Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Smells just like... something.



Let's talk about good vs. bad smells.

Good:                                          Bad:
Freshly Mown Grass                 The Compost Bucket
Rusty back from a bath            Rusty after chasing a skunk
Roses                                           Diaper Pail
Baking Bread                              Burnt Popcorn
Simmering Apple Cider            Burning Smoking Scorching Apple Cider

See?  Same Apple Cider - giant huge difference.  It's possible I completely stunk up our house, I mean that smell is still in the walls and in my nose.  I thought I would be so smart - get up a touch early to simmer the apple cider to make donuts - let it cool while we run an errand, then be ready to bake/fry!  Well… I got it simmering, then completely ignored it until I realized there was smoke billowing from the stove and black sticky goo in the pot.  Oh, that poor pot!  When I woke Andy, he thought it smelled good - oh Andy… your nose needs a fixer-upper.
All of this in the name of Apple Cider Donuts.  The kind you get at an apple orchard - so the recipe claimed.
These were tricky - despite the cider mishap.  The dough is really sticky… like… wow sticky.  Like - how could this possibly turn out good sticky.
There are several times you freeze the dough and that really was the trick.  It certainly made the dough easier to work with, but that sticky dough made for donuts with lots of character and places for glaze and cinnamon sugar to find its way in.
These were yummy donuts.  The taste testers approve!

Apple Orchard Cider Doughnuts

1 1/2 Cups fresh apple cider
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperature
1 Cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 Cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 Cups unbleached flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg (fresh grated is best)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt

Vegetable oil for frying or oil of choice

Directions:
Bring the apple cider to a boil in a small saucepan. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes until it is reduced down to 1/3 Cup. Set aside to cool.

Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well, after each egg. Stir in the buttermilk, vanilla and the reduced 1/3 Cup of cider, using low speed,  until combined.

Combine the flour, baking powder, soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt, in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Add to the wet ingredients and stir just until combined.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour.

Place the dough on one cookie sheet and flatten it out with your hands until it is about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.

Transfer this cookie sheet, with the dough, to a freezer for about 15 minutes. The dough will firm up so that cutting the doughnuts will be easier. This is a soft dough.

Cut the doughnuts, using a 2 1/2 inch doughnut cutter. You should get about 18 doughnuts and 18 holes. Place the doughnuts on the second baking sheet and return to the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up again.

Heat 3 inches of vegetable oil in a deep pan to 350°.

Carefully add doughnuts to the hot oil, do not crowd them. Fry for about 1 minute per side or until golden brown. Remove from oil and let cool for a minute. Dip into glaze or cinnamon sugar. See below. Repeat until all doughnuts and doughnut holes are cooked.

Glaze – 1 Cup sifted powdered sugar and 2 Tbsp apple cider
Cinnamon Sugar – 1 1/2 Cups granulated sugar, mixed with 3 Tbsp cinnamon.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Toss the stove and the microwave - the crockpot can officially do it all.

If you would have told me I would make candy in my crockpot, I would have told you that you were nuts. Like crazy nuts.
You know what?  I'm the nutjob... crockpot candy - amazing.
Last year at our family cookie exchange my cousin Kathy brought crockpot candy - they were basically peanut clusters - but they were amazing.  I'm pretty sure I ate all the ones we got at the exchange.
Our previous experience with peanut clusters was not a good one.  I believe Andy said they tasted like chocolate covered raw peas.  They were a gift, someone used raw peanuts - oops.  Everyone that came to the house, he made them try these... less than stellar treats. 
Recently, I looked for the crockpot recipe and was dumbfounded that the recipes I saw online had white almond bark.  Clearly, these were chocolate clusters, not white chocolate, that couldn't be right.  I emailed my cousin?  Sure is, White Almond Bark!  Well Ok then.  I only had half a package on hand so I made half of a batch.  Well, let's just say I need to get a full package of almond bark because this recipe is happening again and very soon. 
This recipe is as easy as dumping peanuts and chocolates into the crockpot, stirring 4 times, spooning it out onto wax or parchment paper.  Honestly could not be simpler.  These did not last very long in my house - at all - hence the need to make them again - soon.

Crockpot Crack
2 pounds white almond bark
4 ounces chocolate bar
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
24 ounces dry roasted peanuts
Add all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on low for 1 hour, without messing with it. After an how stir to combine everything. Allow to cook for another hour, stirring every 20 minutes.
Once all melted and completely combined, drop about 1 tablespoon of chocolate mixture onto parchment paper. Allow to cool and harden.
Store in airtight container.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

I'll snicker your doodle!

Days off are good.
Days off you get to spend with your kids are good.
Days off where you also get to spend part of the day with your mom?  Really good.
Columbus Day was a day off of school for my kids.  The teachers had an in-service - so no class for them, so I took the day off.  So we convinced my mom to come out to play for the morning.  We went shopping to Sam's Club (we bought each other the same thing as a Christmas gift - shhh it's a secret - ok not really), drew pictures, traced hands, and sang songs.  We also baked cookies.
Snickerdoodles are one of those things I've been wanting to bake for a long time and just hadn't gotten around to doing.  We made it happen!  Bronwyn was my official ball roller and cinnamon sugar coater.  She rolled each dough ball to make it nice and round, then rolled it in the cinnamon and sugar.  She made sure to arrange them just so on the cookie sheets.  We watched them puff up in the oven and make the house smell so wonderful.
For the first time in ever... the girl found a cookie she will eat!!  Wait, what?  Bronwyn eating something she baked?  Unheard of!  We all ate them too - very yummy cookies!
We ended the morning with my dad coming - always a hit when "Papa" comes over.  Nicholas can't get enough of Grandpa.
Looking forward to our next day off fill with fun and laughter.

Snickerdoodles
What you need!
1 cup butter, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 egg, plus 1 yolk
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2¾ cup flour
Cinnamon Sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
What to do!
Preheat oven to 325°
Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper, set aside.
In bowl of stand mixer beat butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. With mixer on medium speed add in egg, yolk and vanilla and beat for another minute, scraping the sides as necessary.
Turn mixer to medium low and mix in baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and 1 tsp cinnamon. Mix for 30 seconds, scraping sides as necessary.
Turn mixer to low and add in flour, mixing until just combined.
In a separate small bowl make your Cinnamon Sugar by mixing together cinnamon and sugar, stirring until evenly combined.
Using a cookie scoop or spoon, measure out about 2 Tbsp of dough and roll into a ball. Then roll each cookie dough ball into the Cinnamon Sugar mixture.
Place on prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, turning cookie sheet halfway through baking.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Cinnamon and Cream Cheese Frosting - Powers Combined - Perfection

So by now - you know I'm a cinnamon junkie.  Why yes, yes I will have that cinnamon anything.  Cream cheese frosting covered - even better.  Opportunity to host my sister-in-laws birthday dinner?  Jumped at the chance to do it - why?  I was going to make breakfast for dinner.  Dessert? Cinnamon rolls!  What else?
By now you've seen a bunch of recipes back and forth from me for cinnamon rolls, this is my combined winner.  They are awesome.  The frosting whips up so fluffy and amazing but melts perfectly into the rolls.
Since we had our brinner, dekfast, brunch - whatever you want to call it, on a Friday night - I knew I'd be making the dough on Thursday - so I left them to rise all day in the oven.  WOW did they rise!  And wow were they awesome.  It was one of those moments where I was not hungry one bit (SO full from all the other good food) but those cinnamon rolls called out to me!  EAT ME!  We even added a candle on top so it was a real cake.
Thankful for Krista and thankful for cinnamon rolls!

Awesome Cinnamon Rolls with Amazing Frosting
for the dough-
 3/4 cup warm water
 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
 1/2 cup granulated sugar
 1 teaspoon salt
 1/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature (or powdered buttermilk - follow directions on can)
 1 egg
 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
 4 1/2-5 cups all purpose unbleached flour

for the filling-
 1/2 cup softened margarine
 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Cream Cheese Icing Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp. milk (if needed)


Directions:
Making the Dough- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, pour in water, yeast and 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar. Stir and proof 5 minutes. Once mixture looks bubbly and frothy, pour in remaining sugar and salt. Stir on low for 15-20 seconds. In a small bowl, measure buttermilk, oil and egg. Whisk ingredients together until egg is incorporated to other two ingredients. Pour contents into the water and yeast mixture. Stir another 20 seconds in the mixer. Pour 2 cups of flour into mixer and stir on low until incorporated. Sprinkle flour in by 1/4 cup increments until dough cleans the sides and bottom of the bowl. Dough should be sticky but not sticky enough to stick to your hands when touched. Once it has reached this stage, turn mixer on and knead for 5 minutes. Remove dough from bowl, grease and replace back into same mixing bowl {since it's practically clean anyways.} Cover with plastic wrap and a dish towel. Rise 1-2 hours or until dough has doubled in size.

Filling and Cutting Rolls- In a medium size bowl, stir brown sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch together until combined. Set aside. Punch down dough. Flour a large clean table liberally with flour. Lightly flour dough as well. Roll dough out to be a 20x30 rectangle {or as close to that as possible} while moving dough around to ensure it's not sticking to your work surface. If it's a little short or uneven, feel free to cut off the edges to even it all out. {FYI-I cut off some dough on one side and filled in a spot that needed more dough on the other side to make a more even rectangle.} Spread softened margarine over dough, being sure to go right to the edges leaving a 1-inch strip untouched on one of the longer sides of dough. Dump brown sugar mixture onto the middle of the dough and spread with your hands, creating an even layer over top of the margarine, still leaving that 1-inch strip of dough untouched. If you have any filling that falls off the sides of the dough, use a bench scraper to replace. Lightly press the sugar mixture into the margarine using a rolling pin. Roll the dough up into a tight log, finishing with the plain dough on the bottom to seal the entire thing together. Cut off the uneven ends to even out the log. Score log every 2 inches and then slice your rolls using those marks. Place into parchment paper lined, margarine greased pans. 12 into a 9x13, 3 remaining into a loaf pan, or 8x8 with the small ends. Cover pans with plastic wrap and dish towels. Let rolls rise another 1-2 hours or until they are touching and have risen almost double. My rolls always spread out more than up, so just be aware that they will most likely spread out more than up. Bake in a preheated 350 degree for 17 minutes, or until tops start to brown. Watch them carefully!!

To Make The Cream Cheese Icing:
Either in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, or a mixing bowl, whisk softened butter and cream cheese together until combined. Then whisk in powdered sugar until combined. If the icing is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of milk to thin.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Cheese Cake Brownie Bars need trimming, lots of trimming

Potlucks are my worst nightmare.  So many different foods, so many different chances to eat something I'm allergic to because I don't know what people made their dish with.  Andy LOVES a good potluck.  A chance to eat so many different things and have things we do not make.
I was heading to Miami for work, but there was a potluck at church for the 20th anniversary of our church.  Did he want to take both kids? Yes!  Oh my.  Really? "You want to juggle both kids and do that? My mom is working so only my dad will be there to possibly help."  Yes he wanted to.  Ok then...
I made a shortcut of a recipe I saw.  The actual recipe called for making the brownies from scratch.  Sure... some things are worth baking from scratch, this time?  Brownies weren't one of those things.  When I checked to see if we had enough cream cheese?  We did - like 4 1/2 bars.  Who has 4 1/2 bars of cream cheese in their fridge?  I guess the girl who once had none and needed to borrow one.  Ha!  So... I made these bars for the potluck.  When I cut them, a few had to be trimmed.... extra.  They just weren't fitting on the plate right.  But they fit right into my mouth.  Oh these I will be making again and some time soon!
How did the potluck go?  Asked Andy - he said "busy".  Ha!

Cheesecake Swirl Brownies
For the Brownies:
Fudge Brownie Mix
Ingredients listed on box
For the Cheesecake:
2 and 1/4 cups cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup plain/all-purpose flour
For the Brownies
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Set aside.
Whisk together ingredients for the brownie mix beating until thick and shiny.
Reserve 1/4 cup of the batter, and set aside. Pour the remaining batter into the prepared pan, and spread out evenly. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, or until the center of the brownies is mostly set. Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack whilst preparing the cheesecake.
For the Cheesecake
Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar until combined. Beat in the egg, then fold in the vanilla extract, and flour.
Pour the mixture over the brownie layer and spread out evenly. Spoon the reserved brownie batter on top, and using a toothpick, create swirls.
Bake for 20 - 30 minutes or until the cheesecake center is almost set, but still a little jiggly. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 4 - 5 hours. Cut into bars, and serve.

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