I cannot believe I've been blogging about food for two years now! I never imagined my little new year's resolution to make a few new recipes would turn into this. I've pushed myself outside of my cooking and baking comfort zone, ate a tons of great food, and had a ton of fun!
The Bread of the Month for December is nutella bread. I had planned to sit out December's bread, but since I still had a partially used jar of nutella from the sweet crepes earlier this month, I decided to jump in! The bread is so yummy and a great bread for this month! I loved the hazelnut chocolate swirl of goodness in the middle of the bread!
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/3 cup nutella + more for spreading inside
3/4 c to 1 cup warm water
1. Mix flour, salt, yeast and nutella together in a bowl with a dough hook. Let dough mix for about 10 minutes once ingredients have formed a ball. The dough should be tacky but not too sticky.
2. Oil a bowl and let dough rise until doubled.
3. Place dough on counter and roll until about 1/2 inch thick and as wide as the pan you intend to use. Pipe lines of nutella lengthwise along the bread. (I ended up with about 5 lines each about 1/2 inch thick.) Roll dough and place seam side down into 9x5 pan.
4. Let dough rise until doubled.
5. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on rack.
I have decided to have some fun with my kid's lunches and experiment with bento boxes. My sister-in-law inspired me with pics of the fun lunches she was doing for her kids.
What is bento? Another Lunch a bento food blogger has this definition:
Bento is a way of packing meals in a compact way in a single container. Bentos should be visually appealing and be comprised of assorted foods - smaller portions of each, but providing more variety over all.
Tidbits from wikipedia-
Bento is a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine.
It is still common for Japanese homemakers to spend time and energy for their spouse, child, or themselves producing a carefully prepared lunch box.
I started looking around and could not believe how many bento food bloggers I found! There are such fun and creative ideas to experiment with! I'm just getting started and they stay to start slow and just try one thing at a time. Here are my first few attempts at doing bento boxes.
PB&J with heart sandwich cutter
snowflake and snowman cheese
and a candy cane.
Snack Time: A bento for snack at the playground.
Cheese bits from the leftover cheese scraps.
It's quite an orange snack isn't it!
Ham and cheese flower pressed sandwiches
thin apple slices
cucumbers on pick
and candy cane.
PB&J sushi roll sandwiches
oatmeal applesauce blueberry mini muffin (recipe post to come)
chocolate dipped marshmallows (post to come)
greek yogurt for one and orange pepper for the other
The final touch to my cookie plate this year is chocolate covered candy canes! I dipped the top section in dark chocolate and then streaked over it with white chocolate. It was a bit more difficult than I anticipated, but a fun first year attempt. I'll definitely try them again.
Aren't these just begging for a cup of cocoa to dunk/melt them in!
Another little addition to my cookie plate this year. Peppermint Fudge!
I made the simple fudge-in-a-box from the store this year. I think Carnation makes it and it has all the ingredients- sugar, condensed milk, chocolate chips, and marshmallows and I added the butter. So simple. I added the peppermint "sugar" on top from crushed candy canes. The plate is almost complete!
I must admit I've been dreading this bread since I began the challenge. Stollen is a holiday bread and this stollen is a take off of traditional Christmas bread from Dresden Germany. Not having grown up with traditional breads like these I don't really get their appeal. What's with all the fruit in the bread?! As I've said many times, I don't like fruit in my bread. Particularly raisins! I did put the candied fruit in this bread but I omitted the raisins. I just can't go there anymore.
I'm not necessarily opposed to liquor in bread though. The fruit was soaked in brandy and lemon extract before being added to the bread.
The dough came together well and used butter and eggs. Now that I've baked more bread I understand the softness these additions make to the dough. Orange and lemon zest were also added along with slivered almonds. I noticed something with my slivered almonds though. I bought "slivered almonds" in the bulk section. They look like little toothpicks. Then, I noticed in Reinharts picture that his almonds look like "sliced almonds"- almonds that have been thinly shaved. I wonder if there is a standard set or perhaps someone used the improper term.
Shaping the dough was a little difficult. Reinhart explains with both words and pictures but I must admit I never fully felt like I was shaping it was he was picturing/describing.
The bread cooked in about 40 minutes. When I tested the temperature after 40 minutes I was shocked it was only reading around 85 as it was supposed to be at 190 when done. The crust was golden and it sure looked done. I almost put it back in for longer but then noticed the C for Celsius. Oops. I clicked it over to Fahrenheit. 195. Done!
The bread was okay. The crust was crunchy and the bread soft. The fruit was not as off-putting as I assumed it would be but I was still very happy I'd omitted the raisins. It was better than I expected, but I must admit my expectations were pretty low. This kind of holiday bread just isn't for me. I'd rather slather butter over a roll or make challah at the holidays.
I found this recipe in a fun cookbook/memoir A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg who also food blogs at Orangette. I loved her book. It was full of funny family stories, mostly centering around food, and then each short chapter ended with a recipe or two. As I was reading it I kept feeling so in sync with Molly. There were so many stories I could relate to or just thought were hysterical. I wish we could be friends. Based on her book, I think we have a lot in common. She said she avoided these balls for years and years and then one year made them and ever since they've been a holiday must-do!
If you've kept track this is my 5th ball recipe for my holiday plate- excessive, I know. What can I say- it just kinda happened...
1 1/2 cup walnuts
2/3 lb pitted dried cherries
1/3 lb dried figs
1/2 lb pitted dried apricots
1/3 lb pitted prunes
1 or 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, or brandy
1/2 cup powdered sugar
10 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1. Finely chop the walnuts in a food processor. Transfer to a large bowl.
2. Check the prunes for pits! One pit in the processor will turn into billions of tiny rocks.
3. Add half of the dried fruit to the food processor bowl and pulse until finely chopped. Pieces should be the size of pea or smaller. Do not turn the fruit into gummy paste! Add the fruit to the large bowl an repeat with the remaining fruit. When all the fruit it chopped stir the fruit and nut mixture well.
4. Add one tablespoon of the Grand Marnier and stir to incorporate. Pinch off a small wad and check to see if it holds together in a tight ball. If it does not add another tablespoon of Grand Marnier.
5. Form into 1 to 1 1/2 inch balls and roll in powdered sugar. Set on a baking sheet and let stand uncovered for 24 hours at room temperature.
6. Line a second baking sheet with a silicone line (or parchment). In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt the chocolate.
7. Bring the chocolate and balls near the sink. Take one ball at a time and spoon a dollop of chocolate on top. Coax the chocolate down by shaking the ball slightly. Do this over the sink as not to contaminate your chocolate. The chocolate will not cover the ball completely. Set the ball, chocolate side up, on the baking sheet and repeat.
8. Slide the baking sheet into the fridge and chill until the chocolate has hardened, about 2 hours. Place each ball in a paper candy cup. Store in the fridge in an airtight container.
A favorite of my father-in-law's and my third ball for the cookie plate. If you like chocolate and orange together you'll love these!!! I was told that the 2-3 days of 'ripening' is quite important so plan accordingly when you prepare. These would be a great make-ahead dessert for any occasion!
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup butter, cold and cubed
12 oz white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter, finely chopped
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 drops red food coloring
2 tsp shortening
White/Red nonpareils or edible glitter
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread cherries on a paper towel to drain.
2. In a bowl of a food processor combine flour and sugar. Add the butter, almond extract, and food coloring and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
3. Move mixture to a large bowl and stir in the cherries and 2/3 cup (4 oz) of the chopped white chocolate. Knead mixture until it forms a ball.
3. Shape the dough into 3/4 inch balls. Place on a cookie sheet. Flatten the cookies into 1 1/2 inch rounds. (Using the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar works very nicely.)
4. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cookies cool completely on wire rack.
5. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 8 oz of white chocolate and the shortening. Cook on low until melted. Dip half of each cookie into the chocolate. Allow the excess to drip off. Roll the edge in nonpareils or edible glitter. Place on waxed paper until chocolate is set.
My sister Angie makes the best holiday cookie plates! She does much better at the balanced assortment of goodies than I do. I'm always trying new things (i.e. cookie failure!) and sometimes I get a little bit of tunnel vision and my plate becomes too much of one thing. (This year turned out to be all about balls!) Angie has her tried and true favorites and sticks to them. She's really perfected them.
Every year I look forward to her bourbon balls and perhaps even more so now because they're the one thing on the plate I don't have to share with my kids!
My sister was kind enough to share her recipe with me this year. Funny thing- the recipe calls for 'vanilla wafers'. I went to the store to get them and on my way down the cookie aisle I saw Nilla wafers. I stopped in my tracks. "Oh, I bet those are what I'm supposed to use!" Can you guess what I was on my way to get? Those little vanilla creme wafers with frosting in the middle. I wonder how that would have turned out. Lots of sugary frosting and not much bulk in the little wafer to hold the cookie together. Whew, cookie failure averted!
Bourbon Balls- Angie's Recipe
I was mentioning my sister's bourbon balls in my in-laws and they started telling great stories about Grandma's bourbon balls. It seems she was known for her strong bourbon balls. It seemed a little test was in order.
Grandma Bailey's Bourbon Balls
The recipes are practically identical except for two point. 1. Grandma uses melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder and 2. the amount of alcohol. Angie's balls use 1/4 cup of bourbon. Grandma's balls use 1/3 cup of bourbon, however the stories that were related led me to believe this is how Grandma measured her 1/3 of a cup: She placed the measuring cup over the bowl with the ingredients and poured until the cup overflowed and then kept pouring for just a moment longer.
Grandma Bailey's Bourbon Balls
Both recipes are great, each is just a little different. Angie's balls are little more crumbly and Grandma's balls are little more smooth- like eating a piece of fudge.
1. Mix together the wafers, sugar, cocoa and nuts. Add the corn syrup and bourbon, mix well.
2. Roll into 1" balls and roll in granulated sugar.
Tip: These are best "aged". Make them at least 2 weeks ahead of time for a mellower flavor. If you prefer stronger alcohol flavor, make them and eat them right away. No need to refrigerate, with all that booze, they'll keep at least as long as it takes to eat them!
If there is any cookie that could rival my cocoa crinkle sandwich cookies, it would be these peanut butter rollo cookies- at least in my hubby's mind. I've been making these for years and they are his absolute favorite cookie. He very sweetly asked me to make them for the holiday plate this year.
We'll see if they actually make it on to the plate with the rate they're disappearing! Mental note for next year: make them last so they don't sit around too long!
Usually I roll them in regular sugar, but to give them a little more holiday spirit I rolled them in green sugar. Aren't they festive!
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
Sugar for rolling
1. Cream the butter, peanut butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and incorporate. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until combined.
2. Take a small amount of dough and place a rollo in the middle. Roll the ball in sugar and place on a cookie sheet. (The 24-40 rolls is such a large range because it simple depends on how big you like your cookies and how much cookie you like around your rollo. I prefer smaller cookies so I usually use 40 or so rollos, but I have made them larger before.)
3. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool on a wire rack.
It's time to start my annual holiday cookie plate! I've made these Cocoa Crinkle Sandwich Cookies for the past 4 years. They are absolute must-do cookie for the season. I always think of my oldest daughter Charlotte when I make these because I was HUGELY pregnant with her the first time I made them- 39 1/2 weeks along.
Do yourself a favor this holiday season. Make these cookies! My hubby's co-workers affectionately call them Christmas crack.
The Modern Bakers are now baking cookies, bars, and biscotti! If you've paid attention you may be wondering, but wait, what about cakes! Well, we've decided the skip the cakes and jump into the cookies since we're all often baking so many cookies during these time of year anyway. We're going to spend a long time in this section as many of us want to bake every recipe!
These cookies take a slight twist on the ever classic chocolate chip cookies. When I first read the ingredients I was a little disappointed there wasn't any butterscotch chips in the cookies. The butterscotch flavor is created by using only brown sugar in the cookies. The chocolate chunks are half milk chocolate and half bittersweet chocolate.
I thought there would be little learn from a cookie I've made many many times in my life, but N.M. added a small note in this recipe that may very well change my cookie baking life forever! He warned not to overbeat the dough or the cookies with rise and then flatten during baking. My cookie often do this and in the past I've thought it was stale baking soda that caused this. N.M. instructs the flour to be added by hand after the egg is incorporated. I followed his instructions and my cookies were in fact puffy! Thank you Nick!!
I told my stepmom about this trick and she was equally intrigued because they happen to prefer flattened cookies and she never knew why some of her batches turned out that way and others didn't. She plans to overbeat her batter from now on.
Oh, and the cookies- they were great! Personally, I would have preferred all milk chocolate chips, but that's just me. These are a great classic. And for those dough lovers like myself- the cookie dough was also delicious!
This tasty dessert crepe is begging for it's own tradition! We made these Thanksgiving morning and it seemed the perfect sweet treat to have mid-morning before the big meal at the end of the day.
I'd really like to say we've found a new Thanksgiving morning tradition, but that might mean waiting until next Thanksgiving to do these again and I'm just not sure I can wait that long!
We made our crepes with Nutella and strawberries and it was just as good as I remembered it at Karen's when she shared this recipe with me earlier this year. I topped ours off with whipped cream and powdered sugar.
My oldest asked for thirds of whipped cream (that's so me). My youngest smashed her hands in the whipped cream and finally came up to me with hands up "yucky". She wouldn't touch her crepe until all the offending whipped cream was removed from her plate (that's so my hubby).
My dear friend Karen at Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market posted a buckwheat crepe recipe earlier this year. She's also my friend in real life and did me one better than just posting about it. She had us over for brunch crepes one Sunday! She served these buckwheat crepes and then we did dessert crepes. It was a heavenly morning of crepe making!
Crepes are a bit intimidating at first. The batter is so thin and it does take a little practice in flipping. She says to "flip with confidence" and she's right. With some confidence and some practice crepe making is a synch! I've been very eager to give these buckwheat crepes a try as they are surprisingly filling for just a little thin crepe.
Here's the glossy batter at the start.
And, here's what it looks like when it's ready to flip- dull with permanent bubbles.
1 cup flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 Tbs butter, melted
a pinch of salt
4 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 cup cubed ham
12 mushrooms, sliced
1. Batter. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender. Mix until smooth. For ease during crepe making, pour batter into a large measuring beaker. Let batter rest for an at least an hour before using.
2. Filling. Saute the mushrooms in garlic and butter or oil. Set aside. Prepare other fillings and have them at the ready.
3. Melt a thin pat of butter and coat your pan with it. Pour in the crepe batter slowly. While you pour swirl the pan so the batter coats the pan. Cook until the batter changes from a glossy to a dull, pale appearance and permanent bubbles appear on top. Slide a spatula under the crepe and "flip with confidence". (The confidence part is important!)
4. Sprinkle a thin layer of cheese, ham, and mushrooms on half of the crepe. Let the cheese melt and the second side cook for a few moments. Flip the naked half over the filling and slide onto a plate. Eat!
I've fallen into a good rut with my Deceptively Delicious cookbook lately. We just keep repeating our favorites and not venturing out on new recipes much lately. I got a ton of puree at the end of the summer with the over abundance on yellow squash from my parent's garden. I'll keep up all the fun deception this winter!
Here are two recipes we tried awhile ago.
"Buttered" Noodles- yellow squash puree. A hit!
Burgers- cauliflower puree. Me-not a huge hamburger fan anyway and thought they were okay. Dad liked the flavor but didn't like the texture. Charlotte was so-so on it but that's how she is with any burger. Pippi ate it up!