Thursday, November 29, 2012

Biscoff Blondies

I found something wonderful... Biscoff Spread.  Yes, as in a spread made from the wonderful Biscoff cookies.  If you've never had a Biscoff cookies, I demand you go out and find a box and eat them.  Right now.  Not ten minutes from now - RIGHT NOW!

Okay, did you go get some?  Good.  Now you know what I'm talking about.  So just imagine a spread made in that same flavor.  Yes, it is just as good as it sounds.  All rich and decadent and delicious (and to think it isn't even chocolate!).... yum.  It's one of those, "Make you wanna slap yo momma" good things!  Now, Biscoff has both creamy and crunchy spread.  Crunchy?  Yes - as in the crunchy bits are the Biscoff cookies themselves!!  I haven't found the crunchy in stores but I have heard of this legend on other blogs and they say it is just as good as the creamy.  I cannot imagine anything being better than the creamy but I won't know until I try it!

Biscoff spread can be a little difficult to find but I don't recommend substituting regular peanut butter spread simply because the Biscoff flavors this so much and I think you'd really have to do some amp-ing up of flavors to achieve good results.  If you find the Biscoff spread, by all means, have at this recipe.  You won't regret it!!  (Side note:  You can purchase it on Amazon.  This might be a bad idea, knowing I don't have to search for this and we might end up with cases on this stockpiled like I'm awaiting the end of the world.... )

Biscoff Blondies
courtesy of Two Peas and Their Pod

1/4 c. Butter (salted.  If using unsalted, add 1/4 tsp. salt)
1 c. Brown Sugar, light
1/4 c. Biscoff Spread, creamy
1 egg
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 1/4 c. All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/8 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 c. White Chocolate Chips

1.   Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2.   Grease an 8x8 pan and wait for it be filled with Biscoff goodness.
3.   Melt the butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth.
4.   Remove from the heat, and stir in the Biscoff Spread, stir until creamily combined.
5.   Allow the mixture to cool.
6.   In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
7.   Add the egg to the cooled Biscoff mixture and combine.
8.   Add the vanilla extract and stir to combine.
9.   Pour your Biscoff mixture into your dry ingredients and stir until smooth.
10. Fold in white chocolate chips.
11. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, spreading the batter evenly to the edges of the pan.
12. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden and a toothpick comes out clean.
13. Cool on a wire rack until ready to serve.

Bread Basket: Homemade Hamburger Buns

November is National Bread Month.  I knew I loved November for reasons beyond Thanksgiving and the birthday of yours truly.  I love bread.  I mean, I REALLY love bread.  And bread loves me.  At least I like to think it does.  When Ryan and I got married, the wedding gift I gave to myself (because, hey, you should always pamper yourself every once in awhile) was a bread machine.  I love that thing.  When we moved into our house, my bread machine was the first thing I put in its proper place.  (Not to mention when we went to look at the house, I turned to Ryan and said, "Look honey!  It's the perfect spot to hold my bread machine!"  Seriously.)

I had never made bread before - ever.  But I loved bread and really wanted to try making it myself and I thought the quickest and easiest way would be to purchase a bread machine and then buy tons of cookbooks on bread machine baking.  This bread machine cookbook is by-far my favorite and go to for recipes besides the ever trusty King Arthur Flour website.  I really enjoyed baking bread in my bread machine and as time went on, I wanted to try my hand at baking breads OUTSIDE of my bread machine.  Now, kneading by hand is time consuming albeit a great upper body workout (you try kneading bread dough for ten minutes and see how you feel) and I do enjoy doing it sometimes.  Like when I'm stressed or had a really bad day and need something to beat into submission (because husbands are out of the question).  Yet there is a lovely setting on all bread machines - Dough.  Yes, you let your bread machine do all the hard work while you sip a daiquiri do housework (hehe).  This is a wonderful thing, truly.

Yeast breads seem to be a bit daunting to people and, truth be told, it was to me at first too.  But now I have it down to a science.  I know what temperature to have the water at to get the best reaction out of my yeast (which I buy in bulk, by the way).  The more you do it, the easier it becomes.  One of my greatest discoveries was how to make my own hamburger buns!  Hamburger buns!!  The recipe I use makes eight total.  Now, it's just me and Ryan so what to do with the other?  Freeze them!  They really are easy and always taste really, really good.

I'm not one of those crazy people who thinks you need to go organic for everything or only purchase gluten-free, low-fat everything.  But I do draw the line at preservatives.  I'm not a fan of them so I try to avoid them as much as I can.  And making your own bread is not only cheaper but always better for your health.  The hamburger buns you purchase at the grocery store has so many ingredients (many of which you can't pronounce unless you have a PhD in Chemistry) that its unreal.  Yet homemade hamburger buns only have SEVEN ingredients.  SEVEN!

For comparison purposes, here are the ingredients in Wonder Hamburger Buns: 
Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Barley Malt, Ferrous Sulfate  (Iron), B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate  (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin  (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid)], Water, Sweetener (High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar), Yeast, Soybean Oil, Contains 2% or Less of Wheat Gluten, Salt, Calcium Sulfate, Dough Conditioners (May Contain Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Tricalcium Phosphate, ethoxylated Mono And Diglycerides, Datem, Dicalcium Phosphate, Mono And Diglycerides, Calcium Dioxide, and/or Sorbic Acid), Vinegar, Soy Flour, Yeast Nutrients (May Contain Ammonium Chloride, Ammonium Phosphate, Diammonium Phosphate, Ammonium Sulfate, Monocalcium Phosphate and/or Calcium Carbonate), Cornstarch, Wheat Starch, Enzymes, Calcium Propionate  (to Retain Freshness), Soy Lecithin.

I use Granular Lecithin in some of my breads to aid in preservation but that's it.  Now, how many of you can pronounce all those ingredients?  And can tell me what all they do?  Yeah, didn't think so.  If you really want to take good, active steps towards making your family healthier, baking your own breads is a very good place to start.

Homemade Hamburger Buns
courtesy of KAF's Baker's Companion

3/4 to 1 c. Water (around body temperature.  You can determine the temp the same way you do a baby bottle - feeling with the underside of your wrist.)
2 Tbsp. Butter, melted
1 Egg
3 1/2 c. All-Purpose Flour (or whole wheat)
1/4 c. Sugar
1 1/4 tsp. Salt (kosher is preferred)
1 Tbsp. Instant Yeast
1 Tbsp. Butter, melted (to brush on buns before baking)

1.  Combine all ingredients together and mix until well combined, using 3/4 c. of water to start with. 
Note:  Why the variation in the amount of water?  Well, first off, if you're using whole wheat flour, you'll need to add more water because whole wheat needs additional water to really make it cohesive.  Secondly, yeast doughs are affected by a lot of different factor - the temperature inside your house, the humidity, etc.  If your dough is too dry, you'll add a little more water or if it's too wet, you'll add more flour.
2.  Knead dough by hand for ten minutes, until you have a smooth and supple dough.  (If using a bread machine, use your machine's instruction on how to add the ingredients.  Mine is liquid-dry-yeast.)
3.  Cover and let dough rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours or until doubled in height.  (If using a bread machine, allow it complete its dough cycle.)
4.  Using a knife or dough scraper, sprayed with cooking spray, divide the dough into EIGHT portions (I use the pizza slicing method to make sure they're all the same size).
5.  Now you shape the dough into smooth balls (my method means turning the dough in my hand while pushing the dough inward so it gets all smooth on top).
6.  On a large baking sheet, covered in parchment or sprayed with cooking spray, evenly spread out your balls of dough.
7.  Gently press down the dough until it is about 3 to 3 1/2 inches wide.
8.  Cover the buns and allow to rise for 1 hour (they won't look doubled).
9.  While you buns are rising for the second time, preheat your oven to 375.
10. Brush with melted butter (you can top with sesame seeds now if you like!).
11. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden.


For more detailed instructions and pictures, please visit the King Arthur Flour Baking Banter blog.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tips-N-Tricks Tuesday - Bacon... Frozen?

New series a'comin'!  Tips-N-Tricks Tuesday!  Every once in awhile, I come across a post that just some really cool information that I never knew before.  Instead of adding it to a post where people will have to search, scratching their head, going, "It was here somewhere................. "  And then they drown in the abyss of the internet.  So I decided I would just start a new series!  Sometimes, I may post actual recipes (like making your own pumpkin pie spice) or I may post little tips and tricks (hence the name) for little things in life to help you out in the kitchen.

So, as the inaugural post (the election was last week so I feel comfortable using the term, plus I like big words, big $.50 words!), we are going to post a tip about Ryan's favorite food group - Bacon.  Yes, according to my husband, it is a food group.  It's apparently right in between breads/whole grains and fruit and vegetables, meaning you need to eat to eat around 5 servings a day.  Yeah, nothing wrong with that *roll eyes*  Anyhoo, most people, if you're like myself, do not use an entire package of bacon before it goes bad.  And if you've ever seen bacon that's gone bad, you completely understand the urgent need for this post.  The original post came from America's Test Kitchen which is known for doing some wild and crazy things in the name of, not only science, but of the kitchen.  Why no one had ever thought of this, I have no idea.  Sometimes, the information they post is so unbelievably simple that you just want to smack yourself on the head for not thinking of it first.  This is one of those times!

Freezing Bacon

Taking two to four individual slices of bacon, roll up the bacon until they become a tight cylinder.
Put bacon cylinders into a ziploc bag and seal.
Put bacon cylinders into your freezer and lay flat until completely frozen.  (The reason for this is to ensure the bacon does not freeze in between the small spaces on the shelves.)
Once they are completely frozen, you can put them anywhere in the freezer.
When you need some bacon, defrost and you are ready to go.

Original ATK Post

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

Hi folks!  You might notice a lack of cookie recipes in the upcoming month.  Why?  Because I am participating in the 2nd Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!  A ton of bloggers (over 500!) are participating in this year's event, including yours truly for the very first time :)  Basically, all participants get names and addresses of three people who are participating and you have to send them one dozen cookies.  So by the time it's all said and done, I'll have sent out 36 cookies and I'll be getting a dozen cookies from 3 different people.  How cool is that???  I'm not allowed to post the recipe of which cookie I select to send out to the lovely people who get chosen for me so while I'm off experimenting with my recipes, I won't be posting them.  However, you will get to see the finished recipe on Dec. 12th and I'll try to post pictures of the cookies I receive shortly thereafter.  See y'all on Dec. 12th!  (Yeah, I'll be around until then posting other stuff so I won't leave you completely since I know y'all love me so much =D )

 The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Freezer Baking Cheat Sheet

Have you looked at a calendar lately?  It's friggin NOVEMBER!  ALREADY!!  Christmas commercials are already being shown on TV (I'm looking at you Target).  Now, I love Christmas as much as the next person - just ask my husband.  I grew up with a father who started listening to Christmas music in JULY.  And I won't lie - I do it too.  White Christmas is one of my favorite movies of all time and I will watch it at any time (again, just ask my husband).  Bing Crosby just has one of those voices that just makes you float away on a soft, puffy cloud on a bright, sunshine-y day while the birds land on your finger and whistle in tune... okay, that may be a bit excessive but you get the idea.  But I need to get through the baking items of Thanksgiving before I can even begin planning what Christmas things I'm going to bake.

I do love the holiday for more than just my love of Bing Crosby.  As you may have guessed, another reason is simply because it gives me an excuse to bake.  A lot.  I've loved baking since I was a little girl and its turned into a love that's continued on into my adulthood (or just really-super-grown-up-little-kid, that works too).  Each year, my best friend and I put our cooking/baking skills to good use and make up Christmas tins full of baked goodies for our family to enjoy.  However, last year, my world was turned upside down.  My father was diagnosed with diabetes.  And, you guessed it, he was one of the main people I got to try my recipes (if it was terrible, he'd tell me, no dancing around with him).  That just presented a huge problem because last year was the first year where I was like, "I'm going to bake gifts this year."  Yeah, that worked.  I did end up making him lots of spice mixes for him to use all the meat he likes to eat (dad is a hunter and the freezer is usually well stocked with venison and pheasant and sometimes you'll even find some wild boar) so everything came out okay.

Back to baking for the holiday season.  Because it's November.  November 8th people - as in 14 days until Thanksgiving and 47 days until Christmas.  You should begin freaking out now.  Or....... you can use my Freezer Baking Cheat Sheet!  Baking ahead of time can cause a large amount of your holiday headaches to go away.  I know that I've always wanted to try baking and freezing items to use a moment's notice but I either couldn't find what I was looking for and got ill and gave up or just decided to make something else.  With this cheat sheet, you have easily within your reach, the ability to have scones, pies, biscuits, breads, and even CINNAMON ROLLS ready to go at a moments notice (I've even gone the extra mile and told you how you can have individual cinnamon rolls ready to go in a moment's notice which might wreak havoc on your waistline but oh well).  I've included keep times for how long you can keep those items in the freezer without suffering an effects on the taste or texture.  I must, MUST give complete credit to the awesome people at King Arthur Flour who did all the work and posted their results on their blog.  I just compiled all that stuff and put it all together.

Freezer Baking Cheat Sheet
(if anyone has issues opening this - which you shouldn't - please leave a comment below.)