April 19, 2013

Red Lobster-style Biscuits

My husband always thought I liked the idea of eating at Red Lobster for the seafood. I think he understood last night when I made these biscuits from Brown-Eyed Baker that the biscuits are really the bait that makes that restaurant so tempting. If you've ever had a biscuit from Red Lobster, you likely remember the cheesy, garlicky, buttery deliciousness that melts in your mouth and makes you want to devour the entire basket. These pretty much replicate that with minimal time and effort.

Red Lobster-style Biscuits
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup shredded)
1 cup buttermilk, cold
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled for 5 minutes
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. dried parsley

Preheat oven to 475°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat, and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, garlic powder and cayenne. Stir in the cheddar cheese, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the buttermilk and melted butter until the butter forms small clumps. Then add the buttermilk to the flour mixture, and mix gently with a rubber spatula just until a dough forms and no dry ingredients remain. Drop biscuits onto prepared cookie sheet, leaving at least an inch between biscuits.

Bake until the biscuits are golden brown, about 12 minutes. While the biscuits are in the oven, stir together the topping ingredients. Remove the biscuits from the oven, and immediately brush with the topping mixture. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container or zip-top back at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes about 12 biscuits.

April 18, 2013

Pretzel Bites

I had bookmarked two recipes from Two Peas and Their Pod that were similar: Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites and Pizza Pretzel Bites. I decided to tackle both recipes this week and ended up with three varieties of pretzel bites. I made pizza pretzel bites, which were the family favorite. These would be perfect as an appetizer for a game - the flavors of pizza and pretzels combined. The peanut butter versions are good and definitely taste best the day they are made (as do all soft pretzels). The plain version is tasty as well ... and was the result of me giving up with the more time-consuming process of stuffing the bites with the assistance of my 19-month-old son, who was eating the raw dough as quickly as I cut it ... and then stealing the cheese ... and the pepperoni ...

Pretzel Bites
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 tsp. salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups flour
3 quarts water
3/4 cup baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp. cold water
Coarse sea salt
Pizza Variation
Pepperoni, sliced in half
Cheese, cut into small chunks (less than 1/2 inch)
Peanut Butter Variation
Peanut butter (1/2 cup will handle about 1/3 of a batch)

Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the salt and flour, and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium, and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 Tbsp. at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.

Oil a bowl, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot over high heat, and add the baking soda.

Remove the dough from the bowl, and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, about 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 ounces each. Roll each piece into a long rope measuring 22 inches and shape. Cut the dough into one-inch pieces to make the pretzel bites. Boil the pretzel bites in the water solution in batches. Boil for about 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon. Place pretzel bites on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silipat. Make sure they are not touching. Brush the tops with the egg wash, and season liberally with the salt. Place into the oven, and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.

Remove to a baking rack and let rest 5 minutes before eating. Makes 60+ pretzel bites.

Pizza Variation: 
Flatten each 1-inch piece of dough. Wrap a half slice of pepperoni and a chunk of cheese in each piece of dough. Press the edges together to seal in the pizza ingredients. Continue with the recipe as written above.

Peanut Butter Variation:
Place small dollops (no bigger than 1/2 tsp.) of peanut butter on a baking sheet, and place in the freezer at least 30 minutes. Frozen peanut butter is much easier to stuff than room temperature. Working quickly and leaving the majority of the peanut butter in the freezer, flatten each 1-inch piece of dough. Wrap the dough around a dollop of peanut butter, and press the edges to seal in the peanut butter. Chill the pretzel bites for at least 10 minutes prior to the boiling step, and continue with the recipe as written above.

April 17, 2013

Biscoff Cups

This recipe from Little Kitchen was one that inspired me to pay the exorbitantly high price for a jar of biscoff. Biscoff is similar to peanut butter in consistency but is largely comprised of ground cookies. I do give Europeans a smidge of credit for this invention, which is a result of their dispassion for peanut butter. (I was in serious peanut butter withdraw during my study abroad session there. I'm not sure I would have survived had my family not brought me a jar of peanut butter when they came to visit.)

This was my first attempt at making homemade peanut butter cups or something similar. My technique probably leaves a lot to be desired, but the flavor of these is insanely addictive. My husband looked at me weird when I told him my greatest accomplishment of the day was not eating the entire batch of biscoff cups ... and then after he tried one he said my second greatest accomplishment of the day would be to keep him from eating the rest of them.

Biscoff Cups
1/2 cup creamy biscoff spread (or cookie butter spread)
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Chocolate Shell
2 cups  dark chocolate, chips or coarsely chopped
2 tsp. vegetable shortening

Line cupcake tins with 18 cupcake liners and set aside. (I used a mini mold and then silicone cupcake liners, both of which worked great.)

To prepare the filling, microwave the biscoff spread and butter for about 20 seconds until both are melted. Stir in powdered sugar until thoroughly combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the chocolate and shortening. (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips and a chunk of unsweetened chocolate since I didn't have dark chocolate on hand.) Microwave on low heat, stirring every 30 seconds, until the mixture is melted.

Spread about 1 tsp. of chocolate into the bottom of each mold. Spread about 1/2 Tbsp. of biscoff on top of the chocolate layer. Spread another 1 tsp. of chocolate on top of the biscoff layer. Refrigerate until set. To store, leave the biscoff cups in their liners inside an airtight container in the refrigerator. (If you want to be more putzy and have more perfect looking treats, I'd suggest chilling the cups between layers to set the layers. That would take much longer than it took to whip together these slightly hodgepodge but still delicious ones.) Makes about 18 normal-size treats (or 12 minis and 4 gigantic ones).

Ginger Scones

Candied ginger is interesting. It's something I would expect to be a sweet, but it has a definite bite. I'm not sure whether I like it yet or not. I ate two scones, so that must mean they're passable. They don't trump those peanut butter chocolate chip ones, though, but I had wanted to try this recipe from Vanilla Garlic since I have candied ginger left from a different project. The ginger flavor becomes more pronounced as the scones rest.

Ginger Scones
6 oz. all-purpose flour
2 oz. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
6 oz. cream, plus 2 Tbsp. for brushing
2 Tbsp. maple syrup

Preheat oven to 425°F. Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, ground ginger and baking powder. Next, whisk in the candied ginger.

Add the cream, and use your hands to gently bring together the ingredients. If you need to add a bit more cream or flour then do so judiciously. It will be sticky and clumpy. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead twice.

Form the dough into a dis,c and cut into 8 pieces. In a small bowl, mix together the maple syrup and the two reserved tablespoons of cream. Brush the tops with the cream-maple syrup mixture. Bake at for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden.

April 4, 2013

Bear Claws

Homemade donuts are delicious. Homemade donuts will rarely ... if ever ... come out of my kitchen. It's not a healthy lifestyle holdup. It's more of a "I lit myself on fire frying donuts and therefore avoid deep frying food."

That means when I find donut or pastry recipes that require no deep frying, I tend to bookmark them as possibilities. Sprinkle Bakes shared this recipe for bear claws, and though I'd never eaten a bear claw before, they sounded delicious and doable.  My hubby's uncle hinted that if we were around this weekend, it sure would be nice to have a homemade breakfast treat for sharing after the sunrise mass. Since he had kindly spent his entire last weekend painting our house in hopes of selling it, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to try this recipe.

One of the nice things about this recipe is that although it requires some hands on putzing, it also permits you to adjust the timetable to suit your needs. There are two spots where the dough can be left refrigerated overnight, which allows you to distribute the hands-on time accordingly. And it allows you to only wait about an hour in the morning before enjoying a delicious warm bear claw.

The other nice thing about this recipe is that it makes delicious bear claw pastries. Enough said.

Bear Claws
Pastry Dough
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1 1/2 cups butter, very cold
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water 105°F to 115°F
1/2 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk
2 eggs at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
Cinnamon Filling
1 egg white
2/3 cup almond paste
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 egg yolk, beaten (for brushing pastries)
1 Tbsp. milk
Sliced almonds
Large crystal sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. honey
1-2 Tbsp. whole milk

Place butter in large bowl. Cut butter into 1/4-inch slices, and add to the flour. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or other cutting tool until butter is the size of kidney beans.

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Stir in the cream or milk, salt, eggs and sugar. Add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, and mix until the dry ingredients are just moistened.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours, overnight or up to 4 days.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Dust dough with flour. Pound dough with rolling pin, and roll out to make a 16x20-inch piece. Fold into thirds making three layers. Turn dough and roll out again. Fold again into thirds. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Prepare the filling while you wait for the dough to chill.

To prepare the filling, beat all the ingredients with an electric mixer until very smooth. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled pastry out to make an 16x18-inch rectangle. Cut lengthwise into 4 strips.

Remove filling from refrigerator, and divide filling evenly among the four pieces of dough. Spread filling down the center of each strip. Roll each strip from the long side jelly-roll style and place seam-side down. Roll lightly to flatten and seal the edges.  Cut each strip into 4-6-inch pieces, and then cut 3-5 slits for "toes."

Place pieces on the prepared baking sheets, curving them slightly. Allow them to rise in a warm place for 20 minutes or until puffy, or you can cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (After refrigeration let stand at room temperature until puffy).

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine beaten egg yolk and milk. Brush pastries with the beaten egg, and place a sliced almond on each bear "toe." Sprinkle with large crystal sugar. Bake 5 to 8 minutes for small pastries and 10 to 12 minutes for larger pastries until pastries are golden. Let cool slightly on wire racks before glazing.

To make glaze, stir together ingredients until smooth. Add more powdered sugar if too thin, or add more milk if too thick.  Drizzle over warm pastries. Makes approximately 24 bear claws.

Whole Wheat Bread

We needed bread last week, so I baked this version from Breaking Bread with Father Dominic. I adapted it by adding 1 Tbsp. of Penzy's Spices Arizona Dreaming. In hindsight, I would have added 2 Tbsp. but was concerned the bread would be too potent. Nice, soft wheat bread.

Whole Wheat Bread
2 cups warm water
2 scant Tbsp. active dry yeast
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. wheat gluten
3 cups wheat flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour

Place water in a large bowl, and sprinkle yeast on water. Let stand 5 minutes to dissolve. Add brown sugar, wheat gluten and wheat flour. Beat well. Let stand 10 minutes. Add oil and salt. Mix thoroughly. Add 2 cups of bread flour, and mix well. Work in enough of the bread flour to form a soft dough.

Knead dough until it is smooth and elastic. Place in a large oiled bowl, and cover with a clean towel. Let rise until doubled, about one hour.

Punch down dough. Divide into two loaves, and place each in greased 9 x 5 x 3-inch pan. Cover, and let rise 45 minutes or until nearly doubled. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Bake loaves 35 minutes or until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped. Cool completely on wire racks. Makes 2 loaves.

Peanut Butter Hot Fudge Sauce

I should ban myself from making sweets. My most recent pre-natal checkup confirmed this baby's serious sweet tooth. I'll have to consider that (as I munch jellybeans while typing this).

On the bright side, I'm knocking off a few recipes I've had bookmarked for quite a while like this one from Love and Olive Oil. This creates a thick fudge sauce with a definite peanut flavor. It's best warm dousing vanilla ice cream.

Peanut Butter Hot Fudge Sauce
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Sift together sugar, cocoa powder, flour and salt in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in boiling water until smooth, followed by corn syrup and peanut butter. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Simmer for 5 to 7 minutes or until thickened slightly and reduced by half.

Remove from heat, and transfer to a heatproof bowl; stir in vanilla. (Don't forget the vanilla like I did. I hate when I'm typing the recipes and realize I omitted an ingredient.) Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. (Don’t refrigerate the sauce before it has completely cooled or it may become grainy.)

When completely cooled, transfer sauce to a glass jar or airtight container, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Warm gently in the microwave before serving. Makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups.