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Cocoa Swirl Sugar Cookies

Posted on Jan 20, 2014 | 0 comments

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I’m so excited about this recipe.

It all started with a photo in my Instagram feed of these gorgeous cookies from Martha Stewart. As soon as I saw them, I knew I was going to be making them for my annual Christmas baking.

But then I read the reviews.

They were AWFUL.

As much as I’ll take bad recipe reviews with a grain of salt (was it a matter of personal taste? user error? inexperienced baking?), each review seemed worse and worse, and most of them claimed to be experienced bakers.

So I sidelined the idea, but it’s been swirling around in my head for weeks (swirling? sorry…).

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The other day I decided I wanted to give them a go. I wouldn’t be satisfied until these beautiful little things were cooling on my kitchen table (or in my tummy).

I decided to just give it a go with a tried and true recipe for the dough. I went back and forth between picking a sugar cookie or buttery shortbread cookie dough as the base. In the end, I chose the sugar cookies, since I knew they’d stay nice and soft, possibly eliminating the issue with crumbling the reviewers noted.

They were a bit of work, but not too bad. I actually prepped the dough while chatting on the phone and entertaining the man friend (who was in and out of the kitchen asking for things every 10 minutes).

The dough was easy to work with, and required little to no flour on the counter. I modified Martha’s technique a bit, but achieved the same results. I think these are some of the prettiest looking cookies ever! They’d make a great addition to a cookie platter or gift box. They’re just special enough to serve with coffee or espresso after a dinner party, but not so stuffy that they can’t be enjoyed as an afterschool snack.

The only thing I was kind of unhappy with is that the cocoa flavor did not come through in the finished cookie. So I dipped some of them in melted semisweet and bittersweet chocolate for a nice chocolatey accent.

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I will definitely be making these again and probably fiddling with the filling to see if I can get that cocoa flavor to come through. Everyone who’s seen them has just been so excited to try them, and in my opinion, that’s half the fun of sharing food with others: seeing them light up at something you’ve baked, and watching them enjoy!

So, let’s make some amazing cookies!

First, cream your butter and sugar:

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Add your egg and vanilla:

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Add your flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar, and mix until your dough comes together:

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After a brief rest in the fridge, break out your rolling pin and get rolling, starting with about 1/4 of the dough. Roll that baby into a log:

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Now, rub it with some brown sugar and cocoa powder:

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Really rub it on!:

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Grab another hunk of dough and roll it out into a rough rectangle large enough to wrap around your log (I said “rough,” don’t laugh at me):

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Wrap up your little log:

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Pinch the seams tightly and roll your new (slightly bigger log) in the cocoa again:

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Continue this rolling, wrapping, and cocoa-rubbing until you’ve used all 4 pieces of dough, then wrap up your log in wax paper:

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Stick the whole package in the freezer for an hour or two until firm but not frozen solid:

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And slice into 1/4″ slices:

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Try not to squeal and jump up and down at how cute they are.

Place on a cookie sheet and bake:

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Cool on racks:

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And dip in chocolate if you are so inclined!!!

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These cookies are a great snack with a cup o’ coffee.

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COCOA SWIRL SUGAR COOKIES

Makes about 3 dozen 2″ cookies

These cookies can be made ahead. Prep recipe through step 8, then wrap well and freeze. When ready to use, thaw slightly before slicing into logs, and bake as directed. You may need to add a few minutes onto the baking time.

Also, I saved about 1/3 of the dough for other purposes. The recipe as written is for a full batch of cookies, but the photos above are 2/3 of a batch. 

  • 10 tablespoons butter (2/3 cup), softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (I used Vanilla Bean Paste)
  • 2  1/4 cups flour
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For swirl filling:

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Valrhona, but feel free to use something cheaper)

For chocolate coating (optional):

  • 1 cup semisweet or dark chocolate, melted in a double boiler or microwave until smooth

 

1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix well, then add vanilla.

2. In a separate bowl, mix flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt, then add to wet ingredients. Dough may take some mixing to come together; it is ready when it is not terribly sticky but holds together when pinched (see photo above). If it is too wet/sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time until it seems workable.

3. Wrap dough in plastic and chill 30 minutes.

4. Prepare a work surface with parchment paper (for easier cleanup). Mix brown sugar and cocoa powder in a small bowl and set aside. Using roughly 1/4 of the dough, form a compact log around 15″ long and 1″ in diameter. Rub log all over with the cocoa mixture and set aside.

5. Take another 1/4 of the dough and roll out into a rectangle, roughly 15″ by 4″. Place cocoa-rubbed log at the bottom of dough rectangle and roll up as tight as possible (to avoid gaps/air bubbles after slicing). Pinch seam shut. If you have trouble rolling the dough around the log, use the parchment paper to help roll (see photos above).

6. Rub log all over with cocoa mixture and set aside.

7. Repeat step 5 two more times, and step 6 once, until all of the dough has been used.

8. Wrap log in wax paper and freeze for about 1 hour.

9. Preheat oven to 375 F. Unwrap dough log and, using a sharp knife, slice into approximately 1/4″ thick rounds. Lay cookies on baking sheet (no need to space them out a lot; these cookies do not spread much). Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are pale golden on the bottoms. (For crunchier cookies, extend baking 4-5 minutes).

10. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely, then dip in melted chocolate if desired. Let set before serving.

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Candied Nuts

Posted on Jan 19, 2014 | 0 comments

 

Today we’re making candied nuts.

Why?

Because I have a close girl friend who’s recently embarked on a low-carb diet, and she’s craving sweet snacks.

The irony! The Carboholic is making low-carb snacks.

I have an AMAZING low-carb cookie recipe I’ll be posting in the next few days, but today it’s deez nuts.

*And I seriously apologize for the crappy photos*

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I hadn’t made any sort of sugary legume in a long time until this last Christmas. Amidst the chaotic cookie baking, it occurred to me suddenly that people are OVERLOADED with perishable sweets around that time, and even though cookies aren’t really “perishable,” who the hell wants to eat dried up cookies? I started wondering just how many cookies all of my recipients would be getting from others, and if they’d even get to my cookies after feasting on pies, cakes, and other decadent treats at Christmas (or Hanukah) dinner.

It was a troubling realization.

So I started browsing through my recipe binder (yes, I have a recipe BINDER, just for the winners) and came across this recipe I’d jotted down some years ago for Candied Pecans. I decided to make a batch; I remember they were really quite tasty, tasting something like pecan pie, but without all the work.

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And oh my goodness, were they great! Crunchy, sweet, salty, and full of protein. A very satisfying snack.

I packaged them up in small resealable plastic bags and adorned each one with a hand-written label. Incidentally, my calligraphy skills could use some work.

The recipients of said nuts were overjoyed, and popped a few in their mouths as soon as they received them.

With nuts on my mind, today I made another batch for my poor low-carb friend. I did adjust the sugar slightly so that (to my calculations), a 1/4 cup serving would be 7 grams of carbs.

 When she came by tonight to pick them up, she popped a few into her mouth immediately and closed her eyes and groaned: “YESSSSSSS!!!”

I’m not making that up.

So let’s make some nuts!!!!

First, whip up an egg white and some vanilla in a bowl until foamy, then add in your nuts. Today I used half pecans and half peanuts. Mix them up really well, to evenly coat the nuts with the egg:

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Now add in your sugars, salt, and cinnamon and stir, stir, stir, until it’s all distributed:

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Spread the nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet (because it makes cleanup easy!):

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And pop them in the oven. Stir every 15 minutes for one hour. They will start to caramelize and crisp up and your house will smell like angels. Cinnamon-y angels:

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Keep ’em all spread out to cool for a bit. The sugar-egg white coating will dry out a bit and you will be rewarded with the tastiest protein-rich snack food around.

The best thing about this recipe is that it’s EASY. Takes 5 minutes to put together. And you’ll have a snack you can enjoy for weeks to come!

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CANDIED NUTS

Use whatever nuts you have on hand. These nuts keep well, and are delicious mixed in with homemade granola, on top of salad greens, or baked into cookies. Feel free to tweak them to your liking: more or less sugar, more or less spice, a pinch of cayenne/cardamom/nutmeg, etc.  Today I omitted 1/4 cup sugar from the recipe below to make these more carb-friendly and they were still just sweet enough to satisfy.

Makes about 4 cups

  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 lb. nuts (pecans, walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, cashews, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat egg white and vanilla with a whisk until foamy. Add nuts, and toss well to coat them evenly.

Add sugars, salt, and cinnamon, and stir very well to distribute.

Spread nuts in a single layer on sheet and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Transfer nuts to cooling rack and cool completely before storing.

Store in airtight containers for several weeks or more.

For gifting, use zip-top resealable bags or mason jars with a handwritten label.

 

I’m still alive… Just barely

Posted on Jan 15, 2014 | 0 comments

Wow, can’t believe it’s been 5 weeks since I last posted. I actually thought it seemed longer!

Probably because I’ve been going through hell… This carboholic has a confession to make. I’ve been very ill for quite some time! I try not to focus on my medical issues, but in December things took a turn for the worse and I spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital. I made it back in time for Christmas, but all the chaos of the holidays really took a toll on my body. I ended up back in the hospital just after New Year’s and have been out for about a week now, with one of these:

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That is a picc line. I’ve actually had a picc for quite some time now, but the one I had started to push itself out slowly and wasn’t functioning correctly anymore. So I had a new one put in in the hospital. Unfortunately they stuck it in my right arm, and I’m right handed, so I have to be careful with that arm now. They also inserted a double-lumen picc (one with two different tubes coming out of it), so it is super bulky on my skinny arm! I even had a little kid ask his mom why one of my arms was bigger than the other while in line at the grocery store. Lol!

While I was recuperating, I missed out on lots of good eats, and there’s nothing like a hospital room (and hospital food) to make you miss your kitchen! Ick.

Despite all the insanity (and maybe a few tears), I’ve still gotten pretty wild in the kitchen and elsewhere since my last post!

I am aware my definition of “wild” is probably akin to your grandmother’s, but oh well.

Let me take you through the last month:

 

First, I became obsessed with making biscotti.

biscotti
Like, really obsessed. They are always on the counter now. Bonus: they keep for weeks, are easy to make, and easy to take with you on the go for a snack. I’ve now made biscotti approximately 3,384,278 times. Sometimes they are filled with a caramelized brown sugar mix and then dipped in white chocolate (shh!):

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Somehow I also became obsessed with this focaccia recipe. I have made a pan of it every week for the last 4 weeks (recipe to come). It only requires a 40 minute rise, so it can be thrown together pretty quickly. My favorite combo so far is sprinkled with garlic, rosemary, salt, and parmesan:

focaccia

I knew I was cheating on my prior quick and easy bread/cheese recipe, so I made a batch of those too. These are little rolls that are stuffed with whatever your heart desires. Start-to-finish, they take about 30 minutes and everyone loves them. These guys look a little funky and misshapen, but I was in a rush and kind of overstuffed them:

stuffed rolls

 

Next, I became obsessed with making homemade dog treats. I’d made these once last year and for some reason forgot about them. My dogs ADORE these things and refuse to eat Milkbones now. So I bought the ingredients in bulk and make a fresh batch every week. They are so easy and fun to make! I’ve sent packages of them to friends and their dogs confirm it: these are delicious! Recipe to come.

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 Speaking of dogs, my little one got to wear her cupcake hat a few times (can you tell she hates that her mommy likes to crochet?):

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But at least she didn’t get some temporary eyebrows:

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In the end, I decided I have the cutest dog on earth (she is now listed as a “geriatric” at the vets office! Where did time go?!):

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Although… more often than not, she poses like this:

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Okay, enough dog photos. Onto Christmas!

My mother called me to come over and help her decorate the Christmas tree. I happily obliged! All of my siblings have moved away, so my poor mother has empty nest syndrome around the holidays.

As we hung the stockings under the mantle, my mother suddenly SCREAMED BLOODY MURDER. She stood with her hands over her mouth and pointed. I knelt down to see what was there (and instinctively pulled out my iPhone?!) and found this guy:

tarantula

That is a MOTHERFUCKING TARANTULA!!!!!!!!!

How it got into their house, we have no idea. My mother ran in circles in the living room, screaming and whatnot, while I stood there taking pictures. She told me to “DO SOMETHING WITH IT!” and I said “No way.” My dad eventually came in to see what the fuss was about and he ended up spearing the poor little critter with a kitchen knife. He then chased my mother with it for about 10 minutes.

Tarantula in Beverly Hills. Super weird.

In other news, I popped my parsnip cherry. Yep, that’s right, I’d never had a parsnip before. Mom served me dinner as a thank you for helping with the tree: teriyaki glazed grilled flank steak, baked potatoes, grilled garlic asparagus, and roasted veggies. The steak is one of my favorites from childhood, but the real star of the dinner was the veg! She baked off whole rainbow carrots, parsnips, and cauliflower florets tossed with olive oil, salt, and just a pinch of cumin in the new convection oven until they were super tender. They were so good! Sweet, flavorful, and healthy. I even found myself going back for seconds instead of filling up on my favorite food of all time, the almighty potato.

I tried to recreate them at home, but no luck:

carrotsparsnips

Then, my mother invited me (for the first time EVER) to help with her annual Christmas baking. I’m telling you, I’m her only child left in LA, so I was much more popular this Christmas than ever before.

Mom’s Greek, so she does traditional pastries called diples (pronounced deep-lays) and two hand pies, spanakopita  and tiropita.

Most people are familiar with spanakopita, which is a phyllo triangle stuffed with a spinach and cheese mixture. Tiropita are similar, sans spinach. My mother has always used ricotta and a sharp cheese like parmesan instead of the feta or Greek cheese you might normally find in these. They taste amazing! Herbs and a pinch of nutmeg are a must.

Can you tell which ones are mine? My mother scolded me throughout the several-hour process for being a perfectionist with my triangles and making her “look bad:”

Spanakopita

And the diples… Most ethnic cuisines have some version of this. Essentially it’s an egg- and flour-based flavored dough, stretched very thin, sliced, fried in oil, and garnished.  My mother had lost her yiayia’s recipe and for whatever reason didn’t want to try and track it down, so we were both nervous as we fried up the dough, made from a random recipe off the internet. We ended up adding a pinch of this or that, less flour, more orange juice, etc. until we felt it was right. In the end, they were so F*CKING good! We had difficulty working with this particular dough, and stretching it thin enough. But once you top these babies with fresh honey, ground cinnamon, and chopped walnuts, nobody will care. Between my parents and me, we ate 2 full plates of fresh diples from the fryer and didn’t want to stop:

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And yes, yes, that’s a Dixie paper plate. My mother loves them. LOVES THEM.

Can we just take a moment to marvel at my mother’s new kitchen?? She has wanted one since moving into that house 22 years ago, and god knows she deserved it. The kitchen was HIDEOUS–like seriously awful–and was gutted from top to bottom. A wall was knocked out, closets moved, cabinets trashed. The construction crew worked furiously to get it done in time for the holidays. And it is a truly amazing renovation. I will post a panoramic picture and before-and-afters another day in case anyone likes that kind of thing.

The new hardwood floors are fantastic (replacing old yellowed flower-printed linoleum!!!), and all of the Viking and KitchenAid appliances are amazing. The icemaker has a touch-screen, the dishwasher is so quiet you can’t hear it, and mom got her ultimate dream: A full-size oven PLUS an extra convection oven with a microwave built into the wall above it. I’m so happy for her, and think she did a great job picking out the cabinets, paint, floors, counters, appliances, and hardware.

Okay, anyway.

More Christmas baking was done at home for gifting. My favorite crispy and chewy sugar cookies with icing, and 2 new recipes–Lemon Wreaths from Martha Stewart, and the most amazing chewy ginger molasses cookies. All were gobbled by friends and family:

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Watched this on Christmas Eve, snuggled up on the sofa. It made me very happy! (That Klimt reproduction was an early Christmas gift–I have the best friends!):

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Christmas itself was okay. Pretty much just spent with family and various holiday parties. I was starting to not feel so hot from all the running around, but did my best to power through it. I wish I had photos of Christmas Eve and Day dinners and parties.

My sister flew in Christmas Eve and we had a great time catching up. After opening our presents Christmas morning (complete with a raging fire in the fireplace despite the temperature being in the 80s), my mother served us a mish mash of our family’s favorite Christmas tradition foods: Challah bread French toast, fresh bagels and cream cheese, homemade chilaquiles sprinkled with onion and cilantro, and leftover grilled filet mignon sliced paper thin and served on King’s Hawaiian rolls with BBQ sauce. We also had an impromptu horseradish eating competition thanks to the jar my dad had carried in in the pocket of his bathrobe. I did not partake!

My man-friend left these on my porch one morning. It’s hard to tell, but this bouquet was so large, I couldn’t find a vase to fit it in. I think it’s like the most beautiful bunch of flowers I’ve ever seen:

flowers

New Year’s Eve was spent mostly indoors. The man-friend and his roomies shot off fireworks for us. Needless to say, the police showed up about 10 minutes in. They said they could see the fireworks from 1.5 miles away and just drove towards them until they found us. They laughed it off and asked where we’d gotten such amazing ones:

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Post-New Year’s, I was totally run down. After a trip to the emergency room, my doctors called and told me I needed to be admitted to the hospital ASAP. Unfortunately, this resulted in me spending my 29th birthday hooked up to this:

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But on my birthday, my mother came by with these:

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And I must’ve been a good girl, because my nurses brought me this:

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Mom also brought me some Starbucks espresso and pastries, a Coke, a box of cereal (I was on a restricted diet), and some magazines. We spent one night just doing crossword puzzles, which was fun (or as fun as it gets in there). My nurses also gave me a big fold-out birthday card which they’d all signed. It was soooo appreciated! They came in to sing me happy birthday at midnight and I couldn’t stop giggling.

I was released from the hospital late at night and immediately came home and ate this (courtesy of my mother, awww!). It was so good after several days of hospital food:

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Notice the Dixie paper plate again? Also, that piece of cake was roughly the size of my head. Also, yes, it is Betty Crocker Funfetti mix with canned frosting. My mother has made me that cake every single year I was around from the time I was like 4 years old. It’s a tradition and I love it!

My cake reminds me a little of my homemade version, baked for a friend’s birthday a few days later:

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He requested a white cake with cream cheese frosting. I didn’t do the greatest job decorating it (hey, the party was going to be in a very dark candlelit room, so I said screw it), but it was fantastic! I used a modified white cake recipe from King Arthur Flour and created a vanilla-bean specked cream cheese frosting that was so good, I made a double batch and ate the remainder for 2 days out of the fridge (spread on animal crackers, graham crackers, and my fingers).

Pasta salads were made for quick lunches. This one had rotini, sautéed garlic zucchini, sweet basil-roasted carrots, a splash each of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and balsamic, pinches of herbs, and I added some cheese before serving. Really yummy:

Zucchini Carrot Pasta Salad

My sister had flown back to France, but these arrived on my doorstep for my birthday and are SO GORGEOUS. I don’t know what kind of flowers they are, but it’s been 9 days since they arrived and they still look like this:

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Okay, this post is getting super long! I’m almost caught up…

Since getting out of the hospital, I’ve been doing a lot of this:

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Friends have been coming by to bring me lots of these:

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And even though I can barely stand up half the time, I felt the need to do this 2 days ago:

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Those… those right there are my raison d’etre. They were so fantastic, and I was really happy with how the flaky layers turned out. I will do a whole post on them soon! It is another “cheater” puff pastry dough, which takes a bit of handling, but no butter block, and a secret ingredient. I’ve never been so happy with how a baked treat turned out. These chocolate croissants were everything I hoped they’d be, and more.

So that brings me to the end of my crazy ass photo log of the last 5+ weeks.

Despite everything that’s going on, I’m determined to keep the blog going. I’ve received so many wonderfully kind e-mails from strangers who’ve tried my recipes and loved them, and if it weren’t for those (and the comments), I wouldn’t keep this going.

Thanks everyone, and I hope your new year is off to a great start!

Roasted Potato Wedges // Just give ’em a little attention!

Posted on Dec 6, 2013 | 1 comment

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The potato. The humble, versatile, budget-friendly potato!

Anyone who knows me knows I love me a potato. I like them any way you’ll give ’em to me. I like every kind of potato I’ve ever tried. I drive out of my way to a grocery store that charges exorbitant prices for food because they have an entire WALL of potatoes. At least 8 or 9 different varieties, and that’s not including those potato imposters (sweet potatoes/yams).

Yes, I really wrote a love letter to the Idaho Potato Commission. Yes, I have eaten a potato almost every day since I was able to plan my own meals. I’ve written little jingles about potatoes–and, more specifically–French fries. I buy them when I see them because they are jewels of joy to this carboholic.

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And what does this self-proclaimed potato connoisseur do with this surplus of potatoes?

Lots of things (that list will be GROWING over time, okay?!).

But I usually roast them.

Roasted potatoes seem so simple and we’ve all been served them a hundred times. Usually a hundred mediocre times.

I’ve had the most god-awful roasted potatoes you could imagine. I always order them when they’re on a menu, and since people know I love them so, they often serve them to me at dinner parties.

But they are often mushy. Or oily. Greasy. Dried out. Flavorless. Reheated to a chewy tire consistency. Underseasoned or overseasoned.

SOMETIMES THEY ARE GROSS! Even to a potatophile like my self.

And potatoes don’t deserve that.

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So today I bring you a recipe that’s not so much a recipe as a method.

This is how you should roast your russets.

There are a billion recipes on the internet, a billion fancy multi-step methods, a million seasoning mixes and add-ins and varieties of oil or animal fats. Boiling first, or microwaving, soaking in water, rinsing, tossing in flour, blah blah blah.

Here is a straightforward method that dirties no dishes and just requires a little bit of your attention. Can you do that? Just a little!

All you need for perfect roasted potatoes that are CRISPY AND GOLDEN on the outside but FLUFFY AND MOIST on the inside is a few flips during roasting in a moderately heated oven. Just flip ’em a few times and they will work their magic.

These… are healthy French fries.

It’s easy. Are you ready?

First, wash your ‘taters and pat ’em dry:

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Now start choppin’. I usually slice in half vertically (after trimming away any blemishes), then cut each half into 4-6 wedges, depending on how big that russet is:photo 2P.S. I love my ceramic knives.

You should end up with wedges that are roughly 3/4″ thick and 3/4″ wide. And stick ’em on a parchment-lined baking sheet:

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Now grab some olive oil (I use light tasting extra-virgin for roasting) and drizzle it on. Not too much, or your ‘taters will soak it up and get greasy. Not too little, or they won’t brown well and may get a little dry. For one russet, I’d say I use about 1 tablespoon:

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Get ’em all coated evenly and crack on some fresh pepper and plenty of coarse salt, then spread out in an even layer with an inch or more of space between each wedge. This is not for OCD purposes. This is to help the potatoes crisp and brown, instead of steam and mush:

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Now, pop the sheet into the oven on the bottom rack and set a timer for 20 minutes. WALK AWAY. Return to this:

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They’ll still be pretty light in color and they won’t be cooked through yet. FLIP THOSE BITCHES. Yep, flip each and every one. Now stick ’em back in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes again, and walk away.

Return to this:

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Ooh, now we’re getting somewhere. At this point, these potatoes were cooked through and would be ready for eating. But I wanted them to brown more. So I flipped them again and returned to the oven for 10 more minutes. I was rewarded with this lovely sight:

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Mmm, brown spots. Could you add them back for 10 more? Yeah, sure, no problem. But I was salivating and ready to eat.

These potato wedges are like a mish-mash of all the best things about French fries (crispy golden outsides) and baked potatoes (fluffy moist insides) without the bad parts (the grease and fat of fries and blandness of baked).

Eat ’em hot with your fingers.

Dip ’em in stuff if you want. Ketchup? Ranch dressing? Hot sauce? Even… mayo? Hey, I don’t judge dips.

Want some extra flavor? I’ve included tips for seasonings below the recipe.

They’re the perfect side dish for the protein of your choice, but for Mrs. Potatohead (my nickname on occasion), I eat them all by themselves, with a green veggie on the side. That’s a meal to me.

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So, if your potatoes aren’t treating you right, it’s just ’cause they need a little attention.

ROASTED POTATO WEDGES

The key to this method is leaving space between your potatoes while they roast. So use multiple pans if you have to. Squishing too many wedges together will result not only in potatoes that aren’t browned and crisp, but it will also lengthen cooking time.

  • russet potatoes, washed well
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper

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

Cut potatoes lengthwise into 8 to 12 wedges. Place on parchment and drizzle with oil–about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons per potato. Toss well with your hands so that all wedges are coated. Spread wedges evenly across baking sheet, using more than one pan if you are using several potatoes. Leave at least 1/2″ between them. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Place pan in oven for 20 minutes on the bottom rack.

Remove pan and flip each wedge over, spacing them out again. Return to oven for 20 more minutes.

Potatoes should be cooked by now (after 40 minutes), which you can check by piercing with a fork or knife.

Flip them again and roast 10-15 minutes more. If you’d like more color, you can keep them in the oven for an hour total.

Taste for salt, adding more if necessary. Serve hot.

 

 

To season your potatoes before/during cooking, here are a few things I’ve learned.

If you are using strong or hearty herbs, add them in the beginning with the salt and pepper. Things like thyme or rosemary benefit from hanging out in the oven for a while to infuse the ‘taters.

You can also add spicy things like red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or paprika at the beginning of baking.

If you are adding flavorful seasonings like garlic or onion powder or other spice blends or seasoning salts, I find it best to sprinkle the potatoes halfway through baking to maintain their flavor without burning.

Lawry’s seasoning salt does make its way onto my potato wedges on occasion. I will toss the fully roasted wedges with it right before serving.

 

Monkey Bread (From Scratch)

Posted on Nov 30, 2013 | 5 comments

 

How was your Thanksgiving?!

I hope everyone is recovering nicely. I had a great night, spent with family and friends. There was tons (and tons) of food, a pie buffet, and lots of laughter!

Yesterday I posted a photo which has prompted several emails for a recipe. So even though you’ve all probably had your fill of sugary things the past few days, today I have this glorious recipe for homemade monkey bread.

 

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If you’ve never had monkey bread, you should try it. Because it’s everything you love about cinnamon rolls in a pull-apart loaf of goodness. They somehow seem lighter than a roll, and it’s inexplicably fun to eat each little puff of caramelized sugar and butter.

What prompted this bread’s creation was that amidst my pie bake-a-thon, I was asked last-minute to bake some monkey bread for a Thanksgiving party. But perusing the internet for recipes proved a bit disheartening. I spent 20 minutes only finding recipes which called for pre-made biscuit dough that comes in a can. Umm, no thanks.

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I came across a homemade one from Mel’s Kitchen Café, but then remembered I’d made it a while back and was disappointed. It tasted good, but the bread was a bit tough, and the caramelized bits got too caramelized. Perhaps I had overbaked it, though I’ve read elsewhere that the coating on a monkey bread can get pretty brittle and tough by the end of baking, resulting in an almost tooth-breaking coating. No thanks again.

I came across another from Baking Bites, but wanted to keep the dough egg-free in hopes of creating a lighter and fluffier final product.

The monkey bread of my dreams is light as a pillow with an airy crumb. Not sickeningly sweet, and not with glasslike shards of “caramel” around the edges.

I winged the recipe as I went along, and ended up with a mish mash of the two recipes above,  then veered completely off course for the coating and used mostly white sugar and baked in smaller pans.

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And a star was born. This was THE BEST monkey bread I have ever baked or eaten.
The loaves were packaged and sent off to the party. They all disappeared PRIOR TO DINNER, which I found both complimentary and somewhat frightening. Apparently they didn’t ruin appetites, but instead resulted in several heartwarming phone calls. And I’ve been asked to bake them again for this week’s Poker Night.

I did save myself one loaf to eat late last night and OHMYGOODNESS it was delicious. It needed no reheating, though I’ve included more tips about that–as well as the best way to store the monkey breads, making in a stand mixer, or baking in advance–below the recipe.

 

So, I promise to post some nice and healthy recipes in days to come, but feel free to bookmark and give this monkey bread a try the next time you want to put a smile on someone’s face. This bread had adults and children alike diving in for one more sugary puff!

 

So, let’s get baking!

First, mix the yeast, warm water, and a pinch of sugar in a large bowl. Let sit until foamy and bubbling, 5 minutes:

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Add the warm milk, melted butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and 1 cup of flour to the yeast mixture and stir, stir, stir until combined:

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Add flour 1/2 cup at a time until your dough comes together. For me, I added 2 1/4 more cups, resulting in about 3 1/4 cups flour total. You want your dough to pull away from the sides of the bowl. It may take some elbow grease:

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Now, dump your dough onto a work surface sprinkled with flour:

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And start kneading! Don’t be intimidated by kneading please. It’s just smooshing dough around on a table top. If you keep your hands and work surface well floured, it’s a pretty cathartic process. I kneaded for about 8 minutes, before my dainty little arms got tired:

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Once your dough is relatively smooth, form it into a ball and stick it into a bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour:

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After an hour, your dough should have doubled in size:

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Dump it back out onto your floured work surface and pat it into an 8″ square:

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Now, cut it into 8 strips (a bench scraper makes this very quick and easy):

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And then again into 8 strips going the other way (totaling 64 pieces). Please don’t worry If they are slightly uneven:

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Now it’s time to roll! This would be a great task for kids to help with.
One at a time, take each piece of dough and roll into a ball, then plop a few at a time into the melted butter:

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Let the excess butter drip off, then roll in your cinnamon/sugar mixture:

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As you coat them, lay them into your prepared pan:

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Continue until all your loaves are filled, then divide any remaining butter and sugar/cinnamon mixture between them, sprinkling on top:

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Cover with plastic and go do something for 30 minutes:

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Come back to find your monkey bread climbing out of the pan:

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Remove plastic and bake!

I got lucky and guessed the right amount of baking time on the first try. Hint, hint–it will smell like heaven in the house:

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Let them sit in the pan for a couple minutes, then flip them out onto a wire rack:

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OH MY! They are glorious things. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

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Closer…

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I SAID CLOSER!!!

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I love you, monkey bread.

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The crumb on these beauties is almost like a freshly fried donut hole, minus the grease. They are fluffy like King’s Hawaiian rolls. But they taste like butter and cinnamon and vanilla goodness. These are more than worth the effort. They will hit the sweet spot, I promise.

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Now, for f*ck’s sake, drizzle them with some icing:

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MONKEY BREAD   –   Makes 6 mini loaves or one 10″ Bundt pan

(recipe inspired by this and this)

Note: Directions for a stand mixer included in Italics. Make-ahead or bake-ahead instructions are included below the recipe, as well as packaging ideas for gifting.

For the dough:

  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1 (.25 oz.) package active-dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups flour, divided, plus more for work surface
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup whole milk, warmed

For the coating:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the icing:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • water

1. Make your dough: In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and a pinch of the sugar in the warm water. Let sit until foamy, 5 minutes (if your yeast doesn’t foam up, it’s “dead.” Discard and try again with a new packet). Add the remaining sugar, 1 cup of the flour, the salt, vanilla, melted butter, and warm milk. Stir until all is combined.

If using stand mixer, proof yeast, pinch of sugar, and water in the bowl of your mixer until foamy. Add remaining sugar, 1 cup flour, salt, vanilla, butter, and milk and combine with paddle attachment over medium speed.

2. Begin adding remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and stir vigorously to incorporate. Add the last 1/4 cup; your dough should be somewhat shaggy and pulled away from the bowl (IF your dough hasn’t come together, add another 1/4 cup flour until it does. If it comes together earlier, do not add the remaining flour).

Stand mixer directions: add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. Switch to dough hook attachment.

3. Dump your dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for 5-10 minutes, adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Dough should be tacky but not sticky. Continue kneading until smooth.

Stand mixer directions: Knead with dough hook about 5 minutes on medium speed until dough is smooth and elastic.

4. Put dough in a large bowl and coat lightly with spray oil (I like to use Baking Pam). Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

5. Meanwhile, prepare your loaf pan/s by spraying with Pam or greasing with softened butter. Prepare your “rolling station” with the melted 1/2 cup butter in one bowl, and then mix the brown sugar, sugar, and cinnamon and place on a rimmed plate.

6. Once dough is doubled, remove plastic and dump dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Pat into a rough 8″ square. Cut into 64 equal pieces (8 cuts horizontally, 8 cuts vertically) using a bench scraper or a knife.

7. One piece at a time, roll dough into balls between your hands. Coat in the melted butter and–letting excess butter drip off–roll in the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Place about 10 balls in each loaf pan. Repeat with all 64 balls. Drizzle with any remaining butter and sprinkle with any remaining sugar.

8. Cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350 F.

9. After 30 minutes, dough balls should be very puffy! Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, rotating your pan halfway through. The monkey bread should be very puffy and golden, springing back when pressed, and the coating should have bubbled out around the sides of the bread. If you are unsure whether it’s done or not, pull off one piece of the bread to see if it’s set in the middle. (Then, eat it quietly or stuff it back into the pan.)

Let cool in pan for a few minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool slightly.

10. To make the glaze, place powdered sugar into a bowl and sprinkle with water several drops at a time and whisk vigorously until you have a thick icing. Drizzle over monkey bread.

TO MAKE AHEAD:

There are 2 options. If you’d like to prepare your monkey bread in advance, you can either prepare your dough and refrigerate it overnight to rise slowly in the refrigerator, or bake it off and store it overnight to eat the next day.

1) To prep your dough ahead and refrigerate it raw: Proceed with recipe through step 7, then cover your pan tightly with plastic wrap and immediately place in the refrigerator for its second rise. The refrigerator will slow down the rise, and you can keep it there overnight. In the morning, remove plastic and pull the dough out as your oven heats up. Bake as directed.

2) To prep your monkey bread completely, follow recipe as written, making sure to pull monkey breads from oven without overbaking. Let them cool COMPLETELY on a wire rack, then place in a container and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. My breads were still completely moist, tender, and soft by the next day and required no reheating to restore fresh-from-the-oven texture.

TO GIFT THE BREADS:

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Let cool completely, then transfer to disposable foil mini loaf pans.

Place entire loaf inside a cellophane or plastic candy bag.

Tie with festive string and add a label if desired.

***I got my plastic candy bags at Michaels, the raffia string at Cost Plus World Market, and made the labels from blank gift cards from a dollar store. The loaf pans are from my local grocery store.

I included ingredient information since the breads were going to a party full of children, in the event of any food allergies. I also included reheating instructions as I saw fit, however the feedback I received was that the bread needed no reheating and disappeared within minutes of me dropping it off.

I ate mine almost 24 hours after baking and have to agree: they were still VERY soft and tasted totally fresh, having been sealed in airtight plastic.***

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