I Like Big Buns (and I can not lie)

If you’re feeding a crowd and want an easy way to serve burgers, here’s a great recipe for you! Two huge burgers, sliced like a pie, will yield twelve portions. The buns can be made a day or two ahead (or you can get them done really early and freeze them) so all you’ll need to do is cook those mammoth burgers and slice some veggies. Sweet, huh? You could even cook the burgers ahead and freeze them too; they’d be easy to warm up in the oven.

The Man thought this one up, of course. He’s the burger fan around here. Of course, he thought that each should be sliced into four pieces, not six, but he lost that battle. You know what’s really neat about this idea? The pieces are much easier to eat than a regular burger.

My apologies to Sir Mix-A-Lot for messing with his lyrics. Since we went to the same high school (he was a few years behind me) I know he’d be okay with this. (Okay, okay. Eight years. He’s eight years younger. Are you happy now? Sheesh.) Go, Roughriders!

I used a 10-inch cast iron round griddle for one of the buns and an 11-inch tart pan for the other. Cake pans would work fine too, but I wanted something with low sides so the buns would brown all the way down. Both worked like a charm. In a pinch, just lay your round dough on a parchment-covered baking sheet.

I Like Big Buns (and I Cannot Lie)
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Makes 2 huge hamburger buns.
Ingredients
  • 4 - 4½ cups bread flour
  • 1 package (about 2¼ teaspoons) instant yeast
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ cup oil (I used peanut oil, but any mild-flavored cooking oil will work)
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • Sesame seeds
  • Cornmeal (optional)
Instructions
  1. Lightly grease two 10-11 inch round pans. Sprinkle with cornmeal if desired. (You may also use parchment instead of the grease.)
  2. Put 2 cups of the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. (A sturdy stand mixer with a paddle attachment is best.)
  3. In a small pot, heat the water, milk, sugar, and oil until very warm - 120-130 degrees. Pour into the bowl with the flour mixture, add one egg and one yolk (reserve the egg white for later) and beat until smooth.
  4. Switch to a dough hook and add remaining flour until the dough comes cleanly away from the side of the bowl. Knead by machine for 5 minutes. If kneading by hand, place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 7 minutes.
  5. Place dough on floured surface, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
  6. Divide dough into two equal parts. Working with one at a time, flatten with your hand, then roll out into a 9-inch circle. Place in prepared pan and pat firmly to make sure it's evenly thick. Press around the outside edge to make it slope down to the pan (creating more of a dome shape).
  7. Cover with a towel and let the buns rise for 45 minutes. They won't double in size but will be puffy.
  8. Heat oven to 400 F.
  9. Add 1 teaspoon water to the egg white and whisk until foamy. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  10. Bake buns for 15 minutes, or until the tops are rich, golden brown. Remove from oven and place pans on cooling racks for 5-10 minutes. Lift buns onto racks to continue cooling.
  11. Slice in half horizontally and fill as desired. (Note: if using the same size pans to cook burgers, use extra-lean meat to avoid shrinkage.)

Here’s what you’ll need for the buns.

The liquids need to be very warm (120-130 F). I don’t have a microwave, but you can use one instead of the stove!

Add liquids and eggs to flour mixture

Let dough rest, then roll into 9-inch circle and press onto greased pan

Let it rise and then brush lightly with egg whites

Sprinkle with sesame seeds

This one was done in a tart pan. (Recipe makes 2 buns.)

Press extra-lean meat firmly into pan. If using lean burger, make it in a bigger pan. (It’ll shrink. Ask me how I know.)

 

Top the bottom bun with a burger patty and whatever you like on your burgers. I used cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, mayo, and mustard.

SOMEone was very, very happy.

This is a very simple bread recipe and would be perfect for the 4th of July, barbecues, or football games. I might even make this again for Father’s Day and let The Man have one all to himself.

Grab a bib and dig in!

Lorinda

 

 

 

 

Patriotic Meringue Puffs

Well, these are addictive little devils! Sweet little sugar puffs that melt in your mouth, all dressed up for the Fourth of July. Trust me, you won’t be able to stop at one.

I did something out of character and took the easy route with these treats. I’ve made meringues many times using egg whites, but I tried using Wilton’s meringue powder and it worked beautifully.

If you’re fresh out of meringue powder, I’d advise a trip to the store – pronto. And get some superfine sugar while you’re there. You don’t HAVE to use it, but it dissolves into the liquid a lot faster and I highly recommend it. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Meringue Powder
  • Superfine sugar (aka: Baker’s sugar)
  • large pastry bag
  • large star tip
  • red and blue paste food coloring (or gel, if it’s thick)
  • Two paintbrushes
  • Parchment

I tried using my gel coloring but it didn’t stick to the bag at all. Maybe because it’s “squeezable” gel, so it’s thinner. Paste coloring worked fine.

This is seriously so easy. The hardest thing you’ll have to do is get the stripes of color inside the pastry bag. I’ll give you some pointers, but the important thing to remember is that even if your stripes are wonky, the meringues will still look great.

Patriotic Meringue Puffs
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Makes about 30 meringues (1½ inch) or hundreds of little bitty ones.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder (I use Wiltons)
  • ½ cup superfine sugar
  • a few drops of flavoring if desired (use clear colors: lemon, peppermint, cinnamon are all good.)
  • red and blue paste food coloring
Instructions
  1. PREPARATION: Drop large star tip into the pastry bag. Fold down the top third of the bag (making a cuff) and paint alternating stripes of red and blue up the inside of the bag, starting at the base of the star tip and working up. Don't make them too thick or too close together, or you'll end up with purple! (I used 3 stripes of each color.) Set bag aside.
  2. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment.
  3. MERINGUES: For best results, use a stand mixer (or a sturdy hand mixer and medium-sized bowl.) Heat oven to 250 F.
  4. Beat together the water and meringue powder until foamy.
  5. Add sugar very gradually, sprinkling it in a little at a time, scraping bowl occasionally.
  6. Beat until thick and shiny, about 5-7 minutes. Add flavoring if using and beat until incorporated.
  7. Place the prepared pastry bag inside a tall water glass. Carefully drop meringue into bag. Don't try to spread it, just drop it in there. Unfold the cuff of the bag and twist to close.
  8. Pipe meringues on prepared pan. Squeeze near the pan and pull up slowly, releasing pressure as you go. Aim for about 1½ inches at the base. The first few won't be very colorful, but they're still pretty. They won't spread and can be fairly close together. Small stars can be piped for decorations, but pipe them on a separate sheet; they'll take less time to bake.
  9. Bake large puffs for 25 minutes, (10 minutes for the tiny stars), then turn off oven (don't open the door!) and leave them for a couple of hours. If you have an oven that vents heat out when it's turned off, at the end of the bake time turn the heat down as low as it will go and let them bake for another 10 minutes before turning oven off.
  10. Store the meringues in an airtight container.

Slooooowly add sugar to water and meringue powder. Beat until very thick and shiny.

I place the cuff over my hand and very (very) carefully paint the lines. I was pretty generous here and had some vibrant colors. I used less on the second batch and they were still bright and pretty.

Here’s what it looks like before the meringue is added.

Place bag in glass for support. Carefully drop the meringue into the bag.

Piping the puffs

Tips:

  • Take your time when adding the sugar. Give it time to dissolve.
  • If you want to make the tiny stars (great for decorating cupcakes) hold the tip a little bit above the parchment and start squeezing as you push down and touch the sheet. Stop squeezing and pull up. You’ll get the hang of it!
  • To make both sizes, put the large puffs in the oven first. Let them bake for 15 minutes, then put the other sheet in too. Continue to bake for the remaining 10 minutes then turn off the oven without opening the door. Don’t peek – leave them to dry out for a couple of hours (or overnight). If you have an oven that vents the heat once it’s turned off, see the recipe for instructions.
  • Put a dot of meringue batter on the baking sheet under the parchment to hold it in place while piping.
  • If you want a little more white and a little less color in your meringues, just make 4 stripes instead of 6 inside the pastry bag.
  • Keep them dry, cool, and dark. In theory, they’ll last 2 weeks. I don’t think they’ll have that opportunity!

Here is the mini version:

Piped and ready for the oven.

Jazz up strawberry shortcake, cookies, cupcakes, or a bowl of ice cream. Or just pop them—one after another—in your mouth.

Have a sweet and safe 4th!

Lorinda

Crustless Company Quiche

Layers of hash browns, bacon, sweet onions, cheese, ham, and eggs create a breakfast dish that you’d be proud to serve to company . . . or just scarf down yourself. My goal was to make this delicious dish while producing a minimum amount of pans to wash, and I was pretty pleased with the way it all worked out.

My inspiration was a fantastic recipe by Cydnee of Tampa Cake Girl. Her “Quiche Me Baby One More Time” was so appealing, and also low-carb, which was a win-win situation in my book.

But my husband wanted hash browns. And I didn’t have Swiss cheese. Or heavy cream. Besides, I think I have some kind of genetic disorder that doesn’t let me follow a recipe exactly as it’s written. I.Just.Can’t. I have to fiddle and improvise, no matter how perfect the original version is.

So, my apologies to Cydnee for messing with her recipe, but here’s my version. Now you can choose between low-carb and almost low carb. (Aw, c’mon, it’s just one potato.)

Crustless Company Quiche
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Serves 8 polite people, 6 hungry people.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups shredded potato (or packaged hash browns)
  • 3 pieces bacon, uncooked, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ¼ cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1½ cups grated cheese (I used cheddar and parmesan, but Swiss or jack are good, too)
  • 1 cup chopped ham
  • ½ cup whipped cream cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • garlic salt (or regular salt) and pepper to taste. A pinch of nutmeg is good, too.
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 F. Lightly spray a deep pie pan with cooking spray.
  2. Spread shredded potato in the bottom of the pan and top with uncooked bacon pieces.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chopped onions, then cheese. Top with chopped ham.
  5. Combine cream cheese, eggs, and milk. Beat well, add seasonings, and pour over the top.
  6. Place dish on baking sheet and bake for 45-50 minutes.
  7. Cool for 5-10 minutes and serve.

Layer the uncooked bacon on the shredded potatoes (the bacon grease will help cook the potatoes) and bake for 30 minutes.

Chop onions and grate cheese.

Add onions to cooked potatoes and bacon

Combine the cream cheese, eggs, and milk. Add seasonings.

Beat well.

Add cheese, then ham, then egg mixture. Bake 45-50 minutes.

Seriously, that’s all there is to it! I peeled, grated, rinsed, and blotted dry one large potato for this recipe. If you want to save steps (and avoid washing a peeler, grater, and bowl) you can use fresh shredded potatoes from the store, or even frozen shredded hash browns.

The quiche comes out of the pan cleanly, making it easy to plate. And oh, boy does it taste good! The Man moaned his way through two huge pieces and drove me nuts coming up with variations to try next.

As a reminder, Father’s Day is coming up and this would be an easy, man-pleasing breakfast to serve him. He’ll love you for it.

Lorinda

 

Camo Cake for “Deer Old Dad”

If you want a little bang for your buck this Father’s Day, make the man in your life a camouflage cake. (If he’s not the outdoors type, use his favorite team colors instead.) I covered my cake with a fudgy coating topped with crushed chocolate cookies, chocolate deer, and candy trees. (My man’s happy place is in the woods.)

I’d like to call this a pound cake, but technically it isn’t. I used leavening (just a little) and my egg, sugar, flour, and butter ratio isn’t exactly the same. Still, if it looks like a pound cake, and tastes like a pound cake, well . . . it’s delicious.

I used thick, fudge-like icing on my cake. If you prefer a traditional drizzle, I recommend making a ganache. It’s easy and you can use it right away as a glaze or let it sit and thicken for a few hours, then spread it like soft frosting. To make the ganache, use equal amounts of a good dark chocolate and heavy cream. For a drizzle, 4 ounces of chocolate and 1/2 cup of cream should do it. (Double this if you plan to spread it on the whole cake.). Chop the chocolate into tiny pieces and put in a bowl. Heat the cream to a simmer and pour it over the chocolate. Stir gently. Let it sit on the counter, stirring occasionally until it’s the consistency you want.

Here’s the recipe. I’ll give you decorating ideas below.

Camo Cake for "Deer Old Dad"
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Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 1½ cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup strong coffee (mostly for color - you can just use buttermilk if preferred)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon "Special Dark" cocoa (or use regular cocoa and a little black food coloring)
  • Green food coloring
  • FUDGE COATING:
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 ounces chocolate (chocolate chips are okay)
  • DECORATIONS (optional)
  • Crushed chocolate cookies (remove filling first if using sandwich cookies)
  • Green candy melts to make trees
  • Plastic or chocolate deer, ducks, hunters, etc.
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Line a large loaf pan with parchment. Spray any uncovered surface with baking spray (or grease and flour the exposed area). This recipe was made with a 10"x5" loaf pan. If your pan is smaller, don't fill more than ⅔ full. Make a few cupcakes if you have leftover batter.
  2. In a large bowl beat butter and sugar together for 3-4 minutes, scraping the side of the bowl often.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 30 seconds with each addition. Scrape the bowl!
  4. Combine buttermilk, coffee, and vanilla.
  5. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  6. Alternately add flour and liquids, beginning with ⅓ of the flour, stirring well, then add ⅓ of the liquid. Repeat until all has been added. Mix until well combined.
  7. Remove 1 cup of the batter and place in a small bowl. Fold in 1 tablespoon dark cocoa.
  8. Divide the remaining batter between 3 small bowls. Add 2 teaspoons regular cocoa to one bowl, add green food coloring to one bowl (add a touch of cocoa or orange color if you want to make a khaki color) and leave the last bowl as it is. You will have dark brown, light brown, green, and cream/tan.
  9. The first layer: using a small spoon, drop dollops of green, light brown, and cream batter in a random pattern in the prepared loaf pan. Place dark batter in a piping bag or sturdy food storage bag with the tip cut off and add long, skinny shapes here and there. Fill in some low places, climb the side of the pan - just don't use too much of it in one spot.
  10. The second layer: repeat, taking care to fill in any low places. Tap the bottom of the pan on a hard surface and gently smooth the top. The colors will smear together on top, but that's fine.
  11. Bake for approximately 75 minutes. Ovens vary, so check the cake at 1 hour by inserting a skewer into the center next to the crack (which is perfectly normal for a pound cake, by the way). If the skewer has batter or a lot of sticky crumbs on it, give the cake more time. It takes a long time to cook a pound cake in a loaf pan, and the edges may get a little dark before it's done. I just use a serrated blade to trim them if necessary.
  12. Cool the pan on a baking rack for 10 minutes before lifting the cake out.
  13. FUDGY COATING: In a small pot, combine water, corn syrup, and powdered sugar. Stir over medium heat until hot but not bubbling. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate. Spread over cake and decorate as desired.

Cream that butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy (at least 3 minutes) then add eggs one at a time. Be patient and beat well!

Alternately add the flour mixture and the liquids.

Separate and color batter.

First layer. The dark brown is added using a pastry bag to get long, skinny shapes. What I didn’t realize was, since you’re cutting from the end, the squiggles should go cross-wise. Next time!

Second layer. Fill in those low spots!

Smooth the top and bake. Bake for a looooong time.

It will crack. Embrace it.

You can let it cool and serve it just like this, or drizzle it with glaze or ganache. You can wrap it snugly and hide it in the pantry where you’ll have sneaky little rendezvous with it for days (it just gets better and better as it ages) while you pretend to be looking for a can of mushrooms. Ahem.

Or you can decorate it however you choose. Here’s my cake. There are no smooth, perfect lines – this is a rustic cake for a man who’s into hunting.

I was really surprised by the lack of chocolate molds available in the shape of deer. Apparently, you can get deer heads or Bambi. I used a cheap little silicone mold I just bought, and it was not a good application for chocolate. If you want to get one, they’re on eBay and Amazon, but I’ve got to warn you, just count on getting a deer torso and head. The antlers and legs will break off. The mold is made for fondant, not chocolate. Honestly? I don’t even know how you’d get the fondant to come out of this delicate shape. 

So, you could bake and decorate deer-shaped cookies. (I’ll bet you have a reindeer cookie cutter in your holiday stash.) Or you could print a silhouette of a deer, put a piece of waxed paper over it, put melted chocolate in a pastry bag and follow the lines, filling in as you go. You could buy cute hunter/deer cake toppers. Or you could just make trees and pretend the deer is hiding behind them somewhere. (Probably the most realistic scenario.)

I piped trees, froze them briefly, then flipped them over and piped the other side. Add a sucker stick or toothpick before piping side two – then it’ll stick neatly in the cake.

I used light green candy melts for the trees, then painted them with color dust for depth. They didn’t want to stay upright; a simple solution would have been to add a toothpick when I flipped them over and piped the second side. Instead, the toothpicks were put to use propping the trees up.

I wanted the top to look like dirt, so I crushed chocolate sandwich cookies, discarding the white centers, and put the crumbs on waxed paper. I iced the top and long sides of the cake, picked it up by the ends, turned it over and rolled the top in crumbs. Ta Da!

If your guy isn’t into camo and hunting and you’ve still read this far, you are my new best friend! Instead of camo, make the colors those of his favorite team, or turn it red, white, and blue for the 4th of July!

Remember to keep the cake well wrapped at room temperature. It’s good for days . . . if it lasts that long.

Lorinda