Hot Cross Mini Buns

 

About the size of a large doughnut hole, though not as sweet, these miniature hot cross buns will look great in a basket on your Easter table. The dough is filled with raisins or currants, spices, and saffron (if you choose to add it). The taste can be a surprise, because our eyes see the icing design on top and our brain assumes that the buns themselves will be sugary, like cinnamon rolls . . . or doughnuts. They aren’t. The bread is like a slightly sweet dinner roll, though those little bits of fruit inside do add a sweet surprise with each bite.

With regular hot cross buns there’s a higher bread-to-icing ratio, so I usually slather mine with butter or jam, but these little ones don’t need to be gussied up like that. Just two bites (unless you’re my husband, in which case, they are popped into his mouth whole) and you’re reaching for the next one. See? You’ve just saved all of those pesky butter and jam calories, so you can eat more mini buns!

A few years ago I made hot cross buns for a Yummy Northwest Easter column, using a very old and challenging recipe. It was an experience. If you’d like to see what happens when I have kitchen fail after kitchen fail, by all means go read the archived article: Old Fashioned Easter. Scroll down; the link to the recipe is right under the photo of Hot Cross Buns.

HINTS:

  • I added saffron to this recipe because it’s a traditional spice used to symbolize something or other (sunshine, spring, happy stuff) and because I happened to have a bottle of it languishing in the pantry. If you have some, add a few strands – but don’t overdo it, because the sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg should predominate.
  • You don’t have to mark the tops of the raised buns. You can just bake them as they are and use the icing alone to create the crosses. If you want to cut the design in the top before baking, make sure you use a very sharp blade so the puffy little buns don’t get smooshed.
  • If you like lots of fruit in your rolls, add more raisins or throw in a handful of chopped apricots or dried cherries.

 

Hot Cross Mini Buns
Print
Author:
Makes 60 mini buns Hot cross buns are slightly sweet and lightly spiced. Saffron is a traditional addition, but the buns are delicious without it, too.
Ingredients
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • small pinch saffron - OPTIONAL!
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup butter, cut into large chunks
  • ¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
  • 1 cup very warm water
  • 1 package active-dry yeast
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ginger
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ⅛ teaspoon allspice
  • 4½ cups bread flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • GLAZE:
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons water (or use fresh lemon juice for some "zing")
Instructions
  1. In small saucepan, heat milk and saffron (if using it) until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Remove from heat and, using a strainer if you added saffron, pour into a large bowl. A stand mixer is best. Add raisins, butter, and ¼ cup sugar, stirring briefly. Butter will soften, but don't worry if it isn't completely melted.
  2. In a small bowl, combine warm water with remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. Add yeast and allow mixture to sit until foamy - about 5 minutes.
  3. Add yeast mixture, egg, and spices to the milk mixture and beat until combined.
  4. Add flour and salt. Switch to dough hook if using a stand mixer, and knead by machine for 5 minutes. If kneading by hand, drop dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 7-8 minutes. Dough should be soft but not sticky.
  5. Place dough in greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double, about 1 hour.
  6. On lightly floured surface, punch down dough. Divide into 60 equal pieces and roll into balls. The easiest way to do this is to work on an unfloured surface. Form a ball by bringing the sides to the top, like an Asian dumpling, and then turning the ball over and pulling it towards you, scooching it along the surface.
  7. Place balls at least ½-inch apart on ungreased baking sheets, cover, and allow to rise until almost double, about 1 hour.
  8. Heat oven to 375 F
  9. Combine powdered sugar, vanilla, pinch of salt, and water (or lemon juice) in a small bowl. Mix well. (Hint: for a firmer icing, add ½ teaspoon meringue powder.) Remove 2 tablespoons of icing and place in a small cup. Add water to the small cup a few drops at a time until it is a very thin consistency. This will be brushed over hot rolls to add a thin, shiny coating. Place remaining icing in a heavy plastic bag with one tip cut off, or in a pastry bag with small writing tip.
  10. With a very sharp knife or razor blade, cut a cross shape on top of each bun, if desired. Bake mini buns for 12-14 minutes, or until the tops are rich golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately brush with a light layer of the thinned glaze. Allow to cool on a rack.
  11. Pipe a cross on each bun with icing (fill in the design if you cut the buns before baking) and allow to dry thoroughly before storing.

Add a small pinch of saffron to milk if desired. (I may have gone a little crazy here. Don’t use quite that much unless you love the taste of saffron!)

Heat milk until bubbles appear all around the edge of the pan. (Don’t forget to strain out the saffron.)

Isn’t this beautiful, soft dough?

Cut dough into 60 equal pieces. (Mrs. OCD here can tell you that I had 60 20-gram balls of dough. Yes, I weighed them. No, you don’t have to.)

Roll into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet to rise.

After balls rise, cut an X in them with a very sharp knife or razor blade if desired. (Or you can skip this step and just make the X with the icing after they’re baked.)

Brush with thin glaze while hot, and then pipe on the cross after they cool.

They don’t have to be for Easter, of course. Skip the icing and split these little sweethearts in half. Spread with lemon curd, honey butter, or flavored cream cheese for a luncheon or party. And . . . hide a few for yourself!

Lorinda

Corned Beef Hand Pies

Flaky little pie crusts stuffed with corned beef, cabbage, carrots, and onions will be the hit of your St. Patrick’s Day party. These savory treats are also a great way to use leftover corned beef, and are easy to pack in a lunch.

Did I say leftover corned beef? The only way that ever happens around here is if I cook two roasts! And now that The Man has had a taste of these hand pies, I may have to cook three.

I originally made these with green pie crust. You know . . . going with the whole green theme. I don’t have a problem eating green baked goods; green doughnuts taste just as good as normal doughnuts, right? But to be honest with you, the green crust didn’t photograph very well.

If you want to do it for fun, just add a few drops of green food color to the buttermilk before you add it to the flour. (I may have gone a little overboard with the coloring.) Hand pies with shiny golden brown crusts are lovely, and can be used for any occasion, so I’ll just let you choose.

I also played with the crust and made shamrock shaped pies. The half circles are easier to make – definitely less time consuming, but the shamrocks are pretty cute. They just have those little corners that you have to pay attention to and get sealed properly. If you’re up for a challenge and you have a large shamrock cookie cutter, give them a whirl!

Corned Beef Hand Pies
Print
Author:
Makes approximately 24 hand pies if using 4-5 inch circles.
Ingredients
  • Filling:
  • 2 cups cooked corned beef, finely chopped
  • 1 cup grated cabbage and carrot mixture, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 2 teaspoons mustard, yellow or Dijon
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 eggs (1 egg is used for egg wash)
  • Pastry:
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup cold butter
  • 1 cup cold shortening
  • ½ cup buttermilk (you may use regular milk)
  • 2 tablespoons vodka (or vinegar, if you prefer)
Instructions
  1. In medium bowl, combine corned beef, cabbage and carrot mixture, and green onions.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, flour, sugar, garlic powder, and 1 egg. Pour into the meat and vegetable mixture and stir well. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add butter and shortening and, using a pastry blender, blend together until small lumps no larger than peas remain.
  4. In a cup or small bowl, combine the buttermilk and vodka (or vinegar). Pour all at once into the dry ingredients and toss with a fork (or your fingers) until combined. Mixture should form a ball when you press it together with your hands. Divide into 3 disks. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 15 minutes.
  5. Heat oven to 375 F.
  6. Whisk together the remaining egg and 1 tablespoon water in a cup to make an egg wash. Set aside.
  7. On a floured surface, or between two pieces of lightly floured parchment, roll once piece of dough out at a time to about ⅛-inch thickness. If using parchment, you may need to lift the paper and sprinkle dough with flour to keep it from sticking and to keep parchment from wrinkling.
  8. Using a 4-inch round cutter or large shamrock cookie cutter, cut as many pieces as possible. Cover scraps and put aside to re-roll all at once at the end. If you have a small roller, the shapes can be rolled gently to make them a little larger and thinner. 5 inches is perfect.
  9. Brush one piece lightly with egg wash. Add approximately 1 heaping tablespoon of filling. For half circles, fold the circle over. For shamrocks, cover with another shamrock shape. Press firmly around the edge of the hand pie, then use a small fork and go around it again to seal.
  10. Poke a few small holes in the top of each pie and brush lightly with egg wash. Place on parchment covered baking sheets.
  11. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the bottoms turn golden brown. Serve warm.

 

Finely chop the cooked corned beef.

Stir all of this goodness together! I hate to say this, but you could roll out biscuits from and can, fill them with this, and they would STILL taste amazing!

Add sauce to meat mixture.

For crust, blend the fats and flour together, then toss with liquids.

Flatten the dough into 3 disks.

Cut out large circles (about 4-5 inches) and brush with egg wash

Add a rounded tablespoon of filling

Press edges firmly.

Seal with a fork and bake!

 So…the obligatory green pastry has been posted. Now I need to play around with something sweet. I’ll be back soon,

Lorinda

Sour Cream Apple Strudel

Sour Cream Apple Strudel - The Rowdy BakerWhile traditional strudel is fun and challenging to make (all that stretching), by far my favorite strudel to eat is kind of a cross between pie and strudel. The dough is made from “rough puff pastry”, (which is a quick and easy version of the much more complicated puff pastry dough) instead of classic strudel dough.

Compared to store bought puff pastry, rough puff pastry doesn’t puff quite as high, nor does it shatter as easily when you cut or bite into it.  I rolled my dough out very thin, which also reduced the puffiness, so it was the perfect dough to use for this recipe.

I wanted flaky, I wanted delicate, and I wanted just the right crust-to-filling ratio. Easy was a very nice bonus!

If you’re feeling motivated and want to play with stretchy dough, try my companion post, Classic Apple Strudel.

I’ve never been crazy about hot apples, especially when they’re in a sticky sauce like a traditional apple pie. I will, however, fight you for the last slice of Sour Cream Apple Pie, because it’s so mellow and creamy – especially when it’s warm, with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

That was the flavor and texture I was shooting for, and was exactly what I got…on my very first try! I added some boozy, rum-soaked raisins and finely chopped pecans, and was thrilled with the results. The normally unflappable Mr. Rowdy was enthused – extremely enthused. He may have even thrown a “WOW WOW WOW!” in there as he inhaled half of the finished product.Bite of Sour Cream Apple Strudel - The Rowdy Baker

Tips:

  • If you want to serve this for breakfast, go ahead and make the dough the night before. Wrapped snugly in plastic, it will be waiting for you to roll it out, fill, and bake. (Let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or it will be a real bear to roll out!)
  • If you’d like to go for the glory and have even more layers, you can make 4-layer folds by folding each short end into the middle and the folding them together.
    For more layers, you can fold ends to meet in the middle...

    For more layers, you can fold ends to meet in the middle…

    ...then fold together, creating a 4 layer turn

    …then fold together, creating a 4 layer turn

Sour Cream Apple Strudel
Print
Author:
This strudel is made with a quick and easy homemade puff pastry. Filled with apples, sour cream, rum-soaked raisins, and toasted pecans, it will become a family favorite! Serves 8-10.
Ingredients
  • DOUGH:
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cold butter
  • ⅔ cup very cold water
  • *****
  • FILLING:
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup rum (or use apple juice, if desired)
  • 3 large Granny Smith apples
  • ⅔ cup sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon (more to taste) cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup toasted pecans (or walnuts), finely chopped
  • ***********
  • ASSEMBLY:
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup plain breadcrumbs
Instructions
  1. DOUGH:
  2. Cut 1 cup cold butter into pieces approximately 1-inch square.
  3. Place flour on work surface, stir in the salt, and drop the butter onto the flour.
  4. 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.
  5. 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".
  6. 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 30 minutes. Make filling while the dough chills.
  7. FILLING:
  8. Place raisins in small pan with rum over medium heat. When rum is just beginning to bubble, Remove from heat and let sit uncovered.
  9. Peel and core apples. Cut into eighths and slice thinly crosswise, making small thin pieces. You should have approximately 4 cups.
  10. In a large bowl, combine apples, raisins (including the excess rum) and remaining filling ingredients. Stir until apples are coated.
  11. ASSEMBLY:
  12. Remove dough from refrigerator. Using the previous instructions, roll and fold two more times.
  13. On a floured surface, roll dough as thinly as possible. Aim for 14"x20", with the long side facing you. Don't worry if your measurements aren't exact, but do make sure there's enough flour under the dough to keep it movable.
  14. Brush the surface lightly with melted butter, using a paper towel or pastry brush.
  15. Beginning 2 inches inside the long edge facing you, distribute the bread crumbs in a thick line all the way across, leaving an inch of plain dough on each side.
  16. Pile the apple mixture evenly over the bread crumbs. (The crumbs will help soak up extra moisture.) If your apples were really juicy, you may need to use your judgment and remove a little of the juice from the bowl.
  17. With your scraper or spatula, lift the long edge to cover as much of the apples as possible. Roll the strudel, using the scraper to lift under the dough and inch it along.
  18. Pinch the ends well. Roll the strudel onto a piece of parchment paper, and use the paper to lift the strudel onto a baking sheet. Curve into a half-circle if needed to fit into the pan.
  19. Brush with melted butter and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  20. Heat oven to 400 F.
  21. Bake strudel for approximately 40 minutes, or until rich golden brown.
  22. Remove to a rack and mark the pieces with a serrated knife, just through the top. This will allow a little of the steam to escape and keep it crisp. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Flour, salt, and butter - ready to chop-chop!

Flour, salt, and butter – ready to chop-chop!

Roughly chop together. Don't blend in the butter - small chunks are what make it flaky!

Roughly chop together. Don’t blend in the butter – chunks are what make it flaky!

First fold is pretty rough. If it's pretty, you overworked it. It WILL come together!

First fold is pretty rough. If it’s pretty, you overworked it. It WILL come together!

Second fold is a little better

Second fold is a little better

After five folds and a cold nap, fold two more times and then roll it out nice and thin

After five folds and a cold nap, fold a couple more times and then roll it out nice and thin

Use a scraper or spatula to help roll the dough

Use a scraper or spatula to help roll the dough

Pinch the ends and shape it to fit the pan

Pinch the ends and shape it to fit the pan

Score the baked strudel and let it cool a bit before cutting

Score the baked strudel and let it cool a bit before cutting

Dig in!

Dig in!

Oh, man. You are going to love, love, love this! Eat it while it’s warm, or soon thereafter; it gets a little soft by the second day. Since there is sour cream in the filling, make sure any leftover strudel gets wrapped and put in the fridge.

I’ll leave you with a quote from S.J. Perelman:

“I have no truck with lettuce, cabbage, and similar chlorophyll. Any dietitian will tell you that a running foot of apple strudel contains four times the vitamins of a bushel of beans.”

I’ll buy that!

Lorinda

 

Banana Pound Cake



Banana pound cake vertical with nameI’m usually pretty fearless in the kitchen. If something doesn’t come out the way I’d hoped, I can almost always salvage it, even if it’s for another purpose. But after failing miserably at making pound cakes in the past, I’ve been hesitant to try again. There are so many other types of cake to enjoy, right?

But…a pound cake is just perfect for making petits fours, and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner (now you know what my next post will be), so I girded my loins pulled up my big girl panties and tried again, learning a few things in the process. My goal was to make a banana pound cake. I came up with two versions, slightly different, both of which met the approval of my tasting crew.two cakes A pound cake shouldn’t be heavy, but it is supposed to be dense, with a velvety crumb. If you want something lighter, keep looking; this is NOT an angel food cake! Pound cake is good on the first day, but better on the second – and fantastic on the third. Covered well and left at room temperature, this cake just gets more flavorful as it ages.

I love making traditional recipes, so tried to stick with the basic measurements our great grandmothers probably used: one pound of flour, one pound of butter one pound of sugar, one pound of eggs. I did use some leavening for insurance, though theoretically the cake should rise because of all the air that is beaten into the batter.

Should be 8 eggs there, but you get the idea :)

Should be 8 eggs there, but you get the idea 🙂

My first cake seemed a little too dense – more like banana bread. While I pondered the situation, I peeked at other recipes on the internet and found that most people use only half a pound of butter. I stalled long enough to test the cake again on it’s third day on the counter. Amazingly, it seemed even more flavorful, and the texture had improved. I loved this cake!

Still, I wanted to tweak the recipe a little, aiming for a lighter texture and color.

A little richer, a little heavier...yum!

A little richer, a little heavier…yum!

I replaced one cube of butter with an extra half cup of sour cream, and even though I’m usually adamant about using real vanilla extract, this time I used Wiltons clear vanilla flavoring to keep the color from turning light brown. (Bananas and vanilla extract will do that!) I also reduced the leavening a little bit and paid more attention to beating the butter and eggs longer.

The result was a cake with a finer crumb, a beautiful yellow color, and a sweet, mild flavor. (Some of the credit for the yellow color should probably go to my hens, who lay eggs with vibrant yolks! If you use store bought eggs and want the cake to be banana-yellow, add a drop or two of yellow food coloring.)

Banana Pound Cake 2 vertical name

I’ll give you the recipe for the lighter cake, since I’m guessing that’s what most of you will be interested in, but under that recipe I’ll tell you how to make the first cake, in case it sounds better to you. Personally, I think I preferred the heavier cake with the little brown specks. And I think the extra butter made it a bit more flavorful. Your call!

Banana Pound Cake
Print
Author:
A sweet, dense cake with a fine crumb and subtle banana flavor.
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups salted butter, room temperature (if using unsalted, add ¼ teaspoon salt to dry ingredients)
  • 1 pound sugar (about 2⅓ cups)
  • 1 pound eggs, room temperature (Weigh them in the shell! About 8 large eggs.)
  • 2 teaspoons clear vanilla flavoring
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 pound cake flour (about 3 cups) sifted
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ICING:
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Grease and flour (or spray with a flour/oil mixture like Baker's Joy) a large, 12-cup bundt pan.
  2. Heat oven to 325 F.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for at least 3 minutes.
  4. Slowly trickle in the sugar, beating continuously and scraping the sides of the bowl often. Beat until light and fluffy.
  5. With mixer on low, add eggs one at a time, beating between each egg for at least 30 seconds. Yes, this will take you 4 minutes, but don't cheat - it's really important!
  6. In a small bowl, mix together the vanilla, mashed bananas, and sour cream. Pour slowly into the mixture in the large bowl, mixing just until combined.
  7. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda (and ¼ teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter). Gradually add to batter, stirring just until combined.
  8. Spoon into bundt pan and smooth the top.
  9. Bake on middle rack of oven for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a bamboo skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cake. Don't underbake or the texture of your cake will not be as smooth. If in doubt, give it 5 more minutes!
  10. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes, and then turn out to cool completely.
  11. Once the cake is cool, make icing:
  12. Combine chocolate chips, peanut butter, and heavy cream in a small pan.
  13. Heat on low, stirring frequently, until completely melted. Mixture should be thick, but spoonable. If too thick, add a small amount of cream or peanut butter, heating until smooth.
  14. Drizzle (okay...glop) over the cake. Chill briefly to set the icing faster, if desired.
  15. Keep covered at room temperature for up to 1 week.

 

To make the more traditional cake, follow the instructions above, except:

  • Use 2 cups of butter (1 pound)
  • Use 1 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • Use 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Increase baking powder to 1 teaspoon
Smoothing the batter in the pan.

Smoothing the batter in the pan.

Slowly melt ingredients for icing.

Slowly melt ingredients for icing.

The chocolate icing I used is really more of a ganache. You can use a regular chocolate glaze if you prefer; I wanted thick and fudgy on this cake. I pictured a chocolate covered banana, and almost added chopped peanuts, but figured that might be going too far. Gilding the lily, huh? I think melted white chocolate with the peanut butter would be good too. (Think peanut butter and banana sandwiches.)

A few hints, words of wisdom:

  1. This is one of those times when weighing your ingredients is very helpful. Hey, I’m pretty sloppy about measuring things, but I weighed my flour, eggs, and sugar on a digital scale for accuracy this time.
  2. It’s really, really important to have your eggs and butter at room temperature. Please don’t use a microwave to soften your butter – just let it sit out until it can be beaten. Not too soft, not too hard.
  3. This is pretty obvious, but the top of your cake will become the bottom, so if you want a smooth line at the bottom, take a sharp knife and cut off the top of the cake where it puffed up in the middle!

Now that I’ve found that I actually can produce a decent pound cake, I have a feeling you’ll be seeing a lot more of them. If I have some failures, pffft…they’ll just be made into trifle.

I’m moving into Valentine’s Day mode now though, so first…heart shaped EVERYTHING!

Lorinda

Huckleberry Hurricane

What’s wild and wet and can knock your socks off? A Huckleberry Hurricane, of course.



Huckleberry hurricane

When the group of nutcase bloggers I post recipes with each month decided to skip the baked goods and bring on our best summer drinks, there was no doubt in my mind what I’d make.

I usually make huckleberry margaritas each year during berry picking season, sort of a reward for the hours of backbreaking work that went into foraging for this bounty. But I’ve got to tell you, white rum or vodka are lovely in this drink too! Margaritaa, daiquiria, or even (gasp) a booze-less version…all are wonderful. The important ingredient? Wild mountain huckleberries. You could use blueberries, but huckleberries have a much richer flavor. And I’m NOT talking about those nasty, sour, bright red huckleberries you find in the Pacific Northwest. These are found at high elevations and are dark purple and sweet; as precious as gold.huckleberries

I love to add a big blob (that’s a technical baking term) of huckleberry jam to the mixture in the blender, but it’s not necessary. Simple syrup sweetens the drink very well, and in a pinch – if you’re desperately eager for that drink and don’t want to make the simple syrup – you can get away with just using a couple of tablespoons of superfine sugar.

Huckleberry Hurricane
Print
Author:
Makes 2 drinks.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 1 cup huckleberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • juice from ½ fresh lemon
  • 1 tablespoon frozen limeade concentrate
  • ½ cup alcohol (tequila, white rum, or vodka)
Instructions
  1. In a small sauce pan, combine the sugar and water. Cook and whisk over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Cool completely. (If you are in a hurry, put ice water in a larger pan and set the small one in it to cool quickly.) You won't use all of the simple syrup, but my guess is you'll be making a second batch of drinks! If not, it will store in the refrigerator for several days.
  2. In a blender, combine ¼ cup of the cooled sugar mixture and the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Taste. Add additional sugar if desired.
  3. Serve immediately.

 

Adapt this recipe to your own tastes, and beware of brain freeze!summer drink roundup

Here are links to the other fantastic summer drinks – I hope you’ll go check them all out!
Lorinda

Pineapple Kalejitos from Moore or Less Cooking Blog.
Cherry Chocolate Shake from Cooking From a Stay at Home Mom.
Melon Pucker Martini from Tampa Cake Girl.
Mommy’s Cherry Chocolate Milkshakes from Hun, What’s For Dinner?
Spiked Shortcake Italian Soda from Crumbs in my Mustachio.

Mint Bombe



mint bombe with watermark horizontalDo you remember my Brownie Bombe from last December? I thought I’d try a mint version for St. Patrick’s Day, and it turned out yuuuuuuuuumy!

An ice cream bombe is always an impressive dessert, and yet it’s really very simple to make. The trick is to start early – at least a day before you plan to serve it. The bombe must be frozen between layers, then frozen overnight for best results. To make it even simpler you could use boxed brownie mix, jarred hot fudge sauce, and a large tub of non-dairy topping, but making these things from scratch is really easy, I promise.


mint bombe inside close with watermark
This mint bombe was made with two ice creams: Mint Brownie and Vanilla. I only used two ice creams this time because I added a core of mint fudge. Feel free to use any ice cream flavor you like; you can’t go wrong with this dessert!

Mint Bombe
Print
Author:
Serves: 12
A core of mint fudge sauce, surrounded by ice cream, surrounded by brownies, surrounded by whipping cream. Mmmm.
Ingredients
  • One batch of brownies (recipe below)
  • Two cartons (1.5 quarts each) ice cream
  • Mint Fudge Sauce (recipe below)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons creme de menthe (or 2 drops of green food coloring)
Instructions
  1. Prepare a 2-quart bowl by lining with foil. Lightly oil the foil.
  2. Press pieces of brownie against the foil, making a thin brownie shell. Make sure all of the foil is covered, but leave approximately ½ –inch of foil showing at the top of the bowl. Reserve the remaining brownies; these will be used at the end.
  3. Remove your first flavor of ice cream from the freezer to let it soften for 10-15 minutes. Put the brownie-lined bowl in the freezer while the ice cream is softening.
  4. With a spoon or rubber spatula, press a layer of ice cream over the brownie layer. You will use the entire carton of ice cream. Bring it all the way to the top of the brownie, keeping the layer as uniformly thick as possible.
  5. Return to the freezer for at least 2 hours, or until firm.
  6. Remove the second container of ice cream from the freezer and let it soften for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Fill the center with softened ice cream, almost to the top. With a wooden spoon handle, make a hole in the center for the fudge sauce. This should make the layers of ice cream the same height. If not, add a little more of the second flavor to make the top even.
  8. Fill the hole with mint fudge sauce.
  9. Return to the freezer for at least 2 hours, or until firm.
  10. Remove from freezer and crumble the remaining brownies over the top, pressing firmly.
  11. Cover the bombe with foil or plastic wrap and freeze overnight.
  12. Lift the bombe out of the bowl using the foil. Turn flat side down on serving platter and remove the foil.
  13. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and whip until stiff peaks form. Add in the crème de menthe or food coloring if you are using it, and “frost” the bombe.
  14. Decorate with sprinkles or candy shamrocks. For best results, freeze again until the whipping cream is firm (but it can be cut right away if you’re ready to serve.)

 

Brownies:
1 cup powdered cocoa
3 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup oil
1 tablespoon vanilla

1. Heat oven to 350 F.
2. Grease and flour a 10×10” (or 8×12 or 9×12) pan.
3. In a large bowl, combine the cocoa, sugar, flour, salt, and baking powder.
4. In a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Add the melted butter, oil, and vanilla.
5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
6. Spoon into prepared pan and level with a spatula.
7. Bake for approximately 35 minutes. Don’t overbake.

Mint Fudge Sauce:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup mint chocolate chips (or use semi-sweet chocolate and add a few drops of peppermint extract)
1/2 cup cream

Combine all ingredients in a small pan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring frequently until chips are melted and the sauce is completely smooth. Pour into a small bowl to cool and thicken.

Press brownies into the foil-lined bowl.

Press brownies into the foil-lined bowl.

Add a layer of mint ice cream. Freeze until firm.

Add a layer of mint ice cream. Freeze until firm.

Add vanilla ice cream, make a hole, and pour in mint fudge sauce!

Add vanilla ice cream, make a hole, and pour in mint fudge sauce!

Add a brownie top (which will actually be the bottom...)

Add a brownie top (which will actually be the bottom…)

"Frost" it with whipped cream.

“Frost” it with whipped cream.

Freeze, slice, and serve!

Freeze, slice, and serve!

St. Patrick’s Day is Monday, so start one of these this weekend! Seriously, if the bombe in-progress sits in the freezer for 4 or 5 hours between steps, that’s perfectly fine. Work it around your schedule! Even if you don’t serve it for a few days, as long as it’s covered up in the freezer, it will come out perfect.

A sweet little Irish wish for you:

Sláinte chuig na fir, agus go mairfidh na mná go deo!
(Health to the men and may the women live forever)

Okay, maybe a little nicer:
May your home always be too small to hold all of your friends.

Triple Trouble Caramel Corn!

MiscNov 046I try to stay away from Google when I’m creating a recipe, because I don’t want to be influenced by other bakers’ methods or ingredients. When I’m happy with my recipe I take a peek, and am usually surprised (and yes, maybe a little discouraged) to find out how many other people have already made my “original” idea.

And RATS…it happened again.  I thought this was going to be at least a fairly new idea. My son, my husband and I were sitting around brainstorming ideas for caramel corn. (I love my caramel corn recipe, but it’s pretty basic, and I wanted something unusual.) I knew we were on a roll when the discussion turned to bacon. What goes with bacon? Maple, of course! And if you’re have maple, you must have pecans, right?

Caramel Corn with Maple, Bacon, and Pecans. Yeah, baby…come to Mama!
MiscNov 043

After we’d sampled it over and over and over, I checked the search engine, and pfffft – it’s been done. Sigh. I guess most things have already been done in one form or another – so I’ll just give you MY take on this tasty treat.

Triple Trouble Caramel Corn!
Print
Author:
Ingredients
  • 6 quarts popped popcorn
  • 8 oz bacon (or more) chopped and cooked
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar (golden brown is fine, too!)
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon maple flavoring (Watkins is good, but I prefer Mapleine)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 250 F.
  2. Prepare two large, shallow pans by coating with cooking spray. (I used coconut oil instead, and it worked pretty well.)
  3. In a very large bowl or roasting pan, combine popcorn, cooked bacon, and pecans. Set aside.
  4. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add the brown sugar, honey, and salt. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil.
  5. Without stirring, allow the mixture to continue cooking at a low boil for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat. Stir in the maple flavoring and baking soda. (It will foam up a little.)
  7. Pour over the popcorn and stir to combine. Divide between the two pans, spreading the popcorn mixture as evenly as possible.
  8. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. The mixture will seem soft when you're stirring it, but don't worry - it will crisp up nicely when it cools.
  9. Remove from oven and cool completely in the pans. Break apart.
  10. Store in airtight container.

 

Boil the sugar mixture for 5 minutes.

Boil the sugar mixture for 5 minutes.

Stir it into the popcorn, nuts and bacon.

Stir it into the popcorn, nuts and bacon. (If you’re making the bacon/maple/pecan version, this will look darker.)

Spread onto two greased baking pans.

Spread onto two greased baking pans.

Once you start eating it, you won't stop!

Once you start eating it, you won’t stop!

I implore you to cook up the popcorn in a big pan or an air popper. The stuff in the microwave bags is SO bad for you. I know, I know, butter and sugar aren’t exactly health foods, but at least they are real. The microwave bags have a coating inside that is really gross. It’s honestly not hard to make popcorn “from scratch”!

If you want the plain Jane version (just like Cracker Jack), substitute unsalted or lightly salted peanuts for the pecans, and skip the bacon. Use 1 teaspoon vanilla instead of the 1 tablespoon maple flavoring. Or…gussy it up with a variety of nuts. Almonds, cashews, walnuts…all are yummy.

I wish you could see my kitchen right now. I made a peanut batch first. Then I tried the maple/bacon/pecan batch, but wasn’t happy with it (maple syrup in the sugar solution didn’t work out well, and I chopped the bacon and pecans too small) so I tried again. Each of these batches makes about 5 quarts, so just picture 13 quarts (hey, we had to try some of it!) of caramel corn. Yikes! I’m going to have to find someone to give some of this to or else dig out my “fat pants.”

Think crisp cellophane bags with pretty ribbons and a little silk poinsettia. What a welcome hostess gift this would make!

 

Cheesy Hamburger Buns

It may be considered un-American, but hamburgers just aren’t something I lust after. However, sweeten the pot with homemade cheesy hamburger buns and throw in an all-American holiday like Independence Day, and I can wave my flag and chow down a deluxe burger like everyone else!

Blog5 024

Cheesy Hamburger Buns
Print
Author:
Makes approximately 18 hamburger buns.
Ingredients
  • 2¼ cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup butter
  • ⅓ cup powdered nondairy creamer
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg
  • 6-7 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • Egg wash (1 egg, mixed well with 1 tablespoon water)
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast into the warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the sugar, butter, creamer, salt, egg, and 5 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth.
  3. Slowly add just enough remaining flour to form a soft dough that pulls away from the side of the bowl.
  4. Knead on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. (Or, if using a stand mixer, knead with a dough hook for approximately 5 minutes.)
  5. Add 1½ cups of the shredded cheese to the dough and mix until combined.
  6. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled. Punch down.
  7. Working with half of the dough at a time, roll the dough out fairly thin - somewhere between ¼-inch and ½-inch.
  8. Cut the buns using a large round cutter, floured well. Make sure the cutter is a little bigger than the size you want, because the dough is elastic, and the shapes will shrink back a bit after you cut them.
  9. Set each shape on a cookie sheet, at least 1" apart. Cover with a clean towel and let rise until they're almost doubled - about an hour.
  10. Heat oven to 375 F.
  11. Brush the buns with egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining cheddar cheese. Bake until light golden brown - about 12 minutes.
  12. Cool on a rack. Slice and serve!

If the recipe looks familiar, that’s because I used my Perfect Dinner Rolls recipe as a base, and added an egg and some extra sharp cheddar cheese. Oh, and I cut the dough out instead of shaping it. And gave it an egg wash with a sprinkle of cheese. Other than that, it’s just the same!

The ingredient that I hate to use in this recipe is powdered non-dairy creamer (I try not to look at the ingredient label) but believe me, it really does make a difference. It acts as a dough conditioner and makes a very soft, light bun.

Cutting out the hamburgers. I used a 3 1/2" cutter - 4" would have been better.

Cutting out the hamburgers. I used a 3 1/2″ cutter – 4″ would have been better.

I was a little more generous with the cheese when I topped the buns; it’s my favorite part – crispy and a little tangy. You may want to experiment with other flavorful cheeses like romano, asiago, or parmesan. Sprinkle on a little garlic or onion powder if you wish. They’re your buns – gussy them up however you like! And if someone tells you you have nice buns, just smile…because it’s true!


Blog5 022

Carrot Cake for All!

carrot cake for blog

Everyone has their favorite carrot cake recipe, and this is mine! That is – it’s my favorite, but I didn’t create this recipe. It was given to me years ago by a co-worker, who got it from a friend in Alaska, who…well…you get the picture.

It’s filled with goodies, giving it a delightful texture, and is very simple to make. It won best of class at the state Grange baking competition a few years ago, even though I (GASP) substituted a buttercream icing for the traditional cream cheese version. It works equally well as a layer cake, a sheet cake, or cupcakes. You just can’t fail if you follow this recipe!

Carrot Cake
Print
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 cups plus 1 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ cups oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups grated carrot
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained well
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 cup nuts, chopped (walnuts or pecans)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 325 F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together well.
  3. Add the oil and beat for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla, beat for 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in carrots, pineapple, raisins and nuts.
  6. Pour into a greased and floured 13x9" pan. (Or you may use two 9" cake pans.)
  7. Bake for approximately one hour, (shorter for two 9" pans) or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  8. Cool well before icing.

 

Cream Cheese Frosting:

6 oz. cream cheese
3 tablespoons milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound powdered sugar
1/2 cup coconut (optional)
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Combine cream cheese, milk and vanilla. Beat for 2-3 minutes. Add salt and powdered sugar. Beat well. Stir in coconut and chopped pecans. Spread on cooled cake. Store any remainder in the refrigerator.

I’m keeping this blog short and sweet, because I have another idea just waiting to be tested and blogged…maybe tomorrow!

If you haven’t checked it out yet, and you’re not a teetotaler, please visit my Easter Beer Hunt blog. Easter Beer Hunt!

Children in My Kitchen!

My granddaughters are staying with us for two weeks, and today was “baking day”, also known as “what the hell was I thinking” day.

Though gingersnaps and dog biscuits might sound like a rather strange combination, the cookie recipe offered lots of opportunities to measure and mix, along with the fun of forming the dough into little balls and rolling them in sugar. The dog biscuits provided the required rolling pin and cookie cutter action, and made my spoiled dogs very happy.

Here is a picture of my sweeties as we start to bake:

My sweet little cooks.

Hair back, aprons on, and hands washed, we started with the gingersnaps. One thing was critical…when it came to taking turns, the recipe was carefully scrutinized and everything had to be absolutely fair and equal. If Sophie added the sugar, Taunee got to add the flour. “HEY! Why did she get to put two spoons of ginger in and I only got to put one spoon of cinnamon?” Explaining that one tablespoon equals 3 teaspoons just muddied the waters. Thankfully, a distraction and a quick move to the next step was successful.

I’m going to give you my gingersnap recipe, with the proper instructions for mixing and baking them. Then I will tell you how we did it.

GINGERSNAPS

1 1/2 cup shortening
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
5 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3 teaspoons ginger
3 teaspoons cinnamon
White sugar for rolling the balls of dough in

In large bowl mix shortening, sugar, eggs, and molasses together thoroughly.
Add dry ingredients and stir well.
Chill for at least an hour.
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll dough into small balls (about a level tablespoon of cookie dough) and then roll them in white sugar.
Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving at least 1-1/2 inches of space between each cookie. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a rack. The cookies will flatten when they come out of the oven, and should have little cracks on the surface.

Now…here’s how it actually went.

I took the first turn, because getting shortening in and out of a measuring cup is even difficult for me to do, and I didn’t think I could stand watching the struggle. Sophie went next, capably adding the brown sugar. Taunee got indignant because Sophie also got to add the eggs. NO FAIR! She was appeased with getting to pour in the sticky molasses. “Pour” is probably not entirely accurate. She slowly drizzled it over the ingredients in the bowl. I let her put the first cup of flour into a separate bowl, and then Sophie took over.

As Sophie measure the remaining four cups of flour into the bowl, Taunee entertained us, distracting Sophie, who lost count of how many cups she had put into the bowl. When I suggested we start over, she was sure she had only put three in, and added another cup. Both girls were amused by the way the ginger came out of the teaspoons, making “eyes” in the flour. Naturally, the tablespoon of cinnamon had to be added in a curved line to make a smiley face.

Spicey smiley face in the flour.

The girls did a waltz with a graceful dip in the kitchen. I called them back to attention.

We turned the stand mixer on and mixed the dough. I’ve made these cookies for decades, and knew that this batch didn’t look right. Oh-oh, we should have re-measured the flour.

Whoops. Just one extra cup of flour did that?!

So…these are not mathematically correct ratios, but we threw in two tablespoons of soft butter, half of an egg (yes, that was interesting), a drizzle of molasses, and a pinch of baking soda, and mixed it again. Much better.

Sophie loved the dough. It’s a good thing I know where our eggs come from, because she kept sneaking bites. Taunee tried it and decided it wasn’t bad, which is pretty good coming from a girl who will only eat “white cookies!” I must say that if I were to rate cookie dough, this would be in first place, with chocolate chip cookies in second and peanut butter cookies in third.

We didn’t have the patience to wait for the dough to chill, so we just baked it at room temperature. I scooped the dough out of the bowl and each girl formed some into a ball and rolled it in sugar before putting it on the cookie sheet. Taunee wanted to taste the sugar stuck to her hands. Mean Grandma made her wash her hands again. These girls had spent the previous afternoon playing in the mud and loving it, but Taunee was really bugged by the sugar on her hands, so we got an assembly line going, with Sophie wielding the cookie scoop and Taunee rolling the dough into a ball – or sometimes more like a football! I rolled them in sugar. Everyone was happy, and the cookies were a little crunchier than usual, but still very good. Whew.

Now, on to dog biscuits!

My dogs are spoiled; they will eat Milk Bones, but grudgingly. They appreciate yummy homemade dog biscuits far more. I don’t pretend to understand canine nutrient needs, and must stress that these are treats. They usually get one each morning, and sometimes one at night. At least they don’t have unpronounceable ingredients in them, and they’re fun to make. That absolutely makes it worth the effort. I do know that the chia seeds are very good for their skin.
The girls just like to make them because they can use the little dog bone cookie cutter. That works for me!

I usually just “wing it” when it comes to making these biscuits, but measured the ingredients this time so I could pass it on to you. Here it is:

Dog biscuits, ready for the oven.

HOMEMADE DOG BISCUITS

6 pieces of bacon
2 eggs
½ cup milk
½ cup chicken (or beef) broth
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup grated cheddar cheese (optional)
3 tablespoons chia seeds (or you could use ground flax)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup white flour
½ cup wheat germ
2 cups wheat flour

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
Brown the bacon, saving the grease. Chop the bacon into small pieces and place it and the grease in a large bowl. A stand mixer works best for this because it will be a heavy dough.
Add the eggs, milk, broth, peanut butter, cheese, and chia seeds to the bowl and mix well.
Add the baking powder, white flour, and wheat flour to the bowl and mix until combined. The dough should hold together. If it is crumbly, add a little more broth. If it is too sticky, add a little more wheat flour.
Roll dough out to desired thickness and cut with a cookie cutter. Place on cookie sheet (you don’t need to leave space between biscuits – they won’t get larger) and bake for one hour. Reduce heat to 225 degrees F. Bake for another hour, or until the biscuits are very hard. Allow to cool completely before storing.

Cutting out dog biscuits.

What’s a day in the kitchen without a flour fight? Then a dip in the kiddie pool while Grandma finished cutting out and baking dog biscuits, followed by a bath so the paste didn’t harden and turn their heads into pinatas, and of course…washing dishes.

Flour fight!!!

The not-so-fun part of cooking and baking…DISHES!

I want these girls to love creating wonderful messes in the kitchen, but I’m not a very good mentor. I don’t have half the patience I did when my children were young, and have to really work at not taking over (“Here, let Grandma help you”) when I see a bit of egg shell falling in the bowl, or a wobbly hand measuring flour into a bowl. Cooking with the girls confirms the reason I always scoot people out of my kitchen – it’s nearly impossible for me to follow a recipe or plan my next move when anyone is talking to me,or singing or dancing or whining or giggling or fighting or…well, I’m sure you understand.