Beef Carbonnade

I’m going to piggyback off my last week’s post where I gave some free advice that I’ve picked up along the way of my own cooking journey. I’ve mentioned before on here that I have a not-so-minor addiction to buying/collecting cookware, bakeware and kitchen appliances. The majority of my Amazon wishlist is composed of the above. The shopping spree of my dreams would legit be at Williams Sonoma, where I could literally buy any and everything that I want. The more cooking/baking techniques and different dishes that I learn, the more gadgets and appliances I want in order to make them or take certain dishes to a certain level.

Just as there’s a lot of cooking advice to be taken in, there are just as many pieces of cookware, bakeware, gadgets or appliances out there. It’s perfectly fine to get a collection going once you’ve hit your stride and feel pretty confident in your abilities. However if you’re just starting out and and are just looking to *begin* stocking your cabinets with pots/pans, my advice to you would be similar to the advice I gave last week.

Less is more– at least in the beginning.

If you go to just about any Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy’s or even Target and Walmart you’re going to be able to find the huge sets of cookware that usually come with a few pots, skillets and spatualas. Those are fine–I’d even say that they’re a worthwhile investment provided it’s from a good company/brand.

The only thing is, the majority of cookware sets aren’t going to have what I personally consider a must-have in the kitchen collection of amateur and expert cooks alike. Any guesses on what it is?

Never mind, I’ll just tell you: it’s a Dutch oven.

One of the best decisions I ever made on my cooking journey was to invest in a good Dutch oven. It was a real game changer. Prior to that I had been using a stock pot. Trust me, there’s a big difference and in my opinion, no comparison between the two. There’s just no beating how many different uses you can get out of a Dutch oven.

You’re going to get more latitude from a Dutch oven which gives more surface area for a more even cook. I learned how to fry chicken while using a Dutch oven (they’re taller and also hold/distribute heat even better than cast iron).Most are pretty big–enough too make big pots of stew, soup and chili. They’re big and also wide enough to fit whole roasts and the vegetables. The Cephalon ones are my favorite; it’s a good non-stick surface that doesn’t wear out and the structure of the pot itself is strong and durable.

A good Dutch oven isn’t the cheapest thing you could buy for your kitchen, but I would still say it’s probably the best thing you could buy whether you’re starting out or not. It’s a *really* good investment. Anything you can make in those chintzy skillets or pots you got in a set, you can (and likely should) be making in a Dutch oven instead. When I was thinking about what I wanted to say for this post, all I could think about was how perfect it turned out BECAUSE of my Dutch oven.

So listen, guys. The advice for the week is: get a Dutch oven.

This recipe is pretty basic, as stick to your ribs food should be. Meat + onions + gravy = Boom. I think the mace and the smoked paprika in the spice rub give the meat a special ‘something’ that really works.  Beef & chicken broth, beer, and apple cider form the base of the gravy. There’s also juuuuust a tad bit of apple cider vinegar that gets added to it–I was nervous about the acidity but it’s actually just right.

Dutch ovens were *made* for meals like this. You want a Dutch oven so that you too can make rich, hearty braises with savory meat that simmers away in rich, hearty broth until it’s fork tender, filling your kitchen with the most glorious of smells. Now theoretically, could you make this in a stockpot if you didn’t have a Dutch oven yet? Eh…yeah. I guess. But the Dutch oven will give you the space and heat distribution that will give you the best results. SO GET ONE.

Sharing this post at Fiesta Friday #207, co-hosted this week by  Lily @ Little Sweet Baker and Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com.

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Beef Carbonnade

Recipe Adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

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Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 pounds top blade steaks, chuck roast, or tri tip steak, trimmed of gristle and fat cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 medium sweet yellow onions, halved and cut 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup low sodium beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz bottle) dark beer or stout
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • A few dashes of soy sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Seasoned salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

 

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 300°F.

In a small bowl, combine the seasoned salt and pepper, onion powder, mace, smoked paprika, dried thyme, and brown sugar with a fork.

Place the meat into a large bowl and sprinkle about half of the spice mix over it. Stir, then sprinkle the rest on top and stir until evenly coated.

Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil (or butter, or solidified bacon fat) in the bottom of a Dutch oven over high heat. Sear the meat on all sides until browned. (You may have to do this in 2 batches in order to not crowd the pot) Remove the meat to a medium bowl and keep covered with aluminum foil.

Deglaze the pan with the apple cider, allow to simmer until the liquid is mostly dissolved, then add the onions to the pot,  and lower the heat down to medium. Allow the onions to cook until translucent and limpened, around 5-7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic, stir  and allow to cook for about 5-7 more minutes. Add the flour and stir to coat the onions, allow to cook until flour is slightly browned, about 2 more minutes.

Add the broths, beer, cider vinegar, bay leaves, soy sauce. Stir to scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat back to medium. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Place the beef back into the pot.

Cover the pot with a lid, or tightly with aluminum foil and place on the bottom rack of the oven. Cook until a fork inserted in the beef meets little resistance; it should be close to pull apart tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

To make gravy: In a small bowl, combine a few tablespoons of flour with about 1/2 cup cool water. Use a whisk to stir until the flour dissolves. Strain several cups of the cooked beef broth into a saucepan, then pour in the flour water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, stirring a few times. Allow to simmer until thickened into a gravy, about 15-20 minutes.

Pillowcase Cookies

Happy New Year everyone. I hope 2018 is off to a good start for all of you, and that you’re feeling at least a little optimistic for the year.

Okay, so…I try to stick to a pattern in my posting schedule so that I’m not posting more sweet than savory or vice versa–variety being the spice of life and all. The 12 Days of Christmas series is usually enough of a sugar rush/overload for me where I need a break from making & eating sweets and for a while stick to savory and relatively healthy recipes on the blog.

Having said that, you all should know that I did intend to hold off on posting any sweets or baked goods for at least a few weeks, but well…here we are. Thing is, I’ve had this post sitting in my Drafts folder since August and I just couldn’t put off sharing it any longer.

You guys need to see (and make) these. You REALLY do.

If you know anything about my food preferences, you know that sugar cookies are in my Top 3 of favorite desserts. A good sugar cookie–one that is so good it doesn’t even need any embellishments from icing or glaze– just can’t be beat.

Some people like their sugar cookies crisp. Some like them chewy. Some like a combination of the two. Some like them to have a vanilla flavor. Others prefer almond.

I make my stance on this highly contested, divisive issue, loud and clear: I love and must have my sugar cookies thick and soft. I don’t mind almond extract in the dough, but the vanilla needs to be the star flavor for me.

The sugar cookies that I’ve posted on the blog thus far have met all of the above criteria. The first (and also, the most popular post on the blog to date) were these cut-outs. I’ve also shared two vanilla sugar cookies that are good for cookie stamps and molds, here and here.

As delicious as all of these recipes are, they do fall short in one area.

Although they’re all thick and soft, they’re still missing what I think of as the ‘cloud’ factor; where the texture of the cookie is SO light and soft that when you’re biting into it, you feel like you’re biting into a fluffy cloud of pure heaven. I’ve tried a lot of sugar cookie recipes that claim they deliver these goods, only to be disappointed because they just didn’t.

Guys. This recipe de-LIVERS.

I had my doubts before I made these just because the method is unlike any method I’ve ever done when putting together cookie dough. Rather than being creamed or melted, the butter actually gets cut into the dry ingredients just like it is when making biscuits and scones.  The eggs get beaten together with the vanilla and a little milk, then folded into the butter-flour mixture. I have no idea why this is. I have no idea how it works together with the rest of the ingredients. All I know is that it works. It works so well.

As a Southern recipe, this one supposedly gets its name from when the cookies would be given out to journeymen to store in their pillowcases by their families as they traveled around doing work. I’d certainly be a happy camper (or journeyman) if I had a pillowcase full of these to eat.

My favorite thing about the cookies is their texture. It’s just perfect. They rise with a perfect dome and have that thick, soft, fluffy center that practically melts in your mouth. And, no: they absolutely don’t need any help from icing or glaze. These are delicious enough to eat all on their own. This is THE sugar cookie of my dreams, the one I’ve been searching for–which is why I just had to share it with all of you now.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #205, co-hosted this week by Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

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Pillowcase Cookies

Recipe Adapted from LouisianaCookin.com

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking power
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk, plus more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

 

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1 cup of sugar and baking powder and stir together with a fork.

Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. (If you don’t have a box grater that’s okay. Just cut the butter into small cubes and stir them evenly into the dry ingredients with a fork.)

Stir the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Use a rubber spatula to make a well in the center of the bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla extract with a fork, then pour into the well you made in the dry ingredients. Flour the rubber spatula and mix together, stirring until the liquid has been absorbed and it forms a slightly sticky dough. (You may need to add additional milk, 1 tablespoon at a time to make it all stick together; that’s fine.)

Generously sprinkle a clean work surface (like a pastry mat, a cutting board or wax paper you tape to your countertop) with flour. Dump the dough out onto the surface and knead together with your hands just until it forms a large ball. It will get messy, but that’s okay; just keep sprinkling with either flour or powdered sugar until it’s relatively easy to pick up in one mass.)

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at LEAST one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper or aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray, set aside. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough cookie dough out to about 1/4 inch thick, then use a 3 inch cookie cutter to cut out circles. Place the cut cookies on the sheet pans. Either refrigerate for about 45 minutes, or freeze for about 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with sugar, then bake in the oven for 12 minutes until golden brown on the bottom & slightly puffy on the tops. Allow to cool on the sheet pan for 1 minute, then remove to wire racks to allow 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.)

Kolach Bread

There’s just something so satisfying to me about baking bread. I really do love the entire process from start to finish. Especially the part of the ‘finish’ where I get to taste it.

I’ve incidentally developed a habit of making at least one fancy holiday bread for Christmas, and I didn’t want to break that tradition this year. I had a few different ideas, but because I was crunched for time and also frankly, because I was kinda tired from the last few days of baking, I eventually decided on one of the more simpler ones. This was it.

Festive breads and cakes are a huge part of the holidays in Eastern Europe. I’d heard of babka, stollen, and povitica before, but Kolach was a new one for me.

Kolach Bread derives from the Czech word ‘kolo’ (wheel or ring). It’s a bread that’s typically been braided/coiled into a ring, then in some cases, stacked on top of each other. My braids and coils aren’t stacked, but they did create what I think is still a pretty nice bread to look at.

I loved the ‘feel’ of this dough. The butter and egg yolks give it a slick, pliable feel that makes it VERY difficult to overwork, and also lets you know even before baking that it’s going to turn out great.

If you’re familiar with basic bread baking techniques, then you’re gonna find the process for making this very simple. The dough is divided into three ropes, the ropes are braided together and the braid is then coiled into a kolo— a ring. It reminded me of how I make challah honestly, except after the first rise, I typically make my challah in loaf pans.

I’ll just say one thing right upfront: this recipe makes a lot of bread. Like, a LOT of bread. By the time you get done you’ll have not one, but two massive loaves that will feed a crowd. You want my advice? Either keep one and give the other away, or keep one for Christmas breakfast or dinner, and freeze the other one for another time. The taste will of course make you tempted to gobble them both up in one sitting or within the space of a few days, but I wouldn’t exactly advise it. Portion control and all.

And speaking of taste…

Rich, rich, rich. Buttery, buttery, buttery. That’s the most honest way I can describe this bread for you guys. The texture is just fantastic. It’s so good, so so SO good that it doesn’t even need added butter or jam. I’m serious. This is right up there with the delectable goodness of brioche, except it’s not nearly as messy or finicky to make. Plus as it bakes, your kitchen, and possibly your whole house is going to smell like a bakery and send anyone who may be in it at the time wandering over to the oven asking you “What smells so darn good?”

Well, I guess this is it, again. We’ve reached the end of the 12 Days of Christmas. I hope you guys have enjoyed the series I put out this year and that you get to try some of the recipes for yourselves this holiday season. Check out any of the recipes you may have missed below–I know twelve posts is a lot to keep up with.

Linking this post up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #203. I wish all of y’all a very happy holiday and new year. Thanks for all the love you give Cooking is My Sport–I really do appreciate it.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Winter Spice Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Smoky Chili Crackers

Day 3: Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

Day 4: Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

Day 5: Honey Spice Madeleines

Day 6: Chai Spice Shortbread

Day 7: Winter Spice Peanut Brittle

Day 8: Christmas Tourtiere

Day 9: Cranberry Spice Layer Cake

Day 10: Crinkle Cut Cookie Fries

Day 11: Honey Gingerbread Cookies

Day 12: Kolach Bread

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Kolach Bread

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

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups warm milk (120°-130°)
  • 8 1/2-9 cups all purpose flour, plus more if needed
  • 3 teaspoons dried active yeast
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
  • Sesame seeds, for sprinkling

Directions

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

In the bowl of a standing mixer using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, egg yolks, salt and lemon juice.

Pour the yeast-milk mixture into the bowl and stir to combine. Switch to the dough hook attachment and gradually add the flour in about 1 cup increments. Knead for about 5 minutes in the mixer. The dough should be smooth enough to gather into a mass, but still moist and slightly sticky.

Sprinkle a work surface with flour, then turn the dough out onto it. Knead with your hands for about 5 minutes, using a firm push-pull motion until it is elastic and not sticky, adding more flour if needed.

Grease the mixing bowl, then place dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest until doubled in size, about 60-70 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and gently deflate air bubbles. Divide in half and place one half back in the bowl, keeping it covered so it doesn’t dry out. Divide the other half into three equal parts. With your palms, roll out each part into a rope about 24”  long, and braid together. Coil the braid into one round mass, tucking the end under the coil so it doesn’t break free as the dough rises. Gently lift the mass up and place onto a sheet pan you line with parchment paper. Repeat this process with the other dough half. Cover both with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest in a warm place until doubled in size, about 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the beaten egg together with the milk. Use a pastry brush to brush on top of risen bread coils. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

Bake until golden brown on top and bottom, 45-60 minutes. (Mine baked quickly, so check it early and cover with aluminum foil if browning too fast on top) Bread is done at an inner temp of 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit.  Allow to cool on wire racks for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Christmas Tourtiere

Hey y’all. How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

It was sunny and a high of 66° in mine. I can and have definitely gotten used to this. I’ve spent most of my life in the Mitten, but one thing that I can tell you for sure I don’t miss about it is snow and all the extra crap that comes with it. In most other parts of the country, winter has definitely settled in and made herself comfortable. (Snow storms in Georgia, yikes.)

Even if snow and all of its inconveniences aren’t apart of my life anymore, this is still the time of year where I want to eat warm, comforting, stick to your ribs, make-you-want-to-take-a-nap food. My body craves that whether I’m in the midwest or on the west coast.

The bulk of this Christmas series is sweets and desserts (as is expected), but I did want to try and mix things up this year with the inclusion of some savory options. The first were the savory chili crackers on Day 2. Today for Day 8, I’m super excited to share this second savory recipe that’s actually been a long time coming.

I’ve mentioned before that I really love meat pies. You can find the proof of this through several posts that are already on the blog. There’s a meat pie for just about every culture, region and taste. This one is a French Canadian one called a Tourtiere.

Tourtiere is a meat pie typically made with ground beef, pork, veal or a mixture of all three. What I think makes it most distinctive from other meat pies is the spices that are used inside to flavor the filling. They’re the warm, sugar and spice flavors that hit those same winter notes that I’ve put in other recipes in the series. Tourtiere was something that I’ve known about for a few years. Because it’s a pie that is traditionally baked at Christmas time I thought it would be a good addition to the 12 Days of Christmas, done my way.

I’ll be honest. I love meat pies, but in making them I have found through trial and error that there are two things that can easily go wrong. First, your pie crust can either turn out too tough, too thin or underbaked with a soggy bottom. Second, the filling can turn out too dry and bland–this is ESPECIALLY true with ground meat fillings. *Shudder*

I’ve tried to eliminate those problems for you guys here so that we all can have delicious winter meat pie to eat with no disappointments along the way. Y’all ready?

I wanted to make sure that the pie crust I used was sturdy enough to stand up in the pan and also durable enough to support the bulk of the filling with minimal to no leaks. At the same time, I wanted it to be buttery, tender and flaky as well. This one pulls both off. I used the same method in putting together the dough as I do with making biscuits and scones: frozen butter grated directly into the dry ingredients with minimal hand touching. I also added seasoned salt and black pepper to give it a boost of flavor. All in all, it’s a cinch to put together.

The filling is also easy to make, it just requires more attention. The ground beef is mixed with sauteed onion and white roasted potato. Half of that roasted potato is going to be cubed and mixed with the ground beef and onion. The other half is going to be mashed and used as a kind of ‘glue’ that helps the beef and onion stick together while also retaining their moisture.

Seasoning in a meat pie is everything. You have to make sure it’s seasoned, and seasoned well. I simmered this filling in beef broth and was VERY generous with the spices. Keep tasting it along the way to adjust. Also, I highly recommend letting both the pie crust and the filling sit in the refrigerator overnight, for two reasons. One, pie crust needs time to rest so that the butter will stay cold enough to make flakes as it bakes. It will also be easier to roll out and press into the pan. Second, the filling will develop deeper flavor the longer you let it sit. You also don’t want to put hot (or even warm) filling inside a semi-warm pie crust. I don’t foresee that turning out well.

One thing I do want to advise is to bake the pie on a lower row of the oven. Why? Well, the lower it bakes, the more the bottom crust will cook and avoid the dreaded soggy bottom. If you have to cover the top crust with foil to keep it from browning too quickly so be it, but don’t neglect the bottom one.

Doesn’t this look good, guys? I think I’ll share it at this week’s Fiesta Friday #202, co-hosted this week by  Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Winter Spice Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Smoky Chili Crackers

Day 3: Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

Day 4: Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

Day 5: Honey Spice Madeleines

Day 6: Chai Spice Shortbread

Day 7: Winter Spice Peanut Brittle

Day 8: Christmas Tourtiere

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Christmas Tourtiere

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Pie Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or butter flavored shortening, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
  • 6-8 tablespoons ice water

Special equipment: (HIGHLY recommended): a box grater

For Filling:

  • 1 large potato, roasted until tender and cooled
  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 medium yellow sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup of chicken or beef broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
  • Plenty of onion powder, seasoned salt and black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions

For Pie Crust:  In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and pepper with a fork and set aside.  Rub the pieces of shortening into the flour mixture either with your hands or a fork, mixing just until it looks like coarse bread crumbs. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter directly into the flour mixture. Stir a few times with a fork , then make a well in the center of the mixture. Pour in the ice water, using a stiff rubber spatula/fork to make the dough come together. If it’s still too dry, you may add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time until it holds together. Divide the dough in half, then wrap each half in plastic wrap. Allow it to rest in the fridge overnight.

For Filling: Scoop one half of the roasted potato out of the skin. Use a fork to coarsely mash it. Peel the skin off of the other half and roughly chop it into chunks. Set potato aside for now.

Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven and brown ground beef. Drain the beef of fat, then place it covered in a bowl. Saute the onions in the skillet until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute or two, then add the beef back to the skillet with the broth and spices, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture up to a boil, then lower heat down to medium and allow the liquid to mostly cook off. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Take the reserved mashed and cubed potato, and add to the beef mixture. Taste and adjust for seasoning, then refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to develop.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9 inch deep dish springform pan. Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Divide pie crust in two, making one half slightly bigger than the other. Keep smaller half in fridge while you roll out the other into roughly an 11-12 inch circle. Carefully place crust in bottom of the pan and use your knuckles to press it into bottom and up the sides. There should be some overhang dough; that’s a good thing, don’t cut it off.

Take the filling and spoon it into the prepared pie crust. Keep refrigerated while you roll out the other half of the dough into a 10 inch circle. Use a pizza wheel or knife to cut it into strips if desired. (You can also just place the top crust whole on top of the pie without cutting a design) Lay the strips over the pie in a lattice design, then bring the overhanging pie dough up over the strips, crimping them together to seal. If you have some extra scraps, you can use a pie cutter to make decorative shapes like I did.

Use a pastry brush to brush the beaten egg over the pie crust. Place the pan on a sheet pan that you’ve lined with foil. Bake for 75-80 minutes, covering with foil if top crust start to become too brown. Allow to rest on a wire rack for at *least* 40 minutes before unmolding from the pan. If you don’t want to wait that long, it’s okay, the crust just may not hold up its structure  as well when it’s still piping hot.

 

Winter Spice Toaster Tarts

It’s about that time again….

I know I say it every year, but I really can’t believe we’ve reached December and are on the verge of entering a new year. I wouldn’t exactly say 2017 flew by, but it is rather ethereal that it’s almost over and that we’re so close to starting 2018. Show of hands, how many of y’all have your Christmas trees up?

Hopefully it’s a good number; now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s undeniably the holiday season. Mine’s been up since the first week in November. (Shh. Don’t judge me. I have the Christmas spirit of Buddy the Elf.)

If you’ve been following the blog for at least a year, then you already know what the month of December will bring ’round these parts. If you’re new here, then welcome. This post will kick off a little series I’ve been doing annually from CIMs very first Christmas called the 12 Days of Christmas. For 12 days I share Christmas-themed baking recipes that I think would fit in rather nicely on a holiday spread of goodies that you make for yourself or others.

Baking twelve days worth of treats is no small task, but guys, I’m still so excited to get this series going. The 12 Days of Christmas is my absolute FAVORITE time of year to be a food blogger. There are so many delicious looking posts/recipes that I get to see fill my timeline and also contribute myself. I try to plan ahead and put out a variety of posts that can be tried out by both amateur and advanced bakers. Sometimes all goes accordingly to the plans–other times…most times, I have to adjust/tweak a bit.

Regardless, I always end up having fun, which is what really matters.

I first made my own pop tarts about two years ago. I wasn’t sure how it would go–or if it would go at all. But the 12 Days of Christmas seemed like a good time to test it out. I found that it’s actually a pretty easy process and that both the dough and filling go VERY well with just about whatever you want to do with them. Today’s recipe revisits my first go at toaster tarts, but then tweaks it a bit with the addition of some new ingredients. Those new ingredients are a Winter Spice mix that has classic holiday baking flavors: ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves. There’s also some pepper (yes, pepper) just to give it an extra kick.

I added about two generous tablespoons of this spice mix to the base of my buttery toaster tart dough. It doesn’t alter the chemistry of the recipe, but it sure does give a whole new depth of flavor to dough itself. The filling I did keep the same just because I love it SO much, but I realize not everyone is a cranberry-clementine fan, or you just may not have the time to make it from scratch. As I said, you really can do anything you want with the filling within reason. Any jam, jelly or preserves you want to use would work. If you’re a fan of apple butter or pumpkin butter, it’ll work. Heck, if you want to use biscoff spread, cookie butter, or Nutella: IT’LL WORK.

But come on: doesn’t that cranberry-clementine filling look delicious? Don’t you want to at least try it? I thought so. Sharing this recipe at today’s Fiesta Friday #200.

Stay tuned for more recipes for the 12 Days of Christmas!

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Winter Spice Toaster Tarts

Recipe Adapted from Anne Burrell & Williams Sonoma

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Ingredients

For Winter Spice Mix

  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

For  Cranberry Clementine Filling

  • 12 oz. fresh cranberries
  • 6 clementines, peeled and sectioned
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

For Tart Dough

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of Winter Spice Mix
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup cranberry clementine filling

For Decoration

  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • A few tablespoons of milk
  • About 1-2 tablespoons of light corn syrup
  • Holiday themed sprinkles

 

Directions

To Make Winter Spice Mix: Combine all of the ingredients together in a small bowl and keep in an airtight lid. Set aside.

For tart filling: In a small saucepan combine fresh cranberries, clementines, orange and cranberry juices, sugar, cinnamon stick, and star anise. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the dried cranberries and simmer for 10 to 15 more minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Set aside, cool completely.

For tart dough: combine the flour, winter spice mix confectioners sugar, salt in a bowl. Add the butter and cut in until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add milk and egg yolk and mix together, just until dough comes together. (You may need to add a bit more milk here. I did, adding just enough until it held together in a ball.) Wrap dough ball into two sheets of plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

 Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. On a floured work surface, divide dough in half and form each into a rough rectangle. Roll 1 rectangle until it measures about 16×9 in. Using a ruler and pizza cutter, cut dough into 12 small rectangles, each about 3×4 in.

Lay half the rectangles on the work surface and lightly brush with the beaten egg. Spoon about 1 tbsp. of the filling into the center of each, spreading it over the dough but leaving a 1/2 inch border.

Top with a plain dough rectangle, crimping the edges together with a fork– try not to let any filling ooze out.

Preheat oven to 375°. Place 6 tarts on each baking sheet, spacing them out evenly. Lightly prick the tops with a fork to create steam vents– be careful you don’t prick through both layers so the tarts don’t leak while baking!

Position 2 racks evenly in the oven and bake the tarts for 15-18 minutes, rotating halfway through. Let cool on a wire rack.

To decorate, combine all ingredients (except for sprinkles) together in a small bowl, adding additional milk if glaze is too thick to spread. Spread or drizzle glaze over tarts, topping with sprinkles is desired. Allow to set up and harden, about 15-3o minutes. 

 

Corn Bubble Bread

I love going to discount/used bookstores. When I younger, my mom would take us downtown for weekly trips to the public library and there was a discount bookstore in the basement called The Book Burrow where you could buy books for literal pocket change. It was a dim place with exposed water/gas pipes, stained ceilings, and flickering lights. It had the unmistakable ‘old book smell’ that I will never forget.

And I loved going. LOVED it.

This was in a time when dial-up internet was still a thing, and the Google we know now really…wasn’t. (Shout out to the people who still remember what Netscape Navigator was) We didn’t have access to either. So if I had a school assignment that required some outside research, pictures or info my mom would just take us to the public library to either check out books or to the Book Burrow to buy cheap cooks or old National Geographic issues. The YA section was filled with towers of books, mostly different series like Sweet Valley High, which I loved. (Give me a break; I was a 90’s kid and an identical twin named Jessica at that.) I could, and sometimes did, stay in that corner reading and picking out books to buy for hours.

Those memories I have of hte Book Burrow have carried over into my adulthood to where I still love going to discount/used bookstores. Of course now I’m not looking for a book on Zambia for my 5th grade presentation project. I’ve also put my Sweet Valley High phase behind me–I’m actually trying to forget it ever happened. Nowadays when I stop and look in a discount bookstore, I will go straight to one section.

I bet y’all can guess which one it is.

The particularly great thing about the cookbook section of a discount section is that most of the books in it are going to be very old; some maybe even vintage. If you’re VERY lucky you can find the ‘Church cookbooks’ that are literally collated recipes from elderly church ladies (mostly Southern) that share the foods they make for their families and church potlucks. I’ve also seen huge, thick baking books with hundreds of recipes int hem that would normally be thirty or forty dollars, only cost as little as five in a discount bookstore.

It’s ridiculous how excited I get when I come across a find like that.

I was downtown a while ago and lo and behold: there was a discount bookstore adjoining the parking garage I was parked in. The cookbook section was right smack dab in the front window, guys.

Do you REALLY think I could just walk by without even going in to look? Tuh. Remember I said you could find those thick baking collection books for practically pennies? I found one at that discount bookstore in the parking garage. It was one of the first ones I picked up and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was mine. I flipped through the pages on the way home, already excited to test one of the recipes out.

This recipe in its original form needed some adjustments. But once I made them, it resulted in a super tasty loaf. We’ve already established that I will legit look for a way to throw some cornmeal into ANYTHING and this was a very good something to throw it in. I thought the construction was not only simple, but pretty to look at it. The shape is made by layering balls of the dough on top of one another in a tube pan so that when it bakes, it forms ‘bubbles’ across the top. You can use the bubbles to tear off chunks of the bread, or cut it into thick slices like I did.

The loaf itself is soft, though the cornmeal gives it a gritty texture and sweetness that I personally love. It’s delicious smeared with jelly and butter, but I think it’d be excellent as the base for French toast as well. If you don’t have a tube pan, this would work just fine in loaf pans and cake pans too.

So, what have we learned? #1, don’t sleep on discount bookstores. They’re lit. #2 You should make this bread. That’s all… for today anyway.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #199, co-hosted this week by  Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com and Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau.

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Corn Bubble Bread

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

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Ingredients

  • 3-5 cups bread flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon seasoning salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 packages/envelopes active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions

In a large bowl of a standing mixer, combine 2 cups of the flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar, the salt, pepper and cornmeal. Stir together to combine, then set aside.

In a small saucepan combine the warm water, milk and shortening. Allow to heat over the stove until warm to the touch. (Around 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit)  Sprinkle the yeast on top, then sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of white sugar on top of that. Allow yeast to proof, about 10 minutes until frothy on top.

Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and use the dough hook to beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add an additional cup of flour to the dough to thicken it and continue to beat at medium high speed. Turn mixer off, then add additional flour as needed to where it is a rough mass that can be worked with your hands.

Sprinkle a clean surface with flour, then turn dough out onto it. Knead with a strong push-pull action, about 8 minutes. Place back in the mixer and knead for an additional 8 minutes. It should feel smooth and elastic, and spring back under the touch.

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 375°. Beat the egg in a small bowl with a fork. Brush over the top of the dough balls. 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.

Sausage Stuffed Honey Buns

I have a confession to make.

I don’t think I’ve ever admitted it to anyone before. I’m pretty sure I’ve never even said it out loud. I considered keeping it to to myself and taking this huge, scandalous secret with me to my grave just because I know that it’s going to shock some (and maybe a lot) of you. You might even second guess or doubt my instincts for taste and good food. I’ve tried to deny it. I’ve tried to change it. But it’s just no good. This is just who I am. This is my truth and well, here it is:

I…don’t like the Little Debbie Honey Buns. At all.

I know, right? But calm down. Take a deep breath. Just let me explain.

When I was growing up as a kid, Little Debbie snacks were almost like a form of currency on the school bus, at lunch tables, lockers, the playground, etc. A few of my classmates and a drama teacher had full running ‘businesses’ hocking a pop up shop of candy, pickles and Little Debbie treats. Weird? Nah, not really. They made a killing off it because as it turns out, kids love candy, pickles and Little Debbie snacks. I remember being jealous of their profits. But I guess I just didn’t have the ‘entrepreneur’ knack…or more importantly, the start-up funds from my mom to kickstart a hustle of my own.

Don’t get me wrong y’all, I’m not knocking Little Debbie snacks entirely. There are several that I did and still DO think are tasty; the Donut Sticks for one.  Oatmeal Cream Pies for another. And Star Crunch. Terrible for you? Yes. Delicious? Double Yes.

All of the above snacks would be apart of the pop up stores, lunch room swaps and locker purchases in my childhood. But the biggest seller–I mean the one that was the *most* popular, hands down–were the Honey Buns. Everyone loved Honey Buns. For those that still don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, Honey Buns are yeast pastry buns flavored with ‘honey’ and ‘cinnamon’, then dunked in a thick layer of ‘icing’. I have my reasons for throwing the quotation mark shade, and they have everything to do with my distaste of the infamous Honey Bun that last to this day.

Like many other mass produced packaged snacks, Honey Buns are loaded with preservatives. I realize that this just comes with the territory but whatever the preservatives are that used to make them, they don’t gel with my taste buds. I’m just speculating here, but I’m pretty sure the amount of actual honey and cinnamon that are in a finished Honey Bun isn’t…much. And it shows.

And then there’s that icing. Oh God, that icing. The texture is what throws me off. It’s gloopy. It’s gelatinous. It’s…y’all I don’t even *know* what it is, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to. What I do know is that I find it yucky and it’s a large part of why I never liked Honey Buns and finally stopped trying to.

Look guys, if you’re a huge fan of Little Debbie Honey Buns, that’s fine. You’re not alone. Quite a lot of other people are.

But the way I see it, if you’re going to indulge in a Honey Bun, why not make it an actual…honey bun? Y’know, one where the dough is fresh baked and isn’t loaded with preservatives, where it can go beyond just a snack and actually act as a filling breakfast, a bun where there’s  more than just a thimble sized amount of honey involved?

Do I have a your attention yet? Good.

As you can see, these aren’t a thing like the Little Debbie Honey Buns, and frankly I think that’s a plus. The dough is soft, fluffy and chewy. They’re crammed with breakfast sausage that I browned then flavored with brown sugar, cinnamon, pepper and (of course) honey. After that, they’re rolled up cinnamon bun style, but wait! Now we’re at the *really* good part: an ACTUAL HONEY glaze that’s lightly flavored with orange juice/zest is both brushed on top of the rolls as they bake, but also poured beneath them in the pan. What this results in, is a thicker,, stickier, syrupy glaze that you can drizzle and drag the rolls through once they’re finished. It’s everything.

I don’t know about you, but I feel so much better. I got a huge load off my chest and shared an awesome recipe with y’all all at once. That’s a great way to go into the weekend. Hope all of yours is a good one. Be easy.

Sharing this post at Fiesta Friday #198, co-hosted this week by Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com and Liz @ Spades, Spatulas and Spoons.

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Sausage Stuffed Honey Buns

Recipe Adapted from Southern Living

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Ingredients

For Glaze

  • 3/4 cup (6 oz.) salted butter, cubed
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest plus 1/2 cup fresh juice (from 1 orange)

For Sausage Filling

  • 1 1/2 pounds breakfast sausage
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For Bun Dough

  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 (1/4-oz.) envelope active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 large eggs

 

 

Directions

For Glaze: Melt the butter in a 2-3 quart saucepan.  Stir in the rest of the glaze ingredients into the saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and allow to cook for an additional 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

For the Sausage Filling: Heat about 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a skillet. Brown the sausage in the skillet in crumbles. Remove from heat and drain well. Move sausage into a medium size bowl and stir in the butter, honey, cinnamon, pepper and brown sugar. Set aside and allow to fully cool.

For Buns: Heat milk in a 3-quart saucepan over medium until bubbles begin to form around the edge of pan. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine warm water and yeast in a 1-cup measuring cup. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the white sugar on top of the yeast mixture. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until bubbly.

Add yeast mixture, salt, 2 cups of the flour, and 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar to warm milk; stir until relatively smooth. Place mixture in a warm place (85°F) until bubbly, 10 to 15 minutes.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the shortening with the paddle attachment (or using a handheld mixer) until fluffy. Add the 2/3 cup of sugar and beat together until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time. Gradually spoon in the yeast mixture to the shortening-sugar mixture, mixing on low in batches until combined. Add remaining 3 cups flour, in batches, beating just until blended after each addition.

Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook; beat dough on medium speed until smooth, 10 to 12 minutes.  Turn the dough out onto  floured surface and knead with your hands for an additional 2 minutes. Grease/oil a bowl and place dough inside, covering with plastic wrap and  damp towel. Allow to stand in a warm place for 1 hour until doubled in size.

Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Pour 1 1/2 cups of the honey glaze in the bottom of the dish, being sure to cover all corners (you can pour in more if you want a more gooey, sticky bottom on your buns). Set aside.

Punch dough down on a floured work surface to deflate air bubbles. Divide in half, place one half back in bowl and re-cover with plastic wrap. Roll out the other half to a rectangle, about  10- x 8-inches. Sprinkle one half of the sausage filling over the dough, leaving 1 inch border around. Starting from the long end, roll into a tight cylinder and pinch together to seal.  Cut off & discard the two short ends to create smooth, even buns. Cut cylinder crosswise into 4 to 5 (1 1/2-inch-thick) rounds. Place each bun cut side down in the baking dish. Repeat with second dough half and sausage filling. When finished, cover the baking dish with plastic wrap & a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size 30-40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°. Bake buns on middle oven rack until golden brown on top, 55 minutes to 1 hour. (If buns are getting too brown, cover with aluminum foil after baking 30 minutes.)  When finished, brush or drizzle some of the remaining honey glaze on top of buns.