15-20 more minutes until syrupy, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat, and brush some of the glaze over the ham as it cooks.

Remove the cover from the roasting pan and crank oven up to 425 F. Allow ham to cook for about 20-35 more minutes until the skin gets crispy, brushing/basting with a bit more of the glaze. Remove from the oven, cover with foil again and allow to stand for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving with the extra glaze.

For Biscuits: Keep oven at 425 Degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, pepper and sugar with a fork.

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. Add the bacon fat and 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 divide the rectangle in half, then divide the halves into thirds or fourths squares (depending on what size biscuits you want).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the cut biscuits on it. Freeze them for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, fill a shallow pan with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

Brush the biscuits with melted butter, then bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove from oven to a wire rack.

Baking Powder Biscuits

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What are some things you do to perk yourself up when you’re down?

For some of us, it may be a little thing called retail therapy. To some certain extent, I’m guilty too; buying new kitchen gadgets and appliances makes me happy. So do perfume & candles from Bath and Body Works and Victoria’s Secret. And cookbooks. I have an unhealthy obsession with collecting cookbooks. I also like oversize pajama shirts, wacky colored/printed socks, and hoodies.

Y’know. Just in case you guys felt like spoiling a chick.

Music, I think, is a go-to for most of us. I’ve got a playlist specially designated for mood-pick me ups.There are a handful of movies that I’ll watch when I’m feeling blue just because thus far, they’ve never failed to always lift my spirits up when they’ve sunk.

But because this is me, and because the subject of my blog is about cooking & baking I’m sure’ it’s pretty self-explanatory that the primary go-to way that I lift myself up is to get inside the kitchen and put something together.

There’s just something about baking that almost never fails to calm me down. I put on my headphones, preheat the oven, pull out my standing mixer, and just shut myself off to whatever else is going on in tedious real life. I think I’m drawn to it for several reasons: first, I’m focused on following a scientific process (which is what baking is, essentially) so my attention and thoughts are set on following the directions and not necessarily on something stressful that I can’t control.

My hands are usually kept busy measuring out ingredients, kneading dough, cutting, scraping, pouring, stirring or whatever the dish requires. Usually while the product is baking in the oven, I’m washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. Then by the time it’s cooled off, I’m basking in how good it smells in the house, how delicious is looks and tastes. I give myself a pat on the back for a job well done and feel at least tad bit better that I created something that gave me and someone else, some (and at times immense) satisfaction.

Today’s recipe was one of those times.

I woke up feeling sad. Well, actually I didn’t really sleep that well. I got maybe 3 hours of sleep tops that night and woke up very early in the morning. I felt restless. Frustrated. Tense. Bored. I tossed and turned several times and tried to fall back asleep. Didn’t happen. Finally, I just got tired of trying. I got out of bed, and went into the kitchen. I put on my headphones, preheat the oven and started getting out ingredients.

I was gonna bake myself out of this bad mood….with biscuits. Big, buttery, soft,  flaky biscuits.

I’m really proud of how far I’ve come on my biscuit-making journey. I used to be really awful at making them. But in the past two years I’ve made myself practice more and more and the practice combined with some handy tips I’ve picked up from reading some cookbooks and articles has really upped my Biscuit-game so to speak.

I make kick-ass biscuits. I just do.

And these? They’re good. REALLY good. What’s more, they take less than thirty minutes to put together.

I got up and out of bed just before the crack of dawn and started throwing together the dough for these. As the beautiful sun was rising outside over the trees, my beautiful biscuits were rising in the oven. It was glorious. And you know what? I started to feel better.

I cannot believe I’m about to say this but this recipe is RIGHT up there with the recipe I shared a while back for my Grandma’s Angel Biscuits. It’s not better. I can’t go that far (it’s my grandma’s recipe, after all) but…they can share a spotlight together. That’s how good these are. SOSOSOSO flaky and soft on the inside. Yet they’re sturdy enough to stand up to just about anything you want to do with them; sausage gravy, stew, breakfast sandwich bun, anything. They’re also just delicious to eat all by themselves; we switched between smearing them with butter and jam or butter drizzled with honey. Pure bliss, I’m telling you.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #170, co-hosted this week by Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Sue @ Birgerbird.

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Baking Powder Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen, plus more for brushing
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more if necessary

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar with a fork.

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 divide the rectangle in half, then divide the halves into thirds or fourths squares (depending on what size biscuits you want).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the cut biscuits on it. Freeze them for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, fill a shallow pan with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

Brush the biscuits with melted butter, then bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove from oven to a wire rack. Serve warm, spread with butter, jam (or drizzled/dipped in syrup, how I like them).

Cinnamon Sugar Crackers

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There’s a large grocery store chain back in the Mitten that when I was growing up, sold their own generic brand of products that they would sell alongside the name-brand stuff. It wasn’t so very different from the name brand, and you could get just about anything. And believe me, we certainly did (it being the cheaper option and all).

One of the things I remember that my mom would get for us from this grocery store’s line of products were these cookie/crackers that the chain sold in the snack aisle. They came in an orange bag and were marketed as butter-flavored animal shaped cookies. But since, they were on the thin side, I always thought of them as crackers. They were SO delicious.

For whatever reason that still irritates me to this day, the product was discontinued. I haven’t seen it in years and there’s not even a trace of them left on the internet (which is how you KNOW they’re not coming back anytime soon). Nothing I’ve seen sold in stores since has ever replicated them in appearance or taste.

Isn’t that just the worst? Sometimes I wonder where the recipe for those crackers is now; shoved away somewhere at the bottom of a drawer in some corporate office, never to see the light of day again. And who was the genius who made the call to stop selling them in the first place? I want the name of their supervisor so I can write in a strongly worded complaint. Such a waste.

I mentioned before in my last few posts that I’d started in on a kind of cracker-making spree. When my first attempt turned out great, I started experimenting with a bunch of other recipes that I knew I would eventually get around to sharing on the blog. It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes I’ll make something that I end up liking SO much, that I almost immediately want to make it again–just to have plenty of it. Sometimes, I don’t even want to share it. I just want it all to myself.

That’s what happened here.

I tried this recipe on a whim. I had all the ingredients on hand, plus I made some additions/modifications of my own that I thought would make it taste a bit better, but I wasn’t expecting anything *huge* to come from it.

So, imagine my surprise when I tasted one and was immediately transported back to my childhood, reminded of the delicious butter cookies/crackers in the orange bag from the supermarket’s generic knock-off line.

Are they 100% the same? No. They’re (if I may say so myself), actually an improvement. Te vanilla in the dough gives them a wonderful aroma as they’re baking. The cinnamon and nutmeg is noticeable, but not overpowering. Besides the flavor, the texture of these is what I love best about it; it’s a tender crumb that still has that perfect amount of snap that gives it the ‘cracker’ feel. Then, the coarse sugar topping gives it a pleasant crunch to compliment the cracker itself.

I was SO impressed/thrilled/greedy with how these turned out that as soon as the first batch of these were done cooling, I was already washing out my dishes and getting all the ingredients back together again to make another. This is a very easy and forgiving dough; I just stuck with regular squares, but I think they will hold just about ANY shape, so if you have cookie cutters and want to make these with kids, I’d say anything will go & work.

I’m sure that that recipe for the discontinued butter cookie/crackers is out there somewhere; but I think that this one is a very easy and delicious substitute. So take that, processed food corporate execs.

Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #169, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Elaine @ Foodbod.

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Cinnamon Sugar Crackers

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dry powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, plus 1/8 teaspoon
  • 1 egg white
  • Extra flour for dusting
  • 1 heaping tablespoon coarse sugar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer, (or using a handheld one) cream together the butter and sugar with the dry powdered milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking soda. It doesn’t have to be light and fluffy, just combined.

With the mixer still running, drizzle in the vanilla. Add the egg white little by little alternately with the flour until dough just comes together. Don’t overmix.

Gather together into a ball, shape into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the freezer for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dust a clean work surface with flour. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Roll the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. Run a metal spatula underneath the dough as you roll and turn it out to make sure it doesn’t stick, sprinkling with additional flour if necessary.  Use a cookie cutter or bench scraper to cut out the dough into crackers. Place the crackers on the baking sheets and freeze for about 20 minutes.

Using the tines of a fork, evenly prick holes through the dough. In a small bowl, combine the coarse sugar, brown sugar, a dash of cinnamon and the 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Lightly sprinkle this on top of the crackers.

Bake for 12-13 minutes until just beginning to brown at the edges. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Hot Cross Bun Cinna-Swirl Loaf

Hot Cross Bun Cinna-Swirl Loaf2

Easter Sunday’s in a couple of days. When I was growing up, it was a huge to-do. Me and my sisters all got brand spanking new dresses (most of which were pretty ugly because, 90’s kids fashion) and shoes. I had a great mom who usually made sure we also got Easter gift baskets to wake up to. We’d go to church, where the services were specially centered around the Resurrection.  Then it was back to my grandparents’, or a restaurant where there was a nice brunch or dinner that would give us all food comas for the rest of the day and evening.

Nowadays, things are much… quieter. But if there’s still something I do try to keep going for myself at Easter, it’s good food. That, you never grow out of.

Making Easter bread is something that’s become somewhat of a yearly tradition for me. I do it because there are quite a lot of different types from various cultures and places to try. I do it test and improve my bread making skills. I do it because most of them are really yummy and not too difficult to pull off. I do it because I like it.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve always had a ‘thing’ for hot cross buns ever since I was a kid and heard about them for the first time in a British nursery rhyme. They just looked yummy in the picture and for years, I always wondered what one would taste like. I recently read a comment on another food blog that called them the first and earliest ‘food fad’, which I thought was funny.

It was two years ago I think, when I took my first shot at making Hot Cross Buns for myself. Mine had a slight twist on the original with the addition of chamomile tea to the dough, which gave them a delicious flavor. I decided then and there that it wouldn’t be the last of my hot cross bun baking. This HAD to happen again.

I briefly considered just making plain Hot Cross Buns, but then I noticed a recipe on Williams-Sonoma’s blog that looked very intriguing; Hot Cross Buns translated into a a single loaf of bread.

I don’t know what it is about me, but I have trouble sticking to the ‘script’ of a recipe if I feel comfortable with it. I just can’t leave well enough alone. The original recipe just called for a single rectangle of dough to be rolled up then placed in the loaf pan and baked off to form one swirl.

Yeah, I know. I didn’t do that.

Look guys, I know it looks complicated, but it isn’t. Really.

I started with the one cylinder, then randomly took my bench scraper and split it in half. I then used it to split THOSE halves in half. Then, I just arranged the individual cylinders side by side in the loaf pan with the cut side facing the pan. That’s it. You let the loaves rise and get puffy, then bake them off where they actually rise and get even MORE puffy. Then by the time they’re done and cooled off, BAM. You’ve got a loaf of bread that not only smells amazing, it’ll have everyone you share it with scratching their heads wondering how the heck you pulled this off.

(Which never fails to be great feeling by the way.)

Now, let’s get down to taste. I added a cup of whole wheat flour to the dough, which gives it that hearty, nutty flavor that I personally love. Cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg give it an ‘umph’ of warm comforting spice that will make your kitchen smell like a bakery. The sweetness of the dough’s cinnamon brown sugar filling is also very well balanced from the tartness of the cherries and/or currants and the orange zest. You don’t have to add the icing, but come on: why WOULDN’T you add it? Icing is one of life’s pleasures and don’t you try and say it’s not; no one believes you.

There are so many ways you could eat & enjoy this bread. Plain and all on it’s own. Toasted & smeared with butter & jam. Sliced very thick and used for FRENCH FRIGGIN TOAST. You could even use the leftovers (should there even be any because, I mean, come ON)  as the base for a delicious bread pudding.

Quite simply guys, this bread hits allllll the right spots. Find out which one is yours, asap.

Happy Easter, Resurrection Sunday, Passover & Fiesta Friday #167.

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Hot Cross Bun Cinna-Swirl Loaf

Recipe Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

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Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup dried cherries or currants
  • 1 tablespoons finely grated orange zest

Filling

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon water

Icing

  • 1 cup powdered/confectioner’s sugar
  • A few tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions

In a small saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Add the whole milk and white sugar and heat to 110°. Pour this into the bowl of a standing mixer. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for about 10-20 minutes, until mixture is frothy and proved.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine the flours, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. After yeast mixture is ready, add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl, and combine using the dough attachment, about one cup at a time.

Add the eggs, cherries and orange zest and continue to allow to mix/knead on medium for about 10 minutes until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and is smooth. Grease the bottom of the bowl, place dough back inside. Cover with plastic wrap & a damp towel and set in a warm place to rise for 90 minutes to 2 hours. Meanwhile, spray two 9 x 5 loaf pans with cooking spray and line with one wide strip of parchment paper or aluminum foil each; spray the paper/foil as well.

Sprinkle a small amount of flour or powdered sugar on a clean surface. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Keep the other half covered with the plastic wrap while you work with the first. Flour a rolling pin & roll out the half to an 8  1/2 inch rectangle.

Combine the softened butter, light brown sugar and ground cinnamon together in a small bowl and mash with a fork. Divide the mixture in half.

Using a spatula & your fingers, spread and press the half of the sugar mixture over the dough evenly. Starting from the short end, roll the rectangle into a cylinder as tightly as you can, pressing the seam securely to seal. Using a sharp knife or a bench scraper, divide the cylinder in half, then divide each half into four rolls. Place the rolls, cut side up in the bottom of the loaf pan in two rows of four. Repeat the above process with the other half of dough. Cover both pans with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Let rise in a warm place until rise and puffy, 60-90 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Place a shallow pan of water on floor or bottom rack of the oven. In a small bowl, combine the beaten egg and the water. Using a pastry brush, brush the mixture over both loaves. Place in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes, covering with foil if browning too quickly on top, until inner temp of the loaves reaches 195°-200°.  Allow to cool in pan for about 5 minutes, then use the sides of the parchment paper or foil to lift out of the pan. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, for about one hour.

Combine the powdered sugar with the milk and vanilla until slightly thick. Use a fork to drizzle the icing over the top of the loaves. Allow to set for about another hour before slicing thick and serving with butter or jam.

Double Ginger Sugar Cookies

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When I was a little girl, there was no food, (and I mean absolutely NO FOOD) that I loved more than sugar cookies.

Not french fries. Not chicken nuggets. Not chocolate. Not mac n cheese (which I never liked and still don’t actually…hush). Not even chocolate chip flavored cookies.

Sugar. Cookies.

To me they were just… the best thing ever.

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If I’m being completely honest, there’s a part of me that still thinks they are. The ingredients of the typical sugar cookie are deceptively simple, yet the recipe itself is still easy to miss the mark on. A poorly made sugar cookie can come in the form of one that’s dry, too crisp, bland, too thick, too crumbly and dozens of other ways that things can go wrong. To date, the worst excuse for a sugar cookie I’ve ever had came from those abominable premade break and bake refrigerated cookie dough. The cookie is just barely palatable in a precious window of time of about….10 minutes after you take them out of the oven. Then, well…they cool/dry into pretty much inedible, bland sawdust.

Blegh.

Stay away. Far, far away from break and bake dough when making sugar cookies, I implore you. Scratch really is the only way to go. I will take a well made, from-scratch sugar cookie over say, creme brulee or a slice of cake any day. I will fight you for the last sugar cookie on a dessert tray. (You think I’m playing. Heh. Go ahead and try me, Buttercup.)

A well made sugar cookie is a perfect dessert, whether eaten all on its own or say, dipped in ice cream or whipping cream or chocolate (try it sometime if you haven’t). Once you know how to make a good one all on its own, it might be a good idea to start branching out and experimenting with creative twists to it…like this one.

I made these as a result of still having an excess of ginger from my homemade ginger tea I was making to ease my stomach issues. I took the leftover ginger from the syrup I made and candied it by rolling the pieces in white sugar and letting them cool until they’d crystallized. It’s a MUCH easier alternative to buying the premade stuff in the spice aisle and it’s quite easy to do. I was VERY curious to see what the spicy, slightly sweet ginger would add to the base of a sugar cookie.

Textures abound in this here recipe. The cookie itself is slightly crisp at the edges, with just the right amount of softness in the center so that biting into it, you get a slight crunch & a chew at the same time that’s intensified by the texture of the candied ginger. I won’t lie, the ginger REALLY does pack a punch; there is both crystallized and ground ginger in the dough and it’s definitely noticeable. The cookies are both sweet and spicy, but I enjoyed the contrast of flavors. Sometimes sugar cookies are stuck between either being too sweet or too bland; the doubled use of ginger here ensures that these are neither. They’re the perfect balance.

As usual, I’m linking this post to the Fiesta Friday for this week, #166, co-hosted this week by Mollie @ Frugalhausfrau and Ginger @ Ginger and Bread.

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Double Ginger Sugar Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Food and Wine

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger (3 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks ( 1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Coarse turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Directions

In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, crystallized ginger, ground ginger, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand held mixer) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to evenly combine. Fold in the dry ingredients, about 1/3 a cup at a time. Mix just until dough comes together.

Shape dough into a long log and freeze log for about 1 1/2-2 hours, until very firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a bench scraper, cut off cookies about 1/8 inch thick and place them about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with the coarse sugar if desired.

Bake the cookies in batches until golden and just barely set on top, 8-10 minutes.  Switch the top and bottom racks midway through baking. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on pan before moving to wire racks to cool completely.

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

Pumpkin Cinnamon Crackers

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A few weeks back, I shared my first attempt at making crackers with you guys. They were a huge hit with my taste buds, and because they were just so easy to put together, I said that it made me enter into a cracker-making spree for the next few weeks or so where I tried out several other flavors & recipes.

You didn’t think I was playing, right? I’ve definitely tried like…three different cracker recipes and probably made close to about 100 since then. I’ve loved them all. And now, you guys are going to love them too. Trust me on that.

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So I did a quick Google Shopping search and as it turns out, pumpkin cinnamon flavored crackers are something that aren’t exactly in huge supply from the major cracker name brand producers. Triscuits has a limited edition Pumpkin Spice flavored Triscuit that they put out, but it’s a limited edition release that only gets exposure at, you guessed it: autumn.

It’s not autumn right now though. And suppose you’re like me and want to cure that pumpkin spice itch now and don’t feel like waiting for August?

I’ll tell you what you’re going to do: you’re going to make these and thank me later.

And if any one of you start to object and say that making your own crackers is too hard, time-consuming and a waste of effort–just…hush. Making crackers from scratch is actually simple. It’s worth it, guys. It really is. We’ve established that already with these curry and ginger crackers. That was my first attempt, it was a success, and to this day I still don’t know what took me so long to start doing this for myself.

It gets a bad rap from being so mass marketed in the fall, but I love pumpkin spice baked goods and there’s not a person who can make me feel bad about it.

A few tips: I used a teddy bear cookie cutter I had, but you can feel free to use any shape you like. You could even just cut them out into rough squares with a pizza cutter if you want, just don’t skip the step of pricking your shapes with the fork. You need the holes in the dough to help the heat circulate through the dough as it bakes and for air/steam to escape it, which will help them to crisp up better and avoid air pockets in the crackers themselves.

If you have a broiling pan, I’ve found that the top tray with the slats works REALLY WELL for baking crackers, even better than normal cookie sheets. The holes in the pan help the heat circulate better through the dough and nowadays, it’s my go to for them in general.

These are, of  course, ready to eat just as soon as they’re given time to cool crisp up, but I’ve found that the flavor does improve after they’ve sat for a few days. So if you can possibly help it and be patient, I’d put the cooled crackers in an air tight jar or bowl for about 2 days, then come back to them and go ham.

They’re not overly sweet as I wanted the flavor of the pumpkin and spices to come through, but you can always add about a tablespoon or two of extra sugar if you’re making them for kiddies or you just have an extra large sweet tooth yourself.

Oh, and yes: they are very yummy. I may or may have had trouble with portion control when eating them. I couldn’t possibly confirm, though.

Linking this post up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #164, co-hosted this week by the lovely  Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Crackers

Recipe Adapted from Pearls on a String

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Ingredients

  • One cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • Two teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon (plus more for sprinkling)
  • Pinch cloves
  • One tablespoon brown sugar
  • Four tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • One cup pureed pumpkin (from the can is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Coarse turbinado sugar for sprinkling

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and mix together with a fork. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a handheld one) beat the butter together with the pumpkin and vanilla extract until evenly combined (it’s fine if there are still bits of butter showing).

Slowly add in the dry ingredients. Switch to the dough hook and continue to beat until a ball of dough forms (it shouldn’t take very long)

Mold the dough ball into a thin disc, wrap the disc in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for about 30-45 minutes. Prepare 2 baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sprinkle a clean work surface  (like wax paper or a pastry mat) with flour, and flour a rolling pin as well. Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a small cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out desired shapes for crackers and place the crackers on the prepared parchment paper baking sheets. Place the baking sheets in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes.

Using the tines of a fork, prick the crackers evenly, pressing through the dough to make holes. Sprinkle the tops with the coarse turbinado sugar. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. (You can bake them longer for extra crunchy crackers, just be sure to cover them with foil so that they don’t get too browned or burn.)

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.