A Winter’s tale: Sweet potato brownies

13 Feb

Let’s pretend it hasn’t been almost a year since I did this…

Did someone say "yum"?

Did someone say “yum”?


If you are in the Northeast, you know we have been having a particularly brutal winter. As you might expect, this weather does not lend itself to healthy eating habits. For me this means that for the past couple months I have been obsessed with chocolate chip cookies. Seriously obsessed, I think about them all the time and about how I will get my next fix. If I wanted to right now I could share a recipe for the most delicious browned butter chocolate chip cookie you’ve ever eaten, but I can’t do it. I’ve made three batches of said cookie and have eaten 95% of the results myself. I have no portion control when it comes to CCCs. Which is why you’re getting this post instead, about a healthier alternative to a fudge brownie. With no butter/oil and only natural sweeteners, they are packed with nutrients and fiber that will leave you with little baker’s remorse. I will not lie and say that they are as rich/amazing as a brownie packed with real butter and sugar, but armed with the realistic expectations I just gave you, they are pretty damn good, and provide much less guilt if your Winter habits mirror my own.

The final result is definitely chocolatey, though I would up the ante even more next time with additional cocoa powder, maybe a dash of espresso powder, and nuts or raw cacao nibs for texture (or chocolate chips if your desire for a healthy dessert only gets you so far). The texture is super moist and fudgy, and for me falls somewhere in between a fudge brownie and a chocolate bread pudding. Very yummy. Recipe below.

Sweet potatoes mixin'

Sweet potatoes mixin’


Adding the chocolate

Adding the chocolate


Sweet potato brownies
Adapted from Deliciously Ella

Ingredients:
2 medium to large sweet potatoes
2/3 of a cup of ground almonds (almond meal/almond flour)
1/2 a cup of whole wheat flour or flour of choice (I’ll try oat next time, and I might add another 1/4 cup)
1 egg
2 oz chopped unsweetened chocolate (I used two Baker’s squares)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup pure maple syrup + 1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Stevia extract (dropper-full)*
Chocolate chips for topping (optional)
*the original recipe calls for 14 pitted dates to sweeten the batter, which I didn’t have, though I think it would be great.

Instructions:
Heat up the maple syrup with the milk for about 20 seconds in the microwave to warm it, then add the chia seeds and stir. Leave out while you prepare the recipe so that the chia seeds have time to absorb some liquid.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, then peel the sweet potatoes. I wrapped mine in foil and baked at 375 for an hour or so, but still had to zap them for a few minutes after that. You want them very soft so that they’ll mix into a creamy consistency, so next time I’ll probably chop them into large chucks and steam them instead of baking whole.

Once soft, add them to a stand mixer and beat on medium-high until it’s a smoooth consistency. Add the chopped chocolate while the sweet potatoes are still warm, so it melts and blends in. Add cocoa powder and mix. Add chia seed-syrup-milk mixture, 10 drops of stevia extract (or healthy sweetener of your choice, to taste), and the egg. Beat to incorporate. Mix in baking powder and salt. Lastly mix in flour. (This is the point where I forgot to add cacao nibs, so do so here if you’re so inclined).

Spread batter into a greased 9 x 9 baking dish and cook for about 20-25 minutes, until you can pierce with a fork bringing it out dry (or dry-ish, might take a bit longer). Allow it to cool for about ten minutes. If you still need a bit more richness, like I did, sprinkle dark chocolate chips on top, and press gently into the surface. Cut and enjoy!

Crunch on this: Baked apple chips

8 Mar

First batch (thinnest slices=flattest crispest)

First batch (thinnest slices=flattest crispest)

I made a batch of these on a whim, with the idea that if they turned out well they could be crumbled and used as a dessert topping, similar to toasted coconut. For whatever reason I was super skeptical that I could bake these at home and get the crispy texture I was looking for. I’ve only ever had dried apple slices, which have a more rubbery texture, and I had this mental block where figured that that was the only way to snack on them. Well, my mind is officially unblocked. Mind blown, in fact. These baked apple chips are so easy to make, so yummy, and so crisp (like seriously about the same texture as Pringles). I was shocked at how much flavor they retained even after baking. The only downside is that you can only make about an apple’s worth at a time, which are all too easy to devour in 5 seconds. Still though, if you’re having a lazy Sunday it’s easy to just keep popping batches in the oven. Also, I got a mandoline for Christmas last year and I don’t know if I could have gotten these results without one, but I’m sure those of you with better knife skills can make do without. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a bowl of these waiting for me! Pics then recipe.

My new favorite toy

My new favorite toy


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Before

Before


After

After


Second batch (thicker slices=curlier chip, smaller, more crunch but longer baking time)

Second batch (thicker slices=curlier chip, smaller, more crunch but longer baking time)


Pretty

Pretty

Baked Apple Chips
*my variation is adapted from multiple sources

1 granny smith apple
1 lemon slice (or just cut a lemon in half and use one half)
1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar (optional)
Tools: mandoline slicer (recommended) or a very sharp knife and two steady hands

Instructions:
Remove two of your metal oven racks.

Preheat oven to 200 Farenheit.

Slice your apple very thin*. Briefly rub each piece with your lemon slice (I used half a lemon and squeezed gently as I went). Lay a large piece of parchment paper on one of your removed oven racks and lay out your apple slices, in a single layer. Use as much paper/space as you have room for. Repeat with second oven rack if one isn’t big enough. Sprinkle slices with cinnamon sugar, if using. Gently replace prepared oven racks in oven, towards the middle if possible. After you close the oven door, take a wooden spoon and gently wedge the handle in the oven door so that it stays very very slightly ajar (it just needs a crack so that the moisture from the apples will vent). Bake for 1-1.5 hour**.

These are best eaten immediately (not hard to do, trust me). They should keep overnight, but longer than that and they get gradually chewier (I tried to counteract this by keeping them in an airtight container with some rice, but not totally successful).

*My mandoline slicer has three settings, so I tried the first batch on the thinnest setting, which produced chips just a little thicker than tissue paper, which was delicious, though more fragile if you need to transport them. For the second batch I used the middle setting, resulting in slices about 1/16 inch thick. If you are using a knife, aim for 1/16. Finally, a note on texture/chip shape: I found that my tissue-paper-thin slices stayed relatively flat and didn’t shrink as much as my thicker slices, which curled noticably. This might be because they were more adhered to the parchment paper (and needed to be removed carefully, as opposed to the thicker pieces, which did not stick). I still can’t decide which batch I liked best, and will let you decide for yourself.

**Baking time may vary depending on the thickness of your apple slices. For my first, tissue-thin, batch I checked them after 55 minutes, thinking I would need to flip them and keep baking, and was surprised to find that they were perfect. For my second, thicker batch, they needed about an hour and 15 minutes. You’ll have to use your judgement. If they are not totally chip-like when you check them, note that they will crisp up a little as they cool, but they should be browning (in my experience the pieces that are still white/light don’t crisp up completely). Also, if you are using both oven racks, you may want to switch their positions halfway through for even baking.

Triumphant return: Vanilla cupcakes with chocolate ganache filling and caramel buttercream frosting

26 Feb

cupcakefinishedaerial
I am continually working on this thing we call follow-through. I am sorry to have been absent for so long. I apologize to my 2-3 followers. A small group but no less important. I’m honored that anyone cares what goes on in my kitchen.

This baking adventure was inspired by a lovely piece of news I received recently that a close girlfriend of mine is getting married. (Get ready guys, it’s starting!). Said friend is doing this wedding on the quick and on the cheap, and as such I am lucky enough to contribute something to the big day…cupcakes! Myself and another friend of the brides will be baking a cake (other friend) and cupcakes (me) for the reception and I could not be more excited. I have three months to prepare and have been given no parameters as of yet, aside from deliciousness. My first test batch came this weekend and already we have a contender. I adapted this recipe from the food network website and it was a lesson in always reading the recipe all the way through before executing. It was downsized from a restaurant version and the quantities in the frosting and ganache were completely insane. Of course I didn’t realize this ahead of time and it turned into quite the debacle, but who am I to complain about leftover caramel sauce, frosting, and chocolate ganache?? So anyway, I made due and it was so crazy worth it I cannot appropriately describe. Without further ado, recipe after the photos…

Fresh from the oven.

Fresh from the oven.


Holed.

Holed.


Dollops.

Dollops.


NOMNOMNOM

NOMNOMNOM

Vanilla cupcakes with chocolate ganache filling and caramel buttercream frosting

Adapted very loosely from http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/coconut-cupcakes-with-chocolate-ganache-filling-topped-with-caramel-buttercream-frosting-and-toasted-coconut-recipe/index.html
*don’t be like me, read through this whole recipe and plan accordingly for time

For the cupcakes:

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache Filling, recipe follows (recommend making a few hours ahead or the day before, the cooling time is a b*tch)
Caramel Buttercream Frosting, recipe follows (again, best make the caramel sauce early)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a regular-size cupcake pan with 18 cupcake liners.

For the cupcakes:

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar, in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the mixer with a paddle attachment, or using an electric hand mixer, add oil to the dry ingredients and mix on low until fine crumbs are formed. Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract and mix on low until combined. Stop and scrape the bowl and paddle, and then mix on medium speed until smooth and uniform (a minute or two).

Fill the cupcake liners three-quarters full with batter and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes completely after baking.

To assemble: core each cupcake with an apple corer or a melon baller to create a pocket for the filling (a small spoon and some chutzpah will also work fine, it doesn’t need to be pretty). If you have a pastry bag, put the ganache filling into it and fill each cupcake (I don’t have pastry bags so I spooned it in gently and that worked fine as well). If the ganache is very soft at room temperature, as mine was, I recommend putting the cupcakes in the fridge for a few minutes at this point so that it temporarily firms up and doesn’t smear and discolor the frosting. When you and the ganache are ready, pipe the caramel buttercream frosting on top of the cupcakes in a circular motion with a pastry bag until completely covered. Or, do like I did and spoon a glob on top of each one and then spread it gently from the center to the outer edges of the cupcake. Once frosted, drizzle with leftover caramel sauce. Devour.

Notes: Don’t you dare discard the cored cake pieces! Reserve them in a small bowl and make your own cake balls as a bite size dessert snack! Directions: mix reserved cake bits with leftover buttercream frosting (you won’t need much, but when I did this I didn’t measure I just added until it “looked right”, probably about 1/2 cup. Mix it with a spoon or your hands until it’s about the texture of cookie dough. Then roll into balls and either dip into leftover ganache, or melt some chocolate in a double-boiler and dip to coat completely. I used the ganache, the only downside being that the ganache doesn’t harden at room temperature, so you can’t really coat the balls, you just dip and refrigerate for a delicious, if messier, treat. Sooooo good!

Chocolate Ganache Filling:

1 cup (8 oz.) semisweet dark chocolate (I used the Baker’s squares)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces unsalted butter

Melt the ingredients in a saucepan over low heat. Stir the mixture constantly until melted and smooth. Be careful not to burn. Remove from the heat to cool completely. Notes: This will take awhile. You can speed things up in the fridge, or keep it in the fridge overnight if making ahead of time, just know that it will firm up and will need to be (very gently) heated just before you’re ready to use, just enough so that you can stir it easily. It should be about the consistency of chocolate pudding when you fill the cupcakes.

Caramel Buttercream Frosting:

Caramelsauce:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste

Buttercream:
2 sticks butter
2.5-3 cups powdered sugar (more or less to taste)
1/4 caramel sauce

Stir 4 tablespoons butter, heavy cream, brown sugar, white sugar, and vanilla together in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave at 1 minute intervals, stirring between intervals. The caramel will be thick and bubbly when done. Add salt and stir. Let cool completely to incorporate into the buttercream. It might separate a bit, but just stir until uniform when ready to use. Note: This is where I really got screwed when I made these because the original quantities in this recipe were FOUR TIMES what I have listed here. I ended up with about 6 cups of caramel when the frosting only calls for 1/4 cup. But I digress…

In a large bowl with an electric hand mixer (or stand mixer with whisk attachment), whip the 2 sticks soft butter until creamed. Add the powdered sugar and 1/4 cup cooled caramel and mix until the ingredients are evenly incorporated and the frosting is smooth and creamy. This frosting is extremely sweet and a little goes a long way, so you’ll probably have extra. Be warned!

New favorites: Oatmeal banana cake with salted caramel topping

22 Dec

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Guys.  New favorite.  And I’m proud to say it’s pretty much the product of my own kitchen intuition, kitchintuition if you will.  Actually, the banana cake part of this recipe is part accident, part intuition.  I spent a little over a month in Italy last Summer while finishing up grad school, and found myself limited in both the supplies and the appliances that I was familiar with, however I couldn’t just not bake for five weeks.  I found a trusted banana bread recipe and took it to the market with me, however my Italian is pretty much nonexistent and I couldn’t find either brown sugar or baking soda or powder.  I also didn’t have a loaf pan.  I ended up buying white sugar only, and a few disposable tart pans (secret: anything I baked during those five weeks came out of those tart pans).  With that and the bananas, flour, and butter at home, I was able to improvise, and the result was this amazingly moist, dense (but soft) cake, that me and my two roommates demolished in less than 24 hours.  After that I kept thinking of all the ways I could dress it up once I was back in familiar grocery store territory.  What you have here is the first of what I’m sure will be many variations. Recipe to follow after the pics.

 

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Banana Oatmeal Cake:

3 overripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of flour

¾ cup quick-cooking oats

Mini chocolate chips for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and salt. Add the flour and oats, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered tart pan or spring-form cake pan lined with foil (I used one with a 10-inch diameter. If using the mini chocolate chips, sprinkle a layer over the top of the cake now (I’d recommend enough so that you are mostly seeing chips on top), and press gently into the batter.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

Caramel Topping (+assembly):

1/4 cup (half a stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon heavy cream (*optional if you don’t have it)
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sea salt for sprinkling

In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, then add cream and stir it over medium heat until it begins to boil. Once it has begun boiling, let it bubble for 2-3 more minutes, stirring it well. It will thicken a bit as it cooks. Remove from the heat and add vanilla, and then quickly pour it over cooled banana cake. It will begin to set as soon as it is poured, so quickly spread it over the top of the cake (it remains pliable, but hard to spread evenly once it cools).  Sprinkle fairly generously with flaky sea salt over the top.  Et voila! Socks will be knocked off.

**Other possible additions to try: adding a layer of chopped nuts or toasted coconut, making a chocolate or peanut butter ganache instead of caramel sauce, adding a leavener for a more traditional fluffy cake, etc, etc.

 

Seasonal experiments: Cranberry caramels

11 Dec
Delightful.

Delightful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I recently bought myself a candy thermometer and have been pinning a bunch of ideas for caramels and other candies.  The apple cider caramels from Smitten Kitchen have been getting a lot of attention and look amazing, however the urge to make something came over suddenly the other day and I couldn’t find raw unpasteurized cider in my neighborhood.  Plus, I knew if I made them they would be perfect as-is and thus not really require a separate Hungry Bear blog post.  What I did have on hand were some frozen cranberries, which I decided was worth a try in adapting to the SK recipe.  Overall I think they were hugely successful.  The texture came out perfect, and the color is pleasantly surprising (kind of a mauve) for a caramel.  They also taste great, though less cranberry-y than I would have expected given how tart the syrup is.  If I make these again I might use less sugar to compensate for the sugar in the syrup.  The final product is rich, but subtle, and I think a great alternative to regular caramel or toffee, perfect for this time of year.  Enjoy! (Recipe to follow after the pics)

Strained syrup.

Strained syrup.

All the components, getting friendly.

All the components, getting friendly.

Heating up to boil.

Heating up to boil.

C'mon firm ball stage.

C’mon firm ball stage.

Can you say "yum"?

Can you say “yum”?

Looking suspiciously like raw meat here, but much better!

Looking suspiciously like raw meat here, but much better!

Half dozen yummy treats for a friend.

Half dozen yummy treats for a friend.

Give them to your friends in little handmade paper boxes!

Give them to your friends in little handmade paper boxes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cranberry-infused caramels:

*Adapted from Smitten Kitchen apple cider caramels.

-One batch of cranberry syrup, via Smitten Kitchen. *Optional: add 1 tsp of vanilla while simmering for a subtle added flavor.
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or apple pie spice, alternatively)
1 teaspoons flaky sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
Vegetable oil for knife and parchment

First whip up a batch of the cranberry syrup.  I followed the SK recipe (plus 1 tsp vanilla), strained it through a small metal strainer, and was left with just shy of a half cup of syrup (if you get more than half cup I would discard the extra or even cook it down a little further). *Bonus: the cranberry bits you strain out make about 1/3 cup of yummy cranberry relish that would be great to save and use on pancakes, in oatmeal, with turkey, etc.

Before starting the caramel, prep the ingredients and assembly.  Line the bottom and sides of an 8- inch straight- sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment, and brush with oil.  *Warning: do NOT use aluminum foil, as I did, or you will spend an hour picking out the bits that stick to the finished product (even if you butter/oil it). Set it aside. Stir the cinnamon and flaky salt together in a small dish.

Get your butter, sugars, and cream ready.  Now you can pour the cranberry syrup back into the pot you used to make it (just make sure there are no chunks left), and heat it on low for a few minutes to warm it up again.  Stir in the butter, sugars, and heavy cream.  Heat on medium- high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side, and let it boil until the thermometer reads 250 degrees.  *This should only take 5-10 minutes, but I strongly advise you don’t guesstimate if you are lacking a thermometer.  It’s worth the $10 to have one around.  If you do go ahead without a thermometer, you can test it by dropping a spoonful into cold water.  If it is firm, but malleable, it’s ready.  But be warned, the process goes fast, and if you leave your mixture boiling while testing, it may get to hot and become hard when it cools.

At 250 degrees, immediately remove caramel from heat, add the cinnamon- salt mixture, and stir to combine. Pour caramel into the prepared pan. Let it sit until cool and firm.  This takes a few hours, or you can speed things up in the refrigerator (if left too long it will be hard, but softens up again in room temperature). Once cool, lift the caramel by the parchment paper onto a cutting board. Use an oiled knife, re-oiling as needed, to cut the caramel into a size/shape of your choice (I used a pizza cutter to finish up). Wrap each one in waxed paper or plastic wrap, twisting the sides to close.

Gift idea: I used some decorative paper to make little folded boxes to put these candies in as stocking stuffers/party handouts.  I used this video tutorial , adjusting size to a 25x25cm paper, for a 5x5x5 cm box.  Also, in the last steps, instead of closing both ends, I closed the bottom side, and pinched the top together, punched a hole, and tied a bow.  The fit about half dozen candies in each.  So cute!

Best brunch: Pumpkin monkey bread

20 Nov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to apologize for a couple things in advance.  First of all, I am already repeating myself. If this dough recipe looks familiar, that’s because it comes to you from my inaugural post of ancient times (read: three weeks ago, or, ancient, in an online forum).  BUT I had a good excuse.  My roommate and I hosted a potluck brunch over the weekend.  What kind of hostess would I be if I didn’t make the thing that I knew would guarantee me years of future brunch gatherings?  For real, this thing has the power to make and solidify friendships.  You’ll see.  However, once you make monkey bread, you can never un-make it.  You can never go back to the days when you didn’t know how good it was, and you can never again balk at the quantities of butter and sugar that would give pause to the likes of Paula Deen.  In most of my kitchen forays I really do try to go easy on that kind of thing.  I’ll cut back if I think a recipe is too heavy-handed, or I’ll experiment with healthier substitutes to achieve similar results.  This is the one recipe for which I will put my hand on your book of choice and swear that I will never try to make it better or healthier that it is (or isn’t…).  All of that is probably why I only make this about once a year.

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Now, when I describe this brunch dessert to people, the reaction is either that it’s been a much-loved staple in their family for years, or that they’ve never heard of it at all.  My own connection is the former, and in fact for a long time I thought this was some kind of secret family recipe unbeknownst to the rest of the world.   I have many memories of helping my grandma make this when I was little (she would let me carefully cut the dough with kitchen scissors, which I thought was about the most fun use of scissors ever).  My grandma was a great cook, but I think also valued expedience, which is probably why she always used store bought biscuit dough as the base for this.  In the spirit of tradition, the first several times I made this on my own I also used the store-bought dough.  This I felt the need to put my own spin on it by making the dough fresh and incorporating pumpkin.  In doing so I hope to establish my own tradition and encourage others to have fun with it as well.  Adding toasted coconut?  Spiced apples?  Other glazes (cream cheese, maple, chocolate)?   The possibilities are endless.

Pumpkin Monkey Bread

(Why is it called monkey bread?  It is formed with small balls of dough, ideal for pulling apart with your hands, much like a monkey would do.  I’ll also add that, as with monkeys, social decorum goes out the window when this treat starts being devoured)

Dough:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, but 2% or whole would be great, warmed (if you have to yank your finger out when you touch it, let it cool a bit)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from 1 .25-ounce or 7 gram envelope yeast)
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
½ cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup (packed) light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cups pumpkin puree (I used canned)
1 large egg
Oil for coating rising bowl

Glaze:

1/2 cup butter (1 stick) + , melted
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1/2 cup granulated sugar + 1 tsp cinnamon, in separate bowl

Instructions:

Melt your butter. In a separate bowl, combine your warmed milk and yeast and set aside. After five to seven minutes, it should be a bit foamy.

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine flour, sugars, salt and spices. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. Add yeast-milk mixture, pumpkin and egg and mix until combined. Switch mixer to a dough hook and run it for 5 minutes on low.

Scrape mixture into a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 1 hour in a draft-free place; it should just about double.

After the dough has risen, dump/scoop/smoosh it onto a well-floured surface and flour the top of it well. With a rolling pin, roll the dough as close as you can into a square, it should be about 1/2-3/4 inches thick, but don’t stress too much about it. Now, with a pizza cutter, cut your dough vertically in 1” slices, and then horizontally in 1” slices, so that you have little dough cubes/rectangles.  Don’t worry if they’re not perfectly even or you have tiny corner pieces mixed in, I even prefer them to lack uniformity so that the final product is a hodgepodge of mismatched shapes.

In the next step we need to coat our dough balls in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  You can either do this in batches by shaking the dough and sugar in a large ziplock bag, or you can use a large bowl or pan to toss them until they’re coated. 

Now place the dough balls in a 9 x 13 pan or on a cookie sheet, covered with plastic wrap.  If you’re doing this the night before, you can put them in the refrigerator now and remove them an hour before baking the next day to finish rising (they may be more moist in the morning, but that’s fine). If not doing ahead of time, let dough rise for another 45 minutes.

When the 45 minutes are almost up, heat the oven to 350°F. While preheating, spray a bundt pan with non-stick spray. Melt the ½ cup butter for the glaze, and add brown sugar, stirring vigorously to combine.  Add pumpkin puree and stir.  Now add your dough to the bundt pan and pour the butter/sugar/pumpkin mixture over the top. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until puffed and golden (I used the toothpick test in a few different places to make sure it wasn’t still doughy in the middle).

Let cool for 10 minutes and then turn over onto a plate to serve.  Watch the other monkeys go berzerk.

Save your “dough”: Easy yeast bread

12 Nov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making yeast bread for the first time will make you feel like you have magical powers. I’m not even kidding, nothing restores my sense of awe like seeing a gross looking blob of dough turn into this warm, pillowy mass of yum.  It requires a little bit of foresight, but is well worth it for the finished product. Plus, you will save a lot of money spent on fancy artisan bread for relatively little hands-on time and effort.

I have tried a couple variations on this recipe before (really just slight changes in ratios), but this one is my new favorite. It yields a very large loaf (no complaining here) with an awesome, sourdough-esque, not-too-dense, texture. It’s also great for simple adaptations. For example I’ve made batches adding cinnamon, as well as rosemary, and they are great. Definitely try the rosemary if you’re a fan.

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I won’t go into too much detail here, since this is one case where I can’t possibly improve much on the originating source of this recipe.  Definitely refer to that (linked in recipe below) for more process photos and step by step explanation. Try it. I can’t imagine you would regret it. It’s a great accompaniment to any meal and looks SO impressive for how easy it is.  I had a piece right from the oven with stew leftovers (perhaps you’ll remember from my last post) and it was crazy delicious. Ready, set, go.
afad
Easy Yeast Bread (replicated exactly from this Frugal Living recipe)
*= my own thoughts on the step, if applicable
dafd

6 cups bread flour (recommended) or all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface *I used AP
1/2 t. instant or active-dry yeast *I used active dry
2 1/2 t. salt
2 2/3 c. cool water

In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated; the dough should be wet and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest 12-18 hours on the counter at room temperature. When surface of the risen dough has darkened slightly, smells yeasty, and is dotted with bubbles, it is ready. * My dough was drier than expected after mixing but I left it alone and it was fine. It also didn’t really darken noticeably. Again, fine.

Lightly flour your hands and a work surface. Place dough on work surface and sprinkle with more flour. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice and, using floured fingers, tuck the dough underneath to form a rough ball. *If you haven’t worked with yeast dough before, it’s weird at first, but don’t be too precious about it and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

Generously dust a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with enough flour, cornmeal, or wheat bran to prevent the dough from sticking to the towel as it rises; place dough seam side down on the towel and dust with more flour, cornmeal, or wheat bran. Cover with the edges or a second cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours, until it has doubled in size. *I didn’t want to dirty my towels so I left the dough on its floured surface, sprinkled the top again, and covered with the plastic wrap I’d used on the bowl, then covered that with a towel.

After about 1 1/2 hours, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot, such as a cast-iron Dutch oven, in the oven as it heats. When the dough has fully risen, carefully remove pot from oven. Remove top towel from dough and slide your hand under the bottom towel; flip the dough over into pot, seam side up. Shake pan once or twice if dough looks unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. *This is the trickiest part for me, especially since I didn’t have the towel underneath to help flip.  I basically just picked it up and plopped it over in the pot.  So smart to put seam side up since those will form the pretty golden ridges once baked. Even if you feel like you f*cked up this part, you probably didn’t, it’s pretty forgiving when it bakes.

Cover and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for 10-15 more minutes, until the crust is a deep chestnut brown. The internal temperature of the bread should be around 200 degrees. You can check this with a meat thermometer, if desired. *I’ve never needed to check internally, the time and color have been perfect indicators thus far.

Remove the bread from the pot and let it cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. *GOOD LUCK. This is the only step I fail utterly at every time.

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