Friday, October 31, 2014

Baked Goods of Doom

I'm a holiday nerd. In years past I've decorated and decorated and decorated every house we've lived in. Every room, every holiday, every year. But I've limited myself to one new decoration per year for several years now. It's good for the
budget but let's be frank, I don't need any more decorations. Anytime I saw a cute new Halloween thing this year, I decided I would quench my holiday shopping bug by buying it for the neighborhood BOO. Do you BOO? Here's some instructions on how to do it. The cool thing to me about this is you don't need a committee, you don't need the homeowner's association, you really don't even need to like your neighbors all that much! BOOing is much like giving and volunteering in any form - it gives joy to the giver. I hope you'll try it out and come back and tell me what you did - all the details! 

My just-graduated-from-college-and-has-her-first-job aged daughter and I did the BOOing this year. I found some cool Halloween-themed burlap little bags at T. J. Maxx and filled them with some candy and other fun Halloween-themed items like pumpkin-shaped soap dispensers, glow-in-the-dark bracelets, and Halloween cocktail naptkins. And I bought some carving-sized pumpkins. The pumpkins made it
kind of hard to be discreet when delivering the goods to a doorstep, so we decided to I would drive the get-away mom van and she would drop the goods, ring the doorbell and run. And when I say we decided this, I definitely mean I decided this. She wanted to drive. You see, BOOing is supposed to be anonymous. And the problem the with the process is that you will laugh so hard while dropping, ringing the bell, running, and driving away, that you can easily get caught! We didn't but wow, did we laugh! We had to take breaks in between houses to catch our breath! So funny!!!

Willie and I went to a cooking class recently and he's been baking bread every since. The bread is gorgeous and so good and he's been trying out different shapes with this dough which makes baking times different. You will have to play around with this recipe's baking times but that is the fun of bread-baking, right? Remember to use your nose. You'll smell the bread when it's done. The baking inspired my Halloween decoration purchase of the year. I bought a GROSS of vampire teeth. One gross is a dozen dozen in case you don't know. That's 144. Why? I knew the bread had soul. I knew it would do well with a face. And Amazon had a gross of these fangs for the same price as 6 in the store. So there you have it.

I've added faces to things I've baked and I've added faces to baked goods from the store. I've even added faces to lunch and dinner with no baked goods at all. I suggest you try it as well. It's so fun. ~Sandra

P.S. The eyes are made of sugar from Wilton's and are affixed with a little dab of peanut butter.

Stand Mixer French Bread
by Willie
adapted from Sur La Table's Cooking Class called Bread Baking 101

1 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill Organic Unbleached White Flour
3/4 cup water
a pinch or yeast

2 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill Organic Unbleached White Flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
the poolish
3/4 cup water

Combine the ingredients, cover, and set aside for 12-24 hours.

Add all ingredients together and mix with a paddle attachment for 3 minutes in a stand mixer. Switch to a dough hook and knead for 4 minutes.

Add teeth and eyes to anything, 
even store-bought goods.
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and let it rise for 2 hours. You can turn the dough at the one hour mark if you like (if the dough is wet or doesn't seem to be rising well).

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Divide the dough in 3 pieces and shape into logs. Let it rest for 20 minutes and then shape into baguettes. Put the baguettes on a baguette pan or other cooking sheet and let proof until puffy (30-40 minutes).

Before putting the loaves into the oven, diagonally slash the loaves. Sprinkle the loaves with a little water and place in the oven. Reduce the temperature to 475. Bake for 18 to 24 minutes when they are a deep, golden brown. Cook on a rack before eating.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Not Your Ordinary Blueberry Muffins

I'm always looking for new breakfast ideas for my husband and son and this one definitely hit a home run! I serve them still warm with a dab of butter, a side of scrambled eggs and fresh berries. I hope you enjoy these as much as we do.

Not Your Ordinary Blueberry Muffins
by Holly
Adapted from Martha Stewart's "Hearty Blueberry Muffins"

3/4 cup Bob's Red Mill Organic Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 cup Bob's Red Mill Organic Unbleached White Flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine ground sea salt
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
1/4 cup expeller pressed virgin coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled
2 large eggs, at room temperature
8 ounces fresh blueberries, rinsed

Heat oven to 375°F. Line a standard size 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together all 3 of the flours, baking soda and the sea salt.

In a medium bowl, blend the brown sugar, yogurt, coconut oil and eggs until just combined.

Add the sugar mixture to the dry mixture until just mixed. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Divide the batter into the 12 cups. (It will seem very thick). Bake until browned, about 18-20 minutes. Use a toothpick to test doneness (test the cake, not the berries.) Cool 10 minutes in the pan, on a rack for 10 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool completely.

It's Halloween and the Undead are Rising!

Ah, Halloween. Time for thrills, chills, ghouls, and - of course - TREATS.

These adorable-horrible coffins, while not written for a 37 Cooks challenge, does feature two of our previous sponsors.

The coffin cookie cutter is made by Good Cook, who sponsored the Picnic Potluck Panic challenge. The coffin cookie cutters weren't part of the challenge, though.

And, of course, Bob's Red Mill supplied us with bags of all-purpose flour, which is what I used here.

The bag of flour I got from Bob's is long gone, but that's to be expected in my house. Flour doesn't last here very long at all.

I had a lot of fun assembling these coffin cookies. I colored the icing I used for assembly using food coloring to make it brown so it didn't stand out quite as much against the dark cookies. I used plain white royal icing to form the hands that are creeping out of the coffins. Spooooky.

The nice thing about the coffin cookies is that you can fill them with even more goodies. How about some chocolate mousse? I attached the lids, but it would be fine if it was un-attached, too.

I use black cocoa quite often. It's sold under quite a few names, depending on the seller, but it's a distinctive and very dark cocoa. If you don't have it, you can use regular cocoa. The cookies won't be quite as dark, but they'll still be good.

Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies

3 ounces chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened black cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Royal icing (recipe here)

Put the chips in a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup and heat in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until they're melted. They don't need to be hot - just softened and melted and smooth. Set aside until it has cooled to room temperature.

Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk or stir until they're well combined. Set aside.

In your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or with an electric mixer, beat the butter until it's smooth. Add the sugar, and beat until it's light. Add the egg and beat until it's incorporated. Add the melted chocolate chips and the vanilla. Beat until they are incorporated.

Add the flour mixture (you might want to add in several additions to keep it from flying around when you start the mixer) until the flour is incorporated. You don't need to beat it any further once it's mixed together.

Place the dough in a zip-top bag and flatten it. Refrigerate for at least four hours, or up to a few days.

When you're ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it warm up just a little bit. Heat the oven to 350°F and line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into several pieces to make it easier to work with. Flour your work space lightly - you don't want to add too much flour to the cookies, so be gentle. Roll the dough to between 1/8- and 1/4-inch thick - smaller cookies are best if they're rolled thinner, while larger cookies are easier to work with if they're a little thicker.

Cut the cookies with cookie cutters as desired. If you want your very own 3D coffin cookie cutter, you can get it from Good Cook.

Transfer the cookies to your prepared baking sheets, leaving a little space between them. These don't spread a lot, but they do grow a little.

If you're baking cooking that are different sizes - like the 3D cookies I made that has smaller pieces for the sides and larger pieces for the top and bottom - put the smaller pieces in the center of the baking sheet and the larger pieces along the edges of the sheets.

Bake at 350°F until the cookies are firm on top and slightly darker around the edges. Since these are pretty dark to begin with, it's sort of hard to see browning, but if you look, you'll see a slight difference - about 12 minutes.

Let the cookies cool for a minute or two on the baking sheets before moving them to a rack to cool completely.

Decorate the cookies as desired.

Blueberry and Nectarine Buckle

A buckle? What is a buckle? No. Not the clasp that holds your belt together. It's an old-fashioned, summertime, English dessert and a quite tasty one at that!

The original recipe (from Real Simple magazine's July 2013 issue) calls for peaches, but to be honest, I couldn't find any good ones. However, I had perfect nectarines and decided to give those a try. So glad I did!!

Blueberry and Nectarine Buckle
by Holly
Adapted from Real Simple magazine's "Peach and Blueberry Buckle" Recipe

1 3/4 cup Bob's Red Mill Organic Unbleached White Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine ground sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground orange peel
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
4 nectarines, cut into 8-10 wedges (about 4 cups worth)
1 pint blueberries, rinsed and stemmed
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting the top

Heat oven to 350˚. Place rack on lower third of oven to prevent premature browning of the buckle.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and orange peel.

In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar with a hand mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla until just incorporated.

On low, alternate adding half the flour, then the sour cream and the rest of the flour. With a spatula, fold in the nectarines and blueberries. It'll seem like there's more fruit than cake, but that's ok. The cake will expand when cooked.

Place the batter into a 8" x 8" baking dish. Sprinkle the almonds on top. Bake until browned, about 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes. Use a toothpick to test doneness (test the cake, not the fruit.) Cool 10 minutes in the pan, on a rack for 10 minutes. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve warm.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mini Farfalle with Creamy Four Cheese Sauce

Mini Farfalle with Creamy Four Cheese Sauce
by Lesia

1 box mini farfalle, cooked according to box directions
4 Tablespoons butter
3 cloves crushed garlic
4 Tablespoons Bob's Red Mill Organic Unbleached White Flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded Romano cheese

In heavy saucepan, melt butter and saute' garlic lightly until aromatic. Add flour and stir until smooth. Add milk, salt and pepper and cook on medium-high heat until thick and bubbly. Stir frequently so there's no scorching in the bottom of the pan. Add heavy whipping cream and all cheeses. Reduce heat to low and stir until smooth and cheese is melted. Serve over pasta immediately. This dish is also great with grilled chicken and/or freshly steamed broccoli served on top.

Double Dipped Fried Green Tomatoes

I have found that these little jewels are much more scrumptious when fried in a a cast iron skillet, however, the cast iron skillet is not a requirement for a crispy crust. You can also use an electric skillet set on the highest heat setting, just make sure to stand guard over the skillet so that the tomatoes don't burn. That would be a travesty!

Double Dipped Fried Green Tomatoes
by Lesia

10 thin slices green tomato, patted dry with a paper towel
Oil for frying
Buttermilk for dipping
1 cup Bob's Red Mill Organic Unbleached White Flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
2 teaspoons sugar
Extra sugar for dusting

Heat oil in skillet of choice. You'll need enough oil to almost cover the slices of tomato completely, but not too much. No one likes a soggy fried green tomato.

Fill a small mixing bowl with buttermilk. In a separate mixing bowl, mix together the flour, corn meal, salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, and 2 teaspoons of sugar until well-combined.

Dip the tomato slice in buttermilk then cover well with flour mixture. Repeat the dipping process one more time then place in hot oil. Cook until well-browned on each side. Drain tomato slices on a layer of paper towels. After each batch is cooked and transferred to paper towel, sprinkle lightly with sugar. This step is optional, but it's one I never leave out and I've been told they have the perfect balance of "tang and sweetness".