Perfect Butter Cookies

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

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

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

So, what do I do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

R.I.P to Anthony Bourdain.

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Perfect Butter Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Land O Lakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (preferably vanilla bean paste)
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • White sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mile High Biscuits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mile High Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from CountryLiving.com

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Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

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

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

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

Pulled Jerk Chicken

I cook often, but my actual taste preferences are limited. I like what I like and because of that, I don’t tend to try a lot of new things. There are few things that can kill my mood than a meal that I didn’t like. So I don’t take the risk. However, if someone I trust recommends something new to me, I’ll give it a shot, which is what happened for my birthday back in 2016. My sister took me to a Caribbean spot downtown and I had jerk chicken for the first time. There were greens and plantains on the side. It was delicious.

We try not to eat out too often to save money, but recently I found myself still really wanting some jerk chicken. I did a quick internet search to see what goes into making it and found out it’s really not that complicated. And as chicken itself is one of the cheaper proteins, I decided to give it my best shot. This is what ended up happening and I thought it turned out well enough to share with y’all.

I really believe in letting my meats sit in marinades overnight, even if it’s mainly just a spice rub. It gives the spices plenty of time to permeate the meat and maximizes the amount of flavor you’ll get the next day–and also minimizes the amount of extra seasoning you’ll have to add the next day of cooking. For this spice rub, I used a combination of cinnamon, cumin and allspice, along with soy sauce that I rubbed into the meat to help it stick (it also gives a great ‘rich’ salty flavor).

After the chicken gets seared, you’re gonna put together the sauce–and I really do love this sauce. I did some tweaking from other jerk recipes I’ve seen, swapping out lemon juice for lime, cutting out the vinegar (as I think the lime juice makes it plenty acidic enough) and adding some brown sugar and chicken broth just to round things out. Altogether, along with those Scotch bonnets, it makes a sweet and spicy sauce for the seared chicken to braise in the oven with until it’s fork tender and falling off the bone. This is also another one of those braises that tastes even better the next day as the flavors have even more time to develop and deepen. For a perfect Caribbean meal, make it with these Maple Curry Plantains alongside rice and crusty bread.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #225, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com.

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Pulled Jerk Chicken

Recipe Adapted from Chowhound.com

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 4 lbs chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce, plus more for spice rub, divided
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, sliced into wedges
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 medium scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups cilantro (about 1 bunch), coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, sliced into rounds
  • 2 cups chicken broth

Directions

Combine the cinnamon, cumin and allspice together in a bowl with a fork. Massage a few dashes of soy sauce into the surface of the chicken (not the 1/3 cup, that’s for later), then rub the spice mixture into the meat. Place the meat into sealable gallon size bag, seal it, then toss the meat around in the bag to make sure the seasoning is evenly coated. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of  Dutch oven over high heat. Sear the chicken on both sides about 2-3 minutes per side until browned. Remove from pot once browned and keep covered with foil. Deglaze the pan with about 1 cup of the chicken broth, scraping up the brown bits. Allow to simmer until liquid is mostly cooked off, then place the onions in the pot. Allow to cook until they’re translucent and softened, 5-7 minutes, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes more.

Add the lime juice, molasses, orange juice, the 1/3 cup of soy sauce, peppercorns, brown sugar, scallions, cilantro, thyme, ginger, remaining 1 cup of broth and peppers. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and bring to a simmer, allowing to cook for about 5-7 more minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Add the chicken back to the pot. Cover tightly and place in the oven, bake until meat is fork tender and pulling off the bone, about 1 1/2-2 hours. When the chicken is ready, remove it to a cutting board.  Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer, and pour it back into the pot. Pull the meat off the bones and discard them along with the fatty parts and skin. Place the meat back into the pot and toss in the sauce.

Serve with rice or on crusty sandwich bread.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Pull Apart Bread

Sometimes, I’ll mess something up in the kitchen. Happens to the best of us. But inevitably each time that I do, after I’ve tossed out the evidence and cleaned up the kitchen and sat down and given myself time to stew/pout/feel sorry for myself, I get this irrepressible urge to get back into the kitchen and make something else–y’know, just to ‘prove’ that the bad dish was just a fluke and that I do in fact have cooking/baking chops.

I know there are at least a few of y’all who can relate to that. It’s okay to admit it. This is a safe space.

Although there are days where things go left, I also have days in the kitchen that turn out the complete opposite, where I make something that is SO GOOD I want to cook and bake again just to replicate all of the deliciousness all over again. That’s kinda why this post is happening today. Something not only went well, it went so fantastic that I just had to have another go at it. That ‘something’ was last week’s recipe of this Chocolate-Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread. That stuff was legit, one of the best loaves of bread I’ve ever made in my life.

Clearly by the post stats, y’all thought it was pretty good too, so thanks for the love.

So, what are we doing here again you might ask? Well, first of all, I just really enjoyed the method of putting it together. Second, maybe chocolate and cinnamon aren’t to your liking (poor unfortunate soul that you are) and you need something a little bit different–here it is. Third, the method is easy and flexible enough to where any number of flavor combinations and ingredients could go into a pull apart loaf. This is just my second attempt at the method to see if this combination was a good one.

Spoiler alert: it is.

Just as I did before, I’m using my go-to Challah recipe for this, as it’s easy to put together with minimal ingredients, and also sturdy enough to stand up to the layering of the dough in the pan later. If you have another recipe for Challah or an enriched bread to use, that’s fine–you COULD also use frozen pre-made bread dough that you thaw for a real shortcut. Just make sure it’s a brand you trust and that you’ve got enough to fill two loaf pans.

Whereas the loaves from last week were spread with softened butter, chocolate and cinnamon, these loaves are spread with a combination of cream cheese, lemon zest, blueberries and white sugar. Just like before, the dough is cut into squares that are stacked together, than layered into a loaf pan. They don’t have to be perfectly arranged. The more imperfect that they are, the more they’ll make pieces good for ‘pulling’ the bread apart into portions.

Like the butter from last week, the cream cheese isn’t here to give the bread a ‘gooey-ness’ on the inside–it’s main function is to keep it nice and soft and fluffy. I love when blueberries bleed through baking–it gives the food a beautiful color as well as the flavor that works so well with the freshness of the lemon zest. I also sprinkled some white sugar on top of the loaf just to give it a layer of crunchy texture.

I knew this was a winner before I even sliced into it. It proofed up HUGE, and browned beautifully in the oven. The smells were divine. And the taste? No words. I wish I could bottle them up and send them through the screen to all of you.

Also, you notice how it seems like photo overkill this week? That’s because during the photoshoot I was so impressed with how gorgeous this thing looked that I couldn’t put my camera down. It was love at first sight. I’m trying to help all of y’all capture that same magical feeling I had. I’m trying to make you drop everything to go and bake this bread. Is it working? Good. Now get to it.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #224, co-hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

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Blueberry Cream Cheese Pull Apart Bread

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For Filling

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • White sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

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

Use the paddle attachment to beat in honey, oil, eggs, and salt. Mix until just combined. Switch to the dough hook and add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating switching to kneading with hands as dough thickens. (You may not need to use all 8 cups, this varies according to location and time of year)

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

Meanwhile, grease two 9 x 5 loaf pans and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the cream cheese with the lemon zest and nutmeg in a small bowl.

When the dough has finished rising, turn out onto your floured work surface and punch down the risen dough. Divide in half and keep one half covered in the bowl while you work with the other.

Roll the half out into a 12 inch square. Use a spatula to spread HALF of the cream cheese mixture over the dough. Sprinkle HALF of the white sugar on top of that, then HALF of the blueberries on the sugar, using your fingers to press the blueberries down into the dough. Use a pizza wheel, bench scraper or sharp knife to cut the square into 16 small squares. Make 4 stacks of 4 squares each. Place each stack on its side into one of the greased loaf pans. Gently separate the dough layers so the dough fills the pan (it doesn’t have to be neat). Repeat this step with the other half of dough and the other half of the cream cheese mixture, blueberries and sugar.

Cover both loaves with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towels and allow to rise in warm places until dough rises by half its size, about 1 hour. Just before baking, sprinkle the tops with the white sugar. Bake until loaves are browned & cooked through (195-200 degrees F inner temp), tenting with foil if browning too quickly. Allow to cool in pans for about 15 minutes, then loosen with a knife around the sides. Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool for about 30 more minutes before serving.

Chocolate Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread

Call it old school or whatever you like, but I was raised to believe that when someone invites you over to their house for a gathering, it’s just good manners to bring something to eat to share.  At the very least, you need to OFFER to bring something. And to be honest, even if they say you don’t have to, you should still bring a bottle of something something to drink with the meal–alcoholic or non-alcoholic, it doesn’t matter.

What you don’t do is show up to someone’s house to eat empty handed.

Being an introvert I don’t get out very much, but if I am going to go over to someone else’s house for a gathering then I’ll offer to bake something to bring. Just about everyone has a sweet tooth and just about everyone loves pound cake and butter cookies. (My deepest sympathies with those who don’t. I hope you get the help you need.) Often it’s either pound cake or butter cookies that I’ll bring, as those are both delicious desserts that don’t take a huge amount of effort and I usually always have the ingredients on hand in my house already.

Sometimes though, I’ll switch things up.

I went to a gathering for my niece’s preschool recently and since I was going to someone else’s house, I knew I’d have to bake something to bring along to eat. I knew I could’ve just made pound cake or butter cookies–but I made a last minute decision to take a different route and bake bread instead. I really liked where we ended up. I made two different kinds, the first of which I’m sharing with y’all in today’s recipe.

Pull Apart Bread gets its name from the way that the loaf is assembled. The dough is cut into imperfect layers that are easy to pull apart into portions, which makes it great for gatherings and sharing. The layers are usually stuffed with some kind of sweet or savory filling. It can be made with just about any sturdy yeast bread recipe. I went with the go-to Challah recipe that I use. It does make two loaves so either make sure you have two loaf pans or cut the recipe in half. (Although I would definitely make the whole recipe, share one loaf then just keep the other at home all for me, but that’s just my kind of lifestyle.)

Don’t get intimidated by the step of layering the dough in the pan. It’s not complicated. You’re going to roll out the dough into one large rectangle, then spread the top with softened butter, chocolate and cinnamon. After that, you divide it into 16 squares. Make four towers from the sixteen squares. Layer those four towers into the pan–don’t worry about making them perfect, because they’re honestly not supposed to be. The more ‘imperfect’ they are, the more ‘perfect’ they’ll be for tearing off and sharing into thick slices. I will say that this loaf proofs HUGE and it will keep growing while it bakes, so it may not need the full second hour to double in size.

It took me a while before I learned to appreciate the flavor combination of chocolate and cinnamon, but once I learned my lesson, I never had to learn it twice. It works. I find that the cinnamon works to counter the slight bitterness of the chocolate and the flavor kinda reminds me of something I’d buy in a coffee shop. I sprinkled the top of the loaf with cinnamon sugar to give it a crunchy contrast of texture with the pillowy inside of the bread, which in true Challah fashion, doesn’t disappoint. This stuff went over like gangbusters and I think it’s a treat kids in particular would love, for obvious reasons. Though I can also see more sophisticated re-purposing uses for it like, say…French toast or bread pudding? Yum.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #223, co-hosted this week by the fantastic Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau.

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Chocolate Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For Filling

  • 8 ounces semi sweet chocolate, chopped (you can also just use chocolate chips/chunks)2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

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

Use the paddle attachment to beat in honey, oil, eggs, and salt. Mix until just combined. Switch to the dough hook and add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating switching to kneading with hands as dough thickens. (You may not need to use all 8 cups, this varies according to location and time of year)

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

Meanwhile, grease two 9 x 5 loaf pans and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the chocolate with the white sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Combine the softened butter with the vanilla and salt in another small bowl until it form a thick paste.

When the dough has finished rising, turn out onto your floured work surface and punch down the risen dough. Divide in half and keep one half covered in the bowl while you work with the other.

Roll the half out into a 12 inch square. Use a spatula to spread HALF of the butter mixture over the dough. Sprinkle HALF the cinnamon chocolate mixture on top of that, using your fingers to press the chocolate down into the dough. Use a pizza wheel, bench scraper or sharp knife to cut the square into 16 small squares. Make 4 stacks of 4 squares each. Place each stack on its side into one of the greased loaf pans. Gently separate the dough layers so the dough fills the pan (it doesn’t have to be neat).

Repeat this step with the other half of dough and the other half of the butter mixture and cinnamon chocolate mixture.

Cover both loaves with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towels and allow to rise in warm places until dough rises by half its size, about 1 hour. Just before baking, sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Bake until loaves are browned & cooked through (195-200 degrees F inner temp), tenting with foil if browning too quickly. Allow to cool in pans for about 15 minutes, then loosen with a knife around the sides. Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool for about 30 more minutes before serving.

Honey Cardamom Cut Out Cookies

I’ve been making a lot of cookies lately. The reasons are varied, but as that’s just where things have been at in the kitchen, y’all can expect a few of the next posts in the coming weeks to be cookie-themed. Personally I think it’s impossible for there to be too many cookie-anything, but that’s just my opinion. And while you’re here, I might as well give another one:

Cut out cookies are the best kind.

What ARE cut outs?

Cut out cookies are cookies that are baked with the intention of holding a particular shape. Mostly, they tend to fall on the sugar cookie flavored spectrum. This is different than say, a drop cookie (like chocolate chip cookies), where the dough is dropped from an ice cream scoop or teaspoon. Most cut out cookie doughs are sturdy and durable in order to be able to withhold being rolled out by a rolling pin and pressed out by cookie cutters.Drop cookies are undoubtedly less laborious than cut outs, as you don’t have to bother with cutting out the shapes. Because sugar cookies tend to be my favorite, I still prefer cut outs. Provided you have a tasty flavored dough, I feel that they are worth the extra effort.

I’ve said it dozens of times before and I’ll keep saying it for anyone who may be reading this post and thinking that cut outs are too hard to attempt: it really does come down to how you treat the dough. Cut out cookie dough (heck, MOST cookie dough) requires very specific treatment in order to get the pretty, magazine quality aesthetics that you want. I’ve baked hundreds (maybe even thousands at this point) of cookies at this point in my baking adventures and I’ve been truly mortified to find that too many of the recipes out there omit what I believe is the most important step in cookie baking:

Chilling the dough.

I just don’t understand it. SO many cut out cookie recipes I’ve seen instruct you to bake the cookies just minutes after putting the dough together.

This is just…not good advice.

In the first place, the fat (butter) in the dough should be thoroughly creamed and softened by the time that you’re finished mixing it. This is what makes the dough sticky. Room temp, sticky cookie dough WILL produce cookies that spread, and spread a lot. This completely defeats the purpose of cut out cookies–the more that they spread, the more that the shapes you spent all that time cutting out will be warped by the heat of the oven. Even drop cookie dough that is baked when too warm will produce cookies that are flat as pancakes instead of puffy, craggy cookies that at least resemble domes. Ask me how I know.

Cookie dough should be VERY cold when it hits the oven. Not warm and sticky. Not cool. COLD. The colder it is, the easier it will be to cut out, and the better your shapes will hold up.Therefore, In almost every single one of the cookie recipes I share, I will tell you to refrigerate the finished cookie dough for at least one hour (but preferably overnight) in order to give the butter in the dough plenty of time to firm up. Additionally, whenever I make cut outs, I take it a step further and chill the cookies for a few minutes after I’ve cut them out. Excessive? Maybe. But I’d prefer to let the results speak for themselves.

I made these primarily because they were a departure from the usual vanilla sugar cut out cookie that I make and I was curious as to how they would turn out. They’re sweetened with both white sugar and honey, and spiced with cardamom and ground ginger. After cutting them out, I also sprinkled the tops with cinnamon sugar to give them a bit of texture. You don’t necessarily need to cut out the middles if you don’t have a tiny cutter, or if you just don’t want to. Just please give your dough the proper amount of chilling time in the fridge so that the shapes you cut them in will hold up.

These aren’t overly sweet, and the spices do most of the work flavor-wise. I also found that they also improve in flavor the longer that they have to sit, so they may taste even better on the second or third day after you make them then they do on the first. Just place a slice of bread in the container you store them in, and they’ll be sure to stay soft (that’s a tip from my bag of tricks that works for any baked cookie, actually).

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #222, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com.

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Honey Cardamom Cut Out Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Bake from Scratch

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

In a medium bowl combine the  flour with the cardamom, ginger, salt and baking soda with a fork. Set aside.

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

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

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

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters, keeping the other 3 in the fridge while you roll out the one.

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

Place the sheet pans in the freezer for around 10 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with the cinnamon sugar, and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Let cool on pans for 3 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.

D.I.Y. Dunk-a-Roos

Alright. Allow me to set the scene for y’all.

Picture it. Michigan, 1996. I was in elementary school. My mom hadn’t given me the option yet of choosing to eat a ‘Hot’ lunch that the school provided. For a while, we were sent to school with ‘Cold’ (Packed) lunches from home. On one hand I was annoyed that I didn’t get to eat the food that most kids love. On the other hand…I got to bring along snacks from home to eat at lunch that weren’t served in school.

One of those snacks served as the inspiration for today’s post. I’m quite sure that a few of you will know exactly which one it was, as it was as treasured part of your childhoods as it was mine.

I’m talking about Dunk-A-Roos.

Dunk. A. Rooooooooos, y’all. Those that know, *know* why I just had to say it again. For those that don’t, I’ll press pause and give some background info.

Dunk A Roos are a snack food; when they were first released it the early 90’s, they were small crisp vanilla flavored cookies that came with a few scoops of sweet white funfetti dip that you could DUNK them in. (Get it? DUNK-a roos.) Later on when they became more and more popular the company started making chocolate flavored ones too.

Well, every kid I knew was crazy about them–myself included. Dunk-a-Roos were THE snack. If you brought them with you to lunch, it was guaranteed that you were gonna be swarmed by others who would encourage you to share. Except if you were like me, you were greedy and kept them all for yourself, because…no.

Unfortunately, Dunk-a-Roos were discontinued by the company that made them years ago. All good things and whatnot. On one hand it’s a shame that my niece and other kids her age will never be able to know the deliciousness of mass marketed Dunk-a-Roos. On the other, she does now know the deliciousness of today’s post.

Boys and girls of all ages, I give you: Do It Yourself Dunk-a Roos.

I mean, c’mon. Doesn’t this just look like fun? Not only was it fun for me to make this, it was also so easy. The process is actually similar to making crackers. The dough is one of the least finicky I’ve ever made–it’s not a whole lot and it comes together in minutes. You’re going to want to roll it pretty thin in order to get the crisp texture and ‘snap’ that you want from the cookies. Of course, if you would prefer them softer you could always roll them thicker or just bake them for less time. If you don’t have tiny cookie cutters, I wouldn’t worry about it either. Just use a pizza wheel or a sharp knife to cut them into squares; I promise you it won’t make a difference.

The ingredients are minimal and you most likely have them in your house already; the brown sugar and cinnamon are there to give them the richer, caramel-y flavor that I remember the Dunk-a-Roos from my past having. The cookies themselves aren’t overly sweet and I really don’t think they need to be considering that they’re meant to be eaten with the funfetti dip, which (trust me) is plenty sweet enough on it’s own. My version is made with a butter base and flavored with vanilla extract, BUT, if you wanted to get a little creative with it I can see variations made with almond extract, or cream cheese and citrus extracts instead and coming out fantastic.

This was a really fun little project that me and my niece did together and it turned out really yummy results. It received her stamp of approval and seeing as 5 year olds are some of the toughest critics out there, I’m more than satisfied with that. Try it out with your little ones—or just make it for yourself. Somebody’s tummy is going to be happy regardless; I guarantee that.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #221, co-hosted this week by Jenny @ Dragonfly Home Recipes.

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DIY Dunk-a-Roos

Recipe Adapted from Delish.com

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Ingredients

For Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • White sugar, for sprinkling

For Cookie Dip

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles

 

Directions

In a medium bowl combine the  flour with the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and set aside.

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

Add the egg, and vanilla and mix until just combined. Add the flour mixture in batches, mixing until just combined.

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

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters, keeping the other 3 in the fridge while you roll out the one.

Sprinkle a clean work surface (like a pastry mat, wax paper or a cutting board) with powdered sugar or flour. Roll out the quarter of dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into whatever desired shapes you like, but I would keep them small. Reroll and cut the scraps as necessary.

Place the sheet pans in the freezer for around 10 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with the white sugar, and bake for 5-8 minutes.  Let cool on pans for 3 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.

For Cooke Dip: Cream together the butter and powdered sugar In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment (or using a handheld one) until it’s light and creamy. Add the salt and vanilla. Add the milk until it’s fluffy and not too stiff. Gently stir in the sprinkles. Serve the cookies with the cookie dip when they’ve cooled and store the dip in the fridge when not in use.