Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Soft Pretzel Bites

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I always thought anything yeasty or slightly bread-related was beyond difficult to make. But since I grew up in our nation's Pretzel Capital, I couldn't resist trying my hand at some homemade soft pretzels! There's just something comforting about a mouth full of pretzels...

And plus, with the Super Bowl on its way, these little guys are great not-so-junk-foody snacking alternative for the big game!

Soft Pretzel Bites [click to print]
5 c. flour
2 T. brown sugar
2-1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (or 1 pkg)
2-1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 c. warm water
6 T. butter, melted

3 quarts water
3/4 c. baking soda
1 egg, beaten with 1 T. cold water
Coarse salt

In large mixing bowl, fitted with dough hook, whisk together sugar, yeast, salt and flour. With mixer on low speed, slowly add water and butter. When combined, increase speed to medium and continue mixing until the dough forms a cohesive blob and starts pulling away from the bowl and looks smooth, about 4 minutes. If the dough still looks too wet, add flour, a tablespoon at a time. Dump dough onto floured surface and knead into a ball.

Spray mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place dough ball in bowl. Cover with damp cloth and place in warm area for about an hour or until double in size.

Preheat oven to 475. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or coat with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

Heat water in large pot or roasting pan on stove. When boiling, slowly add baking soda.

Remove dough from bowl and divide into eight equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope, about 22 inches long and cut into 1 inch pieces. Boil dough in baking soda water in batches, about 15 pieces at a time, for 30-45 seconds. Remove with large slotted spoon and place on baking sheet being careful not to let any pieces touch. Brush top of pieces with egg mixture and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake in oven for 12-15 minutes.

I served mine with cheesy marinara sauce but cheese sauce is great, too. Or just pop em in your mouth plain!

Source: Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Rice Crispy Treats

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My Poppie always said that a good home always has marshmallows stocked in the cupboards. Let's just say my new fascination with gourmet rice crispy treats are only helping my cramped apartment become a cozy little home. With my new found love for all things browned butter, this idea seemed like the perfect way to jazz up an old favorite.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Rice Crispy Treats [click to print]
Makes about 16 super thick squares or 3 dozen normal size

4 T. unsalted butter
1 T. vanilla bean paste (OR seeds of 1 vanilla bean)
1/4 tsp. salt
10 oz. (one bag) marshmallows
5-1/2 c. rice crispies (or other puffed rice cereal)

For really thick squares, line 6x6" pan with parchment paper. For normal treats, line 8x8" pan. Pour rice crispies in large mixing bowl and set aside. 

First things first. Brown the butter, and no skimping here! Margarine won't give these treats a caramely flavor so use real butter, please! So, heat butter in saucepan on low until it turns a light brown, caramel color. It will bubble a lot and be noisy for a bit before it reaches a deep caramel color. Immediately add marshmallows and stir until well combined. Add salt and vanilla. 

Pour marshmallow mixture over rice crispies and turn with rubber scraper until evenly coated. Press into prepared pan with greased fingers and allow to cool. Cut into squares and enjoy!

Source: Adapted from Zoe Bakes

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Heath Bar Blondies

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My brother told me that the secret ingredients to every delicious recipe is lots of butter and lots of sugar. Well if that's true, and I'm pretty sure it is since my brother rarely lies about anything so important as dessert, then this recipe nailed it. And, yes, it's totally worth going for a run in the middle of winter just so you can indulge in these caramel scented heath bar blondies. Yummers!

Heath Bar Blondies [click to print]
Makes about 16-2x2" brownies

1/2 c. unsalted butter
1 c. brown sugar
1-1/4 c. flour
1-1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
1/2 c. heath bar toffee bits

Line 8x8 pan with parchment paper or coat well with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350.

First you're gonna brown that butter. And don't you dare use margarine or even think about skipping this step! Brown butter gives these blondies a tasty caramel flavor. So, put butter in saucepan and heat on low until it turns a light brown, caramel color. It will bubbly a lot and be noisy for a little bit, then watch carefully because butter can burn very quickly. Once it's browned, pour into mixing bowl and allow to cool about 10 minutes.

Whisk together flour, powder and salt; set aside. Add sugar and beat until combined. It will look kind of like wet sand at this point. Add vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, incorporating well between each addition. Add flour mixture in two additions, mixing about 20 seconds between each addition.

Stir in nuts and heath bits. Pour into pan and bake 25-30 minutes.

Source: Adapted from my mom's Blonde Brownies

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Confetti Fortune Cookies

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Traditionally, on Chinese New Year's Eve, families gather together to share an elaborate feast of fancy foods and delicacies. It's a time to forgive and forget, to move on and to wish happiness to everyone in the coming year through personally designed fortune cookies. Okay, so that last part might not be exactly true, but seriously. What better way could there possibly be to ring in The Year of the Dragon than with homemade Confetti Fortune Cookies? None, that's what. So get ready for some good fortune!

 Confetti Fortune Cookies [click to print]
Makes about 24 cookies

1 c. flour
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
5 T. unsalted butter
3 T. heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 egg whites
1 c. sugar
2 T. nonpareil sprinkles

Before you start baking, print or write your custom fortunes or resolutions on 3x1/2" paper strips. We did funny fortunes on one side, courtesy of Smosh, and space on the back for everyone to write their own resolution for the new year.

Whisk together flour, cinnamon and salt; set aside. Melt butter in small microwave-safe bowl; stir in cream and vanilla. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Combine egg whites and sugar in mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed about 1-2 minutes until smooth. On low speed, add flour mixture. Beat in butter mixture. Continue mixing until smooth. Stir in sprinkles.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper or generously coat with nonstick cooking spray. Drop heaping teaspoons of batter on baking sheet, spacing them about 4" apart. Use the back of a spoon to spread the batter into a circle about 3" wide, leaving at least 1" between cookies.

Bake at 400 for 4-6 minutes, or until the cookie looks dry and the edges are just barely turning golden. Working quickly, remove one cookie with a spatula and turn over onto a dry dishtowel. Place fortune in center, fold cookie in half and pinch at the top to form a loose semicircle.

With the cookie pinched, gently fold over the rim of a mug or muffin tin and pull the tips of the cookie together.

Place folded cookie in muffin tin to hold shape until firm. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Source: Adapted from Cooking With My Kid

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Design It: Winter Wonderland

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A giant mega flurry landed in my unsuspecting eyeball last week. But don't worry, I'm okay! Once I blinked the snow out and wiped dripping mascara from my eyelid, I noticed how amazing the sky looked. It was like I was walking in a snowglobe! So much for that 3% chance of rain. This cake is for you, unpredictable snowy winter storm weather.

Now hold up. I know what you're thinking: That cake looks too fancy and hard for me, I'm not a superhuman cake designer! Trust me. This cake looks a lot harder to create than it really is. The design is relatively simple to pull off and comes out looking quite impressive! You'll definitely wow a few people with this one. So, to get started, bake up a two-layer round cake using your favorite white cake recipe. Allow it to cool completely and crumb coat with white frosting; allow to set. Meanwhile...

Tear a piece of wax paper, about a foot long, and lay flat on the table. Sketch about 12-15 skinny pine trees of different heights, including trunks, with a permanent marker. You don't need to be a professional illustrator for this, just a basic outline is good enough! Flip the wax paper over.

Microwave about 1 cup white chocolate chips in 30 second bursts, stirring between each nuke. (It will take longer to melt these than regular chocolate chips since white chocolate has a higher melting point.) Scoop chocolate into ziploc bag and snip off a tiny corner. Following your sketches, pipe melted chocolate over outlines and fill in shapes. Slide tree covered wax paper onto cookie sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

Now you're gonna frost the cake. Put on a nice thick layer of fluffy white frosting. I like a basic vanilla buttercream. (Use clear vanilla extract, if you're making your own, to keep it a brilliant white.) Remove wax paper from fridge, turn upside down on clean surface and carefully peel back wax paper to remove from chocolate. Gently press each tree into cake frosting, lining up the bottom of each trunk with the base of the cake. Dust top of cake with silver edible glitter.

Source: Inspired by Modern Cupcake and Desserts for Breakfast

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

No Bake Energy Bites

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Normally, the battle to eat health food is a losing battle. The siren call of sweet treats is steady and constant. But with these little no-bake energy bites, you get the best of both worlds! These chewy little cookie bites are packed with so many good-for-you things, with a few chocolate chips...but, hey! Chocolate is good for you, too, these days! 

No Bake Energy Bites [click to print]
Makes about 24 bites

1 c. oatmeal
1 c. coconut flakes
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. ground flaxseed
1/3 c. honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mash with your hands until everything is well combined. Chill for 1 hour. Scoop into 1" balls and enjoy! Store in airtight container in fridge for up to a week...if they last that long!

Source: Slightly adapted from Smashed Peas and Carrots

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Snowball Cookies

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It started flurrying yesterday and my sister immediately starting yelling "No! NO! I hate snow!" A few minutes later, it stopped. I guess the weather gods are liking her better than me right now, because I always love a good sledding hill or snowball fight! Oh, well. I'm sure more snow is on the way at some point.

 For now I'll just have to make do with these edible snowball cookies and a mug of hot chocolate! [Update 01/09/2012: I was invited to post these cookies on Sweet as Sugar Cookies! How fun!]

Snowball Cookies [click to print]
Makes about 30 cookies

1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-1/4 c. flour
1 c. pecans or walnuts, chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. powdered sugar (for rolling)

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla. Whisk together flour, nuts and salt; mix until just combined.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper or coat with nonstick cooking spray. Scoop cookie dough by the tablespoon (or use my favorite OXO cookie scoop!) and roll into balls. Place on baking sheet about 1" apart. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Allow cookies to cool on sheet until you can handle them with bare hands, about 10 minutes. Pour powdered sugar in a small bowl and gently roll cookies in powdered sugar. Place on wire rack until completely cooled. Roll in powdered sugar again. You can store them in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to a month.

Source: Adapted from My Baking Addiction

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Pumpkin Gingerbread

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Every Christmas, my mom and I (and sometimes my sister) would bake and bake and bake. We'd scoop and cut and slice probably hundreds of cookies and sweet breads, and, thanks to our benevolent taste testers who would die before we delivered any less-than-perfect treats to our neighbors, we ended the whole project with just barely enough to go around. My mom would sweetly scoot us kids out the door, reminding us to smile and sing loud enough for our old neighbors to hear, and off we went! My favorite house was right next door, at Reverend Fred Donaldson, or "The Rev" as his license plate said. He was a giant of a man, was missing part of one finger on his left hand and always sang "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" right back to us in his booming choir voice.

I know it's a little past Christmas and pumpkin season now, but this has gotta be one of my absolute favorite sweet breads. There's nothing like the smell of pumpkin and ginger baking in a hot oven to warm up your home and singing voice!

Pumpkin Gingerbread [click to print]
Makes 1 loaf

1 c sugar
1/2 butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/4 c molasses
1 c. pumpkin puree
1-3/4 c. flour
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (OR 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp nutmeg)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Whisk together dry ingredients and set aside. Combine sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla; mix until smooth. Add molasses and pumpkin; mix until blended. Add dry ingredients in about 3 additions, scraping, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Mix until blended.

Coat loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour batter into pan and bake at 350 for 55-65 minutes. Reduce heat by 25 degrees if using glass loaf pan.

Source: Adapted from AllRecipes
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