Sunday, January 31, 2010

Homemade bagels!

As many know, bagels are a staple at all things Jewish, be it Kiddish, an after wedding brunch, or just an ordinary lunch (or in my DH's case, breakfast).  I don't recall what sparked my desire to make bagels from scratch, but I did it!



This recipe is a bit complex and detailed and it is vital that each step is followed EXACTLY---dough is tricky to work with sometimes so make sure to read the recipe and directions a few times before you start.  The recipe (found here) has 6 major steps and requires either 2 days or one long day (with a long break in the middle for rising):
1. make sponge
2. make dough
3. rising
4. shaping
5. retardation in fridge
6. boil and bake

Makes approximately 1.5 dozen bagels

Ingredients:
  Sponge
     1 teaspoon instant yeast
     4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour (see note below)
     2 1/2 cups water, room temperature

  Dough
     1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
     3 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
     2 3/4 teaspoons salt
     2 teaspoons malt powder or 1 tablespoon dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar (see note below)

  To Finish
     1 tablespoon baking soda
     Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting

Directions:
Day one:

1. Make sponge: stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop. (This did NOT happen when I let mine rest, possibly because the metal bowl got too cold on my granite countertop. I do not know if it affected my final result but I do not think so. If you are working on granite, which is always cold, I suggest elevating your bowl on some kitchen towels or trivets).

2. Make dough: In the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients for a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough.

3. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all ingredients should be hydrated. If the dough seems to dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

4. Immediately divide the dough into pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired (I used a kitchen scale and used 2.5oz for each ball)
5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.

6. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil.

7. Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)

8. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans, spray litely with oil and cover losely with plastic wrap.  Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

9. Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float. Return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

10. The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda (and optionally, a few tablespoons of barley syrup, see Note at the end). Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

11. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minutes flip them over rand boil for another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. (If you decide to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.) If you want to top (see note below) the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water. You can use any of the suggestions in the ingredients list or a combination.

12. When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. (If you are baking only 1 pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.) After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450 degrees F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer.
13. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Follow

I am officially a Friday Follower!!


Welcome to the Friday Follow celebration hosted by One 2 Try, Hearts Make Families and Midday Escapades!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Strawberry Jam Oatmeal Bars

While flipping through my cookbooks recently, I came across a recipe that I had not before noticed but that sounded yummo! These bars are a great combination of the healthy benefits of oatmeal yet sinful with the sugar and butter necessary to create them!

Recipe Adapted from Cookies and Bars by Love Food

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of regular sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  •  3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1.5 cupstrawberry jam
  • 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Directions:
  • preheat oven to 375
  • spray a 12x8 or 13x9 pan
  • add sugars and flours together in large bowl, mix well
  • add oats and butter and using hands, incorporate until mixture resembles granola
  • press 2/3 of mixture in pan, bake for 10 minutes
  • spread jam (easier if its at room temperature, so you may want to microwave it if its been sitting in the fridge)
  • sprinkle chocolate chips and then the remaining mixture, press down gently
  • bake for additional 20-25 minutes
  • remove and allow to cool before cutting.
Thoughts- DH loved these, and so did my coworkers. To me, they were a bit too sweet. I would recommened cutting out the white sugar all together and using 3/4 cup of brown sugar. OR use a jam that is not as sweet as mine was (very very sweet). I also used milk chocolate chips as that is what I had, semisweet would have been a better choice to complement the sweetness.  Overall, these were easy and fun to make and I will surely make them again with raspberry jam and semisweet chocolate chips.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chocolate Pecan Pie Tart(lets)

I am no longer a pecan pie making virgin! This afternoon I made pecan pie tarts (tartlets by my DH)--this dough is delicious and the filling mmmmmmm so so good. My only problem? I decided to make 1.5 batches of the pie filling without first premeasuring how much pecans I had. I ended up having a bit too much of the sugary liquid and was about 1/3-1/2c short on pecans.  In part, the shortage was due to my desire to "decorate" the tops of the tartlets with 3 pecans atop each.   The below recipe contains the proper quantities of all ingredients.
One of my favorite aspects of this recipe is that its missing a common pecan pie ingredient--corn syrup!  While I do not fear corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup, I simply don't keep any around. As you know, I am a big fan of recipes that use basic ingredients that I typically have on hand and with the exception of the pecans, these were all already in my pantry.




CRUST:
Ingredients:
  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1 c. flour (I used whole wheat!)
  • PAM or other cooking spray
 Directions:
  • beat together cream cheese and butter until well creamed
  • mix in the flour
  • refrigerate dough 1 hr
  • roll out dough between 2 pieces of seran wrap,about the thickness for sugar cookies
  • using a mug or cookie cutter, cut out circles
  • grease muffin tins
  • place dough circles into tin and press into place to make a cup shape
PECAN FILLING
     Ingredients:
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon  flour
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  • In a large bowl, beat eggs until foamy, and stir in melted butter
  • Stir in the brown sugar, white sugar and the flour; mix well
  • Add the milk, vanilla nuts and chocolate
  • Pour into an unbaked tarts
  • decorate with lined up pecans on top (optional)
  • Bake at 325 for 20-25 minutes(until edges of dough start to become golden in color
  • reduce oven temperature to 275 and bake for 10 more minutes
  • let cool before flipping pan upside down and gently tapping out the tarts
  • FINALLY, ENJOY!

Zucchini Latkes

For many, the smell of potato pancakes frying in mid to late December reminds them of family, gifts, and lighting the Hanukkiah.  While I love the golden delicious fried goodies as much as you do, a number of years ago my mom made me these delicious pancakes out of zucchini.
    Yesterday, desiring something different as the "starch" for dinner, I decided to whip some up.  They were SO delicious, much better than I remembered mom's being (sorry mom) and even DH J enjoyed this healthy side to our oven roasted chicken.  So incredibly good that I ate a few leftover from yesterday for lunch today and you know what, I think I am going to be making some more tomorrow too!



Ingredients:
  • 1 lb zucchini (green sqash) washed with ends snipped off
  • 3-4 tbsp flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 2 eggs + 1 white (or 4 whites)
  • EVOO for frying
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder- to taste
Directions:
  • with peel on, grate zucchini by hand or food processor
  • dump zucchini into mixing bowl
  • add eggs, mix well
  • turn on frying pan or griddle with enough EVOO to cover the frying surface but not enough for "deep frying" or boiling
  • sprinkle 3-4 tbsp over mixture and mix again, making sure flour is evenly distributed
  • season with salt, pepper, garlic powder or other seasoning, to taste-- mix again
  • use measuring cup or large spoon to spoon mixture just as you would make potato latkes/hashfries/small pancakes
  • fry until lightly browned, flip and cook for 2 more minutes
There you have it- 10 minutes takes you from raw zucchini to a delicious meal, size or snack.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

I love me some chocolate, DH loves him some chocolate, lets face it, MOST people love chocolate. If you are in the minority on that one, I don't know whats wrong with you but something clearly is.  When I asked around at work what they'd like for this week's sugary goodness the requests were for something not chocolate! I guess with the nonstop holidays, cakes, and candy, people have had their fill.



And so, I decided to poke around for some fruity cupcakes. When I came across a lemon cream cheese frosting, I knew that I had to make it.  I LOVED the results, they are light and refreshing and would be great for a summer get together.

CUPCAKES
    Ingredients:
     -  1 cup butter or margarine, softened
     -  2 cups sugar
     -  3 eggs
     -  2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
     - 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
     -  3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
     -  1 teaspoon baking soda
     -  1/2 teaspoon baking powder
     -  1/2 teaspoon salt
     -  2 cups sour cream (I used light/reduced fat)
        
    Directions:

     - cream butter and sugar
     - Beat in eggs, one at a time.
     - Add lemon peel and vanilla; mix well.
     - combine dry ingredients
     - add creamed mixture into dry ingredients, alternately with sour cream
     - Fill paper-lined muffin cups
     - Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes (toothpick test)

                NOTES:
                        (1) This recipe is for 30 cupcakes, I halved the recipe and decided to pour the batter into 12
                              paperlined cupcakes- this resulted in some pretty big cupcakes, had I made 15, they would have made
                              storebought size cupcakes but would have required me to bake 2 batches since I only have one 12cup pan
                        (2) In halving the recipe, I totally screwed up the baking powder and used 1/2 teaspoon rather than 1/4- I do
                              not think this effected the texture, appearance or taste of the cupcakes at all
                        (3) I set my timer for 25 minutes and did not check on them at all until the timer went off, I think 22 minutes
                            would have been better

   FROSTING (This made too much for my 12 jumbo cupcakes--probably enough for 15 jumbo or 20 standard cupcakes)

      Ingredients:
     -  8oz cream cheese (I used light)
     -  1/4 cup (4 tbsp) butter or margarine, softened
     -  2 tablespoons lemon juice
     -  2 teaspoons lemon zest
     -  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
     -  1/2 tsp lemon extract (or you can just use some extra lemon juice, to taste)
     -  5 cups confectioners' sugar  (you may need to add more to compensate for additional lemon juice should you use it)

     Directions:
     -  Mix together all ingredients but confectioner's sugar and lemon extract
     -  1 cup at a time, add confectioner's sugar
     -  After approximately 3 cups, add extract, to taste
    -  continue adding sugar until you reach your desired consistency, for piping thickness, you will need 5 or so cups, for 
       spreadable, 3 or 4 cups will probably do
     -  refrigerate at least 10 minutes to stiffen it up before placing into piping bag and frosting cupcakes

PIPING DIRECTIONS: use any tip that has a decent size gauge, carefully press tip into cupcake to create cavity (I inserted, then lifted out, and reinsterted to create the size you see in the pictures).  When ready to fill, insert tip into cupcake and slowly squeeze piping bag while carefully lifting it out of the cupcake (its much easier than it sounds). Once you reach the top of the cupcake, either spread or pipe frosting on top.

Banana Pancakes for DH

I am still living the low-carb lifestyle but DH J most definitely is not. He is the president of carb-o-holics anonymous!
On Sunday, I decided to use one very browned banana for a quick breakfast and the result was this:



INGREDIENTS:
     -  1 cup flour
     -  1 cup all-purpose flour
     -  1 tablespoon white sugar
     -  2 teaspoons baking powder
     -  1/4 teaspoon salt
     -  1 egg, beaten
     -  1 cup milk
     -  2 tablespoons vegetable oil
     -  2 ripe bananas, mashed

DIRECTIONS:
1.  Combine flour, white sugar, baking powder and salt
2.  In a separate bowl, mix together egg, milk, vegetable oil and bananas.

3.  Stir flour mixture into banana mixture; batter will be slightly lumpy-- DO NOT OVER MIX
4.  Pour batter onto well greased/oiled frying pan on medium heat.

**Recipe makes 8 medium to large size pancakes, I halfed the recipe and it was plenty for one person**

TOPPING: a combination of peanut butter + maple syrup cooked over low-medium heat for about 5 minutes until melted and well mixed together. I used probably 1 tbsp Peanut Butter and 2 tbsp maple syrup (made enough for one).  You can alter the consistency and amounts of each ingredient, to taste.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Flashback

The box of goodies I prepared for my coworkers for Christmas

Monster Cookies
Peanut Butter Fudge
Chocolate Fudge




Some Past Dinners

After a long day at work and workouts every other day, dinners are typically super quick and require little planning.  While I tend to have energy to bake on weekends, mid-week, dinner consists of a quick starchy side for J (none for me), a fresh veggie or canned if nothing good is on sale and protein.  We are high class diners, can't you tell?

Here are some photos of dinners from the past few weeks

Peanut Chicken with Near East Pilaf and broccoli



Battered Filet of Sole with mixed veggies (canned) and Near East



A Brownie That's Also a Cookie

Confused much? My DH J was too!
I found these puppies on tidymom's website and just HAD to make them.  In continuing with the "make a half batch of everything if you don't have a real occasion to be making them," rule, I sort of ran with it today too.  See, despite all the baking you see here already, I have managed to drop 25 lbs since October 1st and am officially 3 lbs lighter and 1 dress size smaller than at high school graduation.... 8 yrs ago... thats 50 lbs lighter than I was at my cousin's wedding in June 2007. While I am running my bootie off at the gym in preparation for my first 5k, I am trying to both satisfy my baking bug and keep the stuff out of our apartment!  Monday has officially become "baked goods day" at my office. I bake on Ssundays, leave a few pieces for J and bring the rest to work. Thus, I make 1/2 of most recipes, sometimes even less!  It also lets me make mistakes without wasting too many ingredients.  Anyhow, now that you know the method behind my madness, here is the new thing I tried today!  Feel free to double the below recipe to use an entire box of brownie mix and an entire cookie pouch.



Ingredients:
- 1/2 box of Ghiradelli brownie mix
- 1/2 of a Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip Cookie Pouch

Directions:
-  Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-  Measure/weight out 1/2 of the brownie mix. (I 0ut a bowl on a kitchen scale, hit tare, pour in the mix- take note of how much is there and then proceed to put half back in the bag-- seal nice and tight and put back in the box for next time!
- make brownie batter per box directions, making sure to use HALF of each ingredient to accomodate making half a batch
-  Spray a small pan (I used a 9x5 loaf pan and it was perfect size)
- Pour all of the batter into the pan
- Make cookie batter as per pouch directions, again halving all of the ingredients using a kitchen scale
-  plop cookie batter all over the brownie pan-- I did this by taking a large spoon full and patting out to make a thick cookie shape-- you can get creative here, no right or wrong!
-  bake for about 35 minutes, I took it out at 25 minutes and it was still raw inside but think anything between 30 and 35 minutes would work.
-  allow to cook.



OPTIONAL: Ganache
Ingredients:
-  1/8 c Heavy Cream or Light Cream
-  2 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
-  1 tbsp Margarine or Butter

Directions:
-  melt butter/margarine on medium heat
-  add heavy cream
-  heat until just before boiling
-  pour over chocolate chips and stir until thoroughly incorporated
-  pour over cool brownies and spread
-  cut after ganache has set

Too Much Chocolate Chocolate Cake


I came across this recipe during the holiday season and it has been my go to dessert for my work holiday party, a Hanukkah gathering at our apartment with the inlaws, and for my grandfather's birthday a few weeks ago. On Friday, one of my coworkers asked for me to make it again, so I did.... a dessert THIS GOOD just could not be easier than this:

Ingredients
1 box of devils food cake mix
1 box of instant chocolate pudding mix (I use whatever is on sale or generic!)
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream (I use light)
3/4 cup oil
2 cups chocolate chips (you can get creative here, mini chips work, as do peanut butter and chocolate chips combined)
1/2 cup warm water

Directions
- preheat oven to 350 degrees
- beat 4 eggs for about 1 minute in medium bowl
- add cake mix, pudding, water, oil and sour cream, mix for 2-3 minutes until well blended
- stir in or fold in the chocolate chips-- feel free to add extra
- generously spray a bundt pan with PAM or other baking spray
- carefully pour/spoon batter into the pan
- bake for 55 minutes
- remove from oven, allow to cool for AT LEAST one and one half hours (I once attempted to rush the process, the end product was not as attractive and had some holes)
- once cool, flip upside down onto plate or cake tray. It should fall right out of the pan
- sprinkle with powdered sugar


This can also be made as a sheet cake, although I have not tried it yet. Next time I have an occasion for this yummy recipe, I am going to do a 2 layer cake with raspberry mouse and raspberry preserve between the layers mmmmmmmm

Check out this zoomed in photo J took-- he wanted to highlight the texture.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Kahlua Chocolate Brownie Balls

Inspired by Cake Balls found just about everywhere, I decided to make my own twist today.  Having used about half of my brownie batter for the Peanut Butter Surprise, I figured, why not try making these delectable treats with BROWNIES in the middle.  So there it was born, my Kahlua Chocolate Brownie Balls.



Ingredients:
          -  Brownie batter (this recipe uses about half of 1 brownie mix worth of batter)
          -  2 tbsp cream cheese (I used reduced fat)
          -  Kahlua to taste (I just poured, but probably 1.5 tbsp?  Add slowly and sample as you mix)
          - Almond bark (vanilla and chocolate)-- found in baking section at Walmart

Directions:
          -  Bake brownies  as per box directions, slightly underbaked is ok
          -  Let brownie pan cool for about 10 minutes
          -  Dump contents of brownie pan into bowl
          -  Roughly crumple up brownie with spoon
          -  Add cream cheese; using mixer, fork, or spatula, mix the cream cheese and brownie together
          -  Slowly add kahlua, to taste (can also use rum, creme de menthe, etc.)
          -  Roll into balls, about 1 inch diameter and place on plate to freeze (I froze overnight)
          - Melt almond bark in the microwave as per package directions (you can also use Chocolate Disks/Melts)
          -  using a toothpick, spoon, or any other method you prefer, roll the brownie balls, one at a time in the melted 
             chocolate and place on tray to set (take the balls out of the freezer one or two at a time)
         -  once chocolate is set, you can drizzle with a contrast color







Peanut Butter Surprise

Inspired by Heather, I set out to make these mini brownie cupcakes with a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup in the middle and somewhere along the way thought, why not frost them like cupcakes too!  And so it came about, my peanut butter surprise brownies:



"Naked" Brownie RECIPE
   Ingredients:
          -  1 box brownie mix of choice (I'd recommend one without extra chips, chunks, etc.)
          -  All incredients required for brownies, as per box
          -  Cupcake liners
          -  25 Reese Peanut Butter Cups (I used 12 because I used half of the batter for my next creation)
   Directions:
          -  Place wrapped Reeses Cups in freezer
          -  Preheat oven to 350 degrees
          -  Prepare brownie batter as per directions on box
          -  Place cupcake liners into pan
          -  Fill each cup about 3/4 full (or 2/3 if you follow optional step below)
          -  Unwrap frozen Reeses Cups
          -  Gently press one cup, smaller/bottom down
          -  Optional step: you can put a small amount of batter on top of the Reeses if you would like them to  
             truly be a surprise, I made 2 like that and 10 uncovered, this did not effect bake time; works best if  
             the liners are less full, approx 2/3 full prior to pressing Reeses in)
          -  Bake for 15 minutes
          -  Allow to cool completely before frosting*
                             *frosting is optional, they are delicious as just "surprises" and easier to pack in a lunch.


Peanut Butter Frosting Recipe (enough for about 15 cups and some samplings by Jared)
     Ingredients:
          -  1/4 cup (4 tbsp) butter at room temp (or margarine if making parve)
          -  1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (room temp)
          -  1 cup confectioner sugar
          -  2 tbsp water

      Directions
          -  With mixer, beat butter/margarine and peanut butter
             -  Gradually add sugar, 1/4 cup or so at a time
             -  Beat on medium speed until frosting gets a bit stiff, add 1 tbsp water
             -  Continue mixing until all sugar is incorporated
             -  Add 1 tbsp water (check for consistency, if too stiff, add a drop of water-- tiny amount can
                change the consistency considerably)
             -  Beat an additional 1 minute
       
Using piping bag (or knife) to frost cupcakes. Decorate with a small piece of a cut Reeses Cup