Sunday, May 27, 2012

Braided Bread

For some reason, when I saw this month's Daring Baker's challenge, I was a bit nervous. I think that the thought of braiding the bread was the concern.  In the end, it ended up being simple...and fun!  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.

 D is loving these challenges recently since we've had so much bread.  This month he has been on an away rotation, she we haven't gotten to see much of each other; but as I mentioned in my last post, I was able to work my schedule so that I got to go visit him and his family.  I baked the challah a few days before I went and took a loaf with me.

  By the time I left, there was just a very little left.  I think everyone liked it.  The texture of the challah reminded me of a croissant on the outside - very flaky - but was nice and soft of the inside.

 One morning, I made French Toast for our breakfast.  This is the perfect bread for French toast as the dry outside just soaks up the custard.  Mmmm...I highly recommend trying it if you have any challah...or decide to make some.  Thanks for a great challenge.

Ruth's "Go-To" Whole Wheat Challah
(adapted from D’s Whole Wheat Challah)

2 (.25 oz.) packages (4½ teaspoons) (22½ ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) dry yeast
1 cup warm water
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup (one stick) margarine or unsalted butter – room temperature
2 tsp. salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup rolled oats (Old Fashioned work just fine!)
Additional flour for kneading (½ to 1 cup)
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water for glaze

In the bowl of your stand mixer, dissolve yeast in warm water. Allow to stand about 5 minutes until creamy/foamy.With paddle attachment beat 3 eggs, sugar, margarine (or butter), whole wheat flour, all purpose flour and oats into the yeast mixture. Combine eggs and margarine/butter with yeast mixture until well mixed. Add flours and oats and mix until it becomes difficult to mix.

 Once combined, switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding flour as/if needed. If kneading by hand, this should take about 10-12 minutes. Form dough into a round, compact ball. Turn in oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen/tea towel. Let rise in warm area (I put it in the oven with the light on) until doubled, approx. 2 hours.

 Once dough has doubled, punch down. Recover with towel, allow to rise again for an hour, but even 30 minutes will be fine if you’re in a hurry. Punch the dough down again, divide in two.

 Shape each half as desired (3, 4 or 6 strand braid, rolls, etc.). Place shaped loaves onto parchment covered baking trays. Cover with the towel and allow to rise another hour.

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush loaves with egg wash. (Sprinkle with vanilla sugar/sesame seeds/poppy seeds/other topping here if desired)  Bake 30 to 40 min. until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer loaves to a wire rack to cool before serving.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Brownie Trifle

This past weekend I went to AL to visit D and his family.  When he came to see my phiarents in February, Mama made a brownie trifle that he loved.  He told him mom that I was making it Saturday!  Okay, sure, I'll make it!  :-) 

It is really an easy dessert to put together and chocolate lovers will enjoy it.  I'm NOT a chocolate loves and apparently neither is D's mom (I'm not alone! Phew!) but we both enjoyed this one.  I made it a little less "guilty" by using sugar free pudding and lite cool whip...though D tried to get me to use Dream Whip!  ;-)  You could even use the healthy recipe on the brownie box if you want.  This is perfect for an easy, eye-catching dessert.  Hmmm, try it out for Memorial Day!?  Sounds like a plan to me. 

Brownie Trifle
1 box family size brownies (I use fudge style) - prepared according to the box
1 box chocolate pudding, prepared (I actually made two boxes just in case but one would work - didn't use it all)
1 small (8oz) cool whip
chopped toffee (I use the Heshey's Bits 'O Brickle, you could just chop up Heath bars) - about 1/2-2/3 cup

Prepare pudding as instructed and chill.  Make brownies per box instructions and allow to cool.  In a trifle bowl, place about 1/3 of brownies in small chunks.  I just remove the brownies from the pan using a fork, which chunks them with no effort! Place 1/2 pudding on top of brownie.  Top this with about 1/2 the cool whip.  Sprinkle with toffee pieces.  Repeat layers with remaining brownie, pudding, and cool whip.  Top with desired amount of toffee...I like a lot!  Enjoy now or chill and enjoy layer!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Easy Salsa Chicken

When I go to D's to make dinner (or he comes here - a little less frequent) we usually look for something quick to made since our schedules don't allow us to start making dinner prior to about 6 or a little after.  The other night, D came here and we had decided to make chicken.  He bought tenders, which turned out great!  He told me he wanted something "spicy."  Basically, I took the tenders and seasoned them with Tony's Chachare's original seasoning.  I browned one side (3-5 minutes) then turned the chicken over.  Once the other side was browned, I poured some salsa on top and then placed half a piece of Sargento's swiss thins on each piece.  I was afraid that it would be dry but it actually turned out perfectly.  I served it with mashed cauliflower (which D said was tolerable...glad of this!) D took the leftovers to work for lunch the next day.  I'll definitely try this one again...hopefully, K will eat it!

Salsa Chicken
1 package chicken tenders
salsa - your choice, we used medium thick and chunky (I like this kind, D prefers restaurant kind to give me my choice of salsa :-)  What a guy!)
cheese - swiss, mozzarella, colby-jack (mmm, that would be good, too)

Heat a skilled on the stove.  Sprinkle seasoning on one side of tenders.  While browning one side, season the other. When browned, flip tenders to other side and brown.  After they are browned (not completely cooked) pour salsa on top of chicken (1/2-1 cup but you can do how ever much YOU want!).  Top each piece with a small piece of cheese.  Now, cover the chicken with a top and allow to cook for 5 more minutes until cheese melts.  Be sure the chicken is cooked through and enjoy!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Chocolate Snickerdoodles with Toddlers

Who out there likes snickerdoodles?!  I thought so.  Who likes chocolate?!  Okay.  So, why not put them together. 
D LOVES chocolate...I think he considers it a food group.  I like snickerdoodles...but there's no chocolate.  So, I went in search of a chocolate snickerdoodle recipe and found one here.  Before we took K so see Grammy and Granddaddy, I decided we should make these - Granddaddy likes chocolate, too. 
First we had to have a little cuddle time with Elmo.  Then we went in search of the mixer. 
K is a great little helper when it comes to pouring but she really wants to help with the eggs. My solution to this is to crack the egg into a measuring cup and let her pour it into the bowl. She lost interest after pouring the flour in....until it came time to put he dough on the pan.  This is where began!  I put the dough in the cinnamon sugar mix and covered it then let K put it on the pan.  Following dough ball number one, she licks her fingers.  "K, you can't lick your fingers, baby.  Wait."  Big eyes!  Dough ball number two, she licks her fingers.
 "No, K!  Don't lick your fingers."  Curious look. 
Dough ball number three...fingers begin to go to mouth...fingers intercepted!
"Don't lick your fingers.  Wait.  When we're done you can lick them."  She did really well after this but kept looking at her hands and saying "My hand sticky."
 Needless to say, I sped up the coating process after that!  Sweet relief and cookie dough!  :-) 
The cookies turned out great.  I still prefer a non-chocolate cookie but I loved the addition of the cinnamon flavor the cinnamon sugar coating added.  Try them out for yourself...but don't lick your fingers until you're done making the cookies!  :-)

Chocolate Snickerdoodles
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a bowl, beat the butter with 1 cup of the sugar until creamy using a mixer. Add the melted chocolate and the egg and beat until smooth. Beat in the dry ingredients until incorporated.
In a shallow bowl, mix the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with the cinnamon and set aside.
Scoop out dough using a small ice cream scoop (or a soup spoon) and use your hands to form into a ball. Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Transfer to baking sheets. Flatten to 2-inch rounds if desired...I didn't do this. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the cookies are puffed and cracked. Transfer to racks and let cool.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Product Review - A First!

So, I don't normally do this but D and I have tried the Kraft Fresh Take blends several times.  This is a season breading with cheese combo.  They market it at being good to add to fish, chicken, pork...really whatever you want.  We've tried the rosemary and herb version as well as the Italian Parmesan version.  Both were really good.  The first time we had it, we put he Rosemary version on fish. 

It was pretty good.  The next time, I put it on chicken strips. D liked it on the chicken better. 

I do think that it would go really well on pork chops, too.  So, if you're looking for a quick and easy was to season your mean, try this's on sale at Kroger right now!  (I did not receive any compensation for this, so Kraft...just thank me!) :-)

Fresh Takes Chicken or Fish
Open your chosen fresh takes pack and mix the cheese and bread crumbs.  If you will be using the whole package, just toss in your desired meat and toss to coat.  I didn't use the whole thing, so I poured some into a bowl in order to save the rest for later use.  For fish, preheat oven to 400.  Coat fish and place on baking sheet.  Cook for 12-14 minutes or until fish flakes.  For chicken fingers, preheat oven to 350.  Toss to coat chicken and place on baking sheet.  Cook for 12-15 minutes or until center of chicken is cooked through.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Goldilocks and the Three Cookies

Once upon a time, there was a little girl with golden, curly hair.  Her name was Goldilocks. One day, she was walking down the street and happened upon a cozy little bakery.  It looked so inviting that she walked straight in.  The aroma was amazing.  So buttery and sweet!  But no one was to be found.  Despite being told that she shouldn't go into someone else's kitchen uninvited, Goldilocks was drawn into the kitchen.  It was amazing!  Two sets of stainless steel double ovens, several handmade wooden cutting boards and a large marble stone for rolling pastry.

 Sitting on the counter were three plates...FULL of cookies!  One plate had teeny, tiny cookies.  One place had medium sized cookies.  The last plate had cookies that were bigger than Goldilocks' hand!  First she tried the big one. 
Oh, so chewy!  So full of peanut butter.  But Goldilocks decided her eyes were too big for her stomach.  It was just too big!  Next she tried the mini cookie.  This one ended up being crispy.  The toffee flavor really stood out in this one.  But it was over so quickly.  Finally, she tried a medium cookie.  A little crisp but the middle was still soft.  And she could taste all the flavors so well.  This cookie was JUST right!

I found this recipe on Anna's site back in the fall and just couldn't resist doing a little story with them.  The cookies themselves are fabulous.  I did enjoy the mini version but I think I preferred having a little more dough to deal with.  Peanut butter and toffee flavors together are great!  Add some chocolate and that is one GREAT cookie!  Try it out...big and small alike will enjoy it!

Peanut Butter Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies adapted from Cookie Madness
1/2 cup butter flavored shortening (I used butter flavored Crisco)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup peanut butter (crunchy or creamy okay)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup (4.5 oz) all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup toffee chips (such as Heath bits or Skor bits)

Preheat the oven to 325F and have ready a couple of large, ungreased baking sheets. Beat the shortening, salt, baking soda and peanut butter together. Beat in both of the sugars and the vanilla. Beat in the egg.  Stir in the flour, and then stir in the chips and toffee bits.

For mini cookies:  Use a 1/4 teaspoon measure, scoop up dough and shape into small tightly packed balls. Arrange the small balls on the baking sheet about 20 to a sheet and bake on center rack for 12-14 minutes or until cookies appear done and slightly brown on the edges. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

For medium cookies: Use Tablespoon cookie scoop and scoop dough onto baking sheet/stone.  Bake for the same 12-14 minutes...amazing, huh?

For Large cookies:  Use 1/4 cup measure.  Place on pan and press down flat.  Bake for 15-17 minutes or until golden brown.


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A Guest Post, Welcome D

D made a dessert for a party a while back and took pictures...without me asking him to!  My comments below in blue!  Check it out!

Greetings all!  D here.  I’m giving Claire a little bit of a break today, and bringing you a simple recipe to boot.  This was one of C-prime’s favorite recipes to take to functions – even more-so than our sausage balls – as it comes together nicely and lends itself to using those crystal bowls that otherwise you never get to use.  That said, we never knew what to call it.  She called it Strawberry Stuff, and I guess that’s what it is.  Claire asked if it was a trifle, and I explained we didn’t have fancy words like that in Alabama.
A few months ago, one of Claire and my friends was having a birthday, and her husband hosted a surprise birthday party.  I decided to take this along.  I was told it came out okay, but there were chocolate chip cookies at the party, so I wouldn’t know.  It was good...might use more strawberries next time.  I wouldn't know about the chocolate chip cookies!  :-)  

Strawberry Stuff
16 oz. strawberries (fresh or frozen (thaw them if they’re frozen, though))
1 angel food cake (store bought is just fine)
2 packets Dream Whip (or 16 oz (a guess) Cool whip)
2 cups cold milk (for dream whip if using)
1 teaspoon vanilla (for dream whip if using) 

1.       Rinse your strawberries (I know all cookbooks say to wash fruit, but really, you’re just rinsing them.  I’ve yet to see anybody break out the Dawn to prepare fruit.  Ha! He makes me laugh!)  Cut the green caps off.  Slice the strawberries.  Here you’re going for nice, bite-sized pieces.  Anywhere from 4-8 per strawberry, probably.  Remember that strawberries have a rough radial symmetry about the long axis, so I would advise using this to your advantage to maintain uniform slicing. 
2.       Tear the angel food cake into bite-sized chunks.  Yes, this is as technically demanding as it sounds.
3.       Prepare the Dream Whip (or just get your Cool Whip out)
Mix the ingredients in a large bowl.  You won’t think you need a large bowl.  But you do.  Mix on low speed with an electric mixer until blended.  Then beat on high speed for 4 minutes until topping thickens and forms peaks.  Several concepts here were new to me.  I’m still not sure about the peaks thing:  if you’re mixing it, it’s going to be flat.  A little wrinkly, but still flat.  No peaks. Don't will occur!  When you pull the mixer out of the whip, it should pull up and leave "peaks" in the whip.  Leaving that aside, I always thought that mixing was a binary process.  Either something is mixed or it isn’t.  But I must confess, the texture really did change once I started beating it on high.  For that matter, the color of the surrounding countertop changed, too.  I’d never beaten anything on high before.  I guess it adds more air and reaches a lighter, fluffier texture. Exactly! First you mix...then you whip "into shape!"
4.       (Optional) At this point, I had started mixing the ingredients together and felt something was missing.  C-prime always used frozen strawberries for this recipe, and I think that syrup, or nectar, or whatever, was what I was looking for.  So I used our Magic Bullet to blend the strawberries I hadn’t used into a syrup.
5.       (More Optional) I also seem to remember adding Splenda to this recipe.  I didn’t this time, and I was told it was plenty sweet.  Sweeten to taste.  That sounds good.

Isn’t this a huge strawberry leaf?!

6.       In a rotating fashion, mix your ingredients in a large serving bowl.  You’re not trying to achieve layers (unless you decide to do a trifle...then you DO want layers.  If making a trifle, I would do the following layers: cake, berries, whipped stuff, cake, berries, whipped stuff), but it makes for less stirring if you add them a little at a time.
 a.       One of the attractive things about this recipe was always the eye-popping color.  I’m not sure if it was not using the frozen strawberries, or mixing in the syrup with the Dream Whip, but it turned pink and didn’t pop as much as I remembered.  Alas.
7.       Once a satisfactory degree of homogeneity is reached, cover with cling wrap (which is never serving quality, ironically - just remove before serving! :-)) and chill until served.  The longer it sets, the more the cake will soak up the Dream Whip.  This is not really a problem, though - makes it better...will soak up strawberry juice too...yum!  Just an observation.  Then...enjoy!