Sweet Potato Challah Buns

If you know me, then you know I love my kitchen gadgets. I’ll spend more time than I’m comfortable divulging on Williams Sonoma’s website browsing through things I know I don’t even need and will probably only use once or twice, still wishing I could just splurge and get all of it. And although there are kitchen gadgets that are unnecessary to everyday life, there are a few that I have that have become essential.

My bench scraper. My rolling pin. My vegetable peeler. My zester. All of my cookie stamps.

Where would I be without them? I don’t even want to know.

A kitchen gadget isn’t just a way to cut short on manual kitchen labor–depending on the object, it can have multiple uses that really help you step up your cooking/baking game in other ways. For example; quite a few of the cookie stamps I have were sold as gadgets for another purpose, like moon cake molds or pie crust and fondant stamps  or even biscuit cutters. I just decided to try them out on cookie dough and the results turned out to be really successful.

I went through a phase where I was addicted to apples–I’d eat one or two a day. Problem was, I didn’t like eating it whole bite by bite until I got to the core. I prefer eating apples in pieces, so I invested in an apple slicer. The slicer basically separates the bulk of the apple from the core, and cuts the whole apple into wedges for you. It was such a worthwhile buy, not just for those days I ate apples, but also the times I’ve baked apple pies and cakes and needed to be able to cut a lot of them at one time into even pieces.

And as it turns out, apple slicers aren’t just for cutting apples.

One day I saw a picture in a magazine of an apple slicer pressed into a piece of dough and it blew my mind. Okay, maybe not blew my mind, but it certainly did intrigue me as it hadn’t ever occurred to me to do that. Ever since, then every time I used my apple slicer I thought about using it myself to shape bread. The next time I made bread I decided to give it a shot–what’s the worst that could happen? At the end of the day, it’s still going to be delicious bread.

I wanted the structure of the bread itself to be sturdy enough to stand up to shaping, so I went with one of the sturdiest kinds of breads there is: challah. I then divided it up into individual portions that I pressed into rolls with the apple slicer. The dough is flavored with sweet potato, honey and orange zest; it’s a good combination of sweet and savory. The flavor actually improves over the course of a few days.  The overall shape of the rolls made by the apple slicer wasn’t perfect in uniformity; some of the rolls ‘bloomed’ with petals like flowers while baking, while others developed bubbles.  I’m okay with that, as I think they still look pretty good. They certainly taste that way.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #220, co-hosted this week by two of my faaaaaavorite peoples,  Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Sweet Potato Challah Buns

Recipe Adapted from The KitchenAid Blog

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 whole egg plus 2 yolks
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 4-6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Egg wash (1 egg white plus 1 tablespoon water, beaten)
  • Sesame seeds, for sprinkling

Special Equipment, optional: Apple slicer

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or a large bowl), pour the water inside. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water, and sprinkle the sugar on top of the yeast. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until frothy and proofed.

Add the honey, melted butter, mashed sweet potatoes, eggs, salt, black pepper and zest. Use the paddle attachment (or a large wire whisk) to mix well.

Switch to the dough hook attachment and add 1 cup of flour at a time to the bowl. (Or you can use a wooden spoon). Knead it for 5-8 minutes in the bowl. You may not need to use it all, but the dough should be one homogenous mass that you can hold together, slightly smooth but it’s ok if it’s slightly sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. Flour your hands, then knead with your hands for about 5 more minutes, using a firm push-pull motion until it is elastic and not sticky, adding more flour if needed. Grease the bowl, then place the dough inside. Cover it with plastic wrap & a damp kitchen towel. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2-2 hours. Punch it down, flip it over in the bowl, then recover it and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the dough from the bowl and let it come up to room temp. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Flour a clean work surface, then turn dough out onto it. Punch down to deflate air bubbles, then divide in half. Place one half back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap while you work with the other.

Divide the half piece of dough in half, then the half into fourths. Gently roll each fourth piece into a smooth ball of dough. Flour both the top of the ball & the blades of the apple slicer. Position the apple slicer over the ball and press down firmly, carefully removing from the bottom. Place the bun on the parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Cover the baking sheets with plastic wrap & damp kitchen towels and allow to proof until doubled in size 45-60 minutes. In the meantime, preheat oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, beat together the egg white and water. Brush over the proofed buns and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes in the oven. (Bread inner temp should be 195-200°F).

Cemitas Sandwich Buns

If you were to ask me for a valuable piece of advice when first starting out cooking, I’d try and boil it down to about three rules:

1 . Start with a basic dish with minimal ingredients and steps that won’t intimidate you. When I first started baking, my non-too-intelligent self decided my first dish was going to be my grandmother’s angel biscuits. Big mistake. It didn’t work for a number of reasons but first among them being that making biscuits is both science and an art form. It took me a while to get good at it. Later on after that first failure, I downsized to trying out easier recipes like quick breads and brownies–these are baked goods that are very difficult to mess up.

2.  Read the whole recipe before you start cooking. This one is so important that I’m thinking maybe I should’ve listed it first. I’ve been cooking an`d baking for several years now and this is still a rule that I have to remind myself of when making lengthy recipes like layer cake that have a lot of steps and ingredients. There’s nothing worse than getting started on a dish and getting to the fourth or fifth step and discovering that you’re missing something, or that you needed to spread it out over 2 days rather than try to make it all in one go.

3. Be patient–both with yourself and the food. Nobody starts out cooking like Bobby Flay or baking like Hedy Goldsmith. Even they have days where things go wrong in the kitchen. Give yourself room to mess up and learn from your mistakes. Also, let yourself get more comfortable with allowing the time for letting flavors develop. I’m not a huge fan of most 30 minute or less meals largely because in my opinion, unless you’re a veryveryVERY talented cook, spices simply need more than 30 minutes to infuse into food. It may be easier to put together in 30 minutes, but wouldn’t you rather it taste better?

Cemitas are a Mexican sandwich that come from Puebla. A piece of meat (such as beef, chicken or pork) is pounded thin, dredged in flour and breadcrumbs, then fried in oil in a skillet until golden brown and crispy. The meat is then layered with cheese, avocado, chipotles and tomato. It all gets placed a on a round sandwich bun that gets sprinkled with sesame seeds.

As it turns out, today’s recipe required me to fall back on all three of the basic rules I just gave. There are a minimal amount of ingredients involved with it and so far as bread recipes go, it’s one of the simplest you could make. Rules 2 and 3 come in for two reasons. First, it’s important that you read the entire recipe beforehand because the first rising runs much,much longer than the average time. I’m relieved that I took my own advice and looked ahead to see that the first rise lasts a whopping 4 hours. This seems excessive, but the dough needs enough time to more than double in size; more like, double and a half. Because it did require such a long rising time and we wanted to have these for dinner, I did wake up early to put the dough together and give it time to rise.

After that first rise, the dough is divided into smooth balls of dough and left to rise again for one more hour. They will then get a sprinkling of sesame seeds and go for a quick bake in the oven.

The buns rise with perfect domes and puff up HUGE in the oven, making them the perfect size for a slab of meat and all the fixings you want to pile on top of it. They’re soft and fluffy on the inside, yet sturdy enough to where you can create the sandwich of your dreams without having to worry about the bun being too flimsy to support the stuff inside.  Even if you’re a beginner when it comes to baking bread, I’d still say this was something you could try and expect to have good results–honestly, the hardest part is the wait. And these buns were WELL worth that 😉

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #206, co-hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Shinta @ Caramel Tinted Life

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Cemitas Sandwich Buns

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2-3 cups all purpose flour
  • 8 ounces heavy cream
  • 3 eggs, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

Directions

In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream over low heat on the stove until about 120-130°F. Sprinkle the yeast on top of heavy cream, and one tablespoon of the white sugar on top of the yeast. Allow to proof for about 10 minutes, until frothy.

In a small bowl, beat 2 of the eggs together lightly with a fork, set aside.

Combine the flour with the salt and mix together with a fork. Set aside.

Pour the heavy cream-yeast mixture into the bowl of a standing mixer, then pour in the beaten eggs. Mix together with the paddle attachment until just combined. Switch to the dough hook, then add the dry ingredients. Allow to knead for about 5-7 minutes. The dough will and should still be sticky, but if it’s not coming together in at least homogeneous mass, you can add more flour, about 1/3 cup at a time until it is one.

Grease the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl. Place the dough inside, cover with a piece of plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Allow to rise in a warm place until grown 1  1/2 times larger, about 4 hours (yes, 4 hours, so plan ahead accordingly).

Sprinkle a work surface with flour, then turn dough out onto, it gently deflating air bubbles. Shape into a ball, then divide the ball in half. Divide each half into 3 pieces, giving you a total of six. Shape each piece into a smooth ball.

Lay a sheet of parchment paper onto a sheet pan, then place each bun seam side down onto the paper. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the stove.

In a small bowl beat remaining the egg and 1 tablespoon of water. Brush over the buns and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake until deep golden brown, 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool on pan for about 60 seconds, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Guinness Shredded Beef Sandwiches

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Well. Hi.

We don’t have to talk too much about what happened this week. It happened. To say I’m upset would be the understatement of the century. This is a terrible, embarrassing, and frankly shameful turn of events for my country. I won’t personally apologize for it (I voted for the right person for the job), but it still shouldn’t have happened. It should not be. I am both dismayed and terrified for the future of America and the many groups of people who had so much at stake in this election. The future as far as I can see, looks very bleak. Yet here we are.

(Don’t debate me in the comments section. Don’t tell me not to panic and that everything is somehow going to be ok. I’m an African American woman and what happened this week drastically & negatively affects my livelihood and the livelihood of millions of other Americans in my country. I’m not going to be PC about that. If you’re offended or take issue with any of the above, then you can feel free to unfollow this blog with all quickness. I legitimately could not care less.)

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However, seeing as we’re all just here for the food anyway let’s focus on that far more pleasant subject instead.  After this week I’m in desperate need of a pick-up. A HUGE pick up.

Cooking is not just my sport, it’s one of my chief ways of practicing self-care; a way I can inject some peace & calm into my life when I’m stressed out. When I know that I’m cooking good food, it puts me in a good mood. Eating that good food then puts me in a great one.

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Today’s recipe is one of those dishes that instantly put me into a better mood, just by existing. The best part about it is, it’s actually a pretty low maintenance & low effort meal, especially if you use a slow cooker.

You guys know that I’m usually a poultry girl. Chicken breast is my mainstay and the protein nine times out of ten, I’m gonna want. However, sometimes I get a craving and suddenly nothing but red meat will do it for me.

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When I get a hankering for red meat, I don’t want a fancy steak. I’ve gotta have a sandwich. Either a big juicy burger, or…one of these. A ginormous shredded/pulled beef sandwich.

Guys, I just….looking at pictures of this is making me miss eating this thing already. It’s so good. What’s more, I’m going to go ahead and say that this another one of those recipes that is EXTREMELY difficult to mess up, even if cooking isn’t really your ‘thing’.

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I’m really not fond of beer as a beverage. I think it tastes like piss would if I actually knew what piss tastes like-which I don’t, but y’know…moving on. However, taste-wise I’ve found that beer can it can do some pretty amazing things to a piece of meat and for those purposes, I use it often in my cooking. When combined with the other simple ingredients in the marinade, this makes for a savory, garlicky and juuuuust slightly tangy flavor that gets infused in the meat overnight, then is cooked in the slow cooker (or the oven if you don’t have or want to use one of those).

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Pricking the meat all over before searing/cooking will make it more tender, so don’t skip that step. Going the low and slow route will make sure it isn’t tough and dry, so try not to rush this process by going “High” mode on the slow cooker or a higher temperature in the oven. Be patient. You’ll be rewarded for it in the end.

I made this recipe alongside the Fool-Proof Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions that I posted last week and built myself the sandwich of my dreams. When I tell you that it put a smile on my face…whew. I was a happy camper for dinner that night and you can bet your behind that every scrap of this delectable meat that you see here is long gone.

Do yourself a solid and make some of this. You’ll feel better. Promise.

I’m linking this post to Fiesta Friday #145.

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Guinness Shredded Beef Sandwiches

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Guinness or other dark stout beer
  • 2/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup light molasses
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Beefy or regular onion soup envelope (Like Lipton’s)
  • About 4-5 lbs of either chuck roast, bottom round, rump roast, or London broil. You want a good braising cut; nothing too lean.
  • 1 medium sweet onion, roughly cut into thick slices or chunks
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into large chunks or slices
  • Salt and Black pepper
  • About 1 tablespoon onion powder

 

Directions

Using a fork, prick the meat all over on both sides evenly.

In a medium bowl , whisk together the stout beer, soy sauce, , molasses, Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, and onion soup. Set aside about 1 1/2 cups of the marinade for later use (refrigerate it).

Place the beef in a spill-proof gallon size plastic bag. Pour the remaining marinade over the beef and seal the bag. Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Set a Dutch oven over high heat with a thin coating of vegetable oil in the bottom.  Spray the bottom of a slow cooker with cooking spray or place a slow cooker liner on the inside of it.

Remove the beef from the marinade then rub the salt, black pepper and onion powder over it. Then, place in the Dutch oven. Sear on both sides until it has a good browning , about 3-5 minutes per side.*

Place the roast in the slow cooker with the onion and green pepper sprinkled on both the top and bottom. Pour in enough of the reserved 1 1/2 cups marinade to come up halfway on the beef. Discard the rest.

Cover and cook on LOW for 10-12 hours.

Using a fork gently pull at the meat. It should fall apart and shred easily. Assemble onto sandwiches with Dijon mustard and pickles and other preferred toppings/condiments.

*If you do not have a slow cooker, or want to cut down on the cooking time, this recipe can also be done by roasting in the oven. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. After the beef has finished searing, add the onion and bell pepper to the Dutch oven, as well as the reserved marinade. You can also use regular beef broth; (enough to make sure it won’t dry out or burn). Cover and roast for about 5-6 hours.