Food Friday – King Arthur Flour September 2017 Bakealong Challenge: Cinnamon-Apple Twist Bread

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from Kris B.

Making the King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge each month accentuates how quickly time flies.  It seems like just last week that we were making the Golden Focaccia that was August’s Bakealong Challenge!  And here it is, the middle of September already!  The signature ingredients in this month’s challenge, Cinnamon-Apple Twist Bread, scream fall to me.  The apple bins filling up at the grocery store mean it’s almost time to make homemade applesauce.  And, I love the smell of the cinnamon infused pine cones that line the entrance to our grocery store in the fall.  Once these are in place, it definitely feels, or at least smells, like fall to me.  Now, if we could just convince the Texas weather that 95 degrees is not an acceptable fall temperature!!!

On to the September 2017 Bakealong Challenge, the Cinnamon-Apple Twist Bread…

This is by far is my favorite Bakealong Challenge thus far!  The bread is moist with just a slight sweetness to it and the texture is not too heavy and not too light..  The cinnamon apple filling is just the right proportion of fruit and spice.  I feel like Goldilocks in my descriptions here. 🙂  The best part about this recipe is that though its twist makes it look a bit fancy, it is super easy to make.  And, it doesn’t require any “out of the ordinary” ingredients.

Due to poor planning on my part, I started making this bread at 9 pm at night.  It was nearly midnight at the point the bread had been through its initial resting phase, first rise, and I had made the filling and shaped the twist.  It needed another hour and a half rise and then to be baked for 30-40 minutes.  My day had begun at 4:45 am and completing the bread at this point was going to keep me up until 2am or better.  My body said, not so nicely, think again.  In the tips included with this recipe, it said that the bread could be worked to the point of the last rise, exactly where I was, and then be put in the refrigerator overnight.  It could then be taken from the fridge, allowed its last rise, and be made and served fresh and warm in the morning.  It was a sign.  My job was to test this variation to the recipe.

The shaped bread was in the refrigerator for about eight hours.  I took it out first thing in the morning, allowed it to rise for an hour and a half, and then baked it for 35 minutes, splitting the difference in the generous 30-40 minute range for baking.  Once coming out of the oven, the bread had to cool completely before the final step of adding the glaze could be completed.  So, it was three hours more the next morning before the bread was ready to be eaten.  If you choose to make the Cinnamon-Apple Twist the day before and intend to serve it fresh the next day, I’d suggest brunch instead of breakfast.  Or, plan on getting up several hours before your scheduled breakfast hour!

However and whenever you make the Cinnamon-Apple Twist Bread, know that in the end, it is worth every minute of your time whether late at night or early in the morning.  And, if you are concerned with such things, it is also worth every calorie ingested when you eat way more of it than you should!

From Tracey G.

As Kris said, I can’t believe it’s the KAF September Bakealong Challenge already! Time does indeed fly by these days, Harry’s in back in school and that makes me even more aware of where we are at any given point during the year! Those lazy days of summer vacation are long gone and feel like a distant memory already – and it’s only been 2 weeks!

This month’s KAF Bakealong Challenge, Cinnamon-Apple Twist Bread (here’s a link right to the KAF Cinnamon-Apple Twist Bread Walk-Through) is absolutely wonderful. I can tell you without a doubt, that I will make this again. The bread reminds me of a yeast doughnut-type taste and texture, and it’s another one of those things I find myself actually saying out loud: “I can’t believe I made this, THIS came out of MY kitchen!”. I love it when I feel that way about something. This rivals any bakery treat in presentation – it looks beautiful. I still look at the photos now (as the bread has been LONG gone for awhile now, Jeremy and I between the 2 of us, had them gone in probably 2 days!), I’m still shaking my head in wonder – I did that. Me. Little old me! Wow!

It is very easy to do. But, as Kris said, we discovered it’s one of those things that while easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, it does take some time. Now, that’s not to say it’s time that you’re spending working with them, nope, it’s rest, rise and bake time. So, while it’s doing it’s thing resting, rising and baking – you can be doing your thing!

After initially mixing the dough, you let it rest for about 30 minutes, then do the kneading, I use my stand mixer for the kneading. It now moves onto a rising phase, which, for me it took closer to the 2 hour mark of the 1 1/2 to 2 hours suggest rising time. While it’s doing that you make your filling.

For the filling it’s grated apple, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and thickener of choice. They give directions for either corn starch or Instant ClearJel as the thickener. I used the Instant ClearJel (which, by the way is one of my FAVORITE pantry items!) and it was a snap to throw the stuff together. Just mix in your Instant ClearJel with your sugar and cinnamon, then toss with the apples/lemon juice mixture. It thickens with no cooking. If you choose the cornstarch route, it involves a small amount of cooking – certainly NOT a deal breaker when making this bread by any means.

Once your bread is ready to be shaped, you divide it, and set one piece aside to work with one at a time. You roll out your dough to approximately a 10×12-in rectangle. The dough is a dream to work with. Initially it kept snapping and shrinking back, but that didn’t last long and it then behaved and rolled out wonderfully. Once it’s rolled, you spread with half of the filling. Yep, the filling is minimal, so no worries there. It’s a pretty thin layer – but let me say that’s all you need, it’s perfect as is! Roll up starting with the long side as if you were making cinnamon rolls (and there is a variation for this recipe to make them into rolls if you wish in the Tips section at the end of it!). Once it’s rolled and the seams are sealed, you slice it down the length to make two pieces. Transfer one piece to your parchment lined pan, with the filling side up. Now, they give you a couple different ways you can achieve the twist, for both of mine, I slightly crossed the second piece atop the first and I worked from the center to one end, “braiding” them together, keeping the exposed filling side up at all times. Then I went back to center and repeated going the other way – it’s absolutely laughably easy!! Really!! Now, repeat with your remaining dough. I baked each of mine on separate pans, but you could do both on one. Their Apple-Cinnamon Twist Bread Bakealong Challenge Walk-Through shows you just how easy the shaping is!

The Cinnamon-Apple Twist Bread right after being shaped, before 2nd rising.

The bread  twists now have another rising time, about another 1-2 hours, which once again, mine was closer to the 2 hour mark. Then you bake them in a 350° F, for 30-40 minutes. They direct you to check after 20 to see if they are browning up too fast, and if so, to tent them lightly with foil for the rest of their baking until done. I did have to do this with mine as my ends were browning quickly. When they come out, you allow at least an hour to cool, then glaze! Done!

One of the Cinnamon-Apple Twist Breads right out of the oven

I’d thought the Golden Focaccia was my favorite Bakealong Challenge, but it’s been replaced with this one, the KAF Cinnamon-Apple Twist Bread September 2017 Bakealong Challenge!! This is so far, by far my favorite one. I still love the Golden Focaccia, don’t get me wrong, but this one is something I have plans for – it will make a fabulous holiday food gift! It’s so pretty, it makes you look like a pro!!! I’ll take that! And I look forward to my next favorite King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge! Bake on everyone! 😉

 

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Food Friday – Pie for Dinner or Dessert!

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from Tracey G.

I love apples. I love pears. It’s a toss-up for me as which I like better, and I honestly don’t think I could choose!! I saw this recipe for Apple-Pear Pie from King Arthur Flour and, unfiltered first thought was “why didn’t I ever think of that combination?”! I don’t even think I got any further in my recipe search for this week’s Pies, Tarts & Turnovers category! I saw this one and it was an immediate “this one!!” sentiment.

It’s a really easy recipe – nothing fancy, just a straight-forward fruit pie. You have your choice as to what double crust pie pastry recipe you use, if you have a favorite use that. If you don’t here’s the one I used with great success, it’s KAF’s Classic Double Pie Crust recipe, and it hasn’t failed me yet. I’ve used it whenever I need a pie pastry recipe, as it’s easy and it’s always been a joy to work with. I’ve made it with all-purpose flour and with KAF’s Pastry Flour Blend and it’s worked beautifully with either.

The longest and most “work/effort” of this recipe is the readying of the pears and apples! I did it all by hand instead of getting out the peeler-corer-slicer thingy, and it did take a bit of time to do.

Your apples and pears are then tossed with the dry mixture of seasonings, sugar and thickener. The dry mixture is a combination of cinnamon (I didn’t have the Madagascar Cinnamon they call for, but used instead the Vietnamese Cinnamon I have on hand), ginger, sugar, salt and Instant ClearJel. I did look up on their Pie Thickener Chart that in the case of apples, and it looks like cornstarch can be use measure for measure in substitution of the Instant ClearJel if you don’t have it. I used the Instant ClearJel, so I can’t say if I had good luck with anything else for this particular recipe.

After the fruit has been tossed with this mixture, you add lemon juice and vanilla to the bowl, mixing them in well. In a saucepan, you melt 4 tbsp butter and add the fruit filling mixture to the pan to cook for about 10-20 minutes until the apples and pears start to soften and their juices start to thicken up. This then gets cooled completely.

Once it’s cooled, into your prepared pie pan it goes, placing the top crust however you desire (I did a lattice-style top crust), brushing with milk and sprinkling with Coarse White Sparkling Sugar OR, regular granulated sugar like I did, because the boys don’t care for the crunch of the big sugar crystals. Once you have that done – it’s into the freezer with the unbaked pie! I’ve never frozen a pie partially before baking it, but as the saying goes, there’s a first time for everything! You pop it into the freezer for 15-30 min until firm. Now, after this bit of freezing time, it gets baked. The temperature starts off at 425° F for the first 15 minutes, then it’s turned down to 375° F for an additional 50-60 minutes. All that’s left is to allow it cool completely before serving – then eat!

I absolutely loved this pie – not only is it two of my favorite fruits, but the combination of ginger, cinnamon and vanilla are wonderful. I’m pleased to have this Apple-Pear Pie recipe to add to my pie recipe collection – it was a great combination of flavors all the way around. Only thing that would maybe make it better – eating it warmed up with vanilla ice cream!

 

from Kris B.

Food processor blade – 1: Me – 0.

I chose this week’s offering of Hearty Ham and Spinach Quiche because I was short on time this week and needed my recipe to serve as both a meal for my familyand a subject for my post. Also, I was intrigued by this pie’s crust because it requires no rolling!!!

Little did I know that the most difficult part of the recipe, at least for me, would be washing the food processor blade before I even started baking.  My daughter had used it the night before, so the blade was is the dishwasher dirty. I pulled it out of the dishwasher without incident, but I was not so lucky once I got it the sink and added soap. Yep. It slipped and sliced the top of my finger. Upon hearing my explicative that rang out from the kitchen, Weber’s first words were, “Does it need stitches?” Sharp instruments and I have a dicey reputation in the kitchen. (Pun intended.). I am happy to report that I did not need stitches, only multiple layers of pressure wrap were necessary.

My daughter was kind enough to finish washing the blade. 🙂

Once I got my finger wrapped and found some food service gloves, I continued on with the making my pie. From this point on, it was smooth sailing. No choppy seas! Lol!

As I said, the crust for this pie is made completely in a food processor. The ingredients are mixed, rolled into a log that will fit through the food processor’s feed tube, and then chilled overnight. When you are ready to make the actual crust, the dough is fed into the food processor’s feed tube and grated using the coarse grate blade. To assemble the pie, the grated dough is pressed into a nine inch pie plate. Super easy! I am all for a pie crust that does not require rolling…if it tastes good, which this one did!

The filling, minus the ham and sour cream, is also mixed using the food processor. The ham is layered in the bottom of the pie plate, followed by the spinach mixture, and then topped with a thin layer of sour cream. I have to say that I was not so sure about this sour cream layer when I was assembling the pie, but once it is cooked and all of the flavors meld together, the whole is much more impressive than the sum of the parts.

This pie can also be made ahead of time or even frozen and reheated.

I suspect that the crust recipe used here could be used with almost any of your favorite pies. I am excited about the idea of a crust that I don’t have to roll! Give it a try!

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Food Friday – Cookie Time!

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from Kris B.

 

I am quickly approaching fifty-six years of life.  During those years, I have experienced  many changes and much growth, but with some things, not much is different at all.  My preferred dress is still jeans, t-shirts, and tennis shoes.  I still like to read, write, and draw in my “down” time.  And I still pack my lunch everyday to go to school.  My favorite lunchbox lunch has not changed over all these years either.  PB&J, carrots and celery, sliced apples, and cookies…I am never disappointed to find these things when I  sit down and zip open my lunch bag!  The one small change from my lunches as a child to those of today is that I do almost always have homemade cookies rather than store-bought.  In those occaisional instances where the homemade isn’t happening, the one supermarket cookie that I do still love is Oreos.  When I take these iconic cookies apart and eat the creme filling first, I feel like I am about eight years old.

In most things, I am a purist.  That is true with my Oreos.  These days, Nabisco has been experimenting too much, in my opinion, with this classic cookie…Cotton Candy, Red Velvet, Root Beer, Key-Lime Pie, Blueberry Pie; these are not Oreos!!!  They may be tasty cookies, but they are not Oreos.  Having said that, I do make an exception for the limited edition Pumpkin Spice Oreos in the fall and the new Dunkin Donuts Mocha Oreos that were released over the summer.  My all-time favorite “non-traditional” Oreo,however, was the Uh-Oh Oreo, an Oreo that flip-flopped the traditional flavors using a vanilla cookie with chocolate creme filling.  Being that my  favorite kind of cake is also yellow cake with chocolate frosting, the “backwards” Oreos were a an acceptable alteration to the classic Oreo cookie.  Unfortunately, the Uh-Oh Oreos found themselves on the discontinued food list back in 2011.  They were, however, the catalyst for Nabisco using cookies other than chocolate in the Oreo family of cookies.  You can easily find Golden Oreos, vanilla cookies with the traditional white creme, on grocery store shelves.  Somehow, this just is not the same.

All that to say that I was super excited to find King Arthur Flour’s recipe for Reverse Faux-Reosvanilla cookies with chocolate cream filling!!!

The cookie in King Arthur’s recipe is a simple sugar cookie-like recipe consisting of flour, sugar, butter, salt, vanilla, and baker’s ammonia.  Baker’s ammonia?  Why is there always one elusive ingredient???  The King Arthur recipe did say that baking powder could be substituted as the leavening agent in these cookies, but that the substitution would create a cookie with a different texture.  Because inquiring minds want to know, I had to do some research on baker’s ammonia, an ingredient that I have not previously encountered in a recipe.  I found the following in an article by Cook’s Illustrated:

Baker’s ammonia, also known as ammonium bicarbonate (and often sold as ammonium carbonate), was the primary leavening agent used by bakers before the advent of baking soda and baking powder in the 19th century. In fact, certain recipes for European and Middle Eastern cookies and crackers still call for it today.   When we purchased the powder from a mail-order source (it can also be found at some Greek and Middle Eastern markets), we quickly discovered its biggest drawback: an extremely potent smell. (In fact, it turns out baker’s ammonia is the stuff that was passed under Victorian ladies’ noses to revive them when they swooned.) Because of its noxious scent, it is used to leaven only low-moisture baked goods like crisp cookies and crackers that thoroughly dry out during baking, lest the ammonia linger.

When we tried trading baker’s ammonia for baking powder in a recipe for crisp sugar cookies, we found that not only can the two products be used interchangeably, but the baker’s ammonia produced a lighter, crunchier crumb. This is because when its tiny crystals decompose in the heat of the oven, they leave minuscule air cells in their wake from which moisture easily escapes. Furthermore, this leavener leaves none of the soapy-tasting residue of baking powder or baking soda. It works so well, we’d be tempted to use it for crisp baked goods all the time if it were more readily available.

I used baking powder.

Having never used baker’s ammonia, I have no means for comparison as to the cookies’ texture.  All I can say is that they taste just fine to me.

Once the cookie dough is mixed, it is scooped by teaspoonful onto a parchment-lined baking pan and then flattened to a thickness of 1/4 inch.  Using a cookie stamp to flatten your cookies would make for a pretty final product.  Unfortunately, I could not find my small cookie stamps so my cookies are just pure and simple flattened sugar cookies.  Looks aren’t everything and the taste is not affected at all, so I’m good with my plain-Jane looking cookies.  Lol!

Real Oreo creme has a unique texture.  My biggest curiosity about this recipe was whether or not the chocolate creme used in the Reverse Faux-Reos would be close enough to my beloved Uh-Oh Oreos.

The chocolate creme filling consists of semi-sweet chocolate chips, corn syrup, vanilla, espresso powder (a definite bonus!), heavy cream, and confectioner’s sugar.  The first five ingredients are heated together and then the confectioner’s sugar is beat into it.  At this point in the process, I was a bit concerned about what the texture of the filling would be like as it was fairly runny while still hot.  I let it cool for several minutes before beginning the cookie assembly.

The chocolate filling began to stiffen after several minutes of cooling.  With half of the cookies placed with their flat sides up, I used a small scoop (about a TBS) to place a dollop of chocolate in the middle of each cookie. The top cookie of the “sandwich” is then placed on top.  Gently pressing on it pushes the filling out to the edges of the cookies, creating the classic sandwich cookie look.  The filling continued to cool and harden and after several hours, it had the exact same consistency as the Oreo creme filling.  Score!!!

I am one happy kid fifty-five year old grown woman. 🙂

from Tracey G.

I know I’ve said it a million times, and just to give you all fair warning, I’ll probably say it a million times more – but I love finding uses for my KAF Self-Rising Flour! This has got to be one of the neatest products in my opinion and I am having great fun finding ways to use it! I ran across this recipe when I was on the hunt for my cookie recipe offering this week: Self-Rising Crunchy Sugar Cookies.

Sugar cookies are loved around here – me, I prefer to do a rolled out fancy (or not so fancy) cut-out cookie. But, the oldest “boy” around here, a.k.a. Jeremy, loves plain, old fashioned rolled/dipped in sugar, sugar cookies. The kind Grandma used to make. Which, unfortunately are the kind I never think to make! This recipe was perfect – his favorite cookie and so simple, it’s criminal!

This recipe involves five ingredients. Six, if you include the extra garnish of sugar to roll them in. That’s it. It’s self-rising flour, shortening (or butter), sugar, vanilla and an egg. It’s a basic cookie recipe, you mix it in the usual way – cream shortening (or butter), vanilla and sugar until fluffy, then beat in your egg, and lastly add in your flour. You scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and mix until thoroughly combined. After you have it mixed, you chill the dough for at least 30 minutes – this step makes it easy to work with.

To bake, you can either grease or line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place your garnishing sugar in a bowl to dip the cookies it before baking. Make 1 to 1.5-inch balls and dip them in the sugar before placing them, sugar side up, on the prepared cookie/baking sheet. Bake them 8-10 minutes in a 375° F oven.

They do puff as they bake, but once you remove them from the oven and let them sit on the cookie sheet 5 minutes before removing them to a rack to completely cool, they fall and start to crisp up.

They were a big hit around here, both for eating and with me for how easy they were! This would be an ideal recipe if you need something in a hurry – either last minute class treat or bake sale treat etc. I’ve not tried to freeze them, but they do say that they are freezable.

Self-Rising Crunchy Sugar Cookies from King Arthur Flour are another wonderfully tasty and easy recipe to add to your recipe collection when you need a nice old-fashioned style sugar cookie!

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Mix It Up Friday – It’s Lemony Love!

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from Tracey G

As Kris and I have said numerous times, it’s fun and rewarding to bake from scratch, but there are times when that’s not possible or you just don’t have the energy to  – but yet, you still want a treat or you have company coming, or you need a quick donation to the school/church/club bake-sale etc. That’s where mixes can save the day – and if it’s a good one, you can feel confident using one! And if it’s really good, they may never even know it came from a mix!!!

This mix from King Arthur Flour, the Essential Goodness Lemon Bar Mix is one of those really good mixes. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to detect that they were from a mix! Which is great, because I know not everyone is like me – I have to have fresh lemons around at all times, I go into a panic if I don’t have at least 4 in the fridge, lol, and having this mix around – you don’t need to have fresh, but it sure tastes like you did!!

Which, as just a tidbit here, I’d done some research a long time ago and read an article on how to keep lemons fresh longer, and it said to put them in a zip top bag and then in the fridge – so I tried it, and it worked. Now that’s where they go immediately when I get home from the store with them. I usually write the date on the bag, and let me say I know I’ve kept some for at least a month, and in great shape!

To make the Essential Goodness Lemon Bars, the only ingredients you provide are butter, eggs and water, plus some powdered sugar to dust them with for garnish/decoration etc. The mix does the rest.

The butter gets mixed with the crust ingredients, pressed in the pan and then baked for 20-26 minutes. While it’s baking, you mix the filling ingredients together, which is where your eggs and water provide their service. When you pull the crust out, you pour the filling over the hot crust and pop it back into the oven to bake for about another 20-22 minutes. When they come out, you allow them to cool at room temperature for an hour, then you have to cool them for at least an hour in the refrigerator (or overnight) before cutting them. You can dust them with powdered sugar right before serving them if you like!

When we got to taste-test them, the “these-taste-like-homemade” sentiment was unanimous. They were extremely yummy and it’s a mix I plan on keeping on hand for whenever a treat is needed – either for fun or for necessity! And, for some extra fun, they also provide some other twists for using the mix to make other treats!

Here are some helpful links:

Essential Goodness Lemon Bar Mix Catalog Page

Essential Goodness Lemon Bar Mix Product Page

Essential Goodness Lemon Bar Mix – Easy Lemon Meringue Bars

Essential Goodness Lemon Bar Mix – Zesty Lemon Coconut Bars

 

from Kris B,

As Tracey and I were looking at our calendars and making our weekly schedule, I was elated to see that Mix It Up Friday fell during my first week back school.  Re-entry into the new school year was particularly difficult this year because for the first time in many years, I did not teach summer school.  I was completely free for three months.  I discovered during that time that I could probably adjust to that lifestyle twelve months out of the year without too much effort. 🙂

My time management skills were somewhat lacking this week, so I didn’t get to make these cookies until Thursday afternoon, after having seen 5am four days in a row for the first time since May.  Needless to say, I was a little tired, but also excited to try the King Arthur Mix fro Lemon Coffee House Cookies.  There is something about lemon that seems energizing and invigorating.  Or maybe that’s the way I think about all cookies…

Whipping up these cookies is a short, sweet, and to the point process.  Place a stick of butter and half of the cookie mix in a bowl and mix on high for two minutes.  Add an egg, two tablespoons of milk, and the remaining cookie mix to the bowl, mixing until all of the ingredients are combined.  I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer so I didn’t even expend any energy controlling the mixer during the mixing process.

Once mixed, the dough is scooped out by tablespoonful onto waiting parchment lined baking sheets and then placed in the oven, which was preheated to 375 degrees, and baked for 12-16 minutes and the edges are a golden brown.

Once out of the oven and completely cooled, the cookies are iced using the included icing mix.  The icing mix requires the addition of a 1/2 stick of butter and a tablespoon of milk.  As with the cookie dough, the icing is mixed with an electric mixer.  I simply spread the icing on each of the 20 cookies using a spatula.  If you want to be fancy, you could pipe it on.  I did add a bit of lemon zest atop the icing because I had the lemons with which to do that.  Is it necessary?  Nope.  These cookies have a full and refreshing lemon flavor that comes from both the cookie itself and the icing.

I tried to photograph the cookies Thursday evening.  By that point in the day/week, I had run out of light, energy, and enthusiasm for the project.  Though I used artificial lights for this somewhat feeble attempt, the photos I took did not do the cookies justice.  The mission was scrubbed and I decided I would try again this morning.  The biggest negative of this scenario was that the one cookie that we split right after they were iced was the only one that could be eaten until I re-shot the images of the cookies.

Let me just say that all of the waistlines at my house were better off when the cookies were off-limits!  Once I had a photo I could live with and released the cookies to the masses, half of them disappeared almost immediately.  Yes.  I am just as guilty as my husband and my daughter in helping them disappear!

As Tracey said, we do like to bake from scratch, but when that isn’t convenient, having a tasty made-from-scratch tasting mix on hand can save the day.  The Lemon Coffee House Cookie Mix definitely fits that bill!!

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Food Friday – August 2017 King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge – Golden Focaccia

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from Kris B.

It’s King Arthur Flour Bakealong week again already!  This month’s challenge is Golden Focaccia.  In all of my bread baking experience, I have never made focaccia.  I always enjoy trying something new so was excited for this challenge.

As I read through the recipe for the Golden Focaccia the first time, I was surprised at how simple this bread really is.  The dough calls for minimal ingredients – flour, yeast, olive oil, water, and salt.  Like the Classic Baguette that was the June Bakealong Challenge, the Golden Focaccia demands a little bit of forethought in that it uses an overnight starter.  This consists of only flour, yeast, and water and can be put together quickly.

I had a plan.  My day was scheduled such that I could make the focaccia, homemade spaghetti sauce, and put together a nice salad using ingredients from our garden.  I’d photograph the focaccia and then we would sit down to a nice dinner.  Note: I had to buy the tomatoes for the spaghetti sauce because all of the beautiful tomatoes that I grew were “claimed” by our resident squirrels just before they were ripe enough to be picked.  That aside,  my plan was perfect and I even had plenty of time with which to execute it.

We all know what happens when we think that we have fail proof plans…

Let’s just say that I am vying for the job of cook on Noah’s ark because I seem to be, on a regular basis, making recipes for these blog posts two times!

Even having to use canned tomato sauce, the spaghetti sauce was delicious.  It’s almost impossible to make a bad green salad so there were no problems there.  That leaves the focaccia…It was terrible!  Despite cooking it the minimum time suggested by the recipe, my focaccia was way overdone, having a texture more like that of dry toast than the moist chewy consistency that I expected.  In trying to troubleshoot, the two things I knew would result in this kind of failure were overcooking and too much flour.  My oven cooks “cool.”  Most of the time when a range is given for cooking time, I have to leave things in the maximum time and sometimes then some.  If the focaccia was overcooked, which it seemed to be, I have to think that was an inaccuracy in the recipe in some way.

With regard to the problem being the use of too much flour, I weigh my flour rather than measuring by volume because this gives a more accurate amount.  And, no extra flour is necessary to knead this dough, so I was fairly sure that too much flour wasn’t the issue.  Solving my problem was going to take some more thought.

Dinner that night consisted of pasta and salad…no bread!

Not to be defeated, I tried again with the recipe for Golden Focaccia.  On my second attempt, I made two changes: I used bread flour instead of all-purpose flour and I cooked the bread only fifteen minutes.  Bread flour has a higher protein content and generally yields a higher rise and less crumb.  Success!  This time was much better!  I suspect the reduction in cooking time made the real difference.  I probably could have left the focaccia in the oven another minute or two and it would have perhaps gotten a little more crispy, but under no circumstances would I leave it in the oven for the 20-25 minutes as indicated in the recipe!

One other “substitution” that I made to the recipe as written is rather than using dried rosemary, in combination with salt in pepper, to season the focaccia, I used King Arthur Flour’s Pizza Seasoning.  Yum!

I’m glad that I gave this recipe a second chance.  It is a tasty bread that makes an excellent side to your favorite Italian dish.  As we discovered with my second batch, it also makes the perfect snack as the bread disappeared slice by slice from the counter once it was photographed.  It would also make great sandwich bread if you are looking for a change.

Speaking of photographing the Golden Focaccia…This was challenging also!

Tracey and I have a running joke about brown food and how much of it there is and how difficult it is to photograph said brown food such that it looks appetizing.  Don’t let the name Golden Focaccia fool you.  It is brown food!  The challenge in photographing it comes in trying to plate the food in such a way that it remains the definite subject of the photo, but the overall photo is not boring.  Yes, you can add all kind of props to liven up an image.  Often though, in the end the viewer’s eye is drawn to the pretty bowl or vase of flowers rather than the food item itself.

I will be the first to say that my photo of the Golden Focaccia is rather boring.  I will also admit that I struggled with exactly how to photograph it.  Perhaps I could have used a colored basket liner rather than white.  But, had I done that, the image would have been more clearly bisected.  I think that might have been distracting.  Maybe I would have been better off using a bottle of olive oil in the background instead of the remaining uncut bread.  Or maybe some nice green herbs in some water.  Here’s the deal…olive oil is also brown(ish).  If you happen to have one of those colorful display bottles for your olive oil, it will definitely add a pop of color to your photo…and likely will pull the viewer’s eye away from the bread.  The same would be true of green herbs.  So there’s the dilemma.  And unlike many other photo subjects, food photography cannot really be “saved” with processing.  It must look real.  It must look edible.  Obviously I came up with no real solution to this whole issue with my photo this week, but this second batch tasted delicious!

 

from Tracey G

I have truly come to love the King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge that they present every month. I’m also extremely happy to see that they are continuing it – I was afraid it would only last a year. This month marks the start of a new year of Bakealong Challenges, hard to believe we’ve done it for a year already! It has challenged me and stretched my knowledge and abilities more than I expected! Plus, it’s just downright fun! Yes, there have been frustrations along the way, the first one, off the top of my head, was the Berry Blitz Torte. That one pushed my perfectionist buttons to the breaking point, when in the end, I ended up deciding that the weather was just working too much against me, and it will be one I revisit in the winter, by golly, because I will get it the way I want it! LOL

This month’s KAF Bakealong Challenge, Golden Focaccia is super easy. But it also was a bit of challenge to get “right”. I know that makes it sound ominous, and it’s really not, lol. It IS easy. I just had issues when it came to baking it off. 🙂 There’s also a gluten-free version of the recipe, and I’ll include a link to it at the end of the post!

As Kris stated, the ingredients are simple: flour, yeast, water, salt and olive oil, plus herbs of choice for seasoning it before baking. There is only the one part that makes it something you need to plan ahead for – the overnight starter. It helps jump-start your yeast AND it helps flavor the dough a bit. But it does need to sit for about 14 hours, so plan accordingly.

After you get it all mixed up, there’s a rising time in a bowl for about 30 min. Then, you prepare whatever pan you’ve decided to use, they do list a regular sheet pan, 9×13″ sheet pans or even round cake pans as options. I chose two 9×13″ sheet pans. There are a couple of rising times after you get the dough onto the pan, first one is 30 minutes, second rise is approximately 1 hour.  To prepare it to bake, you spritz it with warm water, then drizzle with olive oil. I too chose to use the KAF Pizza Seasoning on one, and the other was the traditional rosemary, salt and pepper.

After it was all spritzed, oiled and seasoned, into the oven it went. And out of the oven it came like a really tasty, light as air – crouton. I overbaked it. It was still lovely, and Jeremy and I pretty much ate both of the breads quickly despite the crunchy texture. I knew then, that it was something I’d likely make quite often, just to have it to nibble on. So, I decided to make it again, and adjust the baking time to see what I ended up with. Second batch was just as tasty, but, I experimented with the baking times – one pan I baked 17 minutes, and the other was 20-21 minutes. I preferred the 20-21 minute version – it had the perfect crunch and chewy texture. But, the bright side of the slightly under-done 17 minute version, is, that it crisps up nicely when reheated in the toaster oven!

All in all, I am so glad for this month’s Bakealong Recipe for Golden Focaccia, it’s something I too have never ever made in my own kitchen, and I am pleased to know how easy it is now to do it. It just seems to be one that you have to mess around with once or twice to get it the way YOU want it to be. And in all honesty, it’s so easy and inexpensive to make that’s not a problem at all, it’s an easy thing to whip up! Just don’t overbake it… LOL

Here’s a link right to the recipe: Golden Focaccia

And if you’re baking gluten-free, they’ve got you covered with a gluten-free version: Gluten Free Focaccia

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Food Friday – Let’s Eat Cake!

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from Kris B.

Have you ever thought about how your food choices, both what you like to eat and what you like to prepare, reflect your personality?  Over the almost three years that Tracey and I have been choosing recipes to write about, I have noticed a distinct pattern in my selections.  I am a down to earth, simple, no frills kind of girl.  In the kitchen, that translates into my preferences are really for home cooking and comfort food kinds of things.  That becomes blatantly obvious in my cake choice for this week’s post.

Though the Scandinavian Gold Cake has kind of a fancy sounding name, it really is a fairly basic cake, almost poundcake-like.  It uses the usual cast of characters – flour, sugar, butter, lots of eggs (6), salt and baking powder.  This cake gets its flavor from almond extract and King Arthur Flour’s Princess Cake and Cookie Flavoring.  Use of this specialty flavoring is not necessary; vanilla extract can be substituted.  I wanted to give it a try because the King Arthur Animal Cookies recipe that a made awhile back called for it.  At that time I didn’t have it and did use the vanilla substitution.  I absolutely loved the animal cookies and wanted to make them again, so I ordered the Princess Cake and Cookie Flavoring to get the “full effect” of that recipe. The flavoring adds a bit of citrus overtone to the vanilla flavor.  In my opinion, it is a worthy purchase.

The one “secret ingredient” called for in the Scandinavian Gold Cake is a cup of toasted almond flour used in addition to the all-purpose flour.  King Arthur Flour does sell Toasted Almond Flour, but I didn’t have any.  (There’s always one ingredient!)  I had only regular almond flour.  What’s a girl to do?  Toast her own!  Spread the almond flour on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake it at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes.  You will see the flour start to toast and you will smell the nutty aroma.  I toasted mine for the full ten minutes.

The making of the cake is super easy.  Cream butter and add sugar.  Mix in the salt, soda and flavorings.  Then add the flours, followed by the eggs, one at a time.  Pour the batter into a greased and floured 10″ bundt pan and bake for an hour at 325 degrees. Cool the cake in the pan for fifteen minutes and then turn it out of the pan to continue cooling on a baking rack.

Confession time:  I actually had to make this cake twice because of the last step – the turning out of the pan part.  With my first attempt, I used a fancy “cathedral-shaped” bundt pan.  Apparently I did not get all of the nooks and crannies greased and floured well enough and the cake stuck.  It tasted great, but was not photo worthy. Lol!  Perhaps my failure with the fancy pan goes back to what I said at the beginning of this post about being a simple kind of girl.  With my second attempt, I used a regular bundt pan and made sure no surface was left un-greased.  This cake turned out of the pan perfectly.  All that said, my family was perfectly happy to eat the first cake that was served in “chunks” rather than slices.

The Scandinavian Gold Cake recipe includes a glaze that further amplifies the cake’s  flavors by using both the almond extract and the Princess Cake and Cookie Flavoring that were used in the cake itself.  Because I am not an icing fan, I did not make the glaze.  I simply dusted the cake with powdered sugar before serving.  For me, this was just enough sweetness.  If, however, you are an icing person, I have no doubt that the glaze would be a nice addition to the cake itself.

The Scandinavian Gold Cake has a satisfying flavor on its own, but it is not overpowering or overwhelming.  The cake could also be served with fruit or with ice cream.  If you are looking for a quick and simple summer dessert for a get together or a treat for yourself and your family, give this cake a try.  Its flexibility with toppings and garnishes make it easy to accomodate everyone’s likes.

 

from Tracey G

Before I get into my offering this week, reading the about the trouble Kris had with the cake sticking reminded me of an excellent article on the King Arthur Flour blog, Flourish. It’s an article devoted to preventing your Bundt cakes from sticking! Lots of handy tips, like using sugar instead of flour for the greasing/flouring step. It’s definitely worth a look! Here’s the link: How To Prevent Bundt Cakes From Sticking: 10 Simple Tips

And now onto my recipe of the week!

Ever since I was a little kid, blueberries have been one of my favorite things – in pies, desserts, muffins etc. And it’s funny because Harry is the same way – only he’ll not even wait for them to be made into anything, he loves just grabbing a bowl of frozen blueberries to eat as-is, lol! August here, as I’ve said before, is prime-time blueberry season for us, lots of local places to pick your own if you’re so inclined. Me, I prefer to send Jeremy and Harry to pick, then I’ll process them! They are also something I always have in my freezer, and again that actually goes back to when Harry was a baby, I made all his baby food, so frozen fruits – namely blueberries were a staple. And still are.

I was pleased to find another recipe to utilize them in, in the form of Blueberry Ricotta Cake on the King Arthur Flour website, in their recipe collection. Funnily enough, this is similar to last week’s Blueberry Breakfast Cake, but this is more “cakey”, lol. I’ve no other way to describe it! But it’s equally delicious!

The recipe is also very simple as well as delicious, which is always a good thing in book! It’s done in a few steps, but it’s super easy stuff. The batter ingredients include: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, shortening, egg and vanilla. Once you get the batter mixed, you pour it into your prepared pan and then layer the blueberries on top of the batter. Next, you make a “topping”. The ingredients for it include: eggs, ricotta cheese, sugar and vanilla. That gets mixed together, then poured over top the blueberry “layer”.  It then gets baked at 350° F for about 55-60 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

You can eat it as soon as it’s cooled to lukewarm, and I did. Let me say it’s become a favorite of mine – I will make this again!  You can, once again, use fresh or frozen blueberries, and I imagine you could experiment with other berries as well. I think raspberry would be a nice variation. This cake also keeps well, you can keep it in the refrigerator up to 5 days – and let me say it just gets better as it ages, in my opinion!

To sum it up, if you’re looking for a recipe to use up some of your bountiful blueberries or just in the mood for something with blueberries – this recipe for Blueberry Ricotta Cake is one to try!

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Food Friday – Start the Day Off Right with Cookies And Cake!

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Two words…breakfast and cookies…that when combined scream “you must try this” to me!  Breakfast is hands down my favorite meal of the day and when forced to play favorites with baked goods, cookies will always take the cake! 🙂  That said, sweet is not usually my norm for the first meal of the day.  Not because I don’t like sweets (obviously), but because if I start the day with sweets, I crave them all day long.  That said, I had to give the Breakfast Cookies from King Arthur Flour a try.

The base of these breakfast cookies is much like any cookie – flour, butter, eggs, milk (both liquid and powdered), vanilla, brown sugar, peanut butter, and a touch of cinnamon; it’s what’s added to these basic ingredients that gives these breakfast cookies their unique character.  The only ingredient called for that is out of the ordinary is Hi-maize Fiber.  Derived from corn, this dietary fiber acts as a resistant starch and aids in digestive health.  Hi-maize fiber can be ordered from King Arthur Flour.  A 12oz bag is $7.95.  This recipe uses 1/3 of a cup.  Once you’ve addressed this one not-so-mainstream ingredient, then the fun with making this recipe begins!

After you make this base, you add 4 1/2 cups of “add-ins.”  What are add-ins?  Almost anything that you like – seeds, dried fruits, nuts, grains, baking chips of any flavor, granola…  There is no specific ratio of types of ingredients suggested, only the 4 1/2 cup measurement.  Therefore, these breakfast cookies can be “customized” for you and your family.  In the batch that I made, I added oatmeal, coconut, dried cranberries, greek yogurt flavored chips, almonds, and some dates.  The recipe instructions warn you to not overbake these cookies as they will become dry and crumbly.  One of the reasons that I used the dates (3/4 cup), was to help retain some moisture.

When I make a recipe for the first time, I usually follow the instructions exactly as given.  That said however, after reading the comments about this recipe on the King Arthur website, I did make one adjustment.  The original recipe does not call for any leavening agents.  A number of people found this problematic and recommended adding a 1/2 tsp. of both baking powder and baking soda.  I did do that.

These Breakfast Cookies are hearty dense cookies.  The recipe suggest 1/4 cup of batter for each cookie, yielding 18-20 cookies.  Mine were a little smaller because I got 27 cookies.  Despite that, even for this cookie monster, one cookie is quite filling.  I ate a cookie and a banana (with my requisite big cup of coffee) at 7:30 in the morning and that was enough to hold me until after 1 pm.  Based on that, I think these will be a good breakfast for me once I go back to school and teach a six-hour stretch from 7:30-1:30. 🙁

This first time, I did bake off the whole batch and froze the already baked cookies  I think, however, that you could also freeze the pre-portioned but unbaked dough and pull it out in the morning and pop it in the toaster oven for a “fresh-baked” breakfast on those mornings when you may not be feeling totally fresh yourself.  Yes.  That is personal experience speaking! 🙂

I hope you will give the King Arthur Flour Breakfast Cookies a try.  If you do, please share your customized “add-ins” combinations with us!

 

When wondering what to do for our Breakfast offering for this week, I decided to flop around and see what recipes King Arthur Flour had using blueberries since August, here, is when they seem to really come out. That, and I was looking for a recipe that a I could also utilize frozen berries in, so it could be a recipe I could make year-round with fresh if I wanted or frozen, if that’s all I had. And that is how I discovered the Blueberry Breakfast Cake. (Here’s also a blog post on this recipe too from KAF’s blog, Flourish – Breakfast Blueberry Cake Flourish Post)

And it really is super easy to put together, and very yummy to eat! It uses basic ingredients that I normally have on hand, well, except for one. I just happened to have some ricotta on hand from another recipe, so this was a great way to use that up – no waste, but it’s not the norm for me to have it in the fridge, but after this recipe – maybe it will be!

The ingredients involved are: eggs, sugar, butter, small-curd cottage cheese OR ricotta, sour cream, Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor (you can find this on the KAF website if you want it) or vanilla (I used vanilla), flour, salt, baking powder, fresh or frozen blueberries and cinnamon sugar for topping.

Once you get everything thing all mixed up, you pour the batter into a lightly greased 8-inch cake pan – with sides at least 2 inches tall, or you can use either a 8-inch square pan or a 9-inch round pan. You then bake it for about 50 minutes in a 350° F oven, until a tester comes out clean. Cool for about 30 minutes then serve. It’s just that easy! I might also add here that while it’s excellent warm, it’s good out of the fridge cold – plus the in between of out-of-the-fridge-and-warmed-back-up is fine too!! Once it was cooled in the fridge it almost reminded me of slightly aerated sort of cheese cake-like texture, it’s hard to explain! But it’s good to eat!

So, if you you’re looking for a different kind of breakfast fare, instead of muffins, quick breads etc, do give the Blueberry Breakfast Cake a try – it’s cake! For breakfast! Yay!

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Mix It Up Friday – July 2017

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from Kris Baker

Mix It Up Fridays often feel like “cheat days” for me because I don’t normally bake from mixes.  We all know, however, that sometimes you need for life to give you a break and reaching for a box is a reasonable compromise between homemade and store-bought.  I must admit that I felt a little guilty about making bread from a mix because bread baking is such a meditative, even cathartic, process for me.  I thought that I was slacking, or perhaps gypping myself, by not baking entirely from scratch.  After pondering these thoughts for a bit, I came to the following conclusions:

  1. It is really the kneading and shaping process that, for me, that provides the majority of the meditative quality with regard to bread baking.  That is still a part of making bread from a mix.  The convenience that the mix provides is knowing before you start that you have all of the necessary dry ingredients and that they are all pre-measured.  For me, having to pull all of the ingredients from the pantry is often the factor that determines whether I will make bread or not.  Perhaps I’m just lazy sometimes.
  2. The second positive for bread baking from a mix is that it provides the opportunity to try breads with ingredients that may not be staple items in your pantry.  That is the case for me with this week’s Mix It Up Scottish Toasting Oat Bread Mix.  This hearty bread contains barley flakes and oat berries, both things I enjoy in bread, but don’t regularly have on hand.

All that said, I totally enjoyed the process of this bread from start to finish, from the mixing, kneading, and shaping to the eating!

Honestly, I was surprised at how simple making bread really is when you don’t have to gather and measure ingredients.  Literally all I had to do was dump the package of dry ingredients and the included yeast into the bowl, add a cup of warm water and 2 tablespoons of water, mix it up, and then knead the dough.

The dough rises in a lightly greased covered bowl for about an hour before it is shaped and placed in a greased loaf pan for the shorter 30 minute second rise.  With the second rise, the loaf should crown about an inch over the pan.

The Scottish Toasting Oat Bread bakes for 35-45 minutes in a 350 degree oven and then cools on a wire rack.

It is no secret that anything with oats or oatmeal in it is a favorite of mine.  So, it goes without saying that I love this bread.  And since I mentioned above my potential for laziness, I must add here that when I am feeling lazy in the morning and don’t want to expend the energy to make a “real” breakfast (eggs, hot cereal, even a smoothie), I am always content with toast, made with pretty much any kind of bread, with a little butter and jelly or peanut butter.  The Scottish Toasting Oat Bread feels like decadent toast. Lol!  It has flavor and substance.

I should add here that the “toasting” part of its name is important.  We tried a slice of the bread with just a little butter spread on it and found that it crumbled a bit, which did not happen when it was toasted.  Save and enjoy this bread toasted in the morning, but plan on another bread for your lunchtime sandwich.

Though I was leery of bread from a mix, I have to say that I am sold on this one.  It may become a pantry regular for me, sitting right next to the flour bin.  I have enjoyed not teaching this summer and being able to bake whenever I feel the urge.  When I go back to work in a few weeks (aargh), having this compromise option for freshly baked bread in the pantry may help ease me back into the real world of work!

Scottish Toasting Oat Bread Mix

from Tracey G.

I’m a cheesecake lover from WAY back! Ever since childhood, this was, I think, my first favorite dessert, until I met Tiramisu, but that’s another story for another time… LOL 😉 But, even with Tiramisu in the picture, cheesecake is still beloved by me no matter what. It’s one of the desserts I’ll order out after a nice dinner. I also discovered on a trip once that it goes great with a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat Ale! Which, by the way, I just looked something up at the Sam Adams site, and the list of food pairings for this particular beer included cheesecake! LOL! So, I wasn’t imagining it was a great combo!

Anyway, this week I decided to try King Arthur Flour‘s mix for Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, from their Essential Goodness Line. I had been dreaming of pairing it with some of those fresh local strawberries I’d put in the freezer a few weeks ago, so that’s what I did.

The mix is super easy to make, I mean, super easy. And as Kris said, it’s nice to deal with a mix sometimes for the ease and for the fact that you may only have to add a few ingredients, and that’s it. It may contain some of those pantry items I don’t necessarily keep around, so it’s nice to not have to buy a whole lot of something I may only use once and then be stuck with, wondering what to do with.

The only things you provide with this mix is the cream cheese (and honestly, I used Neufchatel and it was just fine!), eggs and butter. It does call for two 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, so I did buy those special for it. But of course, the butter and eggs I had on hand. I prepared mine in a 9-inch square pan, it’s kind of nice it doesn’t make a huge quantity for our household, which means none went to waste.

Putting together is easy, the butter gets added to the crust mix, pressed into the pan and baked for about 15 minutes. While it’s baking, you combine the cream cheese and filling mix, then add your eggs in one at a time until each are combined. When the crust comes out of oven, you pour the filling over the hot crust and bake for the time prescribed depending on the size of your pan, a bit longer for 8-inch than for 9-inch, but even the longest bake-time is about 36 minutes. After baking you cool at room temperature for an hour, then refrigerate at least 3 hours, or overnight, before cutting. Due to that cooling-then-chilling step, it’s best to plan ahead for making this particular mix.

Now, for the eating – not much to say here but YUMMY!! Wow, it far exceeded my expectations of a cheesecake-from-a-mix, I would love to serve this to anyone and let them think it’s homemade because it’s that good! It reminded me of cheesecakes I’ve had out in restaurants that I’ve adored. It’s not that expensive (under 5 bucks), easy to make and fabulous to eat. It will now forever hold a special place in my pantry and my heart!!! Do give the Essential Goodness Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Mix a chance, I’m confident you’ll love it as much as I do!

P.S. Here’s a link to the product page that has some links on how to make some variations using this particular mix! There’s also some great ideas on the online catalog page for it too, I’ll share that link again as wel!

Essential Goodness Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Mix Product Page

Essential Goodness Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Mix Online Catalog Page

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Food Friday – July 2017 King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge- Blueberry Hand Pies

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I have come to love the week’s where we share our experiences with King Arthur Flour’s Monthly Bakealong Challenge.  I don’t have to figure out what to make and, often times, I am encouraged to make something that I may not have chosen to do on my own.  The July Bakealong Challenge, Blueberry Hand Pies, is one of those things that I probably would not have been drawn to immediately.  Pies are not “my thing.”  I love to eat them, but have never enjoyed making them as much as I do cakes, bread, or cookies.  My experience with this month’s Bakealong Challenge has changed my experience a bit toward the positive.

On first reading, the recipe may sound a little tedious, perhaps even daunting in that you first have to make the blueberry filling, make the crust and then cut all of the pieces, and then finally assemble the individual hand pies.  This is one of those recipes where the words are more cumbersome than the actual process of making the pies.  And, even if the process feels a bit cumbersome to you, the final product is well worth the effort!

The crust for these hand pies is rich, containing a full cup of butter as well as sour cream.  The dry ingredients are whisked together, the butter is cut in and then the sour cream is added.  The recipe says that once all of the ingredients are combined the dough should be turned out on a floured board and it should come together “with a few quick kneads.”  It definitely took more than a few quick kneads for me to get the pastry to come together.  I resisted the urge to add a little more liquid.  Eventually I had a nice crust that was easy with which to work.

For the blueberry filling, either fresh or frozen blueberries will work.  I used frozen because all the fresh blueberries at our house were used to top yogurt or in morning smoothies.  The berries, along with some lemon juice, sugar, salt, and a thickening agent are cooked down over medium heat.  They must cool to room temperature before the pies can be assembled.

I made my crust and put it in the fridge to chill while I made the filling and waited for it to cool.

To assemble, the pastry dough is rolled out to a 14v14 square and cut into sixteen 3 1/2″ squares.  Because I am a perfectionist, I used a 3 1/2″ square cutter for this step,  You can also use a ruler and a pizza cutter.  A heaping tablespoon is placed in the center of eight of the dough squares.  The edges of these pieces are then brushed with whisked egg.  The top pieces of the pies must be vented.  I used a small scalloped cutter to cut a hole in the center of each top.  I then placed the top crust, as well as the cut out piece, atop each of the eight pies.  The decorative aspect of the particular cutter that I used was lost in the baking.  something a little more pronounced, a star or a heart, might be a little prettier in the end.  The tines of a fork are used to seal the edges of the two pieces of crust.  The tops are then brushed with more of the egg mixture and sprinkled with sparkling sugar.  The pies are then transferred to a parchment lined baking sheet at baked for 18-20 minutes.  I split the difference and set my timer for 19 minutes.  The pies were perfectly done at that point.  I share this because I often have to cook things a bit longer in my oven.  So, if your oven tends to be “hot” you may want to check your pies before the eighteen minute mark.

I must say that the Blueberry Hand Pies were a HUGE hit with my husband.  Let’s just say that after my daughter and I sampled a pie, the other six were gone in two days.  Weber is not a big sweets person.  I think the fact that he enjoyed these so much is because the filling is not overly sweet; they are just sweet enough.

This recipe has been deemed “A Keeper.”

 

I am in complete agreement with Kris, I too have come to love the Bakealong weeks for the same reasons – I don’t have to think about what to make, and it does make me try something I may never have thought to make on my own. With this month’s Bakealong Challenge recipe though, for the Blueberry Hand Pies, the funny thing was I’d had the recipe printed off for a couple months and placed in my “to try” folder of King Arthur Flour recipes. I was exceptionally pleased to see it for this month’s Bakealong Challenge as it gave me the push and excuse to get it out and get going on it!

I won’t go into to much repetition here on the hows  – Kris did an excellent job describing the process, there was nothing different there for me! I too had that same thought of “a few kneads?”, when trying to get the crust ingredients to come together – and  I too resisted the urge to add more liquid, lol. I really loved working with this dough, though, it was so easy, even despite the work to get it to come together. Rolling was really easy, it wasn’t sticky and it wasn’t too dry, it was just right for easy working. They also came together easily, I used a ruler to cut my squares and my tablespoon cookie scoop to plop the filling in the middle. I used a knife to cut the steam-vent patterns on the top crust squares, sealed them up, brushed the top with beaten egg and dusted with regular table sugar because both of my guys dislike the large sparkling sugar. They don’t care for the crunch. I on the other hand love it, but since I was making these mostly for them, I chose the sugar they like.

And to say they like them, I think, is an understatement. Jeremy has eaten almost every one of them. I have only had a half, lol! The other night when I was getting his lunch together for him as he was running late, he didn’t ask if I put FOOD in it, he was more concerned with whether or not I put in the HAND PIES! It was hilarious. He’s declared them better than PopTarts, lol, which I take as a high compliment to be sure! I already have all kinds of fruit variations running through my head for these, they are just so perfect for easy eating and travel! No need to cut, no need for plates or forks etc. My next experiment with them is to try freezing the baked pies for future eating – to take a day and stock the freezer with them.

I, like Kris have discovered these to be a keeper, and something I will make often. I am so glad that this month’s Bakealong Challenge was the Blueberry Hand Pies recipe, it was fun to make and even more fun to eat! And there are oh so many variation possibilities!!!

And here’s a link for the walk-through and just the recipe:

Blueberry Hand Pie Walk-Through

Blueberry Hand Pies

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Food Friday – Getting Sweet With Bread

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from Tracey G.

I love bread, and that means in all its forms, lol. I love a good sweet bread, which is why I really loved the KAF recipe for Portuguese Sweet Bread I made a few posts back. That bread was really reminiscent of the Hawaiian Rolls you buy at the store – and that made me realize I really wanted a recipe a LOT like the rolls at the store. Enter King Arthur Flour’s Hawaiian Buns. They are perfect in every way – the most important part of that perfection is that they are very easy to make!! Very, very easy! Plus, there’s a great walk-thru for them!

I will say that I used the SAF Gold instant yeast that I’d purchased from KAF as a way to help my sweet bread recipes rise a bit faster, but it’s not a necessary thing to have – regular instant yeast is just fine too. If you use a regular yeast, it will just take a bit longer to rise. And even then, this recipe is worth the wait! This recipe also uses a bit of canned pineapple juice. I made sure to purchase a six-pack of the little cans so I could have it on hand for when the mood hits to make this recipe!

This recipe starts with a sponge. You mix a bit of your flour, water and all of your yeast in a bowl or the bowl of your mixer etc, and let it stand about 15 minutes. After it’s rested, you add: pineapple juice, butter, brown sugar, eggs and yolk, and vanilla. In another bowl, you whisk together the rest of the flour, potato flour and salt.

Now, I’ll stop right here to say I never have potato flour on hand, but I DO have instant potato flakes always on hand, so those were substituted for the potato flour.  

Alright, moving forward… You add the dry ingredients to the mixer and start with your flat beater attachment for a few minutes, then the recipe has you switch to the dough hook and knead for a few more.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl to rise until it’s very puffy – 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Near the end of the rise, you grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. After gently deflating your dough, it’s now to time to shape your rolls.

Again, I’ll stop here to say it’s a sticky dough, and they recommend keeping your hands oiled when working with it if you’re having trouble – I had to keep mine oiled and it really helped!

Divide your dough into 16 portions, shape each into a nice smooth ball and place in the baking pan and they get to rise for about another hour. Before you bake the rolls in a 350°F oven for about 20-25 minutes, you brush the tops with a mixture of egg white and water so they get a nice shiny top.

This is another one of those creations that I can’t believe came out of my kitchen – they look and taste like they just had to have been by a “professional” somewhere else, lol!! They are so yummy it’s hard to stop eating them – I finally popped them into the freezer, to curb that! And I can say that they freeze AND thaw beautifully!! I know I won’t be buying the rolls/buns this year around the Holidays – I’ll be making them! Give the KAF Hawaiian Buns a try – you will not be sorry!!!

from Kris B.

Lately, I have been trying to curb my addiction to sweets, particularly sweet carbs.  So when it came time to choose my recipe for this week’s sweet bread offering, I wanted to make it something that I would really enjoy.  Two things factored heavily into my choice of King Arthur Flours’s Jam-filled Sour Cream Coffee Bread: The first was the mention of coffee in the name.  Anything that goes with coffee certainly must be delicious.  Secondly, my daughter and her family had just been blackberry picking and I had blackberries on my mind.  And, Weber loves blackberries.  I figured if I made something that he particularly liked, I would not feel obligated to eat it all myself.  Having said all that about the blackberries, the recipe does not specify what kind of jam that you use, so you can use whatever kind is your family’s favorite.

The Jam-filled Sour Cream Coffee Bread is much like a danish with its braided crust and filling of fruit and cream cheese.  The dough recipe calls for pastry flour, which I did not have.  The difference between all-purpose flour and pastry flour is in the protein content of the two.  Pastry flour contains 9% protein whereas all-purpose has 10-12%.  For comparison, bread flour has the highest protein amounts at 14-16% and cake flour has the lowest at 7-8%.  To compensate for the fact that I had no pastry flour on hand, I used a mixture of all-purpose and cake flours.  This recipe calls for three cups of pastry flour.  I used two cups of all-purpose and one cup of cake flour.  Having never made this particular dough before, I have no means of comparison with the pastry flour version.  All I can say is that the dough was light and delicious.  Interestingly, this recipe did not call for SAF Gold instant yeast, often used for sweet breads, that Tracey mentioned above.  The dough only uses 3 TBS of sugars so perhaps it is not sweet enough to benefit from this yeast.

Both the dough recipe and the cream cheese filling call for KAF’s Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor.  “Our Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor is extra-buttery, with hints of vanilla and citrus; add a few drops of this flavoring to your favorite sweet bread recipe, and your family and friends will be clamoring for the name of the bakery you visited.”  I did not have this flavoring either, so I substituted vanilla, but I am going to order some Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor before I make this recipe again!

Once the dough has rested for 90 minutes, the Jam-filled Sour Cream Coffee Bread is ready to be assembled.  The filling consists of a layer of your jam of choice and a cream cheese mixture.  I mixed both of these during the last few minutes of the dough’s rise time.  Again, I was lacking an ingredient called for.  The recipe calls for Instant Clear Gel to be mixed with the jam to help congeal the fruit juices.  The recipe offers an alternative of mixing all-purpose flour with the jam if you don’t have the Instant Clear Gel.

The final layer is a cream cheese base to which butter, egg, sugar, and flavoring are added.

To assemble, the dough is first divided into to pieces.  The first piece is rolled into a 10×15 rectangle.  In the recipe, a crucial step is left out at this point.  Put your dough on the parchment lined pan before you fill and assemble it!!!  It is almost impossible to move if you try to move it onto the baking sheet after it is assembled.  

Continue on.

Half of the jam mixture is spread down the center 2 1/2 inches of the dough, leaving one each clear on each end.  Half of the cream cheese mixture is then spread atop the jam.  The remaining dough on each side of the filling is cut about every 3/4 inches and folded onto the filling to create a braided top.  Honestly, the instructions in the recipe for this finishing step were not the greatest.  They leave out the fact that you have to discard the dough on each side of the center at both ends to avoid a big dough-y end to your pastry.  If you have never made a braided pastry before, here is the link with instructions that shows just how simple it really is.  Incidentally, in this video, the chef assembles the pastry on parchment and then moves the completed pastry to the pan.  You can see the potential for disaster as she does this.  This is why I suggest the entire assembly be done on your baking sheet.

This process is then repeated with your second piece of dough.

This is one of those recipes that sounds, and the final product looks, harder than it really is.  Sliced in about inch pieces, The Jam-filled Sour Cream Coffee Bread is a delicious light treat to have alongside your morning, or afternoon or evening, coffee.  (Coffee is an all-the-time thing at our house.)  I’m looking forward to trying it with some different kinds of jam.  Watch for my version with pumpkin butter in the fall!!!

***

As an aside, I have also made the Hawaiian Buns that Tracey wrote about this week.  I was making a recipe for Asian Sliders that called for store-bough Hawaiian rolls.  At Tracey’s suggestion, I made King Arthur’s Hawaiian Buns instead of using the store=bought.  Everything that she says about them is absolutely true!

 

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