What’s rich and brown, shiny and sleek, and smells like Vermont at sugaring time? The answer is Maple Challah, aka “the end of dieting as we know it”. Once this heady fragrance wafts out of your oven, all good intentions will be put aside and you’ll be a gonner!
I used maple syrup to sweeten the dough, but it doesn’t give enough maple “kick”, so I turned to my trusty Mapleine. Maple flavoring, maple extract, it’s all good! And, in case you’re wondering, I found kosher maple flavoring and refined coconut oil on the internet.
Whether you make a simple three-strand braid or go all out for the six-strand braid, this bread won’t fail to impress; it’s gorgeous even if you try desperately to follow instructions and still come up with a wonky braid!
I tried a six-strand braid. Several times. I had no trouble with four strands (see my Pumpkin Challah ) but apparently, that was pushing the limit of my braiding skills. I hate videos, but this is one time I probably should have watched a tutorial. In the end, I did the best I could, tucked the less than attractive ends under, and hoped that a good, puffy rise and a lot of egg yolk would cover my worst messes. It wouldn’t pass the test of experienced challah bakers, but it worked for me.
Because I can never get enough maple flavor, I sprinkled the top of one of the loaves with maple sugar which gave a slightly burnt-sugar flavor and made the crust a tiny bit crunchy. I loved it, though it takes away the pretty shine. It’s totally optional, of course, but mmmmmm. Here’s what the sugar-topped loaf looks like next to one with a traditional egg yolk wash:
Left loaf was brushed with yolk wash and sprinkled with maple sugar
Remember that challah dough is rich and will take a little longer to rise than a basic sandwich bread. Make it when you’ll be home all day so you don’t try to rush it. Ninety-minute rise times are to be expected. You don’t have to sit and watch it – just set a timer and go about your business, and before you know it you’ll be tearing off a tender piece of maple goodness.
Makes 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves. Simple braids are very attractive. For more complicated braids, look for online tutorials.
½ cup hot water
½ cup raisins
½ cup pure maple syrup
¾ cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 eggs plus 1 yolk, divided (extra yolk is for glazing bread)
⅓ cup refined coconut oil, melted (or you can use a mild-flavored cooking oil)
1 tablespoon maple flavoring - or to taste
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
Combine hot water and raisins in a small bowl and let sit for 10-15 minutes to plump raisins. Stir in maple syrup.
In a small bowl or cup combine warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow it to sit until yeast is foamy.
In a large bowl, (a stand mixer with a dough hook is recommended) combine eggs, oil, maple flavor, the raisin mixture, and the yeast mixture.
Add flour and salt. Mix well. Allow mixer to knead dough for 5-6 minutes. (If mixing by hand, drop dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 7-8 minutes.The Dough should be soft and slightly tacky. If it's too sticky, add a little more flour.
Place dough in a greased bowl. Turn to coat the dough, cover with a dish towel, and allow it to rise until doubled - about 90 minutes.
For one large 3-strand braid, divide dough into 3 equal parts. (For 2 small braids, divide into 6 equal parts.) Braid loosely and tuck ends under. Place on parchment covered baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth. Allow bread to rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.
Heat oven to 350 F.
Whisk egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water. Brush generously over entire challah. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until bread is deep golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
Combine eggs, oil, maple flavor, raisin mixture . . .
. . . and the foamy yeast
Put dough in greased bowl and let it rise. It will go from THIS . . .
. . . to THIS. Now comes the fun part – braiding!
Braiding a round challah. I’m not EVEN going to try to explain this. The Internet is your friend, with lots of tutorials.
Brush with egg yolk and sprinkle with maple sugar if desired. The more sugar you add, the crunchier the crust will be.
Bake. Cool on a rack if you have superhuman self-control. Otherwise, rip and tear!
I haven’t tried it (yet), but I’ll bet this recipe would be great for rolls, too. I think I’ll add them to my Thanksgiving plan. And I may try mixing maple syrup with that egg yolk before brushing it on the bread. If you beat me to it, let me know how that works!
I gussied these chocolate cupcakes up for Halloween, creating pumpkins with little spiders lurking on them, but without the spiders they would be perfect for Thanksgiving – a real crowd-pleaser. Grand Marnier makes these an adult indulgence, of course, but you can always replace the liqueur with orange juice if you are feeding them to littles.
I’ll go with the booze, thank you very much.
I love Grand Marnier and usually splurge on a bottle every year. Mostly for baking, though a little occasionally makes its way into a small brandy snifter. Who can resist that? What amazing flavor it imparts to buttercream icing! It doesn’t take much, so you could just buy one or two of those mini bottles at the liquor store if your budget is tight, or go with a knock-off version.
Makes about 30 cupcakes Decorating them like pumpkins uses a lot of icing! If you choose to simply frost the cupcakes, you can cut the icing recipe in half.
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cocoa powder (I use a mixture of regular and extra dark)
¾ cup buttermilk
1 cup oil (I use peanut oil, but canola would be good too)
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup hot coffee
Grand Marnier for drizzling over cupcakes before icing (optional)
1 cup butter
4 tablespoons shortening
9 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup Grand Marnier liqueur
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
¼ cup heavy cream
Orange food coloring (optional)
Chocolate slivers, green icing for decorating.
Heat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa powder.
Add buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Beat well, scraping the bowl often.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well in between each addition.
Stir in the coffee until mixture is smooth.
Fill cupcake liners a little more than half full, but no more than ⅔ full.
Bake 25-30 minutes, or until top springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Cool on a rack.
Once cool, you may want to poke inch-deep holes in the cupcake tops and drizzle each cupcake with ½ teaspoon Grand Marnier, letting it soak in through the holes.
ICING: beat together the butter, shortening, and 2 cups of the powdered sugar until creamy.
Add Grand Marnier, frozen orange juice, and cream. Beat until well combined.
Add the remaining powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl often. Beat on high until fluffy, adjusting if necessary by adding more powdered sugar or cream to achieve a thick icing that will hold shape when piped.
Add orange food coloring, if desired.
With a pastry bag fitted with large round tip, pipe a mound in the middle of each cupcake. Starting at the base of the mound and working your way around the icing mound, pipe from bottom to top, releasing pressure on the pastry bag as you reach the top. Put a small sliver of chocolate in the center of the top for a stem and, if desired, use a small amount of green icing to add leaves.
Poke holes with a skewer and drizzle with Grand Marnier.
Use large round tip to make a flat circle then center mound (like a witch’s hat). Or . . . just make a mound.
Pull icing up from the base of the circle to create a pumpkin.
Now just stick a little sliver of chocolate (or get creative: a pretzel stick, piece of Tootsie Roll, cacao nib, whatever) on top and, if you want, add a few leaves and curlicues with green icing and a tiny writing tip. I piped small spiders on mine with melted chocolate (because the crow requested them) but if you don’t want to get all crazy, you could just do this:
Added bonus to taking this shortcut: you would only need half of the icing recipe for the pretty little floret. A drizzle of chocolate or a few sprinkles, and it’s a thing of beauty.
A peanut butter and banana sandwich is one of my very favorite comfort foods. And, of course, the combination of peanut butter and chocolate makes me very, very happy; my favorite candy bars fall in this category. So when The Man suggested I try adding peanut butter to my pie crust, it only took me seconds to get on board with that. Banana pie. Chocolate pie. A match made in heaven!
I had qualms about how the peanut butter would affect my crust, but my concerns about texture were unfounded. The pie crust, though slightly less flaky than my favorite recipe, didn’t turn out heavy or tough as I’d feared. It was actually, well, perfect. I don’t use that word lightly because I tend to tinker with things until I’m satisfied, but I wouldn’t change one thing about this crust – and was tickled with it on my very first attempt.
So I’ll just amuse myself by considering all of the possibilities this crust offers. And believe me, I have a whole list of interesting recipes waiting for their turn in the limelight. For now, I’ll concentrate on pies. Specifically, chocolate cream pie. In this post, I’ll give you the recipe I used for my chocolate pie, and in a future post you’ll get this:
Coming soon: Banana Cream Pie with Peanut Butter Crust
The pie crust itself is very easy to work with. I had no problem at all fashioning some of it into roses, leaves, hearts, stars, and even holly. With a cookie cutter or press, you can easily customize for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Valentine’s Day.
Make crust: In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and brown sugar.
With a pastry blender, work the peanut butter and shortening into the dry ingredients until well combined. There should be no large lumps.
In a small bowl, combine buttermilk and vodka (or vinegar). Pour into dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Dough should not be too crumbly. If it is, drizzle in a tiny bit of water and combine.
Divide dough into two pieces. One will be for the pie crust and the other will be for cut-out decorations if desired. (Hint: for ease of rolling, make the piece you will use for crust a little larger than the one for decorating.) If you don’t want to make decorations, divide into two equal pieces and freeze the other half for another time.
Dust one piece of dough lightly with flour, place between two pieces of parchment, and roll out evenly until larger than the diameter of your pie pan, all the way around. Remove the top piece of parchment, place the pie pan upside down on the dough, and cut a circle at least 1 inch bigger than the pan, all the way around Remove scraps.
Slide a flat baking sheet or large piece of cardboard under the bottom parchment and flip the pan, dough, and parchment over in one movement. Remove baking sheet and carefully remove parchment. Ease the dough into the pie pan, roll edges under, and crimp the edges.
Line with foil and fill half way with dry beans, pie weights, or sugar. Bake for 20 minutes.
Take crust from oven and gently remove foil and weights. Poke crust all over with a fork and return to oven. Turn heat down to 350 F. and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
Remove crust from oven and place on cooling rack. Sprinkle with ¼ cup chopped chocolate and let it sit for 5-10 minutes, melting the chocolate. Spread over bottom of the crust and sprinkle with nuts if desired.
Remaining dough can be used to make cutout designs for the pie or can be wrapped well and frozen.
Make filling: In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, espresso powder, milk, and unsweetened chocolate.Cook at medium-high heat, stirring constantly until mixture begins to boil.
Turn heat down to medium and continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Adjust heat as necessary to keep the mixture at a low boil.
Add about ½ cup of the mixture into egg yolks and whisk together. Pour egg mixture into the pan, stir well, and return to low boil. Continue to stir and cook for 2 additional minutes. Remove from heat.
Stir in vanilla and butter until the filling is smooth. Pour into the pie shell and let the pie cool. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 4-6 hours.
Serve with whipped cream, a sprinkle of chopped peanuts, and shaved chocolate if desired.
Hoo-boy! This is over the top–even for me. I hesitated and dithered about adding this to my blog because I didn’t know if anyone would actually want to go to this much work for a candy-coated brownie, but my trusted friend Mary assured me that the description of my struggles would be interesting, at least. We’ll see about that.
You know the drill. First I tell you about all the steps I used, then I let you off the hook with easy alternatives. Yes, yes, I’m going to do that again. But first, I want to mention that maybe it just seemed like this was an insanely big production. It took me a couple of days, but that’s because I had to adjust my brownie recipe so that it would bake as evenly as possible. No big, tall, crunchy sides and sunken center for this baby. And then I decided (no wine was involved, I promise) that it would save time if I coated one side with orange candy melts, thinking I could then just cut and dip in yellow and white. Um. I have issues with spacial concepts – can’t imagine how something will work unless I actually try it.
Nope. Learn from my mistakes, and don’t try to create a shortcut. Resign yourself to a lot of messy dipping!
It didn’t. There were still sides that would need orange coating, and I just used up all of my orange melts. Pffft. Luckily I had an extra bag of white melts, so naturally, I added red food coloring to my bag of yellow melts to make orange, and then colored the extra bag of white melts yellow. Why didn’t I just color the white melts orange? There was a reason, but I can’t remember. I’m old.
I also played with the icing, trying to incorporate melted candy corn. It.Did.Not.Work. That stuff is like taffy. (And as an aside, if you see the recipe that insists you can make homemade Butterfingers with candy corn, don’t believe it for a minute. You will get yummy chewy peanut butter taffy. I know.) So I finally gave up and used buttercream.
Maybe, maybe if I made them again, knowing what I know now, it wouldn’t seem overwhelming. But that ship has sailed, and I’m moving on. Give this a try if you’re bored and want a challenge . . . and if you enjoy washing lots of dishes.
If I were to make them again, I might make them smaller, too. They’d be easier to dip.
And if you decide to:
use a boxed brownie mix
use canned frosting
dip only half of them and eat the rest plain
. . . I will completely understand. And bravo for trying! Please send me photos, okay?
Brownies, decorated to look like candy corn. They're iced and dipped in three colors of candy melts. Add chopped candy corn to the brownie batter if that isn't enough sugar for you! Makes about 27.
1 cup butter
2 cups white sugar
1 cup cocoa (I combine regular and extra dark for a richer color)
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped candy corn (optional)
½ cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
You will need approximately 18 ounces orange candy melts, 12 ounces yellow candy melts, and 8 ounces white candy melts. This may vary, depending on your dipping style!
Shortening or coconut oil to thin chocolate for dipping.
BROWNIES: Heat oven to 325 F. Generously grease and flour (or spray with an oil/flour baking spray) a 13x9-inch baking pan. Hint: you may want to lay a piece of foil or parchment across the bottom, extending up the sides to make it easier to lift brownies out.
In a large pot on low heat, melt butter. Remove from heat and add sugar, stirring well. Allow mixture to cool until lukewarm.
Stir in eggs, one at a time, mixing well.
Combine cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture, along with candy corn (if using). Stir gently, just until blended. Do not over stir! Spread evenly in pan, smoothing the top as much as possible. An offset spatula or dough scraper works well for this.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.
Cool completely in pan on rack. Once cool, remove from pan.
ICING: In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and powdered sugar. Add milk and vanilla and beat until smooth.
ASSEMBLE: Cut off any rough edges. Flip the brownies over and spread icing over the bottom side of the brownies (it's the smoothest) as evenly as possible. With long edge towards you, divide the brownies into three long strips, approximately 3 inches tall. (If you had to cut off much of the edges, they may be a little shorter than that.) Mark the bottom of each strip every two inches, then mark the top of the strip beginning with 1 inch and then every two inches. Cut from the bottom left corner to the 1-inch mark, then from the 1-inch mark down to the 2-inch mark on the bottom, creating a candy corn shape. You can be precise, or you can wing it from there.
Set each candy corn shape on a large baking sheet and place in freezer for at least 2 hours. As you work with the brownies, dipping them in candy melts, keep them frozen, only removing part of them from the freezer at a time.
Place orange candy melts in a small microwave-safe bowls or mug, adding about 1½ teaspoon shortening or coconut oil. Microwave, stirring every 15 seconds. Stop before completely melted; the hot bowl will finish melting the candy. Stir until smooth. As you're working with the candy, heat it for a few seconds if the mixture thickens. Thin candy is much easier to work with. Alternatively, you can keep the bowl of melted candy in a pan of hot water as you work - just be careful not to get any water into the candy.
Cover a large baking sheet with parchment.
Holding onto the wide end of each brownie, dip the pointed end about ⅔ of the way into orange candy. Place on parchment to harden. When all of the brownies have been dipped in orange, return to the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
Heat yellow candy melts, adding 1 teaspoon shortening or coconut oil. Holding pointed end, dip wide end of each brownie into yellow candy, bringing it up to meet the orange candy. Don't leave any brownie showing! Once all have been dipped in yellow, return to the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
Heat white candy melts, using ½ teaspoon shortening or coconut oil. Dip the tip of each brownie in the white. Allow coating to harden. These can be kept at room temperature for 2-3 days, or refrigerated if you prefer. They freeze very well too!
Combine melted butter and sugar well. Allow it to cool a bit.
Stir in eggs, one at a time.
Add dry ingredients
. . . and the candy corn, if you’re using it.
Spread evenly in prepared pan and bake.
A 3×5 index card might help with cutting those triangles.
Ice the smooth bottom side of the brownies, cut into 3 strips and cut out triangles.
Place pieces on parchment covered pan and freeze
Dip frozen brownies in orange candy melts. Pop back in freezer briefly.
Dip the other end into yellow melts until it meets the orange.
Dip the tip in white
See, wasn’t that easy? Hello? Hello?
Wait! I actually have another idea that would be good for Halloween or Thanksgiving, and it’s easier, though it still involves dipping. It even (GASP!) uses store-bought cookies. If these Candy Corn Brownies make your eyes roll back in your head, just stay with me, because the next post might be right up your alley.
What a satisfying nod to “Pumpkin Everything” season this glossy challah bread is! Pumpkin puree enhances the slightly sweet, subtly spiced dough, assuring it a place of honor at any table. Seriously, it will steal the show!
And I have to tell you, Pumpkin Challah makes the ultimate French toast. Drizzle it with maple syrup and dig in.
You know I love to play with my food, right? I thought a 4-rope braid would be difficult to do, but it really wasn’t. There are lots of videos on the Internet, but you probably won’t need one. Here’s a nice tutorial from Baking Bites.
Basically, if you think of your ropes as always being numbered (starting from the left) 1,2,3, and 4, it will go like this:
1 over 3
2 over 3
4 over 2
Repeat until you run out of dough. Just remember: no matter what, #1 is always the rope on the left and #4 is always the rope on the right.
. . . and back to 1 over 3. Keep going until you run out of dough.
Pinch the ends and tuck under. Let rise under a damp cloth until doubled.
I’m going to get all wild and go for the 5 rope version next time. No guts, no glory!
Challah is a fairly rich dough, so it can take a little longer to rise than most recipes. Count on 90 minutes instead of the standard hour for each rise. Be patient; the wait is worth it.
Note: I kept this as simple as possible, but you might want to add raisins to the dough just before you put it in the bowl to rise. And, of course, poppy seeds or sesame seeds on the top before baking is traditional. I just wanted to see it in its shining glory, unadorned.
I cut back on the sugar a little for this recipe because my first try seemed sweet—like those lovely Hawaiian rolls. If that’s what you’re looking for, add an additional 1 tablespoon of sugar. I won’t tell!
Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves. Add raisins if you wish, or sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds before baking.
¾ cup warm water
a pinch of sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup solid pack pumpkin
2 eggs plus 1 yolk, divided (extra yolk is for glazing bread)
¼ cup refined (no flavor) coconut oil, melted (or you can use a mild cooking oil)
5 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
In a small bowl, combine the warm water and sugar. Add yeast and let sit until frothy - about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl (a stand mixer with a dough hook is recommended) combine pumpkin, 2 eggs, and melted coconut oil.
Add yeast mixture, flour, brown sugar, white sugar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Knead by machine for 5-6 minutes, or by hand on a floured surface for 7-8 minutes.The dough should be soft and slightly tacky. It may leave streaks on the side of the bowl, which is okay. If it's really sticky, add a little more flour.
Place dough in greased bowl, turning once to coat the dough. It should feel pillowy soft. Cover and allow the dough to rise until doubled, 60-90 minutes.
Punch dough down lightly, divide into 4 equal parts, and roll each into a 24-inch rope. (If making 2 smaller loaves, divide into 8 equal parts and roll each into a 14-inch rope.)
Pinch the 4 ropes together at one end, separating each rope slightly. When you're braiding, remember that whichever rope is on the left is always #1, and whichever is on the right is always #4. Braid! (But not too tightly.)
Put #1 over #3
Put #2 over #3
Put #4 over #2
Repeat until finished. Pinch the ends together and tuck under.
Place on parchment covered baking sheet, cover with damp cloth and allow bread to rise until doubled - about 90 minutes.
Heat oven to 350 F.
Whisk egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water. Brush generously over entire challah.
Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until bread is deep golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
Mix in the dry ingredients and knead by machine for 5 -6 minutes (or by hand 7-8 minutes)
You’re going for a soft dough, so it’s okay if it doesn’t come cleanly away from the side of the bowl.
Put dough into greased bowl, turn to coat. Form into soft, pillowy ball and let rise until doubled.
Divide dough into 4 pieces (8 if you’re making 2 small loaves). Yes, I’m OCD. Yes, I’m weighing mine. You don’t have to!
Once braid has doubled, brush with egg yolk glaze and bake.
You can also opt for making 2 smaller loaves.
I have another version in mind, so you’ll probably see another challah recipe soon. If you’ve been following my blog, I’ll bet you can guess what flavor it will be. C’mon . . . let’s see those guesses!
It’s the first day of October, and (ahem) I’d like to point out that this is the first new pumpkin recipe I’ve posted for the season. You would really admire my restraint if you saw the long list of possible pumpkin creations I’ve accumulated, taunting me daily. These flaky, tender (yet slightly crunchy) biscuits were on the top of that list, and I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.
The pumpkin flavor and blend of spices add a depth of flavor to the biscuits but aren’t overwhelming. And they are so versatile! Add a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar before baking for a sweet touch or cover biscuits with sausage gravy for a savory flair. They are seriously good either way.
Homemade biscuits are really easy, as long as you remember two things:
Keep everything cold
Handle the dough as little as possible
By now you probably know that I have a love/hate relationship with shortening. I know it’s not a healthy choice, and try to use alternatives as much as possible, but I’ll say it again: biscuits, pie crust, and peanut butter cookies just aren’t as good without it. I’m willing to make an exception for these goodies. If you aren’t, then, by all means, substitute very cold butter. (But they probably won’t be as light and fluffy.)
I used fresh ginger in this recipe. If you don’t have any and must make these right now, you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger.
These easy biscuits are subtly flavored with pumpkin and spices, perfect as a meal accompaniment or snack. Flaky and tender, they are soft inside but slightly crunchy outside. Irresistible! Makes 10 jumbo biscuits.
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (or you may substitute ½ teaspoon ground ginger)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
1¼ cups COLD buttermilk
½ cup pumpkin (solid pack puree)
½ cup COLD shortening
2 tablespoons COLD butter
Optional: cinnamon sugar
Heat oven to 450 F. Cover baking sheet with parchment.
In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, grated ginger, and spices.
In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, pumpkin, and egg. Set aside.
Add cold shortening and butter to dry ingredients and, using a pastry blender, blend until there are no lumps larger than a pea.
Add buttermilk mixture all at once and stir just until most of the flour is incorporated. Do not overmix. It's okay if there are some streaks of flour.
Turn dough out onto generously floured surface. Turn once to coat with flour, then gently pat with your hand until the dough is almost 1-inch thick.
Using a floured biscuit cutter, press straight down and lift straight back up. Lift each biscuit with a thin spatula and move to prepared baking sheet. Gently gather scraps and press together to cut.They won't be as pretty, but will still taste great. (For a sweet biscuit, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.)
Bake for approximately 13-14 minutes, or until rich golden brown. Cool on rack.
Here’s the photo I entered in the CuttingBoard.com photo contest.
I have spent the last three days arranging and rearranging a variety of meats, cheeses, and accompaniments on a bamboo cutting board. I stepped out of my happy little baking world to dabble in the art of charcuterie when I was inspired by the Cutting Board and John Boos Photography Contest to try my hand at something other than taking photos of cookies and cakes.
What began as a fun project for a contest may have turned into a new obsession. Trust me, when you look at the cutting boards on Cutting Board’s website you’ll understand my sudden fascination with cold cuts and the many ways of displaying them.
Don’t worry, it’s not all about salami and cheese. I also created a super yummy bread to use in my photo—one that has swirls of garlic, olives, and cheese. The bread dough is made with pumpkin ale, and is chewy on the outside and soft on the inside. Killer!
You’ll find the recipe at the end of this post.
For my first effort, I used a light box and photographed a lovely collection of goodies. It was very attractive and (I think) appealing. But instructions for the contest said that they appreciated “originality and humor”, which my photo didn’t exactly express.
Haha, do you like the way I used camo duct tape to hold up the tablecloth in the background? Claaaaaaassy.
Well, shoot. I’d have to try again.
I pulled out the paper mache bears I made for a fair display this year and put them to work. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how many photos I had to take to get one I liked. It took me two days and three separate setups and photo sessions. The lighting was off, the light outlet under the window showed, the bear’s ear was wonky, the salami was blurry. I like to use the natural light in my dining room when I can, or my lightbox when I can’t, but these bears had to be looking through the window.
The window with the screen removed, of course. And in case you should try this at home, here’s a tip: if the photographer gets involved with reviewing her photos and forgets to close that window, a whole lot of moths will see it as an invitation to visit. Gah!
This was a real learning experience. I’m used to taking photos of baked goods, and can usually get something I like in one session. But this? Wow. I am going to dig out that Canon Rebel T3 for Dummies book and figure out my camera if it kills me.
Throughout this ordeal, I was sending photos to my daughter, asking her which ones she liked. Begging for suggestions. After hearing me complain about overexposed cheese, blurry salami, and depth issues, she finally asked me if I used my F-stop.
It seems there are other options on my little Canon Rebel T3 than Auto Focus. Who knew? Well, actually, I knew. I’d read that Dummies book, and some of it actually made sense at the time, but at my age (don’t ask) retention is sometimes problematic. So I usually use Auto Focus or sometimes play with manual and A-Dep (for when I want everything in focus). This time I played around with the AV option too, to try to get the bear heads a little out of focus so the board of food would stand out.
To be completely honest, I don’t even know which photos were the result of which methods. There were literally hundreds of photos to go through when I was done.
I was through with the second session, thinking I had a couple of good shots when The Man mentioned that I should have put smoked salmon on the board, as a bear attractant. Why didn’t I think of that? We live up in the mountains, and a trip to the store usually just has to wait for my regular weekly jaunt to town, but under the circumstances, I made an exception and raced for smoked salmon and some Prosecco. (I felt that sparkling wine would be a good addition.)
So much for that. I waited until the sun went down so the light coming through the window wasn’t glaring. I set up the lights and camera. Again. Loaded up my cutting board with goodies. Again. Added the salmon and the wine. Took a ton of photos, put away the meat and cheese. Again. And then realized that:
I’d piled too many things on the board. It looked cluttered. Note to self: less is more.
I should have flaked a piece of the fish so it would look like fish. It looked like ham! (Trust me, it cost more than ham!)
By the time I stopped fussing, it was almost dark, which turned everything muddy.
I briefly considered one more try the next morning, but just didn’t have it in me. The photo without the salmon and wine would have to do.
Behind the scenes
We’ll be eating a lot of salami, nibbling on a lot of cheese, and noshing on olives for the next week or so. Or maybe I should open a deli? But it was worth it; I learned a lot, and (with the exception of a few frustrating moments) enjoyed the experience thoroughly.
And hey, in case you were wondering, sparkling wine doesn’t last. Someone had to drink it immediately, right? But I shared it with my friend.
Here’s that recipe for you. I used pumpkin ale, but any beer will do.
This soft bread with a chewy crust and delightful swirl of garlic, olives, and cheese will be the talk of your charcuterie board! Makes two small baguette-type loaves.
¼ cup warm water
½ teaspoon sugar
1 package active-dry yeast
1 bottle (12 oz.) beer. I used Pumpkin Ale
1 tablespoon olive oil
3½ - 4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup grated cheese - cheddar is great, or add in some strong cheese too (Asiago, Parmesan, Romano).
1 cup chopped olives (A mixture of green, black, Kalamata)
3 large cloves garlic, minced
In a small bowl, combine warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow yeast to soften 5 minutes, or until bubbly.
In a small pan, gently warm beer on low heat just until lukewarm.
In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, beer, and olive oil.
Add 3½ cups bread flour and salt. Mix with dough hook for 3 minutes. If the dough is still very sticky, gradually add additional flour until just slightly tacky to the touch. Continue to knead by machine for another 3 minutes. (If kneading by hand, after stirring in the 3½ cups flour, drop dough onto well-floured surface and knead 8 minutes.)
Place dough in greased bowl, turning to coat the dough. Cover and allow to rise until double, approximately 1 hour.
Punch dough down and roll into a 9x18 rectangle. Brush lightly with melted butter. (You won't use it all. Save some for the top of the baked bread, for a softer crust.)
Sprinkle the cheese, olives, and garlic on the dough and roll up from the long side. Pinch the seam and ends to seal. Cut the roll in the middle, creating two long loaves.
Pinch the cut ends closed, and roll each loaf gently to achieve an even size.
Place both loaves on prepared sheet and let rise for about 90 minutes, or until they feel puffy. (They won't double but should come close.) Slash the tops several times with a very sharp knife or razor blade.
Place pan of water on lower rack of the oven. Heat oven to 450 F.
BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN YOU OPEN THE OVEN. THE STEAM IS HOT!
Bake approximately 25 minutes, or until bread is rich golden brown. Brush with butter for a softer crust. Cool on rack.
Place dough in greased bowl. Turn to coat and let it rise.
Combine chopped olives, garlic, and cheese.
Dough is ready to go!
Roll dough into a rectangle, add filling, and roll it up
Cut roll in half and pinch the ends shut
Place loaves on baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal
Slash and bake
Yes, I’ll be experimenting with more real food in the future. Possibly more healthy food, though I will never be able to stop baking. Nevah! Maybe I’ll have to change the blog to “The Rowdy Baker Reconsiders”, or maybe “The Reformed Rowdy Baker”. Once the Prosecco wears off I may laugh this idea off. We’ll see.
Maple whiskey, ground pecans, and a generous topping of crunchy streusel combine to give this fluffy coffee cake unbelievable flavor – a cozy treat for crisp fall mornings.
I adore coffee cake. Well, to be honest, I adore the sugary topping. Usually, the cake part itself is kind of uninspired – basically just a canvas for the delectable topping. But for this recipe, I added a layer of toasted ground pecans combined with streusel and maple whiskey which creates an oasis of flavor in the cake.
This fluffy coffee cake has a layer of maple whiskey and pecan, with a crunchy streusel topping and maple whiskey drizzle. Perfect for chilly fall mornings!
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon white sugar, divided
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon flour, divided
¾ cup ground pecans (toasted first for best flavor)
¼ cup maple flavored whiskey (or regular whiskey and ½ teaspoon maple flavoring)
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter, softened
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons maple-flavored whiskey
½ teaspoon maple flavoring
¾ cup powdered sugar
Make streusel. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of the sugar (reserve 1 T), the melted butter, cinnamon, ¼ cup of the flour (reserve 1 T), ground pecans, and salt. Stir until combined. Remove 1 cup of this mixture and put it in another small bowl. Add the reserved sugar and flour and the whiskey. (This will be the filling.) Stir until combined. Set both bowls aside.
Heat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with an oil/flour baking spray, or lightly grease and flour pan. (Alternatively, you can use a Bundt pan. Make sure to spray or grease/flour it well.)
In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter until light.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping the sides of the bowl often.
Combine dry ingredients and add alternately with the buttermilk, using half of each mixture at a time, beginning with the dry ingredients and ending with the buttermilk. Beat just until well combined.
Spread half of this mixture into prepared pan, bringing it all the way to the edge of the pan.
Spread all of the whiskey filling onto the batter and top with the remaining cake batter, spooning it carefully over the filling and spreading gently.
Sprinkle all of the streusel over the batter and bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until a toothpick or wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake. (If using a Bundt pan, test after 40 minutes.)
Cool on a rack for 15-20 minutes before unlatching outer ring of pan.
Whisk together the glaze ingredients. Adjust liquid or powdered sugar to achieve a glaze that's easy to drizzle or pipe onto warm cake.
Grind the toasted pecans in a coffee/spice grinder or food processor. Short bursts are best so it doesn’t turn into pecan butter. Small chunks are fine. If you don’t have a grinder/processor, simply chop the nuts finely.
Can’t find maple flavored whiskey? (I’m SO sorry.) Use regular whiskey and 1/2 teaspoon of maple flavoring, like Mapleine. If you love maple, add a little more flavoring.
Don’t want to use booze at all? (Eyebrows raised incredulously.) Substitute maple syrup and leave out the additional tablespoons of sugar and flour.
Do you have maple sugar? I love baking with that stuff! Use it in place of white sugar in the streusel for additional flavor.
You can also use a Bundt pan for this. You’ll just have to flip the cake over once it’s cooled to get the streusel on top.
Grind the pecans. (Toast them first for more flavor!)
Stir together the streusel ingredients
Add maple whiskey to half of the streusel mixture.
Spread half of the batter in the pan, then add all of the whiskey streusel filling.
Spread remaining batter over the filling and sprinkle streusel over the top.
Ready to bake!
Drizzle with maple whiskey icing if desired.
It really doesn’t take long to get this cake ready for the oven, and you can just imagine how good it smells, can’t you? Give it a try, and I’ll bet it will be a regular occurrence at your house. I mean, everyone likes whiskey for breakfast, right?
Anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about coffee. I roast my own so I can get it just the way I like it. I’ve always preferred my coffee black, but recently have fallen for the charms of Bulletproof Coffee, which is coffee blended with coconut oil (or MCT oil) and grass-fed unsalted butter (or ghee), and an occasional touch of honey.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going here. How could I not create a cookie inspired by this drink?
And, oh man, what a good idea that was. Some of the enthusiasm could be chalked up to the fact that The Man and I have been on a no-sugar-no-flour diet for almost three months, but when we succumbed to temptation and each tried one, we were very, very excited about them. Which led to one more, just to be sure they were as good as we thought.
These cookies are not too sweet, with a strong (but not overwhelming) coffee flavor. Let’s see: 3 tablespoons of espresso powder equal 9 cups of coffee, and the recipe makes 48 cookies. So if you ate 5 cookies (hey, they’re little!) you’d eat the equivalent of a cup of coffee, more or less. You’ll be getting your coffee buzz in a delightful way. Yee HAW!
Of course, I’d probably dunk mine in a cup of coffee.
Hey, boys and girls. Do you know what time it is? That’s right, it’s COFFEE TIME!
What surprised me about this recipe, besides the fact that it actually exceeded my expectations, is the texture. These little devils are very soft and fluffy inside (almost like cake) but are slightly crispy on the outside. And I threw in some dark chocolate chunks, too, which complements the coffee flavor. Perfection.
They’re also incredibly easy to make. No fussy stuff – just mix ’em and bake ’em. Here’s the recipe:
Do you want to create culinary magic? Fill homemade puff pastry rounds with wild huckleberries and prepare to be wowed. These flaky little four-bite pastries will melt in your mouth, and I’m telling you, there is nothing that compares to the flavor of huckleberries.
Of course, if you don’t have access to huckleberries, blueberries are a good option. I found frozen organic wild blueberries that are impossible to tell apart from huckleberries, so use whichever variety you can get your hands on.
Rough puff pastry is really very simple to make. (You could use store bought puff pastry, but it will be more crisp and brittle.) Once you get the hang of it, you’ll probably want to use it for lots of other treats, like danish, croissants, or strudel. Here are two of my favorite strudel recipes: Sour Cream Apple Strudel and Sausage Breakfast Strudel. The dough can hang out in the fridge for days (let it sit out on the counter for 30 minutes before using or it’ll be really hard to roll out) or can be frozen. It’s not much harder to make a double batch, and it’s wonderful to have some tucked away for later.
I made the dough and filling the night before and rolled, cut, filled, and baked the little puffs the next morning – in about an hour. You know what makes it go really, really fast? A potsticker press! You can find one for less than $5.00 on Amazon (search for “dumpling press”) or at an Asian market, and I know you’ll find many uses for it. It won’t languish in your kitchen drawer, I promise.
I’d go for the cheap plastic model. This one has lasted years.
Makes approximately 8 flaky pastries, each about the size of a puffy potsticker. I use a potsticker press in this recipe, but if you don't have one, fold the dough round over the filling and press together firmly with a fork.
1 cup fresh or frozen berries
½ cup sugar
2½ teaspoons cornstarch if using fresh berries, OR...
1 tablespoon cornstarch if using frozen berries
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
ROUGH PUFF DOUGH:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
⅔ cups ice water
1 egg white
Powdered sugar for dusting, or drizzle with a simple powdered sugar/water glaze
FILLING: In small pan, combine berries, sugar, and salt over medium heat, stirring continuously until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often.
Pour or spoon approximately 1 tablespoon of the hot berry juice into a small cup or bowl and add the lemon juice. Stir. Slowly add cornstarch, stirring until smooth. If necessary, add a bit more berry juice.
Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the berries and turn heat back to medium. Stir until the mixture thickens, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow filling to cool. (To cool quickly, place pan in shallow bowl of ice water.) Once cool, refrigerate until needed.
Place flour on work surface, stir in the salt, and drop the butter onto the flour.
With a bench scraper or metal spatula, chop the butter and flour together until combined. Don't overwork the mixture - you want to see chunks of butter larger than peas.
Begin drizzling the water over the mixture with one hand, while flipping and tossing it with the other. Again, don't over do it! It should be a crumbly mess at this point.Use your metal utensil to form the dough into a rough rectangle about 5"x 8".
Roll out dough to approximately 6"x10", using the metal scraper to form straight edges. Keeping the short edge facing you, Flip the bottom edge up to the middle (it will be crumbly...just do the best you can) and the the top edge down to the bottom. This will create three equal sized layers. Give the dough a turn to the left, lightly flouring the surface if necessary to keep it from sticking, and repeat. Repeat 3 more times. Wrap snugly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. (It can be refrigerated for several days.)
ASSEMBLY: If your dough has been refrigerated more than an hour, place it - still wrapped in plastic - on the counter to warm up for 20-30 minutes.
Heat oven to 400 F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment.
On lightly floured surface, follow the previous method and roll and fold it two more times. Add flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking.
Roll dough out into a rectangle that is approximately 14"x24". Using a round cutter that is the size of your potsticker press (about 4"), cut circles as close together as possible. As you work, stack the dough scraps on top of each other to keep the layers intact when you re-roll them.
Whisk together the egg white and 1 teaspoon water.
Lift one round at a time and place on the potsticker press. (Flour the potsticker press as needed.) With finger or pastry brush, spread a little egg white around the perimeter.
Place 1 teaspoon filling in the center and fold the press over. Press firmly along the rounded edge for a good seal. (If you aren't using a press, fold the dough over the filling and press edges with fork.) Place on prepared baking sheet, keeping puffs at least ½" apart.
You can roll the scraps one time. They won't be quite as flaky, but they're still very good! Cut remaining rounds and discard any scraps.
Poke a fork in the center of each puff one time, brush lightly with egg white mixture, and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Use spatula to move puffs to a cooling rack. Dust with powdered sugar or drizzle with icing once the puffs are lukewarm.
Stir the berries and sugar together and bring to a boil.
Stir cornstarch mixture into the hot berries and cook until thickened.
Chop (don’t blend!) the cold butter into the flour.
Yup, it’s a little messy, but flip the flour with one hand while you drizzle water over it with the other. You can doooo it!
It’s going to look like this the first time you roll it. It’s okay. Really!
It’s a crumbly mess, but fold it into thirds. Just do your best!
See? It looks a lot better when you get to the third roll/fold.
Roll dough out thin and cut into 4-inch circles.
Re-roll your stack of scraps. Stacking them keeps the butter layers going in the right direction.
Add the filling. Not too much – about a teaspoon. Any more and it will really ooze out.
Poke each puff once with a fork and brush with egg white. Bake!
Drizzle or dust – either way is delicious.
Don’t let those bears get the upper hand here. Put on your hiking boots, strap a can of bear spray to your hip, and hit the woods for some wild mountain huckleberries. Those little gems are priceless indeed, and worth every single damn mosquito bite!