… Getting my new site up and running!
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… Getting my new site up and running!
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I cannot resist those small paperback cookbooks that are in each grocery check out lane. They just seem to call my name every time I am standing in line to check out. The most recent to hit my cart is by Betty Crocker and features their boxed cake mixes and cookie mix pouches. Some people may feel that using mixes is not “real” baking, but not me! As much as I love “real” baking, on occasion I take help from experts like Ms. Betty Crocker.
After a crazy work week, I was not too keen on spending a great deal of time in the kitchen, but the sweet tooth that I reside with was expecting a sweet snack! That’s when I remembered my new cookbook and one recipe in particular that caught my eye. All I needed was Betty Crocker double chocolate chuck cookie mix, a chocolate covered caramel candy (like Rolos) and pecan halves to create a Turtle Cookie Cup. I really didn’t plan it this way … but I will be using my mini-muffin pan again. I promise to put it away after this week to return at a much later
date! (Yes Memoria, still in the mini mode! I have put it away for a while!)
Let me warn you in advance … do not let anyone “volunteer” to take the wrappers off of the rolo candies or you will run into the same problem I had … not all of them made it back to me in the kitchen! The recipe says to roll the dough into 1 1/4 inch balls and I would get 36. Nope … only got 24. Short of measuring the diameter of each one, I adopted the “eyeball it” method used by Rachael Ray. So a few “lost” rolos turned out not to be a big deal after all!
Source: Betty Crocker
Servings: 36 cookies (only made 24 for me)
Cook time: 8 to 9 minutes
1 pouch (1 1.5 oz.) Betty Crocker double chocolate chunk cookie mix
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tbsp water
36 round milk chocolate covered chewy caramels, unwrapped
36 pecan halves
Heat the oven to 375 F. Place miniature paper baking cups in each of the 36 mini muffin cups. In a large bowl, stir the cookie mix, oil, water, and egg until a soft dough forms. Shape the dough into 36 (1 1/4 inch) balls. Place in the muffin cups. Bake for 8 or 9 minutes or until the edges are set. Immediately press one milk chocolate covered caramel into the center of each cookie cup. Cool for two minutes. Top with a pecan half.. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Remove from pans with a narrow spatula.
DEBBIE’S BAKING NOTES:
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If I ask my nephew what he wants for dinner, there’ is a ninety percent chance he will say pizza. If I had to choose a favorite pizza, it would be the Hawaiian, you know the kind with Canadian bacon, pineapple with a few jalapenos thrown on top for a hint of heat.
So when I called Seth (he holds the Pioneer Ridge, 7th grade, 100 meter hurdle record) last Sunday evening and said I was bringing Pepperoni Pizza Bites over for him to sample, he was only too happy to lend his taste buds to my latest cooking venture. His first comment was that it was just like pizza …. only inside out. He would be right! There is pepperoni and cheese on the inside, enclosed in a “crust” and then dipped in warm pizza sauce.
I am using my mini muffin pan again this week and bringing you another recipe to justify its place in your kitchen. I even went crazy and bought a pan that makes 24! I have had friends who have made this recipe in a standard cupcake pan (adjust the cooking time), who swear they turn out perfect.
Pepperoni Pizza Bites
Adapted from Everyday
Makes 24 (I actually got exactly 24!)
3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup whole milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
4 ounces pepperoni, cut into small cubes (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup pizza sauce (I buy the 8 oz cans of pizza sauce)
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil (optional)
Preheat oven to 375o. Grease a 24-cup mini muffin pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; whisk in the milk and egg. Stir in the mozzarella and pepperoni; let stand for 10 minutes.
Stir the batter and divide among the mini-muffin cups. Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. (Watch them close. I have found that all mini muffin cups are not created equal. My new pan has smaller cups than my old one.)
Microwave the pizza sauce until warmed through, then stir in 1 Tablespoon basil. Sprinkle the puffs with the remaining 1 Tablespoon basil. Serve the puffs with the pizza sauce for dipping.
NOTES FROM DEBBIE:
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What are tassies? Tassies – pronounced tas-eez – are defined as cups or small goblets. In this case, bright red, long-stemmed maraschino cherries are perched in tender pastry cups … mini muffin pan cups!
I love maraschino cherries. To this day, the first bite of my banana split is the cherry I pluck from the top. Who knew that they could be baked into a butter pastry, flavored with vanilla and almond and crushed cherry candy. The crushed candy adds little flavor bursts to each bite without making them overly sweet.
Adapted from a recipe by Better Homes and Gardens
Nonstick cooking spray
1-1/4 cups butter, softened to room temperature
2-1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg (room temperature)
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely crushed cherry flavored candies
48 red maraschino cherries or liquor-flavored maraschino cherries with stems, drained
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Liberally coat the mini muffin pan with nonstick spray; set aside. In large mixing bowl beat butter on medium to high for 30 seconds. Gradually beat in 1-1/2 cups of the powdered sugar, the baking powder and salt. Beat in almond extract, vanilla extract and the egg. Beat in as much of the flour as you can; stir in remaining flour and candies.
2. Place remaining 3/4 cup powdered sugar in a shallow dish. Shape dough in 1-inch balls; roll in powdered sugar. Press each ball into the bottom and sides of prepared muffin cups.
3. Place cherry, stem side up, in each cup (cherry will not fill the cup). Bake about 12 minutes or until pastry is browned. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Use a small sharp knife to loosen tassies from cups. Transfer to rack to cool completely.
4. To store: Place tassies in a covered airtight container. Store at room temperature up to 24 hours or refrigerate up to 3 days. Return to room temperature before serving. Makes about 48 tassies.
NOTES FROM DEBBIE:
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GONE ARE THE DAYS OF THE SPITTING, HISSING POT.
I am just loving the newest addition to my kitchen repertoire … an electric pressure cooker! Ron Merlin of the blog The Merlin Menu inspired me to overcome my fears of this (I thought) “dangerous” cooking method. (Click over to his blog … he has a great giveaway! Entries open til April 25th.) Never in a million years would I have envisioned myself loving this style of cooking. Maybe it’s the “tramatic” childhood memories of my Mother using one and telling us we could not play in the kitchen or run or jump because we might disturb the little metal thingie bouncing on top of the pressure cooker and cause the house to blow up. Mom, if you’re reading this and shaking your head in disbelief at the story I am telling, just ask Denise (my sister), she remembers the same thing!
Pressure cookers have a brand new image and are sleek, modern and safe. Reading the directions before firing up this appliance, in my opinion, is critical to understanding how to properly and safely use your pressure cooker. You will have a better understanding of just how your cooker works, maximum limits for different foods and why it is crucial to have the right amount of liquid in the cooker at all times.
As Ron said … Today, we are tackling an American Sunday staple … the Pot Roast. Generally a cheaper cut of meat is used and it requires a long cooking time to break down and tenderize.
For my pressure cooker meal I used a 3 pound chuck roast. (3 pounds is the maximum recommended for my cooker – read the directions) I was able to sear the meat in the cooker, remove it and set to sauté for the onions. I’m all about less dishes to wash! In FORTY-FIVE minutes you will have a tender, juicy roast with perfectly cooked vegetables, not to mention some of the best gravy you’ve ever had.
Pressure Cooker Pot Roast
adapted from a recipe of Ron Merlin
The Merlin Menu
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 3 lb chuck roast
1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
1 package brown gravy mix
1 package ranch dressing mix
1 package Italian dressing mix
1 can beef broth
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 beef bouillon cube
salt and pepper to taste
12 small red potatoes, halved
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
Turn heat under Pressure Cooker to medium and add olive oil. Sprinkle roast on all sides with salt and pepper. Place into cooker and brown all over, about 5 minutes per side.
Add onion, gravy mix, ranch dressing mix and Italian mix , beef broth, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and beef bouillon cube all over the roast in the cooker. No need to stir, the pressure cooker will distribute everything just fine. Turn heat to high, let liquids come to a boil, and then seal the pressure cooker. Wait until a steady stream of steam is being emitted, and immediately turn to medium low, and begin timing 30 minutes from this point.
After 30 minutes of a steady stream of steam from the cooker, remove from heat and run cold water over the cooker until pressure recedes. Open cooker, and add bay leaves, carrots and potatoes to the liquid surrounding the roast.
Place cooker back on stove and bring to high heat and a boil. Seal cooker with cover, wait until it’s emitting a steady stream of steam, turn to medium low and time for 15 more minutes to continue cooking the roast and cooking the carrots and potatoes perfectly.
After 15 minutes, remove from heat, and let cool down naturally. Remove cover.
If the “gravy” is too thin, remove the roast and vegetables, and stir in 2 tablespoons corn starch dissolved in 4 tablespoons water, over medium heat until gravy thickens. Let roast rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes, and slice and serve with potatoes, carrots and gravy.
Note from Debbie: Ron cooks with a stove-top pressure cooker … mine is electric. Both types produce a wonderful end result. I love some of the special features on my electric pressure cooker: automatically starts the timing when the pressure is reached, can sear and sauté right in the unit and when the pre-set cook time is reached it automatically turns the unit to the warm holding temperature. I found it very easy to adapt the stove-top cooker directions to my electric one.
DESIGNER DOUGHNUTS … the New Cupcake?
In case you haven’t heard … gourmet style doughnuts are to 2010 what cupcakes were for 2009! The doughnut’s somewhat dull, predictable reputation has undergone a complete makeover from glazed and jelly filled to become the latest trend in the pastry scene. Artisan and “designer” doughnuts are popping up at local Farmer’s Markets, specialized bakeries and are even being featured on menus in the “white tablecloth” kind of restaurants. Purveyors of designer donuts have elevated these humble rings of fried dough to a heavenly status.
Dreamy Donuts ran a contest, Australia’s Next Top Donut and the creative winner “designed” a cherry bite doughnut. This ring of pastry has dark chocolate, coconut and cherries and is drizzled with more dark chocolate! In the US, the trend has gone even more extreme with flavor combinations like pomegranate thyme, bing cherry balsamic, iced mint mojito and lemon chamomile crème. One creative baker in Chicago is even adding grape jam to her peanut butter and jelly doughnuts.
So fellow Bakers, join me in shouting “Move over cutesy cupcakes … Doughnuts are staging a comeback!”
CHOCOLATE CAKE DOUGHNUTS with MOCHA GLAZE
adapted from a recipe from Dianna’s Desserts
makes 16, 3 inch doughnuts
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
vegetable oil for frying (I used canola oil.)
Mocha glaze (recipe follows)
1.) In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, buttermilk and melted butter. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until well blended. (I mixed this dough with a wooden spoon. The dough will be stiff and sticky.) Chill at least 1 hour, up to 3 hours.
2.) Once chilled, scrape the dough onto a well floured surface. (The dough can be a bit sticky. The secret is to use only as much flour as necessary to make the dough easy to handle.) Flour your hands and pat the dough until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Use a 3 inch cookie cutter to cut your doughnut and a 1 inch to make the hole in the center. (In the pictures you will see that I used a piping tip that was 1 inch to make the center hole!) You can pat the scraps together and cut again. (I got 15 doughnuts from this recipe.) Place doughnuts on a floured baking sheet to await frying!
3.) Fill your deep fryer, electric frying pan, wok or frying pan with oil. Make sure you do not overfill the type of fryer or pan you are using. (I used an electric frying pan.) Heat oil to approximately 375 degrees. Place one doughnut at a time onto a spatula and gently place into the oil. It will fry a bit and slide right off the spatula into the oil. Do not over crowd your pan as it will lower the oil temperature. I fried 3 at a time. Fry the dough, turning once, until puffy and cooked through. (I found that 2 and 1/2 minutes on each side was perfect for me. I suggest you fry only only one doughnut at first and “sacrifice” it to check that your doughnut is cooked through. It is a bit difficult to tell when a chocolate doughnut is done! You cannot go by the color, you must actually check for “doneness”.)
4.) When the doughnuts are just cool enough to handle, but still quite warm, dip the top into a warm glaze. Next, dip immediately into a topping such as sprinkles or nuts. Place on a rack so the excess glaze can drip. Let stand until the glaze sets.
CRISPY and CREAMY DOUGHNUTS
adapted from a recipe submitted by Kelly on allrecipes.com
makes 18 doughnuts
2 (.25 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
5 cups all-purpose flour
vegetable oil for frying (I use canola oil.)
1/3 cup butter
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla (I substitited with vanilla bean paste in the same amount.)
4 tablespoons hot water or as needed
A pretzel is a heavenly delight that comes soft and chewy or crunchy and crispy, shaped in various forms and salted by the gods themselves.
I had no idea that the simple pretzels had so much history. It seems that there are numerous accounts on the origin of this looped treat. Most of them agree that they have religious backgrounds and were first served by monks. One story has an Italian monk using the strips of baked dough, twisted to resemble the arms crossing the chest, as a reward to children who studied their prayers. He called them ‘pretiola’ meaning little rewards. In Germany, it is thought that pretzels were the invention of desperate bakers. It is suspected that the German pretzel was the result of a ban of heathen baking traditions in the form of sun wheels. The German term ‘brezel’ is said to have Latin origins and was a medieval term for bracelet.
As to why some pretzels are hard and crunchy while other are soft, it is said that one night a baker fell asleep while baking a batch and all the moisture was cooked out of them – hence the hard pretzel. Well, I did not fall asleep while baking mine and they turned out great … soft and chewy with little crunchy “cheese skirts”. Because these are not boiled, they tend to be more bread like. This recipe offers lots of opportunity to swap out certain ingredients for others of your choice. If sharp cheddar is not to your liking but something spicy is, try a pepper jack with red chili powder. My 13 year old nephew has placed a request for pepperoni to be added to my next batch! These pretzels are best served warm or the day you baked them. But like pizza heated up the day after, they may be a bit chewy but none the less good to eat!
I may never beat Helen Hoff’s (a world champion pretzel twister) record of twisting 57 in a minute, but I did roll a respectable pretzel. Now it’s your turn.
Guy’s Knot for Nuthin, Everything Pretzel
Adapted from a recipe by Guy Fieri
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
In a glass measuring cup, add the warm water and the yeast. If you have a digital read thermometer check to make sure the temperature is about 110 degrees. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes.
In a food processor fitted with a dough blade, add the dry ingredients and the Parmesan cheese. Pulse together 3 times at 5 second intervals. This gives it a good mix. Add 1 egg and the warm water/yeast mixture. Pulse for 10 second intervals until the dough comes together. (This happens quickly. If the dough “looks” too moist add a bit more flour and pulse again.)
Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead 10 to 12 times, adding a little flour, if sticky. Shape into a ball and cut the dough in half. (I found this dough to be a dream to work with!)
Roll out 1 piece of dough to a 12 by 17-inch rectangle. It will be about a 1/4-inch thick.
Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the Cheddar in the middle third of the dough (short way). Fold 1/3 of the dough over, and sprinkle with 3/4 cup of the Cheddar. Fold the last third over and pinch the edges closed. (It is kind of like a 3-fold brochure.)
Roll with a rolling pin to form an 11 by 15-inch rectangle. Cut into 1 1/2-inch lengthwise strips (6 strips per half of dough.) Pinch the cut edges together and then roll into cigar shape. Form into a pretzel shape and put on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat. Repeat with the second ball of dough.
Beat the remaining egg and the milk in a small bowl. Next, brush the formed pretzels with the egg/milk mixture and sprinkle with the salt and poppy seeds. Be creative with your toppings … you can try granulated garlic salt, sesame seeds … the choices are endless!
Bake until nicely browned, about 16 to 18 minutes. I found that 17 to 18 minutes worked for me. Remove from the oven to a wire rack. Serve warm or room temperature.