Guinness Bread Braids – Sweet or Savory

I went all Irish on you with this bread. It has both Guinness Stout beer AND potato in the dough. You won’t even taste the beer, but what a pillowy-soft dough it helped create. I made a savory Celtic braid by adding some Parmesan and garlic to the dough, and turned another batch into a braided cinnamon and sugar ring.

Both were light – surprisingly light – and tender. I will say, however, that this is a bread that is best eaten the day it’s made. On day two it was just a tiny bit chewy, though if it had been heated a little, I probably wouldn’t have noticed. This almost made me wish I hadn’t deep-sixed the microwave. (A pat of butter and a few seconds in a microwave will revive any cinnamon roll . . . or braid.)

Guinness Bread Braids - Sweet and Savory
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Makes two Celtic braids or one braided cinnamon ring.
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups very warm water
  • 3½ teaspoons sugar, divided
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • ½ cup Guinness Extra Stout beer
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ cup dry instant potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt (3/4 teaspoon if your instant potatoes contain salt)
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • VARIATIONS:
  • For Celtic Braid: ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, if desired. 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water combined for egg wash.
  • For Cinnamon Ring: 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, ⅓ cup sugar, green candied cherries. Icing if desired.
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine warm water and ½ teaspoon sugar. Add yeast and allow mixture to sit for at least 5 minutes, or until foamy.
  2. In a small saucepan on low heat, heat the beer and 1 tablespoon butter until beer is lukewarm. (It’s okay if the butter hasn’t melted completely.)
  3. To the yeast mixture, add warm beer mixture, instant potatoes, salt, flour, and 3 teaspoons sugar. (IF MAKING SAVORY BREAD, ADD PARMESAN AND GARLIC.) Mix well. If using a heavy stand mixer, let the mixer knead the dough for 5 minutes. (If kneading by hand, knead on generously floured surface for 7-8 minutes.) Dough will be very soft, slightly sticky, and may stick to the sides of the bowl a little. Cover the bowl with a towel and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  4. FOR CELTIC BRAID: Cover large baking sheet with parchment. Punch down dough and divide dough into 4 pieces. (If dough is too sticky to work with, knead it a few times on a generously floured surface.) Working with 2 pieces at a time, roll each piece into a rope about 2 feet long. Follow photo instructions in post for making braid (or find a template online). Repeat with remaining 2 pieces. Place braids on prepared baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Cover loosely with towel, and allow to rise until doubled - about 1 hour.
  5. Heat oven to 375 F. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until rich golden brown. Cool on rack.
  6. FOR CINNAMON RING: Prepare two large baking sheets by covering with parchment. (One will be used to coat the bread ropes in butter and cinnamon, and the other will be used to bake the braid.)
  7. Punch down dough and divide into 3 equal pieces. Roll into ropes, each approximately 24 inches long.
  8. Melt butter and pour onto one of the prepared baking sheets. Combine cinnamon and ⅓ cup sugar in a small bowl.
  9. Roll ropes of dough in the melted butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture, rolling until completely coated.
  10. Pinch the three ropes together at the top. Lift onto clean baking sheet and braid. Tuck the ends under and pinch together where the ends meet.
  11. Cover braid loosely with clean towel and allow it to rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour. Decorate with green candied cherries, if desired.
  12. Heat oven to 375 F. and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Place baking sheet on cooling rack for 5 minutes, then slide braid and parchment onto rack to cool completely.
  13. Drizzle with icing if desired. To make a simple icing, combine ½ cup powdered sugar, 1-2 drops green food coloring, and 1 tablespoon milk or water.

Dough will be sticky. Don’t add extra flour yet – you can always work in a little more once it’s risen if necessary.

Rises like a champ! Wait ’til you feel this dough – it’s billowy and soft as a baby’s cheek.

Roll dough around in the flour. If it’s really sticky, knead it a few times to add a bit more flour and make it manageable.

Start by crossing the two ropes at the middle, like an “X”.

And then do this . . .

. . . then this.

It should finally look something like this.

Brush the braid with egg wash and bake!

If you’re making the cinnamon ring, it’s a little easier – just a simple braid:

For the cinnamon braid, begin with three long dough ropes.

Roll them in melted butter, then coat them with cinnamon and sugar.

Braid the sticky ropes on a clean piece of parchment. Tuck the ends under and pinch together to make a ring.

Risen and ready for the oven.

Warm and fragrant.

Oh, and if you want to go with the whole green thing, drizzle this puppy with some green icing. 

Serving it was kind of interesting. You can cut it in slices (the least messy option) or you can do what we did and just rip and tear. Licking your fingers is half the fun – no fork and knife for this gal.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Lorinda

St. Patrick’s Day Recipes from The Rowdy Baker

St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite baking holidays, and I happily challenge myself each year to come up with something different. When my children were young, their lunches consisted of green everything. Everything!

As fun as it is to make green bread, rolls, and pastries, there are many other fascinating options out there – some Irish, some not so much. Booze plays a prominent roll in my brainstorming sessions, of course, which adds to the festivity.

Here are links to 9 of my favorite posts:

Corned Beef Pot Pie
Mint Chocolate Chip Pie
Irish Pretzel Knots
Drunken Leprechaun Balls
Corned Beef Hand Pies
Chocolate Mint Swirl Zucchini Bread
Pot o’ Gold Cupcakes
Mint Bombe
Guinness Cloverleaf Rolls

Sláinte!

Lorinda

Mint Chocolate Chip Pie

If you ask me what my favorite ice cream is, the answer will always be mint chocolate chip. It’s getting harder and harder to find the good stuff though; I’ve turned my nose up at brands with waxy chocolate and too much mint or coloring. It has to be just right!

For a fun twist on my favorite dessert, I created this refreshing Mint Chocolate Chip Pie. It’s soft and fluffy, lightly flavored, and laced with mini chocolate chips. (If you’re a purist you can substitute good quality dark chocolate instead.)

This pie would be wonderful for Christmas – or any time. But since I was making this for St. Patrick’s Day, I melted a few green candy melts, poured the candy into small heart molds, and then connected three of them with a dot of green chocolate and added a stem to create a shamrock. Several of those on top of the pie definitely added an Irish flair!

I’m one of those people who prefer the crust of a pie over the filling. In this case, the filling is delightful . . . but I’m still all about that crust! The thicker the better. This recipe will make two thin crusts, but I like rolling out a crust without worrying about getting the shape perfect, knowing that it will be big enough to cut out a perfect circle. You can make yours thinner if you prefer. Either way, you’ll still have some leftover crust. You could cut out shamrock shapes to decorate your pie, or just bake strips of crust, dusted with cinnamon sugar, for a treat. (C’mon – guilty pleasures are the best!)

Mint Chocolate Chip Pie
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Ingredients
  • CRUST:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cold butter
  • ½ cup cold shortening
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon vodka (or vinegar)
  • FILLING:
  • 2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream (divided)
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • green food color
  • ¾ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered (plus 2 tablespoons) sugar, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon unflavored gelatin (optional, to stabilize the whipping cream)
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • ¼ cup mini chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. CRUST: In medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut butter into small cubes. Add butter and shortening and use pastry blender or fingers to combine. Mixture should have small lumps of fats visible - no larger than peas.
  2. In a small measuring cup, combine buttermilk and vodka (or vinegar). Add all at once to dry ingredients and toss/stir just until combined.
  3. Place dough on generously floured surface. Sprinkle flour over the top and roll out to a thickness between ⅛-inch and ¼-inch, depending on preference. Place pie pan upside down on dough and cut circle about 1 inch larger all around than the pan.
  4. Slide flat baking sheet or cutting sheet under the dough and flip the pan and dough over. Gently ease the dough into the pan and fold excess over to make the dough come to just above the top edge of the pan. Flute the edge with your fingers. Chill for 30 minutes.
  5. Heat oven to 350 F.
  6. With a fork, poke holes in the sides and bottom of the crust. Carefully line with foil, allowing the foil to cover the top edge of the dough. Fill with pie weights (or beans, rice, or sugar) and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove foil and weights and allow pie to cool completely.
  7. FILLING: in a small saucepan on lowest heat (or in the microwave using 15 second increments) heat ½ cup cream and white chocolate chips until chips are melted.Add a few drops of green food coloring and peppermint extract and stir well. Allow to cool.
  8. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth. Add white chocolate mixture and beat until incorporated. .
  9. In a medium bowl, beat remaining 1½ cups cream until soft peaks form.
  10. In a small cup in the microwave, or a small metal measuring cup or pan on the stove, heat the gelatin and water until gelatin is dissolved (this should happen very quickly...just 5-10 seconds in the microwave) and drizzle over the whipped cream while mixing on high speed. Add 2 tablespoons powdered sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
  11. Fold approximately ⅔ of the whipped cream into the filling, fold in chocolate chips, and spoon into the cooled crust. Pipe or spread the remaining cream onto the top of the pie. Chill for several hours (or overnight) before serving.

Cut circle of dough larger than pie pan. Slide a flat sheet under dough and flip.

Ease dough into pan and flute. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Line crust with foil and fill with weights, beans, rice, or sugar. Bake.

Filling ingredients

Add green chocolate mixture to the cream cheese mixture.

Fold whipped cream into the filling

Fold in the chocolate chips.

May you have warm words on a cold evening,
a full moon on a dark night,
and the road downhill all the way to your door.

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
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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

Guinness Cloverleaf Rolls

They may not be green, but these dinner rolls are exactly what you need for your St. Patrick’s Day meal. Made with Guinness, Irish butter, and oats, their flavor is rich and hearty, and they have a fantastic texture. Soft but substantial – which is what they’ll be calling me if I keep testing my creations!

And believe it or not, the rolls are super easy to make. (See the recipe below? See how short it is? I think this is a personal record.) I made three batches of dough in less than forty minutes, but I admit that flour was flying. My mixer is a real workhorse, thank goodness. For the sake of full disclosure, I also have to mention that each batch uses one cup of beer, so there’s a little left in the bottle. By making 3 batches back to back, I got to have a full bottle of Guinness as I worked. Sweeeeet.

Dividing the dough into 36 equal parts and rolling them into balls is the only thing that will take a little time, but there’s nothing hard about it. I wanted mine to be similar in size, so I weighed the dough, did the math, and (in case you’re wondering) each ball was approximately 1 1/2 ounces, or 45 grams. Just sayin’. You don’t have to do this unless you plan to take photos and put them on a blog!

I used Irish butter because I love it and it seemed appropriate. It’s a little pricey for baking, but hey – St. Patrick’s Day only comes once a year. Splurge a little; it really does have wonderful flavor.

You’ll smell the beer as the rolls are baking. I’ve got to say, it made me a wee bit nervous; it smelled like a distillery in my kitchen. But the rolls didn’t taste like beer at all to me. If anything, the Guinness gives them sort of a whole wheat taste, and I’m good with that. Yum.

The only warning I’m going to give you is this: keep an eye on the bread as it’s rising! Mine only took about 45 minutes for the first rise and once the rolls were formed, it took less than an hour for them to be ready for the oven. They are very enthusiastic.

Guinness Cloverleaf Rolls
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Makes 12 jumbo or 24 standard rolls.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup very warm water
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 2 packages active-dry yeast
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 cup Guinness Extra Stout Beer
  • 5½ -6 cups white bread flour
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1 tablespoon salt
Instructions
  1. In small bowl, combine ½ cup very warm water and sugar. Add yeast and set aside to proof.
  2. In small saucepan, bring milk and water to a simmer. Remove from heat.
  3. Add butter, molasses and beer. When butter is melted, place mixture in large bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook.
  4. Add 5½ cups flour, the quick oats, and salt. Mix on low for 3 minutes. If dough isn’t coming cleanly away from the side of the bowl, or if dough feels very sticky, add the remaining ½ cup flour. Knead for 3 minutes. (If kneading by hand, place on floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.)
  5. Place in large greased bowl, turn to coat the dough, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and all the dough to rise until doubled – about 1 hour. May be less, depending on the temperature of the room.
  6. Grease jumbo muffin pans and divide the dough into 36 equal pieces. (For small rolls, grease standard muffin pans and divide dough into 72 equal pieces.)
  7. Allow rolls to rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour.
  8. Heat oven to 400 F.
  9. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until tops are rich golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven and brush tops with butter. Turn out of pan and serve warm, or allow rolls to cool completely on rack.

Stir butter and molasses into the hot milk mixture and then add beer.

Add the foamy yeast to the warm liquids, then add dry ingredients.

This is where you knead the dough, of course. I use my stand mixer and a dough hook.

Put dough into greased bowl. Turn it over to lightly coat.

This dough rises quickly!

Put 3 balls of dough in each cavity of muffin pan

Let 'em rise.

Let ’em rise. Bake!

Brush hot rolls with butter

. . . and enjoy!

Oh, and you might want to keep this recipe around, because it will make two wonderful loaves of bread if you’d rather not fuss with rolls. It slices perfectly, doesn’t crumble, and makes great sandwiches and toast.Three bottles of beer left. Hmm. More bread? I don’t think so. Sláinte!

Lorinda

Wake Up and Get Moving Muffins

Very strong coffee, bran cereal, molasses, raisins (figs or dates are good too), apple and wheat flour are baked into these tender muffins. They will really wake you up and get you moving. You see where I’m going here, right? All puns and infantile jokes aside, these are really tasty muffins and better for you than a regular berry muffin with a mountain of streusel on top.

This recipe makes 24 muffins. You could cut it in half, but why would you? Wrap and freeze them for a quick on-the-go meal.

Wake Up and Get Moving Muffins
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Makes 2 dozen muffins (a few less if you use tall tulip liners). Wrap individually and freeze for a quick breakfast.
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup very strong hot coffee (I bring ½ cup freshly ground coffee and 1¼ cups water to a boil, let it simmer for a few minutes, and then put it through a fine strainer.)
  • ½ cup coconut oil (or butter, if you prefer)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups All-Bran original cereal
  • 1½ cups all purpose white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon dark unsweetened cocoa (Optional. Mostly for color.)
  • 1 cup raisins (or chopped dates or figs)
  • 1 medium apple, grated (leave the skin on, but stop grating before you get to the core!)
  • butter and sparkling sugar if desired to add to the tops of warm muffins
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 400 F.
  2. Prepare muffin pans by lining them with paper liners.
  3. Stir coconut oil (or butter, chunked into small pieces) into hot coffee until melted.
  4. Stir in buttermilk and molasses.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until completely combined.
  6. Add bran cereal and let it soak while you prepare the dry ingredients.
  7. In a large bowl, combine white flour, wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa. Add raisins (or chopped dates or figs) and grated apple, and toss to coat.
  8. Pour liquid ingredients into bowl and fold or stir gently just until it is mostly incorporated. A few wisps of flour showing is fine. Do NOT overbeat.
  9. Spoon into prepared muffin liners, almost to the top. If you are using tall tulip-type liners, fill a little higher than the level of the pan.
  10. Bake standard size for approximately 16-18 minutes, or tall size for approximately 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of a muffin.
  11. Move the pan of muffins onto a cooling rack and, if desired, brush with soft butter and sprinkle with sparkling sugar or cinnamon sugar. Then remove from pan and set muffins on a rack to cool completely.

Ingredients. (The cocoa is mostly for color, so it’s optional.)

Make very strong coffee. I boil freshly ground beans and water, then put it through a fine sieve.

Combine all the liquids, add cereal, and let it soak for a few minutes.

Grate the apple, skin and all. (No core or seeds, of course.)

Toss raisins and apples in the dry ingredients

Stir gently until there are just a few wisps of flour in batter

Fill ’em up!

Brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar if desired. (You can see that I skipped the cocoa in this batch.)

Seriously, how can you resist this??

Love you, but gotta go now. Next up: green stuff for St. Paddy’s Day.

Lorinda

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Shortbread

The combination of chocolate and peanut butter is irresistible to me, and I just love getting both flavors in one cookie. There are endless ways to put these two doughs together, and I’ll show you a few, but I’m sure you will come up with some fun ideas of your own.

Yes, you’ll have to make two different batches of cookie dough, but it really is a very easy dough to make, and it won’t take you long at all. If you’re wondering how many this will make, I just don’t know what to tell you. It depends on whether you’re making the three layer cookies or the chain cookies or . . .
Let’s just say it makes a generous amount, at least 4 dozen.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Shortbread
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Two easy batches of shortbread cookie dough can be combined in countless ways to make creative and delicious cookies.
Ingredients
  • PEANUT BUTTER DOUGH:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon milk or water
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • CHOCOLATE COOKIE DOUGH:
  • 1½ cups butter, softened
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon water or coffee
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • To decorate: your choice of chopped peanuts, sprinkles, chocolate icing or ganache
Instructions
  1. PEANUT BUTTER DOUGH:
  2. In a large mixing bowl (a sturdy stand mixer is best) beat butter, peanut butter, egg yolk, vanilla, and milk (or water) together well.
  3. Add the powdered sugar and cornstarch and beat on low until incorporated.
  4. Gradually add the flour. This is a very stiff dough! It will appear crumbly, but with thorough beating, should come together. If it doesn't, drizzle in a small amount of milk or water.
  5. Wrap and refrigerate dough. Scrape bowl out and use for the chocolate dough.
  6. CHOCOLATE COOKIE DOUGH
  7. In large bowl, beat butter, egg yolk, vanilla, and water (or coffee) together well.
  8. Add the powdered sugar and cornstarch and beat on low until incorporated.
  9. Combine the flour and cocoa and gradually add, mixing until dough forms. If necessary, drizzle in a very small amount of water or coffee.
  10. Wrap and refrigerate both doughs for 30 minutes. If you refrigerate the dough longer, it will become very stiff. If that happens, let it rest at room temperature until manageable.
  11. Heat oven to 350 F.
  12. Working with a small piece of one color at a time, roll ¼ inch thick on lightly floured surface or between sheets of parchment. Bake on ungreased baking sheet or on parchment for approximately 10 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your cookies. They should just be beginning brown on the bottom. Here are some ideas:
  13. Try using two different sizes of the same shape of cutter. If using hearts, cut large hearts out of both doughs, then use a smaller heart cutter in the center of half of the large hearts. Gently press a shape with the center removed onto a solid shape. Once baked, fill the center with chocolate ganache or peanut butter icing. You can also marble the colors, roll, and cut. Or try putting a small heart on a large one, topping with a dab of peanut butter, and covering with another large heart, creating a small raised heart in the center. Cover cooled cookie with icing or ganache. Or cut small hearts out of the center of large hearts to create heart "frames". cut one on the side, and slip the other through the cut. Press lighlty for a 2 heart "chain".

Some of the ideas I tried:

Triple layer cookies. (Okay, if you count the peanut butter I guess they’re quadruple layered.)

A layer of peanut butter dough, a small chocolate heart, a dollop of peanut butter, and top with another layer of peanut butter dough. Or reverse the colors.

See? This one was chocolate, a small peanut butter center, peanut butter, and chocolate.

Drizzle or cover with ganache or chocolate icing, and sprinkle with chopped peanuts

Or, these are fun!

A solid bottom with a cutout top. Once cool, fill with ganache or add a candy center

You can also link two cutout hearts together:

Or . . . the easiest idea of all is to simply combine the two doughs to create a marbled effect:

So many ways to play with this dough, and I’ll bet if you have littles in the kitchen, they will get very creative!

This is it for Valentine’s Day recipes for the year, and you know what that means, right? Everything green is coming your way soon.

Lorinda

Boozy Chocolate Cherry Sundae Cake

This rich, slightly boozy chocolate cake is paired with a light, slightly boozy whipped tart cherry buttercream filling. (Are you seeing a theme here?) And if that isn’t enough to make you put on your apron, it’s covered with chocolate ganache and sprinkled with chopped walnuts. Add a dollop of whipped cream, and you’d think you were eating a sundae…only better.

Boozy sundaes are the best!

Of course you don’t have to add alcohol. A little cherry flavoring in the cake would be fine. Ditto with the buttercream – just add more flavoring. Obviously you’d want to do this if you were planning to serve the cake to children, because contrary to what we have all been told, alcohol doesn’t always magically disappear when heated.

I used a 6-inch Wiltons heart pan. I sure wish I had two of them, because I had to bake one at a time, and this recipe makes four. It just took a little more time, but the batter held up very well at room temperature. Each cake was leveled and then sliced into two thin layers. I only used five layers for the finished cake, but wisely compensated for the “wonky” layers I knew I’d get. (I seem to be missing that gene. You know, the one where you can see if something is level. You should see the way pictures hang on my wall!)

Hubby happily ate the scraps.

This isn’t an inexpensive cake to make. The dried cherries are pricey, good ganache uses good chocolate, and of course you’ll need the chocolate cherry liqueur and the cherry brandy, but those two liqueurs are wonderful to have around. They are great in so many dishes…or just for sipping!

Seriously, if there’s any time to indulge in something completely decadent, it’s in February! You can use the excuse of Valentine’s Day, George Washington’s birthday (hellloooo…cherries) or a morale booster as winter begins to turn into a slushy, gray mess. Any or all of those reasons work for me.

Tips:

  • If you can’t find the dried cherries, by all means used canned sweet cherries – or frozen cherries – or even maraschino cherries. Just blot them well and skip the whole “soaking them in booze” step. I’m sure you’ll find something to do with that extra liqueur.
  • I just can’t be brutal and cut much off the top of the small cakes to level them. I take off what I must, but there is still a flat half and a slightly rounded half. I use the flat halves for layering, so they’ll stay somewhat level, and then one with a slightly rounded edge for the top. It looks pretty that way, and lets the ganache cascade off nicely.
  • Speaking of cascading, stop before you think you should. That stuff will keep working its way down and you don’t want huge puddles at the bottom. Hold off on the nuts until you’re sure the lava flow has stopped, otherwise they will be going along for the ride.
  • I used five of the eight baked layers, which was plenty tall. One tore, and two were a little out of level. If you trust your slicing skills better than I trust mine, just bake three of the cakes and make a few cupcakes with the remaining batter.

Do you know why this recipe looks so HUGE? There are three components, and I’m very wordy about how to do each – the cake, the filling, and the ganache. It’s not as scary as it looks! It all begins with a rich, tender, killer chocolate cake:

Boozy Chocolate Cherry Sundae Cake
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Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup oil (I use peanut or walnut oil - any light flavored oil will work)
  • 1 cup VERY strong coffee (see note at bottom of cake ingredient list)
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • ⅓ cup Baileys Chocolate Cherry Liqueur (or substitute with milk plus 1 teaspoon cherry flavoring)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • NOTE: For best flavor, strong coffee can be made by bringing ½ cup ground coffee and 1½ cups water to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain into measuring cup to equal 1 cup.
  • FILLING:
  • ½ cup tart dried cherries, chopped into small pieces
  • 3 tablespoons cherry brandy, divided (or 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablepoon milk)
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ½ teaspoon cherry flavoring (a little more if you aren't using the brandy)
  • 10 drops red food coloring
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • ⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
  • GANACHE:
  • 8 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • walnuts or sprinkles, if desired
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour (or use an oil and flour spray like Baker's Joy) pans. A piece of parchment, cut to fit pan, can be put in the bottom for ease of release. For layered heart cake, use 6-inch heart pans. Cakes may be baked one at a time if only one pan is available. (Make sure pan is cooled and greased between cakes.) Two 9-inch round pans may be used instead.
  2. In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, and sugar.
  3. Add oil, coffee, milk, and Baileys (or milk and flavoring, if preferred). Beat for 1 minute on medium speed, scraping sides of bowl.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat 1 additional minute.
  5. Pour batter into pans: Fill the 6-inch heart pans half way, approximately 1½ cups of batter in each. Or divide evenly between 9-inch pans.
  6. Bake 25 minutes. Test with a toothpick. It should come out cleanly when inserted in the center of the cake.
  7. Allow cakes to cool in pans for 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto rack to cool completely. Chill for easiest handling! Cut a thin slice off of the top of each cake to level it, and then cut each cake into two equal layers.
  8. FILLING:
  9. In a small pan on medium heat, combine the dried cherries and 2 tablespoons cherry brandy (or water, if preferred). Bring to a simmer, remove from heat, and let sit for 20-30 minutes.
  10. In large bowl, beat the butter and shortening until smooth and creamy. Add remaining tablespoon of brandy (or milk, if preferred) cherry flavoring, and food coloring, and beat well.
  11. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until completely incorporated. Mixture will be thick.
  12. With beater on medium high speed, slowly add cream and continue to beat until stiff peaks form - approximately 3 minutes.
  13. Drain the cherries (keep the brandy they were soaking in for later) and stir into the filling.
  14. Spread between 5 cake layers, crumb coat the sides (this is a very thin coating to hold in the crumbs) and chill for about an hour to let the coating set.
  15. While the coating is setting, make the ganache.
  16. GANACHE:
  17. Place chopped chocolate into small bowl.
  18. In small pan on medium heat, bring the cream to a heavy simmer. It should be bubbly, but not at a boil. Remove from heat.
  19. Pour half of the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 2 minutes. Stir gently with a rubber spatula.
  20. Return the cream to the stove and bring back to a simmer. Pour over chocolate mixture.
  21. Fold slowly until cream and chocolate are combined. Set aside, but stir occasionally.
  22. If you are using liqueur in this recipe, use a wooden skewer to poke holes in the top of the chilled cake, almost through the bottom layer. Carefully pour remaining brandy (from the cherries) into the holes. OR you can use a tablespoon or two of Baileys. Not too much or the cake will get mushy!
  23. Ice the cake, sides and top, with the remaining filling.
  24. If your ganache is thick but still pourable, it's ready to be spooned over the top of the cake. If it's still very thin, wait a little longer; it will thicken as it sets.
  25. Decorate with nuts or colored sprinkles.

 

 

Filled. I used the bottom half of each cake for the layers (they’re flatter) and then a more rounded top half for the top of the cake. This will allow the ganache to flow better.

Crumb coating.

Hot cream added to chopped chocolate…

…equals magic. Ganache!

Pouring ganache over iced cake.

Enjoy!

Lorinda

Sourdough Soda Crackers

Soda crackers are lots of fun to make and can be shaped however you wish, from traditional squares to seasonal shapes. Sprinkle on cheese, basil, or garlic salt before baking for a savory treat. A little sourdough starter adds a little extra leavening, though the flavor really isn’t detectable.

I’ve played with this recipe a number of times over the last few months, trying to get that perfect blend of crispy and flaky. It’s a fine line, because if they aren’t cooked quite long enough, they aren’t crisp all the way through. Too long (a minute or two makes a huge difference), and they turn brown. I think I finally nailed it, and had fun in the process.

You’ll need sourdough starter. Hopefully you have some in the fridge, but if not, check out my post for Pumpkin Sourdough Bread. There are several ways to get your hands on this valuable stuff!

I use half butter and half shortening in these crackers. I hate to use shortening, but if you read the ingredient label on a box of saltines, you’ll realize that the homemade version is still much more wholesome! I haven’t tried it with all butter; maybe soon. My husband is hoping they’ll turn out like Ritz.

Tips:

  • Use COLD ingredients, and don’t over mix. You want to see small chunks of butter and shortening.
  • Sprinkle with herbs, spices, or shredded cheese if you like savory crackers. The cheese will get dark, so you may want to add it half way through the cooking time.
  • For fun, create hanging (perching?) crackers by cutting slots on the side to fit your mug or bowl before baking. From my recent experience, I can tell you…angle matters! Do a trial template with a piece of cardboard or toast first.
Sourdough Soda Crackers
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Author:
Makes approximately 3 dozen crackers.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter
  • 2 tablespoons cold shortening
  • ¼ cup sourdough starter
  • 2 tablespoons very cold water
  • Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
  2. With a pastry blender, blend the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients until small chunks remain - about the size of large peas. Don't over-blend.
  3. Combine sourdough starter and cold water. Pour over flour mixture, tossing with a fork or your hands. THE DOUGH WILL NOT COME TOGETHER IN A COHESIVE BALL.
  4. Drop the crumbly dough onto a lightly floured surface and press gently to give it a rectangular shape, approximately 5"x9", using a bench scraper, putty knife, or large spatula 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. (5 times total.)
  5. Roll to 5"x9", cover it in plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.
  6. Heat oven to 400 F.
  7. Roll dough out on lightly floured surface. Dough should be very thin - less than ⅛". This will take some time - and muscle! It may help to lift dough and stretch gently a few times during the rolling process. If you are making square crackers, try to keep the dough square or rectangular.
  8. Spray lightly with cooking spray, sprinkle with salt, and poke little holes in the entire surface with a fork. Cut into desired shapes. If you are making shapes other than squares, place them close together, because you won't be able to re-roll the scraps.
  9. Place on ungreased baking sheet, close together but not touching.
  10. Bake for approximately 9 minutes, or until the crackers just start turning golden brown.
  11. Immediately slide off of cookie sheet onto cooling rack.
  12. NOTE: When the crackers are cooled, test one. If they aren't as crispy as you'd like, heat oven to 250 F. and place crackers back in the oven to dry out for 5-6 minutes. Watch them carefully, and remove them if they start to brown.

Doesn’t look like it will ever come together, does it?

Fold in thirds and turn. The first time…a mess! By the fifth time, it’s flexible dough!

Roll one last time, then wrap and chill for an hour

Time to roll chilled dough out THIN. Do you have one of these tools? This little roller really helps get things going. Then I move on to my big rolling pin.

Poke holes in rolled dough with a fork. Spray with oil, sprinkle with salt, and cut out squares or shapes.

The dough needs to be rolled very thin!

I’ve been busy in the kitchen this week, and have more Valentine posts on the way. Come back soon!

Lorinda

Chocolate Cherry Tart

Oh, heavens! This cherry tart has a rich chocolate crust that lies somewhere between a cookie and a pie crust, and filling that’s spiked with cherry brandy. (Totally optional.) Oh, and did I mention that I used canned cherry pie filling? I know that’s not my usual modus operandi, but I’m afraid my cherry tree is buried under a few feet of snow, and besides…I’m making you create the crust from scratch, which is probably enough of a challenge, right?

I had to do some experimenting to come up with a crust that didn’t turn soggy on the bottom, but I’m happy to say that if you follow my baking instructions, your tart will be tender (but definitely not gummy) on the bottom, and crunchy on the sides. Yum yum yum!

Tips:

  • If you don’t want booze in yours (eyeroll), you can skip the whole “cook the filling, lime juice, and cornstarch” step and just dump the cans of filling into the chilled tart crust. I wouldn’t even bother with the lime, (though it does add a nice flavor) because that would mean you’d have to dump the filling into a bowl, and…well…one more bowl to wash!
  • If you do use the brandy, be sure the cooked mixture is cool before putting it in the crust.
  • It’s critical to keep your dough chilled, and that egg white wash is a must! This will help keep the cherry mixture from seeping into your bottom crust.
  • Use whatever method works best for you when you move the crust to your tart pan. It’s thicker than a pie crust, but you can still roll it gently onto a rolling pin to transfer it. I like to roll mine out on parchment, center the tart pan upside down on the dough, slide one cookie sheet under the parchment and lay one gently on top of the dough, then flip. Whatever works best for you!
  • After you’ve eased your dough into the pan, turn the excess inward and press firmly against the inside edge. Trim off any dough that sticks over the edge of the pan.
  • Put a baking sheet in the oven while it preheats, then slide the chilled tart onto the hot sheet. This blast of heat from below will also help your crust to cook through. Be careful when you do this; you don’t want it to slide right into the back of the oven!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Filling ingredients.

Crust ingredients. (Whoops. And an egg white!)

Chocolate Cherry Tart
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Author:
Makes one 11-inch tart.
Ingredients
  • FILLING: (If not using alcohol, just use canned filling and skip the other ingredients)
  • 2 cans cherry pie filling
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime (or lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ¼ cup cherry brandy
  • CRUST:
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • ½ cup cold butter
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 egg white, whisked
  • ***
  • Serve with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.
Instructions
  1. FILLING:
  2. In a large pot on medium heat, combine two cans of cherry pie filling, lime, and cornstarch. Cook and stir until mixture bubbles and turns clear (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the cherry brandy. Set aside to cool.
  3. CRUST:
  4. In a medium pot over medium heat, bring water, sugar, and salt to a boil.
  5. Remove from heat and add the chocolate chips, whisking until smooth. Allow mixture to cool completely before moving to the next step!
  6. In a medium bowl, grate the butter using a grater with large holes. Add flour and stir until all of the butter is coated.
  7. Add the cool chocolate mixture and stir until mostly combined, then dump out onto lightly floured surface and knead gently just until it comes together into a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. (No longer - the chocolate will harden and make it difficult to roll out.)
  8. Lightly spray an 11-inch tart pan with cooking spray. I like to use a flour and oil mixture, like Baker's Joy.
  9. Roll out dough to make a circle about an inch bigger than your tart pan, all the way around. (Your pan should be 11 inches, so the circle would measure approximately 13 inches in all directions.)
  10. Gently ease the dough into the pan. Roll any excess at the top towards the inside of the pan, pressing firmly against the sides. If any dough sticks up past the edge, trim it off.
  11. With a pastry brush, cover the bottom of the crust with egg white. Freeze for 15 minutes (or refrigerate for 30).
  12. Preheat oven to 400 F. Place a baking sheet on the bottom rack while preheating.
  13. Place tart pan onto a flat baking sheet or cutting board. Spoon filling into crust and slide it from the flat sheet onto the hot baking sheet in the oven.
  14. Bake for 10 minutes. Without opening the oven, turn the heat to 350 F and bake an additional 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. When tart is barely warm, slide onto your hand, letting the ring fall down your arm. You may either leave the tart on the metal bottom or use a thin spatula to slide it from the base to a serving platter.
  15. Decorate with whipped cream if desired, or serve with ice cream.

Add lime (or lemon) juice and cornstarch. It will look cloudy – that’s okay.

Cook it until it’s bubbly and fairly clear.

Add flour to grated butter and stir to coat.

Stir chocolate mixture into butter and flour. Make sure the chocolate isn’t warm!

Knead gently until it forms a ball, flatten into disk, wrap and chill. (You should see little bits of butter throughout.)

My favorite method to transfer dough to pan. Center pan upside down on dough, slide baking sheet under parchment, one on toop of dough, and flip.

Brush bottom of crust with egg white and chill. Add filling and bake!

I used stabilized whipped cream on this tart. To stabilize cream, I beat 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form, add 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar and beat until combined. Then I heat about 1/2 teaspoon Knox gelatin in 1/2 teaspoon water until it’s melted and drizzle a little in the cream while mixing on high. I don’t use it all…maybe half, but it’s too hard to melt a smaller amount!

For the tart at the beginning of the post, I beat 4 ounces of room temperature cream cheese, added 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1 cup of heavy cream and beat until it was thick and fluffy. I think I like the piped hearts better because the cherries still show.

Or…you could just eat it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Disclaimer: My husband preferred the tart without alcohol; he didn’t like the smell of cherry brandy. It MAY be because I had already spent a fortune at the liquor store picking up other booze for Valentine’s Day baking and went cheap on the brandy, but I liked it. A lot. I’ve never tried Kirsch, but that might be a good alternative if you have some.

Ready, set, GO!

So…onward. There are lots of ideas swirling around in my head; as soon as I corral them into something resembling recipes, you’ll be seeing lots of chocolate, cherries, raspberries, and sprinkles.

Feelin’ the love…

Lorinda