Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cinnamon, Sugar, and Raisin Challah

Loaf number four, cinnamon, sugar, and raisins all rolled up in honey white goodness. While this loaf was tasty coming out of the oven it was even better a few days later as french toast! I made this loaf similar to the caramel chocolate. I divided the dough into four equal pieces, rolled out each piece and spread cinnamon sugar and raisins on it, then rolled it back up. I also did a four strand braid for the same reason as the other loaf. It worked beautifully! You can see a few raisins peeking out from the finished loaf. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Caramel Chocolate Challah

Melted chocolate and gooey caramel in soft, warm, home baked bread, how can this combination be wrong? This loaf was my absolute favorite of the four loaves of Challah that I made! Unfortunately that also meant that it was the first loaf gone of the four. I was pretty sad when we polished off the last slice, enough so that I definitely plan to make another batch of this soon.

These next two loaves (the caramel chocolate and cinnamon raisin) came from the second batch of dough. Here is the monster rise of the second loaf, this time with no thumb prints! One of these days I will have to take a picture of this bowl next to a regular size bowl so you can really appreciate the rise of this dough. 

I separated the dough into two even balls and set one aside for the cinnamon raisin. I decided to do a four strand braid for this because I really liked the look of the four strand versus the three strand. I didn't want to attempt the six strand because I wasn't sure how easy it would be to have six strands that were filled. As it was you can see that the rolled strand with the caramel and chocolate pieces in it was pretty thick. For the filled strands, you roll out each strand similar to a cinnamon roll, put in the filling, and then roll it up and pinch the seam. All four strands then get pinched together and you braid it similar to the plain four strand.


The photo below shows the caramel chocolate on the left having risen for another 30 minutes and the cinnamon, sugar, and raisin on the right just ready for its second rise while the caramel chocolate goes in the oven. Timing wise it worked out great!

As you can tell, this variety was my favorite, favorite, favorite! I would definitely recommend making a loaf of this. Enjoy!

Caramel Chocolate Challah
Source: The Challah Blog

Basic Honey White Challah
1 1/2 cups warm water, separated
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons dry active yeast

1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon oil (light colored vegetable oil, or olive oil if you prefer)
4 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed (up to 8 or 9 cups total)
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
semi-sweet chocolate chips
caramel bits (or you can cut caramels into chip sized pieces) 
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup warm water, 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 tablespoons yeast. Allow to sit 5-10 minutes until foamy.

To the yeast mixture add the remaining water, honey, oil, eggs, salt and 5 cups of flour. Knead (by hand or with your mixer’s dough hook) until smooth, adding flour as needed. Knead for approximately 10 minutes.

Transfer dough to a clean, oiled bowl; turn to coat or add a bit more oil on top. Cover bowl with a kitchen/tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 11/2 hours.

Punch down the dough, divide it into two sections. Use one half to make each loaf. 
For a four braid loaf, separate the one half dough into four equal pieces. Roll out each piece separately, spread chocolate chips and caramel pieces over rolled dough. Roll up the dough length wise (as you would a cinnamon roll), set each strand aside until all four are filled.
Pinch one end of all four braids together. Braid and tuck ends under. Place braided loaves on parchment lined or greased baking sheets, cover with a towel, allow to rise 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Brush tops loaves with egg wash. (Sprinkle with seeds or toppings here if wanted.) Bake loaves 30-40 minutes until done. Cool on wire racks.

Makes 2 loaves

Monday, May 28, 2012

Nutella Challah

Tada! Nutella Challah, made from the "other" loaf from my first batch of honey white dough. I knew it was going to be a bit of a challenge to make it because I don't like when things get messy in the middle of making something. And this got messy!

I started my process the same as the other loaf. Basic honey white dough mixed together and set to rise for about 2 hours. After the rise I divided the dough into three equal weight pieces. I then rolled them out the same way, a bit thicker in the middle compared to the ends.

So here is where it got a bit challenging, or at least messy, which challenged me! I made a dent (kind of like a trough or something) along the entire rope. I then spooned Nutella along the entire length. After I spooned on the Nutella I gently pulled the dough on each side of the Nutella up and around it and pinched the dough together. Let me just say that you definitely get better with practice. The first one was a bit touch and go, but by the time I got to the second one I was pretty comfortable with it and had figured out what method worked best to get the dough up and over the Nutella.


After all three ropes were filled and pinched I carefully moved them into position for braiding. I decided to do a three strand braid because the ropes were pretty thick with the filling and I didn't want to take a chance that more I braided the more the filling would leak through. I started braiding in the middle and went from the middle to one end, then from the middle to the other end.

There was a bit of Nutella leakage, but not much considering. I was pretty happy with how my braid turned out. This also sits and rises for about 30 more minutes and then gets baked for 30 minutes. It was pretty awesome right out of the oven.


Out of the four varieties this was my husband's favorite (mine will be next). It was surprisingly easy to make, if you can get over the bit of messiness that comes with stuffing filling inside of a braid. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Daring Bakers - Challah

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

Such a blast! I really love baking bread, especially breads with yummy fillings that look beautiful! I have had Challah (pronounced ha-lah) on my to do list for a few years now. Who knew it could be so easy? Until now I sure didn't!

I ended up making two different batches with two loaves each for a total of four loaves of bread. All four loaves ended up being plain or sweet. I thought about doing a savory bread but I made homemade pizza the same day so that was my savory for the day.
All four of my loaves are a honey white bread for the base. I am going to show all four on here but I really think that like the quick bread post each bread needs its own time. I used different techniques and different breads for each bread, so if you really like how one sounds you might have to come back in a few days for the actual recipe.

I started by making the dough and letting it rise in my warm kitchen. You can see that it was a monster after 2 hours of sitting in the bowl (that is my largest bowl from Tupperware). And you can also see that just as I was going to grab my camera to get a picture of the glorious rise, my husband poked his thumb around the entire thing.  

I decided to do a four strand braid for my first loaf because it looked fairly easy to do, easier than the six strand, and I was going to save the three strand for the breads that had fillings. I divided the dough into fourths and rolled out each ball so that the center of each rope was a bit fatter than both ends.

Once all four ropes are rolled out you position them and pinch one end of each of the four strands together. It sure is nice to have pictures, huh. Sometimes you just can't figure out how to word stuff so other people know what you are talking about. After you pinch the ends together, you begin braiding. I did the method Ruth shared of "farthest left strand goes over, then under, then over" etc. I kept chanting that as I braided to make sure I was going under and over when I was supposed to. It was really easy to do and before I knew it I had a beautifully braided loaf.

After sitting for another half an hour or so this loaf went into the oven where it baked for 30 minutes exactly. I was so giddy the few times I peeked in at it because it was actually doing what it was supposed to do! It's always nice when that happens. The final result was a soft loaf of bread that was beautifully braided and browned. We had a few slices while it was warm but then turned to the more exciting twin that came from the same dough.

I'll post on the other breads over the next few days. They also were made with the honey white bread base but I used a few different techniques to fill the strands before braiding. This would be way too long of a post if I included all the info, photos, and recipes that I gathered for this challenge. In the meantime, enjoy!

Nutella Challah

Caramel Chocolate Challah

Cinnamon, Sugar, and Raisin Challah

Honey White Challah
Source: Tammy's Recipes

1 1/2 cups warm water, separated
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons dry active yeast
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon oil (light colored vegetable oil, or olive oil if you prefer)
4 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed (up to 8 or 9 cups total)
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup warm water, 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 tablespoons yeast. Allow to sit 5-10 minutes until foamy.

To the yeast mixture add the remaining water, honey, oil, eggs, salt and 5 cups of flour. Knead (by hand or with your mixer’s dough hook) until smooth, adding flour as needed. Knead for approximately 10 minutes.

Transfer dough to a clean, oiled bowl; turn to coat or add a bit more oil on top. Cover bowl with a kitchen/tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 11/2 hours.

Punch down the dough, divide it into two sections. Use one half to make each loaf. Shape or braid as desired. Place braided loaves on parchment lined or greased baking sheets, cover with a towel, allow to rise 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Brush tops loaves with egg wash. (Sprinkle with seeds or toppings here if wanted.) Bake loaves 30-40 minutes until done. Cool on wire racks.

Makes 2 loaves

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cherry-Topped Ice Box Cake

Hmmmm . . .  not so much left of this dessert. And what is left looks like it got dropped on the floor or something. Oh wait, it did get dropped on the floor. There is a reason it looks like that. Okay, maybe I should back up for just a second.

We had a dessert social at work to celebrate our lovely and talented school nurse. She won school nurse this year for our entire state so a little celebration was in order. I decided to make cherry topped ice box cake, a light, refreshing, fruity dessert perfect for a get together. I think this was one of the only two desserts that were brought that weren't chocolate. That just tells you how stressed out everyone is, right. Out of probably 10 desserts, only two weren't chocolate!

Anyway, as the dessert sits in the fridge it gets yummier and yummier. The crackers get softened by the pudding mixture and when the crackers lose their crunch they also lose the ability to be served up without completely breaking apart. I was so excited to see that at the end of the day there was a still a corner of the dessert left. I thought, "Great, I'll grab the pan, stick it back in the fridge, take it home for my two guys and snap a picture of it for this post. A win-win situation." As I was putting it in the fridge I set it on the edge of the tray for a second to get a better grip on something and before I even knew what happened it was on the floor upside down. Thank goodness it had a lid on the pan because otherwise all would have been lost. As it was, I brought home the above very tasty mess!

I will try to make this dessert again because I am sure it is copyright infringement to post this picture from the cookbook on my blog. I will post it for a bit until I can get another picture. And I guarantee you that the fact that their cake is in perfect form it was either photoshopped or they they took the picture when the crackers were still super crisp. Either way, enjoy!

Cherry-Topped Ice Box Cake
20 whole graham crackers
2 cups cold milk
1 package (6 serving size) instant pudding (vanilla or chocolate)
1 3/4 cups thawed whipped topping
2 cans (21 ounces) cherry pie filling

Line a 13x9 inch pan with some of the graham crackers, breaking crackers if necessary. Pour cold milk into bowl. Add pudding mix. With electric mixer at low speed, beat until well blended, 1 to 2 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then blend in whipped topping. Spread half of the pudding mixture over the crackers. Add another layer of crackers. Top with remaining pudding mixture and remaining crackers. Spread cherry pie filling over crackers. Chill about 3 hours.

Makes 12 servings

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Skinny Chicken Cordon Bleu

I found this recipe on Pinterest and wanted to try it for dinner right away. The original post has a final product that looks WAY better than mine. I have no idea how she was able to get the chicken cut into such fine cutlets and then get it to fold over all of the "stuff" stuffed inside.

I thought for sure that all was lost when I could not get the chicken to fold over the ham and swiss cheese. I ended up having to roll the ham and swiss inside the chicken cutlet and the skewer it with a toothpick. My husband actually had to take over on the last few rolls because I was so perturbed at them. I brushed them with the beaten egg and sprinkled them with bread crumbs knowing that the cheese was just going to ooze out all over the pan.

I was surprised that the chicken was not swimming in runny cheese. Yes, it did ooze out but not so much that it was a complete mess. In fact, the cheese stayed pooled up right by the chicken it belonged to so it was easy to incorporate it into each bite. I thought they tasted pretty good. My husband really enjoyed them since I think he ate 3 of them before all was said and done. We tossed the leftovers in the freezer so I guess we'll have to wait to see how they taste after being frozen. Enjoy!

Chicken Cordon Bleu
Source: Skinny Taste

32 oz (4) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
12 (1 oz each) slices thin lean deli ham
12 (1 oz each) slices reduced fat Swiss cheese
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup seasoned whole wheat breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray baking sheet with oil.

Slice chicken breast halves into thin cutlets. (Usually 3 thin cutlets can be gotten out of one breast half.) Pound them to make them thinner if you wish. This helps when you wrap the cutlets.

Cut each slice of cheese into squares and stack on top of each other. Place a slice of ham on top of the chicken, top with cheese and wrap chicken around to completely cover cheese, using toothpicks to secure. (Make sure there are no holes so cheese doesn't leak out). Season with a little salt.

Whisk eggs and water to make an egg wash. Dip chicken into egg wash, then breadcrumbs.

Place chicken on baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, or until cooked thoroughly.

Makes 12

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dark Chocolate Chip Scones

Can I just say yum, yum, yum!?! And that doesn't have anything to do with the fact that I had just gotten done running 13.1 miles right before consuming one, because my husband who stood on the sidelines cheering me on felt the same way. In fact, I think that between the two of us he ate far more of these than me for a change. I am usually the scone eater in our family.

Not only did he eat more than me, but I think that this scone may have gotten the most  rave reviews from him as well and he isn't even a chocolate fan. He loved how moist they were, how dense they felt when eating, and the subtle sweetness of the scone with the bittersweet of the chocolate.

I baked these the day before we headed out of town, stuck them in a ziploc bag, and took them on the road. We didn't end up eating any until that night or the next morning and they were still very fresh and tasty. I would give a huge thumbs up to this recipe and plan to make it again soon. Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Chip Scones
Source: Brown Eyed Baker

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12-oz) dark chocolate chips
2 cups chilled heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Additional sugar

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease two baking sheets.

Stir together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Stir in chocolate chips. Stir whipping cream into flour mixture, stirring just until ingredients are moistened.

Turn mixture out onto lightly floured surface. Knead gently until soft dough forms (about 2 minutes). Divide dough into three equal balls. One ball at a time, flatten into 7-inch circle; cut into 8 triangles. Transfer triangles to prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with additional sugar.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar, if desired.

Makes 24 scones

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cheesy Wild Rice and Chicken Casserole

A somewhat long process for preparing dinner, but definitely worth it. My husband popped the chicken breasts in the crockpot for a few hours earlier in the day and steamed the white rice so that everything was ready to throw together at dinner time. It smelled great while in the oven, tasted great once it was out, and was filling but left you wanting more. You know, one of those addictive cheesy rice dishes! For our little family of 3 it gave us plenty of leftovers and this dish is great reheated. Enjoy!

Cheesy Wild Rice and Chicken Casserole
Source: Picky Palate

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced
2 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded
2 cups steamed white rice
16 oz already prepared wild rice  (we just used Uncle Ben's 90 second rice)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

Cheese Sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded + 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat oil into a medium dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Saute onion, celery and carrots until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in chicken, both rices, salt, pepper and garlic salt. Reduce heat to low.

To prepare cheese sauce, melt butter into a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk in flour, salt and pepper, then slowly pour in chicken broth, whisking continuously. Whisk until thick and nearly boiling, then stir in cheese until melted.

Pour cheese sauce into rice mixture. Transfer to a 9×13 inch baking dish. Top with 1 1/2 cups additional cheddar cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted through.

Makes 8-10 servings

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tomato Mozzarella Pasta Bake

It seems like lately we have been stuck in a rut for our main dishes. Pretty much every morning we have a green smoothie and some toast for breakfast and one of our other meals we try to have a salad. That means that either for lunch or dinner we have some type of main dish. I can tell when we get stuck in a rut because we are less likely to make this main dish and instead use whatever convenient excuse we have to go out or to make something off the menu. We can't have any more of that, can we?

For this two week menu I added about 6 new dishes and this pasta dish is one of those recipes. It was very easy to put together after a long day at work. I chose to use fresh tomatoes instead of canned and it really didn't take much longer to get them chopped up. The garlic smelled heavenly while it was cooking up, and even two days later while eating leftovers at work someone commented on how good it smelled. This dish seemed a lot like a meatless lasagna and it will definitely be a keeper. Enjoy!

Tomato Mozzarella Pasta Bake
Source: Adapted from Annies Eats

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
14 ounces fresh roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 lb penne pasta
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cubed or shredded
2/3 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 baking dish.

Heat oil in skillet. Add garlic and cook over medium high heat for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and oregano and simmer rapidly, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Toss pasta with sauce.

Place half of pasta in baking dish. Cover with half of the parmesan and half of the mozzarella. Top with the remaining pasta, then the remaining parmesan and mozzarella. Bake for 15 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mississippi Mud Cake

While typing the title of this post I had to do my M-I-S-S--I-S-S--I-P-P-I spelling chant to make sure that I spelled it right. How funny that not only do I remember these little mnemonics as an adult, but I still use them!

We had a potluck at work last week. I believe we were celebrating our lovely secretaries. When the sign up came around it didn't take a lot of time for me to decide to sign up for a dessert. In case you haven't noticed from my posts, we haven't been eating a lot of sweets around here and I love baking a fun dessert. Who doesn't? Any chance I get to bake something and bring it for others to share I consider a win-win situation.

I just happened to decide on a Mississippi Mud Cake after seeing it on the site that is listed as my source. It was a last minute decision, as in the night before the potluck, finally deciding what to make. I was very surprised when I realized that I had every single ingredient in my house. This NEVER seems to happen with a new recipe. It never fails that there is at least one thing I have to run out and get. I thought this time it was going to be heavy whipping cream because I typically don't have that in my fridge. Imagine my surprise when on a whim I opened up my fridge to check just to make sure before I put it on a sticky and saw an almost full container sitting on the shelf. It was even before it's expiration date, how nice is that!

The only change I made is that instead of whole milk I used 1% milk. We don't drink whole milk around here and I figured that 1% wouldn't make that much of a difference. Oh, and I only had about 2 cups of mini marshmallows so I ended up cutting larger marshmallows into about 6 pieces each to make my last cup. You have to give me points for ingenuity.

I set out the ingredients before bed, got up early for my morning run, and then proceeded to bake this before work. Let me just say that it was super easy. I love making cake from scratch and this really couldn't have been an easier recipe to make. The only bad thing is that I kept slicing little pieces off because it was so darn good. Enjoy! 

Mississippi Mud Cake
Source: Brown Eyed Baker

For the Cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups miniature marshmallows

For the Chocolate Glaze & Toppings:
1 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and use a rubber spatula to gently fold it together until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake is firm to the touch.

Remove the cake from the oven and evenly scatter the miniature marshmallows over top. Return to the oven for 5 minutes to melt the marshmallows. They will be puffy and lightly browned.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Spread the pecans on baking sheet in a single layer and bake until fragrant, about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, coarsely chop the pecans.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the chocolate chips, corn syrup, and heavy cream. Stir over medium-low heat until the chocolate is melted and the glaze is smooth. Pour the chocolate mixture over the top of the cake. If necessary, use the back of a spoon to gently spread the chocolate over the marshmallow layer so it is evenly covered. Sprinkle with the pecans, and then the coconut. Let cool completely before serving. Store leftovers tightly wrapped (or in an airtight container) at room temperature.

Makes about 12 servings