Saturday, December 31, 2011

Real Italian Calzones

I do love a good calzone! Chicken with black olives, pepperoni with mushrooms, whole wheat . . . I've always used the same base calzone recipe out of one of my cookbooks and I've experimented with fillings. This time though I decided to look for a new recipe altogether. I came across this one that sounded a bit different from my other with the biggest difference being that there is no sauce.

This recipe tops my other one by far! I love the mix of the cheeses that compliment the pepperoni and mushrooms. The only disappointment was that they turned out so flat. That could have had something to do with too much flour, or not enough rise time, or  . . . who knows. What I do know is that these are tasty and I will have plenty of chances to figure out the problem with the rising dough. Enjoy! 

Real Italian Calzones
Source: All Recipes

2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup diced pepperoni
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
1 egg, beaten

To Make Dough: In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add the oil, sugar and salt; mix in 1 cup of the flour until smooth. Gradually stir in the rest of the flour, until dough is smooth and workable. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes, or until it is elastic. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for 40 minutes, or until almost doubled. 

To Make Filling: While dough is rising, combine the ricotta cheese, cheddar cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms and basil leaves in a large bowl. Mix well, cover bowl and refrigerate to chill.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 

When dough is ready, punch it down and separate it into 2 equal parts. Roll parts out into thin circles on a lightly floured surface. Fill each circle with 1/2 of the cheese/meat filling and fold over, securing edges by folding in and pressing with a fork. Brush the top of each calzone with egg and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. 

Bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot. 

Makes 8 servings

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Monkey Bread

I made a batch of monkey bread (or pull apart bread as some call it) many years ago, but since I used refrigerated dough I decided that I couldn't count it on my top 100 list. I have been itching for a chance to make monkey bread from scratch for quite a while and I decided that Christmas Eve was the perfect time. Cream cheese cinnamon rolls Christmas morning, monkey bread Christmas Eve; pretty perfect for a holiday weekend if you ask me. And yes, I did run two days in a row just to make up for the calories obtained making these items! Yep, you read that right, making them not even eating them.

This monkey bread is AMAZING! It smells so good while baking, and it looks absolutely perfect as soon as you plate it. I think it looks beautiful without the glaze, but I went ahead and drizzled a half of a batch over the top. It sure doesn't need the sweetness as it already has plenty of that, but I thought it would add some contrast. I was also torn because I wanted to make the monkey bread with the traditional cinnamon and sugar, but I also wanted to add finely chopped apples. I decided to get the best of both worlds and make half of the loaf traditional and half with apples. Both halves are tasty and I couldn't recommend one over the other! Enjoy!

**I've submitted this to Sweet As Sugar Cookies Sweet Treat Link**

Monkey Bread
Source: Slightly modified from Brown Eyed Baker

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, 2 tablespoons softened and 2 tablespoons melted
1 cup milk, warm (about 110 degrees F)
1/3 cup water, warm (about 110 degrees F)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 package instant yeast
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
2 teaspoons salt

Brown Sugar Coating: 1 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 slices of apple, finely chopped (optional)

Glaze:1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon milk

In a large measuring cup, mix together milk, water, melted butter, sugar and yeast. Mix flour and salt in standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn machine to low and slowly add milk mixture. After dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until dough is shiny and smooth, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn dough onto lightly floured counter and knead briefly to form smooth, round ball. Coat large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Place dough in bowl and coat surface of dough with cooking spray. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a draft-free area until dough doubles in size, 50 to 60 minutes.

For the sugar coating: While the dough is rising, mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Place melted butter in second bowl. Set aside.

Use 2 tablespoons softened butter to thoroughly coat Bundt pan. Set aside.

Gently remove the dough from the bowl, and pat into a rough 8-inch square. Using a bench scraper or knife, cut dough into 64 pieces.

Roll each dough piece into a ball. Working one at a time, dip the balls into the melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into the bowl. Roll in the brown sugar mixture, then layer balls in the Bundt pan, staggering seams where dough balls meet as you build layers. Sprinkle chopped apple on alternating layers if using.

Cover the Bundt pan tightly with plastic wrap and place in draft-free area until dough balls are puffy and have risen 1 to 2 inches from top of pan, 50 to 70 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unwrap the pan and bake until the top is deep brown and caramel begins to bubble around the edges, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a platter and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

For the glaze: While the bread cools, whisk the confectioners’ sugar and milk in a small bowl until the lumps are gone. Using a whisk, drizzle the glaze over the monkey bread, letting it run over top and down the sides of the bread. Serve warm.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gingerbread Snowmen

Sigh. Cheer. This is the last Christmas cookie post. I am torn because while it was fun to bake over the holidays it was also difficult to find ways to give these things away so we weren't eating dozens and dozens of cookies! Our neighbors, friends, and co-workers can only eat so many Christmas cookies. We know because we pawned them off on all these unsuspecting people.

Amazingly, in all my years of baking I had yet to make gingerbread cookies. In fact, as you can see from the title of this post, I don't even own a gingerbread man cookie cutter (hopefully that will be remedied sometime soon).

I was just about cookied out but really wanted to make gingerbread boys with my little boy this year. I decided to use a recipe posted by a friend since I was pretty sure that pure gingerbread made with molasses would be a bit strong for my little guy's picky palate. This recipe uses butterscotch pudding instead so it makes a gingerbread cookie that tastes like gingerbread without the overly sticky dough that isn't fun for a 5 year old (or his mom) to work with.

We had a very enjoyable time mixing the dough, rolling it out, cutting the snowmen, and baking. The 5 year old's attention span fell apart the next day when it came to decorating, but he was perfectly willing to enjoy the fruits of our labors while driving around after dark dressed in jammies, sipping hot chocolate, nibbling on gingerbread snowmen while looking at brilliantly glowing Christmas lights. Enjoy!

Gingerbread Men
Source: All Recipes

1 (3.5 oz.) package of cook and serve butterscotch pudding mix
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a medium bowl, cream together the dry butterscotch pudding mix, butter, and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the egg. Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon; stir into the pudding mixture. Cover, and chill dough until firm, about 1 hour. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease baking sheets or use parchment paper. 

On a floured board, roll dough out to about 1/8 inch thickness, and cut into shapes using a cookie cutter. Place cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are golden at the edges. Cool on wire racks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies

These were not cookies for just any old occasion, these particular cookies had a special destination. No, it was not my stomach! They helped disadvantaged kids have a great morning celebrating the Christmas season at a community event. I almost didn't get them iced in time, seeing as how I read the message and knew I needed to ice them Thursday night and then somehow transferred it in my brain to needing to ice them Friday night. Thank goodness I run by where the event was being held so I was able to stop in on my way back home to make sure there was still enough time to bring the 3 dozen cookies I had promised. Who can turn away a sugar cookie, after all? No one that I know. Enjoy!

You can find the cookie and icing recipe here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Snowflake Sugar Cookies

The saying goes "no two snowflakes are alike". Do you know how hard it is to stick to that saying when you are decorating cookies? These snowflakes became a bit tedious, as you can probably imagine. The blue and white base went fairly quick, but the snowflake design took a bit of time. You may have noticed that there are three white ones underneath the decorated flakes that are completely white. Yep. I made the executive decision to throw in the towel. That is the great thing about doing this for fun. You don't have to keep decorating if you don't want to! Enjoy!

You can find the recipe for these sugar cookies and icing here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mitten Sugar Cookies

I love cute little mittens! In the form of sugar cookies they are even better! I can't rave enough about this sugar cookie and icing recipe. It makes cookie baking and decorating so much fun. Enjoy!

You can find the recipe for the cookies and icing here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing

I know that people think pumpkins are usually for October or Thanksgiving, but really pumpkins are great any time of the year, right. I did actually make these cookies in the middle of November and I've had them sitting in my folder waiting to get posted since then. I thought about doing a 12 days of Cookies theme, but I only have 7 cookies planned for the Christmas break and between a lack of time and a husband who balked at even these 7 different cookies I thought I wouldn't push my luck. 

These cookies were a bit of a challenge for me. They didn't seem to puff up as much as I thought they would. A bit flat, but very tasty. The icing had a great browned butter flavor but also seemed a bit thin to me. It worked for the event that my husband took them to, but I think if I make them again there will need to be some changes. What, I'm not sure about yet. Enjoy!    

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing

2¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1¼ teaspoons ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2¼ cups light brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1½ cups pureed pumpkin (or canned)
¾ cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups powdered sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon half-and-half
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the pumpkin, half-and-half and vanilla. Beat until very well blended, about 2 minutes (the batter may look grainy at this point, but don’t worry, it will come together). Keep the mixer on low and gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to give it a final mix, incorporating any flour on the sides and scraping the bottom of the bowl.

Use a large cookie scoop to scoop balls of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1½ inches between them. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies spring back when lightly pressed. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the cookies cool for 5 minutes then remove them to the rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining batter.

To make the icing: Add the powdered sugar to a heatproof bowl. Put the butter in a small saucepan over medium heet and let it start melting. Continue cooking, swirling occasionally, until the butter becomes golden brown and smells nutty (be paitent and watch carefully, it can go from brown to burnt quickly). Remove it from the heat and pour it over the powdered sugar, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the half-and-half and vanilla and stir until the icing is smooth. Using a small offset spatula, spread icing on each cookie. (If the icing stiffens before you get them all frosted, stir vigorously to lighten it up.)

Note #1: You can substitute evaporated milk for the half-and-half in both the cookies and the icing.

Note #2: If you don’t have a cookie scoop, transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitting with a plain tip (or use a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off) and pipe 1½-inch rounds onto the prepared baking sheet.

Makes about 3 dozen

Friday, December 9, 2011

Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake

Yum, yum, yum! My mom sent me the link for this cheesecake and asked if it could be included in our Thanksgiving menu. I thought it would be a great idea since, one, I hadn't made cheesecake for a while, and two, I would be required to make it the night before and therefore not a slave to making dessert on Thanksgiving day.

We made a special trip down to Seattle to get the salted caramel sauce since they only sell it at a few locations. The cheesecake came together really well. I roasted a few different types of pumpkins, some sugar pie pumpkins and others just small sized pumpkins. It was interesting to see the difference in the pulps and seeds between the two.

My only problem with this dessert was that the spring on my springform pan was not as tight as it used to be. I guess after 15 years or so it's reasonable to think that the spring would finally be sprung! I should have gone with my initial reaction to the fact that I could easily pop the base piece out while the spring was tight. Like, three times I popped it out. Finally on the fourth time it stayed in and I thought maybe I had just put it a little off kilter for the first three times. Nope, not it.

After a few minutes I started smelling burning. I opened my oven and black smoke poured out. I managed to get a pan (I knew I should have stuck a pan in originally but I just overlooked it) in for the dripping. I turned off the oven and took out the bottom rack. I scrubbed the bottom of the oven as best as I could at 400 degrees F. I thought for sure my cheesecake was toast since I had to turn the oven off and then preheat it again 10 minutes into baking. The oven continued smoking throughout the baking time, often enough that we had to pop out the battery on our smoke detector. Miraculously the cheesecake turned out and it didn't take too much longer than the projected baking time. It was definitely worth the hassle. Enjoy!

Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake
Source: King 5

2 cups gingersnap crumbs
1/2 cup butter 
1/4 cup brown sugar

1 medium sugar pie pumpkin
24 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups unrefined sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup Hot Cakes salted caramel sauce, plus extra for drizzling (or use your favorite caramel sauce)

To make the crust
Combine all of the ingredients and press into a 9-inch springform pan.

To make the filling
Preheat oven to 400° F.

Cut the pumpkin in half crosswise and roast, cut side down, for about 30 minutes or until fork tender. Cool slightly and scrape out the seeds. Scoop out the flesh and puree in a food processor until smooth. You will need 2 cups for the filling.

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth then beat in the eggs and egg yolk until incorporated. Beat in 2 cups of the pumpkin puree, the sugar, sour cream, flour, spices, vanilla and caramel sauce. Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Heat a little of the extra caramel sauce and drizzle a pattern over the top.

Bake at 350° F for about 1 hour or until the center is set. Let rest for 20 minutes and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

UPS Delivers Birthday Cake

Wow, it's been just over a week since my last post! I don't think I've had that much time between recipes for quite a while. It never fails that this time of year is busy for us, and especially so for the past 5 years. Our little guy celebrated his 5th birthday this weekend and it seems to be a whirlwind of activity from one celebration to the next.

While I didn't do anything fancy with his cake I thought I would post it anyway just in case there are any others out there who want to venture into theme cakes while their kids are still young enough. I don't know how many more years I'll be able to pull these off, but I'll take it while I can get it!

His request for his cake this year started out a bit like last year with wanting roads and such. When he mentioned trailers again I decided I would surprise him with something similar yet different. He and his dad had been looking for a brown UPS truck pulling a trailer. While I couldn't find a brown truck pulling a trailer I was able to find a brown truck and a semi truck and trailer.

I borrowed a commercial size cookie sheet from a friend (13x18, I believe) and whipped up a box of devil's food cake mix. I used store bought vanilla frosting and just tinted it brown and green. Crushed up chocolate animal crackers made up the road and assorted candy from a bridge mix made up the rocks. I was able to find silver taper candles that worked perfect for the streetlights.

My plan was to make boxes and a UPS drop box out of rice krispy treats and then cover them in marshmallow fondant. I used cocoa krispies just in case the fondant didn't turn out (at least they would have been brown) and then made up my very first batch of fondant. I have never worked with fondant before, and probably won't use it a lot. I would have to say that this was actually edible, unlike those that you buy from the store pre-made. How could it not be; the ingredients are marshmallows, powdered sugar, and water. Sweet, sweet, sweet!

I tinted it brown, rolled it out, cut it to fit my little rice krispy boxes and molded it to shape. They turned out pretty good and I was very happy with them. Tasty too! The drop box was another matter though. No matter how I cut and molded it just didn't look right. In the end, I left it out. Designers prerogative, I guess.

In the end, one 5 year old was very pleased and that's all that matters in the end! Enjoy!

Marshmallow Fondant