Food Friday – I Love It, I Love It Not

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from Tracey G.

I absolutely love June – it’s one of my favorite berry seasons – strawberry!!! We have a few local u-pick berry farms, and this time of year people go pick, then sell them on the sides of the road for a nominal cost.  Totally worth it to me to not have to do the work to reap the rewards of fresh, local berries with flavor! Much more reasonably priced than the grocery store berries and way tastier too, since they weren’t picked and shipped across country to me, lol.

So, I found this recipe for Strawberry Cream on Shortbread in King Arthur Flour’s Mixed Bag recipe category under “Fruit Desserts”. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to make it! But I didn’t have any fresh berries to work with, the local sellers hadn’t appeared yet – I was rather bummed until I read in Tips From Our Bakers, to feel free to use frozen berries! Yes! I was good! I always have them on hand, either ones I’ve frozen myself or store-bought frozen strawberries. Game on! It worked out perfect – I had everything I needed to make this on hand! They even have a Strawberry Cream on Shortbread walk-through as well!

The recipe is easy to follow and the ingredients are simple. Perfect combination! For the crust you need: Butter, powdered sugar, salt, flour and vanilla. The filling ingredients are: strawberries (fresh or frozen), lemon juice, sugar, plain gelatin, water and heavy whipping cream.

Mix all the ingredients for the crust, and press into your prepared pan. And here you have a choice, either a 9-inch square or a 9-inch round springform pan. Since my 9-inch square pan was busy, and I wanted a prettier presentation – springform it was! The crust took a few extra minutes to bake, but no big deal.

While the crust was cooling, I made the berry-mixture. In a blender you combine the berries, sugar and lemon juice. After you soften and melt your gelatin in the water by heating gently either in microwave or on the stove, you add it to the blender. Blend until it’s all processed well together. You then refrigerate the berries, stirring every 15 min until they are moundable on a spoon. They said approximately 45 minutes, but it wasn’t quite that long for me. When they are ready, you whip your cream until stiff peaks form. Then, you carefully fold your berry-gelatin mixture into it thoroughly, and spread on your cooled crust. Refrigerate until ready to serve and give it time to set.

To serve you can garnish it with fresh berries or crushed sweetened berries – or both! This is most certainly something I will make again, and likely often since I can use frozen berries. This was one of the best desserts ever and it’s super easy!! I also noticed that by using fresh chopped strawberries to garnish, that their juice in combination with the shortbread crust, was very strawberry shortcake-esque!! Wonderful! I will be making Strawberry Cream on Shortbread a permanent entry into my recipe book!!!

 

from Kris B.

Let’s just chalk this week’s recipe up to an exercise in self-realization.  I must say at the outset, I don’t like blue cheese.  That, however, is not part of the week’s self-realization; I already knew that thanks to a bout of food poisining caused by blue cheese salad dressing while on a college wind ensemble tour over thirty years ago. I still carry a grudge!  So why then did  I choose to make a Blue Cheese Spread?

I may have mentioned in a previous post that my husband and I spent our honeymoon in Vermont.  In addition to enjoying a day on the King Arthur Campus in Norwich, VT., we also spent a day on Bonnieview Farm with the Urie family making artisan cheese.  As a reminder of our fabulous time on the farm, we now subscribe to a monthly delivery of cheeses made on Bonnieview Farm.  It just so happens that this month, we had an abundance of blue cheese.  Because I don’t eat it at all and even Weber, who likes blue cheese a lot, can only it so much of it at a time, I needed to find some way to use it.  This is how I ended up with King Arthur Flour’s Blue Cheese Spread, a recipe found in their Mixed Bag collection.

The Blue Cheese Spread is simple to make.  Cream cheese and honey are combined using a mixer until fluffy.  Then the crumbled  blue cheese, thyme, and freshly ground  pepper are added.  Heavy whipping cream is then used to thin the spread to achieve  the desired consistency.  I didn’t mind making this recipe because Weber did the part I wasn’t keen on; he crumbled the blue cheese.

Here’s where the real moment of truth occurred for me.  I had a hard time photographing the cheese dip in a way that it looked minimally palatable let alone delicious.  Despite trying different angles and dishes and garnishes, it just never looked “right” to me.  I finally realized that the reason I couldn’t “make it work” is because I had no relationship with the food itself.  I always choose recipes for things that I will enjoy eating.  My “reward” for making and then shooting the food is then getting to eat it.  I know.  Sad. But oh so true.  This is probably an indication that I would not ever make a good professional food photographer.  You want me to photograph oysters???  I don’t think so!

Despite all that, the word from Weber, who does like blue cheese, is that the Blue Cheese Spread is quite tasty.  The one thing that I might do differently is add more thyme.  It is barely noticeable in my recipe.  Also, I probably should have made the accompanying crackers, but I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm for that either.

My final word on this recipe is that if you like blue cheese, try it!  Word on the street is that it’s quite good.

Blue Cheese Spread from King Arthur Flour

 

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Food Friday – June 2017 King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge: Classic Baguette

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from Tracey G.

After the simple, but what felt like many steps of last month’s Bakealong Challenge, I was really excited to see this month’s Bakealong Challenge: a Classic Baguette. The Classic Baguette is something that was on my list of “will try” – but with no specific time-frame in mind, so this pushed me into it. And I was ready!

I read the recipe, “Classic Baguette” and read through the Bakealong Baguette Walk-Through, and was itching to get started, this looked like a fun project. Any time I can create something at home, that I only usually buy in a the grocery store, I’m all for it. That makes it a fun challenge all the way around!

This recipe is easy and it’s simple in terms of ingredients – flour, yeast, salt and water. The only “extra step” is making a simple overnight starter out of flour, yeast and water. You have to let that sit for about 14 hours or so, so it works out really well to make it before bedtime and let it sit at room temperature overnight.

The next day you’re ready to rock! I mixed it all as directed, but then I followed the “slow rise” directions in the “Tips” section. Instead of almost 2 hours, I let it go 3. The rest I followed right along. The shaping was fairly simple too, I was pleased with my results for my first time ever making this classic bread!

As for the steam-baking, I didn’t use a cast iron pan in the bottom of my oven for the “steam factor”, as I’ve read a few things that it can ruin the seasoning on your pan. So unless you have a cast iron pan you’re willing to let serve the purpose without regard to it, give it a go! I used a cheap disposable foil 13×9 inch pan.  Seemed to work well!

Once my bread cooled, I couldn’t wait to try it! I sliced off a few pieces and was so excited and happy, not to mention astonished I’d made this in my OWN oven!! In my kitchen! Yeah!! You can bet I will be making these often, I think I at almost one whole loaf myself, plain, with nothing on it whatsoever. Just enjoying the taste of the bread!

This was a fun and instructional Classic Baguette Bakealong Challenge, I feel I now have a whole new skill, thanks to King Arthur Flour!

from Kris B.

Like Tracey, I was excited to try the Classic Baguette that is this month’s King Arthur Bakealong Challenge.  Baguettes in France are like tortillas here in Texas.  They are a simple bread that is served with almost every meal.  I remember when I visited France being thrilled by the fact that I could walk down the street and find a vendor selling baguettes in front of every market and on almost every street corner.  Sometimes they were even stuffed with hot dogs! The free-flowing baguettes and the street vendors who sold crepes with Nutella were some of my favorite things to see in France, only slightly less thrilling than Notre Dame and Chartres Cathedral.  Lol!  Yes.  Travel is all about the food as far as I am concerned!

Back to this week’s baguettes…

As is usually the case, Tracey read the entire recipe before I did and gave me the heads up about needing to make the poolish, or starter, ahead of time.  It is simple to make, consisting of flour, yeast, and water that are mixed together and then sit at room temperature for at least 14 hours.  Mine probably sat closer to eighteen hours before I made my baguettes.

As Tracey said, baguettes require a minimum of ingredients – only flour, salt, yeast and water, and the starter that was made ahead – making them a perfect bread for everyday.  All of the ingredients are mixed together and then kneaded.  I used the dough hook on my mixer and kneaded for about four minutes as suggested in the King Arthur Flour recipe.

Just so that we had a means of comparison, I used the shorter rise times for my baguettes.

As you may have figured, it is the shaping of the dough that makes it a traditional baguette, though interestingly, the lean dough (i.e. containing no fat) is dictated by French law, not the actual shape of the loaves.  The word “baguette” means stick or wand.  Traditionally, French baguettes are 2 – 2 1/2 inched in diameter and are usually about twenty-six inches in length, though they can be made as long as a meter, or thirty-nine inches.  King Arthur’s Bakealong Challenge recipe makes three fifteen inch baguettes because most of us don’t have ovens big enough to bake thirty-nine inch loaves of bread!  If you prefer, you can also make six smaller (7-8 inch) baguettes.

After the initial ninety minute rise, the dough is separated into three (or six) pieces and rests for fifteen minutes before the long loaves are shaped.  Each of my pieces was 12 5/8 ounces.

I was a little concerned that I might have trouble shaping my loaves correctly.  As I have mentioned before, my oldest daughter is a trained pastry chef.  I asked her if she had any helpful suggestions.  I should know better than to ask Brooke for help.  Though she is excellent at baking she is even better at sarcasm.  Her words of wisdom were, ” Make sure that your loaf doesn’t look like a snake that swallowed a rat.”  Umm…OK.  I take that to mean that the loaves should look like hungry snakes, long with an even thickness along the entire loaf.  The King Arthur walk-through shows exactly how to fold and then shape the dough.  I then used a baker’s lame, for the first time, to make the slits in the top.  Every now and then my daughter let’s me play with her toys.

A Lame (pronounced LAHM, meaning “blade” in French) is typically a long thin stick made to hold a metal razor used to cut, or score, bread dough to help control the expansion of the loaf as it bakes.

I always like it when I learn something new, however, scissors or a sharp knife will also work just fine!

When I baked my loaves, I also was not willing to sacrifice the seasoning on my cast iron skillet so used a disposable pan for the water for the steam.  The steam is necessary to get the crackling crust associated with artisan loaves.

The bake time suggested in the recipe is 24-28 minutes.  I baked mine 25 minutes and they were plenty done.  I mention this because I often have to cook things for the maximum suggested time in my oven.  I was concerned that the tops of the loaves would get over-browned had I baked them any longer because I had my oven rack set a notch higher than I normally would for bread to accommodate the pan of water.  In the end, all worked out fine.  Like Tracey, I claim success with the King Arthur Flour Classic Baguettes Bakealong Challenge!

Though this recipe requires a bit of forethought because of the need to make the poolish ahead of time, the ingredients are ones that I always have on hand so I can see homemade baguettes becoming a frequent accompaniment to meals at our house.  Whether a cool salad in the summer or hearty soup during the winter, they are the perfect bread.

And if you choose not to eat all three baguettes at once, they can be frozen and reheated right before serving.  We had one left to freeze. 🙂

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Food Friday – Healthy Whole Grains In Fun Packages!

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From Kris B.

Whenever I bake with whole grains, I feel like I am making an honest attempt at being healthy. Add some blueberries to that, with their antioxidant properties, and I’m feeling even better about my choices.  And add to all that that on June 10th my husband is celebrating a “big” birthday and blueberries are a favorite of his, King Arthur Flour’s 100% Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins were a win-win recipe for me this week. Oh…and they come together quickly and easily, which is also a good thing since I am having twenty-five people for dinner at my house on Saturday to help celebrate the big birthday. Needless to say, my mind has been on a million other things this week.  I needed a recipe that called for pantry staples and was easily executed.

The dry ingredients – whole wheat flour, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and the blueberries (I know, they aren’t a dry ingredient! :-)) – are whisked together in a large bowl. In another bowl, the wet ingredients – buttermilk or yogurt, vegetable oil, and vanilla – are whisked together and then added to the dry ingredients and the blueberries. They are mixed until the ingredients are evenly combined.

I must say that at this point, the batter did not look appetizing at all! The whole wheat flour and brown sugar made the batter much darker than what you expect for “normal” muffins. On top of that, the grayish hue from the blueberries and it looked like I was mixing cement in the bowl. Remember the husband for whom I specifically chose blueberry muffins? He said that the batter looked like canned dog food. Let’s just say that at this point in the process, I was a little, or maybe a lot, concerned about what the final outcome would be.

I soldiered on, scooping the batter into twelve prepared muffin cups and baked the muffins nineteen minutes, splitting the recommended 18-20 minutes down the middle. When I pulled them from the oven, miraculously their color had improved.

The muffins cooled enough to be removed from the muffin tin to the cooling rack where they finished cooling completely. I looked for the best possible light that I could find to photograph. This too was difficult in that it was pouring rain and my kitchen is fairly dark on a good day!

My family knows that once the photos are taken, whatever I made for the weekly blog post is up for grabs. We were all pleasantly surprised! Despite making fun of the uncooked batter, everyone sang the praises of the cooked muffins. Let’s just say that four of us took care of eight of the muffins with no problem! Whew! What looked at first like it might be a disaster turned out to be a success! Yes!!!

Thanks, King Arthur, for a new healthy-ish family favorite!

100% Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

from Tracey G

After last week’s pastry recipe, I was in the mood for something that really didn’t involve a whole lot of effort. Not that the Tasty Toaster Tarts were all that “labor intensive” by any means, I guess I was just wanting a no-brainer this week! LOL! The chocolate chip cookies I made for Harry’s class at school last week, disappeared quick around here. I’d made enough for a small army, so after packaging up the treats for his class, I had PLENTY left over, but you’d never know it – I think they were all gone in a matter of two days. I believe I only had one or two out of all of them!

So, as I started my research for a Whole Grain/Whole Wheat recipe, I wanted something that’s not the first thing you’d think to make with whole wheat etc., my brain immediately went to cookies. I then ran across this cookie recipe for Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies using KAF White Whole Wheat Flour, it totally filled the bill! I was really eager to give it try, but I wondered would the boys know something was different? What would the texture be like?

The recipe had a few things different that I’ve never added to a chocolate chip cookie. Of course it had all the usual suspects: butter, chips, vanilla, an egg, and so forth. But it also included some different things like a wee bit of espresso powder (which I can tell you I am going to try experimenting with it in a non-whole wheat chocolate chip recipe, I really liked the bit of extra “something” it gave them!), a teensy bit of cider vinegar and the addition of honey.

It all came together easily, and let me say the dough tasted extremely promising, lol. I know, I know, not supposed to eat raw cookie dough blah blah blah, but there was no way I could help myself, lol. Cookie dough and I have a long-standing relationship! So, I thought if the dough is this good, the final cooked version of it must be as equally good, and it was!! And if you follow the baking directions – they stay super soft, wow, really yummy!

The boys loved them, and neither knew or could tell they were made with a whole wheat flour until I told them, well, I told Jeremy – not Harry! LOL! That’s a big score for me, I can get some healthy whole grains into Harrison without him being the wiser – he just thinks he’s eating cookies! Sneaky yes, but totally worth it!! 😉 If you’re looking for a sweet and yummy way to get your grains on, do try the Soft Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe a try!!!

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Food Friday – Pastries, Pies, and Tarts…Oh My!

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from Kris B.

Now that the lazy days of summer are mine to enjoy, I find that I have more time to fix, eat, and savor breakfast.  And once we make it to “real” summer here in Texas, morning is about the only time of day where a hot meal sounds the least bit satisfying.  Enter King Arthur Flour’s Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Quiche, with a bit of spinach added because a little green always makes a meal feel healthier.  Lol!

There really is nothing special about this recipe.  It is a Classic Single Pie Crust made from scratch, which should be obvious from my less than perfect crimping around the edge.  But hey, I don’t often…ever?…have people over for breakfast so I wasn’t too concerned about the aesthetic here.  This crust was totatlly a utilitarian crust!  It won’t be winning any bakeoff awards, but it tastes just fine!

To make the filling, 3/4 of a pound of bacon is fried and then drained.  The recipe calls for onion to be sauteed in butter using another pan.  I cooked the onion in the same pan as the bacon using a tiny bit of the bacon drippings and omitting the butter.  When the onion was almost translucent, I threw a couple handlfuls of spinach on top and let it wilt.  I then let this veggie mixture drain on a paper towel with the bacon.

To assemble the quiche, the eggs, cream, and milk are whisked to gether in a bowl.  The bacon, veggie mixture, cheese and seasonings are added and then this is poured into the prepared pie shell. The quiche then bakes for 40 minutes.  I did bake mine an extra 6 minutes because it did not seem set in the middle after the initial 40 minutes.

Since there are only two of us at my house and we did not eat an entire 9″ quiche for breakfast, I can report that the quiche reheats well and makes for a good lunch and/or dinner as well as breakfast!

from Tracey G

There’s kind of a funny story to how I ended up choosing this particular recipe for Tasty Toaster Tarts….

We were all sitting around one day, and I noticed Jeremy eating store bought toaster pastries, which is ok in itself, but I’d had a bunch of homemade treats laying about and I said so. To which, Jeremy, replied to me with “but there’s no homemade Pop Tarts now is there?” Um. Nope. Had me there. So, when this week’s recipe rotation came around to Pies, Tarts and Turnovers, it was a no-brainer for me as to what kind of recipe I was after! I’d show him! Ha! Homemade toaster pastries here we come!

This is a pretty easy recipe to make, nothing complicated – a very simple crust and simple fillings. Basically it’s like making 9 big ravioli, lol. I went two different ways for fillings, the original in the recipe is brown sugar and cinnamon, then they also give you the directions for a jam/fruit filling which I also tried. As if there’s not enough variations on filling, there’s also provided an alternate crust recipe, using their White Whole Wheat flour, and less fat, by substituting some of the butter with vegetable shortening. So, I tried that route too! This is the crust version that is used in the Flourish Blog walk-through of the Tasty Toaster Tarts.

Both the crust variations mixed up well, and were easy to work with, only trouble I had was feeling like I didn’t have “enough” dough to work with, but it was not a big deal. They rolled out well and it was easy to cut the rolled dough into the directed measurements. You then brush the bottom crust with a beaten egg, fill, and top with second sheet of rolled out dough, and seal around the individual tarts. Now, you can score, bake and then cut them apart, but I preferred to cut them apart and bake individually.

After they’ve baked and cooled completely, you can frost them if you choose – I frosted maybe half of each batch, which was just an simple powdered sugar icing that I added little bit of vanilla to for flavor. I loved the look of the rainbow sprinkles in KAF’s photo so I decided to do that too on my iced tarts.

As for the taste? They are fantastic, I think the first thing Jeremy asked me was “now, can these be frozen?” – I interpret that to mean “can you make more to have on hand?” I loved both crust versions and both filling versions, but I think my favorite filling was the brown sugar & cinnamon one. I think that wound up being my favorite because on the occasions I do eat the store-bought versions, that’s my favorite!

If you have some time, do give KAF’s Tasty Toaster Tarts (say that 5 times fast!) a try – these are definitely a bit more of a grown-up version of the old favorites, the crust is more pie crust than whatever you’d describe the store-bought crust obviously, and wow are they good!!!

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Mix It Up Friday – May 2017

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from Tracey G

This is the first time I’ve tried a non-baked good mix from King Arthur Flour – a soup mix is my mix of choice this week. When I was shopping for mixes to try out, I remembered Kris had tried a soup mix back in December, it was the Sausage and Lentil Soup Mix, so that’s what I decided to look for – a soup to try. I actually found two, and the one I tried this time is the South Of The Border Tortilla Soup Mix. It’s from Frontier Soups (as is the Sausage and Lentil Soup Mix) and I am very glad King Arthur Flour carries it! I can see why the description states: “Named a finalist in the National Association for the Specialty Food Trades’ Outstanding Product competition”, it’s one of the best soups I’ve had, regardless of being a mix or totally homemade-from-scratch! I fell completely in love with it – it’s as good as I’ve had in any restaurant.

The mix is a combination of freeze-dried corn, dehydrated black beans, red bell pepper, green bell pepper and onion. All this with a combination seasonings that pulls it all together wonderfully – you can customize spicy heat if you wanted by what kind of salsa you use. I used mild this time and loved it, and likely wouldn’t do it any different the next time I make it.

It’s super simple, and I made it even simpler by purchasing an already-prepared rotisserie chicken from the grocery store – all I had to do was get the meat off and shred it. The other ingredients you provide aside from the cooked & shredded chicken are: 12-16 ounces of salsa, 6 cup chicken broth and 1 cup of water. That’s it. And since they’re ready-to-go items, it makes this soup a snap to put together.

You start by combining the chicken broth and water, which you bring to a boil. Then you add the soup mix, salsa and chicken. You then cover the pan simmer for about 25 minutes. And that it’s it.

For serving they suggest tortilla chips, crumbled, or tortilla strips in the bottom of the bowl, then ladle soup on top – I used tortilla chips, but I crumbled them on top of the soup already in the bowl, and they really added to the whole soup experience, so I highly recommend serving them with it either way. I also served extra salsa and chips on the table as a “side dish” that was rather fun, more like being out a restaurant. While we were eating it, we discussed the different ways you could change it up – you could try using a yellow corn tortilla chips in it, garnishing with sour cream and/or cheese. It would be good with cheddar cheese, queso fresco – or if you’re feeling adventurous, both! For supper I served it in bowls, for my photo, I opted for a cup – it’s a lovely large teacup that Kris got me from her trip to the U.K. last year, unfortunately the saucer didn’t survive, but the cup was totally unscathed! It’s absolutely gorgeous, and was so excited to use it for my photo!

Bottom line, this is definitely a soup mix I will purchase again, it was so easy and so tasty, a serious win-win!!!

South Of The Border Tortilla Soup Mix

 

 

from Kris B.

Soft pretzels have always been a “go to” snack for me, especially when I am away from home.  When I need a quick pick-me-up while shopping at the mall, I’ll usually search out one of the chain soft pretzel shops and have a cinnamon sugar coated pretzel.  This may not be the healthiest snack choice, but in my opinion, it is definitely a delicious one.  Lol!

Soft pretzels are also a favorite airport “meal.”  When my dad was sick and we were making so many trips between Dallas and Delaware, soft pretzels became my treat in the Philadelphia airport.  They were what I looked forward to after our early morning flights out of Dallas.  We had to change terminals in Philly.  In the terminal where the small commuter planes flew in and out, there was a food court with some of the best soft pretzels I’ve ever had!  They were an easy grab and go between flights.  My monthly airport pretzels are one of the few things I miss about making those all too frequent trips back to the east coast.

This summer, we are not traveling at all.  It seems like we have not had much time in the past few years to just be at home.  It’s like home has just been a springboard launching us toward our next trip.  I enjoy going and doing, but I’m looking forward to the entire summer at home!  Maybe I will actually take the opportunity to clean out all the closets and drawers that have neglected for way too long.

The downside to this year’s summer plan???  No airport pretzels!

Yes, I can and have made soft pretzels myself, but when I want them, I usually want them “right now.”  Enter King Arthur Flour’s boxed mix for Soft Buttery Pretzels.  They do require a little work in that, as with all soft pretzels, they have to be blanched before baking; the mixing, however, is a piece of cake.  Bad analogy there…sorry!  🙂

The Soft Buttery Pretzel Mix comes with a package of dry ingredients, yeast, and coarse salt for topping.  To that you add 2 TBS of soft butter and a cup plus 2 TBS of water.  Knead that all together and then let the dough rest for 30 minutes.  After this resting period, the dough is divided into eight equal parts.  Mine were approximately 3 oz. each.  The pieces are rolled into 20-24 inch ropes and shaped into pretzels.  The mix instructions give easy to follow instructions for how to shape traditional pretzels.  The formed pretzels rest for fifteen minutes and are then blanched in a bath of simmering water and baking soda.  They are placed on a parchment lined baking sheet  and baked for 20-24 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

After completing my pretzels, I read the comments and reviews on the King Arthur website.  Several people complained that the pretzels stuck to the parchment…to such a degree that they were inedible.  I will say that unexpected sticking is something with which I am plagued in my baking, but I had absolutely no issues with my pretzels sticking.  The only suggestion that I have to avoid potential sticking is to use a slotted spoon to remove your pretzels from the water bath, making sure to get rid of all excess water.

Serve the pretzels with your favorite mustard, cheese sauce, or other dipping sauce.  The King Arthur Soft Buttery Pretzel mix comes with coarse salt for topping the pretzels.  For a sweet treat, omit the salt.  After the pretzels come out of the oven, let them cool slightly, brush them with butter, and then dredge them in cinnamon sugar.  Yum!

You can also vary the shape of the pretzels, making everything from pretzel bites to hamburger buns.

This is a versatile mix to have on hand.  Appetizers, snacks, treats, sandwich rolls – all covered in this one little box!

Soft Buttery Pretzel Mix from King Arthur Flour

 

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Food Friday – May 2017 King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge: Berry Blitz Torte

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from Kris B.

When I first read the recipe for Berry Blitz Torte, this month’s King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge, I was not sure that I was onboard for making this one. It contains two things, meringue and pastry cream, of which I am not overly fond. I even texted Tracey and asked if we could ditch this month’s Bakealong recipe for one of King Arthur’s bundt cake recipes instead since King Arthur has deemed this year the Year of the Bundt Cake. Because Tracey is a braver soul than I, she said we should go ahead with the Berry Blitz Torte, So we did. One of us has to be the grownup in this outfit and it is not me!

This recipe has three components – the cream, the cake, and the meringue. On first reading, the more lengthy then usual recipe may seem a bit daunting, but when the instructions for each individual component are taken individually, the process is rather simple. The pastry cream is made first and placed in the refrigerator to chill while the cake and the meringue are made and baked.

Two 8″ cake layers are made. The recipe says that the batter will barely cover the bottom of the pans. This is true! Spread the batter evenly in the pan and move forward in faith. Lol! This thin layer of batter is then topped with the meringue, cinnamon sugar, and slivered almonds. The cakes cook for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. After cooling for a few minutes in the pans, they are then turned out onto a rack to finish cooling. This involves an interesting flip-flopping with the layers. They are first turned out meringue side down, causing some of the almonds to fall off, and then flipped again so that they are right side up. The almonds can then be replaced. I was grateful for no cake casualties in this flip-flop process!

The Berry Blitz Torte should not be assembles until right before you are ready to serve it. To assemble, a layer of the cake, meringue side up, is placed on a serving plate. All of the pastry cream is then evenly spread across this layer. The berries are placed atop the cream. And then finally, the second layer of the cake goes on top. I used peaches instead of berries as they are a favorite at my house and they sounded good with the cinnamon and almonds used atop the meringue.

The assembly of this dessert was the most difficult and disappointing part of making this recipe. I think that my cream was a bit too gelatinous. Though I used the amount called for in the recipe, this may be due to too much corn starch. The consistency made it a challenge to spread evenly. The recipe gives the option of whipping in some heavy cream before spreading. I opted not to do that. Even without adding that extra volume, I had more cream than seemed necessary. I placed a generous layer of thinly sliced peaches on top of the cream. When I placed the final layer of the cake on top of the peaches, I realized that there was nothing to hold it in place. Basically, it was free floating across the peaches. I wondered if had I used berries would they have sunk into the cream, providing a little bit of cream to work its way up and stabilize that top layer? I’m fairly sure that with the consistency of my cream, the berries would have rested on top just as the peaches did. In hindsight, I would have reserved a few dollops of the cream and placed it on top of the fruit to hold that top layer in place.

The greatest disappointment came when I tried to slice this cake. I basically ended up with a cake wreck. 😊 All the layers went slip sliding away in different directions. Fortunately, I was making this just for the blog and not as a dessert with which to try and impress anyone. Everyone at my house ate it and said that it tastes OK, but no one seemed overly impressed. In my opinion, a nice pound cake or angel food cake topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream would have tasted better and been a whole lot less work!

I’m glad that I gave the recipe a try as it forced me to use skills and make things that I probably would not choose to do without some prodding. I wish the final product had been a little more satisfying. Every recipe can’t be a winner. And so, we look forward to the June Bakealong Challenge hoping for a better outcome!

If any of you try this recipe, and I hope that you will, please share your experience with us.

 

From Tracey G

This month’s King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge, the Berry Blitz Torte, really WAS  a “challenge”! I am one of those that darn it, I want my creation to look JUST like the photo of the original recipe. And well, it just didn’t quite happen that way for me!

I won’t go into the “making process” too much, because Kris did a really great job with that, and if I do it will be really redundant, but, I can & will relate my experience. And for some reason, the 2 days I had to work on this recipe were THE two hottest days of the year so far, both in the 80’s. I think that was strike one against me!

As Kris said, when you break it down into its individual steps, it’s super easy to execute. Pastry Cream, check. Cake batter check. Meringue to put on top of cake batter layer, check! So, into the oven the cakes go, wearing their sliced almond and cinnamon sugar top layers. When they came out, they were poofed as they said they would be and yes, they did deflate as they cooled as they also stated they would do. Only mine really deflated. I didn’t have those wonderful  high meringue sides that the photo did. But as I said, it was the hottest day of the year so far, in the 80’s, and I am sure it wasn’t really friendly and/or conducive to good and pretty meringue sides, but it bummed me out anyway.

I made my pastry cream and baked my cakes the day before I assembled it. It was a few hours in the kitchen project and I knew I’d run out of time as I had to go pick up Harry at the bus stop, so I saved the assembly for the next day. That is something that this cake held up to well, sitting overnight waiting for finishing.

Of course, the next day was another 80 degree day. What the heck was Mother Nature up to???  As it’s still too early in the year to have the AC out and installed, by the afternoon it was reaching 80 in here. I did choose to add the 1/2 cup of cream that they suggest, you simply whip up the 1/2 cup and then fold into your pastry cream. Ok, all good. But then, I said to myself “wow, that’s a LOT of filling…but, it’s what they call for so, okie dokie…” Well, I should have listened to my gut instincts and maybe used 1/2 to 3/4 total of the filling. It was a sloppy mess. LOL! Oh my gosh, and at the point I realized this was NOT going well, it was too late. I have no idea how much I lost out the edges when I put the other layer on top. And I too had the issue of my top cake layer just “floating” on the berries, I used the raspberries as they did in their photo. So, I took the top layer carefully off and smooshed some custard over the raspberries, with my small offset spatula, so they’d sort of be buried in the cream, and help hold the top on. And once again, lost more filling out the sides, lol.

When it was time to cut the cake, I had the same trouble that Kris did – it did NOT cut well at all, lol. It just ended up smooshing apart more. There were no pretty slices of this at all, lol. I am so glad I managed to capture a fairly decent shot of it uncut, as, I can’t tell you how many slices I tried getting to look even somewhat neat and tidy for a photo! Oh my gosh, I finally realized that it was an exercise in futility. I was not going to get that lovely piece for a photo, now that I had probably cut 5 of the 8 servings/pieces that the recipe suggest you’ll get.

We all had a piece of it for our dessert yesterday evening, and it was rated just “Ok”, nothing that they’d request me to make. But, I will say that we each had another piece this evening for dessert, and it was better, Jeremy and I both came to that consensus  – so, I’m not sure what to think, lol. I did mention to Kris I may like to try this one again in the Fall or Winter, when the temps are cool/cold and the humidity is down!! Not to mention the 2nd time around I’ll be ready for the battle of the filling – I’ll know not to use the whole shebang, lol. Maybe save some for another use, or whatever, but don’t, I repeat, DO NOT use it all in the middle of the cake!

Would I make it again because I wanted to? I don’t honestly know. Like I said, I do want to revisit it in different weather conditions, and if it works out better then, it might be a winter special occasion cake, although the berries won’t be very tasty that time of year, I guess it would be a trade-off!

But, all in all, I do look at these monthly challenges as a way to use baking/cooking muscles I don’t use very often. It’s fun to branch out and try something I might not think about trying or might not think I can even do! That’s rather fun to say, “yep, I did it! It may not be pretty, lol, but I tried and I know I can now do it better the next time!!”

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Food Friday – Cookies: Not Just For Monsters

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from Tracey G.

I will preface this by saying that this is my second time making this recipe for Soft Ginger-Molasses Cookies. I tried it a few weeks ago and fell in love with it, which, actually has a story itself…

I had never made molasses cookies and I’m not even sure I’d ever had them before! Which is odd for me, because I love molasses. Usually this sort of “spiced” cookie seems to be around or made, only in the fall or during the Holidays. But in my mind, they can be an anytime cookie! So, on a whim, one day I decided to make some, and of course I headed to King Arthur Flour’s website to see what I could find. They had a few, and I had to look through them to make sure I found one with the most molasses AND the one that I had all the ingredients to make it with. And that was how I decided on this particular recipe, it fit perfectly into my cookie recipe criteria. This particular one has a variation along with it using a homemade ginger syrup along with the molasses. But, since I was after max molasses, I didn’t bother with the ginger syrup variation. And I didn’t have the ingredients to make the syrup with, even if I’d wanted to!

I was delighted to see that I had everything required to make these gems and the ingredients were things I would always have on hand anyway, no matter what. All of course, except for the fresh ginger used in the syrup variation – that can be a hit and miss ingredient as far as being  “in stock” in my kitchen.

The ingredients for these are:

  • Butter
  • Sugar
  • Molasses
  • Baking Soda
  • Salt
  • Ground Cinnamon – as for cinnamon, I have become a total convert to King Arthur Flour’s Vietnamese Cinnamon. I will never go back to the stuff I buy in the grocery store! I do remember though, last fall when I purchased my first container of the stuff (reasonably priced too by the way, you get quite a bit!), I was a bit nervous I’d not use it up before its expiration date. Ha! I was so wrong! I just had to buy another container the other day!
  • Ground Cloves
  • Ground Ginger
  • Eggs
  • Flour
  • Sugar for Coating – I used the King Arthur Flour White Sparkling Sugar

If you’re interested in the Ginger Syrup, the ingredients are:

  • Fresh Ginger
  • Water
  • Sugar

The recipe is easy to follow and using my cookie scoop, it was quick to go from dough to baking sheet as well! But, before you bake, you’re to roll the dough balls in sugar – so, I put my sugar-of-choice in a pie pan, and then drop the scoops of dough in the pan. I then shake/roll them around until they are coated. After their sugar-coating, it’s onto the prepared baking sheet – I use parchment all the time, it’s so much easier and lining the baking sheets gets me through the whole baking session without needing to re-parchment my sheets. One of these days I am going to “treat” myself to KAF’s pack of 100 Pre-cut Parchment Sheets (they also have a pack of 50 Pre-cut Parchment Sheets). I really do get tired of the parchment roll and the cutting to fit while fighting with the tendency for it curl back up on me, lol.

And as a side-note on the sugar coating – my household is divided when it comes to the “type” of sugar that’s used. I prefer the bigger sparkling sugar crystals and Harry and Jeremy prefer the regular granulated as they don’t like the crunch the bigger crystals contribute. So, I do some for me in the big crystals and some in regular granulated for them. It’s no big deal and makes every happy in a really easy way!!

After they are sugar-coated, they then go into the oven, and bake for 10 minutes at 350°. When they come out, they sit on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before you move them to a rack to finish cooling. This works out really well, as they are ready to be transferred to the rack as soon as your next batch it done. Cool completely and store in an airtight container. And they really are soft and chewy-ish, and they do stay that way. I made them on Tuesday and since I am back to sensible eating (HA!), there are some still around today and they are just as good if not better than the day they were made. The spice factor is fantastic in my opinion!

This seems to be one of those cookie recipes that most people have already in their collection that was either their mom’s or their grandma’s and so forth. Since I didn’t have either, I am so glad I found them at KAF! It’s a recipe that will become my go-to for a molasses cookie – they’re easy, tasty and pretty and not just for the holidays either.  And now, I think I’ll go have a cookie!

from Kris B.

Cookies!  Cookie Monster and I definitely have something in common.  For me, cookies  are my number one comfort food.  They are what I want after a bad day, after a long day, when I need a quick pick-me-up during the workday, and as a snack almost anytime of the day.  And I don’t need grown-up cookies.  Animal crackers/cookies are my all-time favorite.  I’m not sure why that is.  I can’t remember any event from my childhood for which they are an integral part or hold special memories.

My most vivid memories of animal crackers as comfort food come from my college days.  This may be because they were cheap and I could get a lot of bang for my poor college student buck.  We could buy a big tub of them for next to nothing.  I also remember that when we were feeling rich and decadent, at least a decadent as you can feel as a student, my roommate and I would buy canned chocolate frosting to dip our animal cookies in.  It is amazing how comforting this combination was on those late nights studying for music history exams!

When my kids were little, animal crackers were a staple.  My girls got them because I liked them…you know, kind of like the sweater you had to wear because your mom was cold.  Animal crackers with coffee are delicious…and with coffee they become a more mature snack.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!  My girls are now grown up and are in charge of their own snacks and cookie choices.  All I can say is that as the animal cookies that I made for today’s post came out of the oven, my oldest (now twenty-seven) was waiting to get her hands on a lion, elephant, zebra, and giraffe!

During my lifelong fondness for animal cookies, I have never made them.  I’ve made cookies from a similar dough, but never have I made the animal shapes.  I think I bought some small animal shaped cutters when the girls were small and tried once.  This attempt went into the category of #momfail.  The dough stuck in the plastic cutters and I ended up with a whole slew of decapitated and an amputee animals.  It was not a pretty sight!  From that point on, animal cookies have been one of the only  cookies that I consistently buy rather than make.

Then I found these animal cookie cutters on the King Arthur Flour website.

These cutters – a lion, zebra, giraffe, and elephant – are spring-loaded so the shapes are cut by pressing the outer edges of the cutters into your 1/4″ thick dough and then the plunger embosses the animal details, which are fantastic, and releases the dough onto your parchment lined baking pan.  I had a few casualties in terms of lost heads and limbs, but not enough for the process to even seem remotely frustrating.  These cutters are fantastic!

I used King Arthur’s recipe for Animal Cookies.  The recipe uses all-purpose flour, oat flour (or rolled oats finely ground in a food processor), honey, sugar, butter, salt, baking soda, and King Arthur’s Princess Cake and Cookie Flavor, which I did not have. I substituted homemade vanilla extract, though after learning how stress=free these animal cookies are to make, I am going to order some of the Princess Cake and Cookie Flavor for my next batch.  “Princess Cake Flavor has a light, nutty taste, accented with overtones of citrus and rich vanilla.  [It is] an alcohol-free emulsion, [which] is stronger than an extract flavor [and] won’t bake out.”  You could also substitute your favorite extract.

The Animal Cookies bake for 8-10 minutes on a parchment lined baking sheet in a 350 degree oven.  They cool for a few minutes on the pan to “set” and then they are ready to be eaten!

If you are not an Animal Cookie fan, or you need a fun savory treat, these cutters can be used with most rolled and cut recipes – graham crackers, cheese crackers, herbed wheat crackers, etc.

Have fun with these!

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Food Friday – Piece of Cake

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from Tracey G

For this week’s “Cake” category offering, I wanted something simple – but not too simple. I wanted a few pieces to put together, but not an elaborate fancy-shmancy confection of towering proportions or frilly decor, something in between. After searching and searching, I landed upon this recipe for Victoria Sandwich Cake. It really caught my attention – firstly, it had the look I was after – pretty, but not too perfect, it would have the “homey” look and feel. Then I noticed it used self-rising flour! Yes! One more way to use my self-rising flour that I ordered from King Arthur Flour because I wanted their brand and couldn’t find it here (and it was very much competitively priced on their website!). And lastly, I noted that I had ALL the ingredients on hand. I was so happy! LOL! It was a trifecta of perfectness for me! It was rather handy as well with those ingredients – 2 of them that I had on hand, the apricot jam and the heavy whipping cream, I had bought for other recipes. I was able to use up the heavy cream before it went bad, and the apricot jam, well, I couldn’t remember what recipe I’d bought it for (that’ll teach me to not write things down!)!

It also has a fun bit of history, as it was named after Queen Victoria, and it’s first incarnations were as a loaf and then sliced, but it’s long since morphed into the round layer cake it is today, and, it’s a staple in the English baker’s recipe collection. From what I understand there’s also quite a few variants out there with this recipe as well – as far as the fillings go, the jam and the whipped cream. A buttercream instead of a whipped cream and your favorite jam flavor.

On to making the cake. It was almost too easy. Seriously. Since the cake batter uses self-rising flour, there’s very few ingredients: self-rising flour, eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract. Although, those two extracts are optional, as they are an addition to this recipe that isn’t in the classic version. You start by creaming the butter and sugar, then add in the eggs one at a time. After the eggs are completely incorporated, you add the extracts then finally the flour. Divide the batter between two 8-inch round cake pans that have been lightly greased (I greased and used a parchment round in the bottom for extra insurance).

One of the final steps, if you desire, is to brush the top of the cake with simple syrup (or a syrup flavor of your choice) and then add a sprinkle of coarse sugar for some crunch and sparkle, I used the King Arthur Flour Sparkling Sugar. While the cake was baking, I made up my own simple syrup. I used the King Arthur Flour Simple Syrup recipe, but it’s a basic recipe no matter what  – just sugar and water in a one to one ratio. You combine, cook & stir until sugar is dissolved, then let boil for 3 minutes with no stirring. After it’s finished, you let cool to room temperature. This worked out perfect, because by the time I got to the point in the recipe where you brush the cake, my syrup was perfectly cooled and ready to go. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

After you get your cakes out of the oven, you cool in pan for a few minutes then turn them out onto a rack to cool completely. I waited until they were completely cool before I made my whipped cream mixture, so it would be fresh when needed. That’s also a very simple procedure, whip the cream, while whipping sprinkle in the sugar. When it’s rather stiff and well blended, you stir in your vanilla. That’s it!

Now is the time for assembly. One layer of the cake goes on the plate, spread with your jam. The jam is then covered by the whipped cream as another layer. Top with the other cake layer. Once it’s built, brush the top of the top layer with the syrup and sprinkle on the coarse sugar if desired! That’s all there is to it.

On to serving… I refrigerated it for a little bit before I cut it, just to make it easier on myself for cutting, but I honestly couldn’t say if it made a difference or not, as it was pretty easy to portion and slice. Was it due to the refrigeration? I’m not entirely sure! They recommend that it’s best the first 12 hours, and state that it’s still good though through 2 or 3 days, and I believe that! I had it yesterday on the day it was made, and I had a serving today, and it was still just as yummy. As there’s still half a cake left, I’ll get to sample it again tomorrow and see how it’s holding up! I’m sure it will be just fine…. 😉

from Kris B

I have to say right up front that I am not one who has jumped onto the gluten-free eating bandwagon as a way of life[ so, I have done zero intentional gluten-free baking.  However, in an effort to broaden my thinking and my palette, I decided to try a gluten-free cake this week.  I wanted a recipe that was simple, but sounded good.  One that didn’t have a lot of sweet, but had some.  Too much sweet is definitely something that I need to eliminate from my everyday eating.  As I perused recipes on the King Arthur Flour website, This Strawberry Almond Flour Cake seemed to fit the bill.  It uses almond flour, eggs, sugar (only a 1/2 cup), salt, baking powder, vanilla, optional coconut flour, and strawberries (or fruit of your choice) as a topping.  Armed with this recipe, I was ready to bake my first gluten-free cake.  I would be lying if I told you that I was not a little bit skeptical about the outcome of this particular baking adventure.

The recipe begins by having you separate four eggs.  The yolks are beat with sugar and vanilla and set aside while, in a separate bowl, you then beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.  In a third bowl, the dry ingredients are whisked together.  The egg yolk mixture is then mixed into  to the dry ingredients.  Once fully incorporated, the egg whites are added to this mixture 1/2 a cup at a time.  Once all of the ingredients are fully mixed, you have a light and fluffy batter that is ready to be poured into an 8 inch cake pan and baked for 30-35 minutes.  This last step is the only place where I encountered any difficulties with this recipe.

I don’t have an 8 inch cake pan.  Who knew?  I have 6, 9, and 10 inch pans, but no 8 inch pan.

I debated with myself about whether or not to use the 6′ pan because, although all of the reviews of this recipe on the King Arthur website praised the taste of this cake, several of them said that they felt that the cake was too thin.  Having read that, I figured that if I was going to use the 10″ pan, I would have to increase the batter by maybe half???  Since I had no experience with gluten-free baking and how the batter would behave, I did not feel comfortable making these kinds of adjustments first crack out of the barrel.  I them remembered that I have an 8″ cast iron skillet.  That should work. Right?  I adjusted the my baking temperature down from 350 to 325 degrees since cast iron hold more heat than aluminum cake pans.  I poured my batter into the prepared skillet and hoped for the best.

Thirty-five minutes later, well actually 40 minutes because the cake cooled in the pan for five minutes, the cake released from the skillet beautifully and turned out onto a plate with no casualties.  It was a nice golden color with just a tiny bit of crispness on its edges.  Since this cake does not get iced, that crispness gave it a little “shape.”

Once cooled, the Strawberry Almond Flour Cake is topped with strawberries and/or the fruit of your choice.  I did top mine with a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar.  I actually did this more for the photo than for the eating of the cake.  This added sugar is certainly not necessary.

I photographed the cake.  And then it was time to eat it.

I WAS PLEASANTLY SURPRISED!!!

This cake is absolutely scrumptious!  It is a bit more dense than a regular yellow cake, which is fine with me, but ts texture is not quite like that of a pound cake either.  This may be the best “yellow” cake that I have ever tasted.  That is saying a lot because my favorite kind of cake is yellow cake with chocolate frosting; I have sampled lots of different yellow cake recipes in my fifty-five years!  To say that this may be the best is saying a lot for this recipe.  I found the thickness of this cake just fine, not to thin as was mentioned in the reviews.

I did eat the cake with the suggested berry topping.  The fruit combined with the light sweetness of the cake itself was just the right amount to give me the feeling of having had a nice treat, but not the guilt from indulging in a super rich dessert.  But…I am not above trying it with chocolate frosting next time.  I’ll happily garnish it with strawberries so that the cake doesn’t suffer an identity crisis. 🙂

Seriously…even if you are not a gluten-free eater, you have got to give the Strawberry Almond Flour Cake a try!

8 inch cake pan from King Arthur Flour…just in case you don’t have one either.

Happy baking!

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Mix It Up Friday – April 2017

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For this week’s mix offering, I chose King Arthur Flour’s Strawberries and Cream Scone Mix. There were a couple reasons I chose this mix, one was that I just wanted to try one of their scone mixes, and the other was that I was intrigued with their product called Jammy Bits that were in this mix, that you can also buy separately.

In this particular mix they have the Strawberry Jammy Bits added – and I thought that would be a great way to try them out without buying a whole package in case I didn’t like them! They are a blend of strawberry puree, apple juice, sugar, and pectin. You can add them to any of your baked goods, they even suggest using them in your granola. They have quite a few Jammy Bits flavors, including raspberry, blueberry, apricot, peach and orange. You can find them on their Fruits and Nuts shopping page.

So, on to making the mix! It was super simple, all I added was one egg and one cup of heavy cream. They do have an alternate “recipe” for using butter and milk instead of the heavy cream if you’re interested. I chose to just follow the original ingredient directions of using the heavy cream as both the wet ingredient and the fat. Also, instead of using as scoop to make round scones, I wanted traditional triangle-shaped scones. So, I divided the dough in half, and patted each half (with a little bit of help from some flour for dusting on my hands and on my parchment lined baking sheet) into a about a 3/4 inch thick circle, then cut into 8 triangles. I separated each little triangle from the other slightly and brushed both circles of triangles with heavy cream. On one of the circle of triangles I also sprinkled some King Arthur Sparkling Sugar for decoration, then baked them both (on the same sheet pan) at the prescribed temperature of 400° for about 16 minutes. When they come out of the oven, you let them rest for 5 minutes – then you are free to indulge!

I of course had to sample right away – they smelled so delicious while they were baking! And they did not disappoint whatsoever. They are just as delicious to eat – both my guys absolutely loved them. I knew they must be good when Harry asked for another after he’d eaten his first one! Thank you KAF for another wonderful mix! And if that’s not enough, they have a really cool article on things you can do with scone mixes (any flavor – and they have at least 20 different kinds of scone mixes to play with!). There are “recipes” for using the mix to make pancakes, muffins and even a coffee cake. I do plan on trying one their variations soon!!

Back at the beginning of the year, I made crumpets for one of our Friday posts.  I could not find all of my crumpet rings at that point, so I had to order new ones.  King Arthur had a “deal” where you got a box of English Muffins Mix with the rings; as one who always falls for a deal, I said what the heck and I ordered the mix with the rings.  This week, I decided that it was finally time to give that mix a try.

English Muffins are one of my favorite breads.  I enjoy them for breakfast with butter and jelly or as part of a breakfast sandwich with egg and cheese.  In my mind however, English Muffins are not just a breakfast bread.  I also use them for my lunch sandwiches as well – PB&J, egg salad, cheese…you name it; they are all delicios on an English muffin!  That said, I have high expectations for my English muffins.

The King Arthur English Muffin Mix comes with a bag of dry ingredients and a packet of yeast.  You provide an egg, three tablespoons of melted butter,  1 3/4 cups of water, and optional semolina flour.  All of the ingredients, with the exception of the semolina flour, are combined and mixed for 6-8 minutes.  (I used the dough hook on my KitchenAid mixer.)  The final consistency is somewhere in between that of batter and tht of bread dough, sticky but not drippy.  The dough then rises for about 90 minutes.

After ninety minutes, the dough had doubled and was ready for cooking.

The English Muffins are cooked in rings in a skillet on the stovetop.  The burner temperature is set to medium low.  Grease your muffin rings.  I ran a bit of butter around the insides.  They are then placed on the heated skillet.  The skillet surface inside the rings is then dusted with semolina flour before being filled with 1/3 cup of dough.  The dough is sticky and does not spread when dropped on the skillet.  I used the back of a soup spoon coated with cooking spray to spread the dough evenly in the rings.  The muffins cook until they are set on the sides and are golden brown.  The rings are the removed (Simple kitchen tongs will do the trick here.) and the muffins turned to cook on the second side.  The cook time is approximately six minutes on each side.  The trick here is to set your temperature accurately so that the muffins cook all the way through, but aren’t overcooked on the outside.  I have a gas stove and I cooked mine on almost the lowest setting.  This worked.  I did not end up with gooey centers! 🙂  I know this because everyone in my family was waiting impatiently to “taste test” the final product as soon as they were removed from the skillet.  In an ideal world, the muffins should cool for a bit on a rack before serving.

The box says that the mix makes twelve muffins.  I got eleven.  I think I may have given a few of my muffins a little more than 1/3 of a cup of dough.

Making these English muffins is super easy and, with the exception of the time for rising, they really take very little time.  What a nice treat homemade English muffins are for breakfast on any day.  Threre’s no need to wait for a special occasion!

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Food Friday – April 2017 King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge: Chocolate Babka

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from Kris B.

There seems to be a theme to my posts lately and it is not good food, good recipes, or good eating, though there has been some of that; it is a lack of time.  I seem to be doing everything at the last minute.  That is not my intention, but it is the way life is working out at the moment.  My making of this week’s recipe was no exception!

The free time that I had to make the Chocolate Babka, which is this month’s King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge, was last night, beginning at 8pm.  That was the end of my work week so I could give my total, albeit tired, attention to trying this recipe.  I was a bit concerned about starting so late in the evening because Tracey, who is not quite the procrastinator that I am, had told me that her experience with this recipe required longer rise times than were indicated.  Worst case scenario, I would stay up late and knit while my dough was rising and then I would sleep in this morning.

I was fortunate that the dough came together easily and rose quickly.  I admit that I did use the bread proofing setting on my oven.  I suspect the 80 degree temperatures here in Texas versus Tracey’s thirty something temperatures in Michigan may have had something to do with our greatly varying rise times!  Mine took only an hour and a half for the first rise.  At this point, the dough is divided into two equal pieces, as the recipe makes two loaves, and the filling is made.  The filling consists of cocoa powder, espresso powder, cinnamon, sugar, butter, mini chocolate chips, and nuts, which I omitted because I wanted to share my bread with a friend who cannot eat nuts.  Half of the dough is rolled into a 9×18 rectangle.  The first five ingredients above are mixed together and spread on the rectangle.  Half of the chocolate chips and nuts are then sprinkled on top as well.  Beginning with the short end, the dough is the rolled “cinnamon roll” style.  This process is repeated with the second piece of dough.

Once rolled, the dough is split in half Lengthwise, revealing all of the layers of dough and filling.  The two halves are twisted together to form an “S” and placed in a lightly oiled 9×5 loaf pan.  The loaves are brushed with an egg wash and then topped with a crumbled mixture consisting of butter, cinnamon, powdered sugar, and flour.  At this point, the pans are loosely covered and allowed to rise again for about two hours.  They then bake for 50-60 minutes in a 300 degree oven.

I was quite fortunate that my rise times were at the shorter limit both times and that all the parts of the recipe – dough, filling, shaping, glaze, and topping – all came together easily.  I began making the dough at 8 pm, and I pulled the finished loaves out of the oven at 1am.  Yes, it was a five-hour process, but 3 1/2 hours of that was rise time and another fifty minutes was bake time.

When the loaves come out of the oven, it is necessary to run a table knife around the edges to prevent sticking.  The Chocolate Babka then cools completely in the pans.  I loosened the sides of mine and then went to bed hoping that when I got up this morning and tried to turn it out, nothing had stuck.  The baking gods were with me!  Both of my loaves came right out of the pans and looked really pretty!  So far so good!  The fact that I had started the process of making the babka when I was pretty much exhausted and everything had gone smoothly was a big plus for this recipe!

As is always the case with our Food Friday baked items, I had to photograph the babka  before I could eat it.  My creative juices for food photography were lacking at 8am this morning, but that is a different problem.  Lol!  I opted for a simple shot of exactly how the loaf was sitting on the kitchen counter.  Often for me, the more I try to “make” a photo happen, the less satisfied I am with it.  I am learning to go with the natural appearance of things – crumbs, drips, and all. 🙂

I got the photos taken.  Finally it was time to eat some of this chocolate goodness.  Chocolate and coffee for breakfast.  My Friday morning was looking pretty good!  Then came a bit of disappointment.

The first bite of the Chocolate Babka that I tried was an end piece.  It lacked filling, which is no surprise since the filling was not spread completely to the edge, and the whole thing seemed dry.  OK, the end piece of anything is not always the best tasting, so I went for an inner slice.  The chocolate filling situation improved, but the bread itself was still a little too dry for my taste.  I used the minimum amounts of flour and bake times and the maximum amount of water in the dough, so I’m not sure if the dough is supposed to be a lighter drier dough, or if I did something wrong.  I have only made chocolate babka one other time; I used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Though the ingredients are more or less the same, the process varies greatly. The dough rests in the refrigerator at least half a day and preferably overnight.  This recipe calls for the babka to be baked at a higher temperature for about half the time.  And, the baked babka is brushed with a generous amount of sugar syrup immediately upon being removed from the oven.  This recipe definitely resulted in a more dense and more moist bread.

Bread and chocolate are two of my favorite things so, despite being dry, my attempt at chocolate babka using this month’s King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge recipe will not go to waste; but, I think I will consider some variations in the recipe next time I make it.

If you try this month’s bakealong challenge, please share your results with us!

 

from Tracey G.

This month’s King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge for Chocolate Babka, was my first ever experience with making it. I was a bit hesitant in making this recipe to be totally honest, even after reading the Walk Through. It seemed like an awful lot things to do and to have them all go right. But like most times I am apprehensive about a recipe, it too turned out to be not so frightening/taxing as I thought it would be. Kris pretty much outlined how the steps go, so I won’t go into that, but I’ll relate my experiences with this recipe!

I will also admit in the spirit of full-disclosure, that I had issues right out of the gate – and it was totally my own fault, lol. After I got the dough mixing up in my mixer I realized it looked off, and then I figured out that it was most likely due to the fact I forgot to add the butter into the mixer when I was supposed to! Oops. So, I added it and it did take a bit of time to get it incorporated, but it eventually got there!

I had about a 1 3/4 – 2 hour first rise time, but it was about 35 degrees here that day, so that can slow it down for me, so I guess I went pretty much to the far end of the 1 1/2 to 2 hour rise time they state in the recipe, as in closer to the 2 hours. The rolling out and filling went really easily, and even the splitting the of the rolled loaves and braiding went well – that’s really the part that gave me the most anxiety, and was actually fairly easy and fun! I used the nuts that it called for, and now I wish I would have done one loaf with and one without, as Harry’s not a big fan of nuts in his baked goods. But anyway, the second rise took about 2 hours, so this time around I hit the middle of the stated potential rise times.

After it was baked, I ended up with some “gaping” in my loaves, as if filling had melted away – but it was still there. I also had issues with the pieces after they were cut, falling a bit apart. To be fair though, I did have to bake mine longer to reach the internal temperature of 190°, and even that really didn’t happen, I think I hit 170° or a bit above and called it quits. I did cool them in the pan 10 minutes before turning them out on the rack to cool as the recipe mentioned, and I also loosened the edges right after it came out of the oven as directed. I had some sticking issues due to the bit of crowning over the edges of the pan and my egg wash running in places on one that it shouldn’t have, lol. But overall, they came out alright.

Like Kris, I wait to taste until I’ve gotten my photos, and I too taste tested the end first and had the same “hmmm, it’s a bit dry” thought, but also thought “well, it IS the end piece”.

After my photos, it was time to have a real piece with a cup of coffee, and yep it’s super yummy, but still a bit on the dry side. I also am not sure where the fault lies, if it’s in my handling and techniques or if that’s just how it is, I’m not certain. I weighed my ingredients, and used the higher end of the water amount. Plus it was raining here, so there was even humidity in the air, lol. So, I’m really not sure. I would like to attempt it again to see if I have the same results!

No matter what, I enjoyed it because it tasted delicious and was something I’ve never made before. It was another totally new experience for me and I was able to sail through the parts I was nervous about – the shaping! Yay! I am already looking forward to next month’s challenge! Bring it on!

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