Baking

paprika recipe app

A few months ago I bemoaned the fact that I just couldn’t find a recipe app for my iphone that I liked. I got a lot of suggestions from my readers and actually tried most of them. I even went so far as to try apps that were foreign and had zero reviews.  I finally found one that I really love.  (Not one of the foreign ones, alas.) It’s called Paprika. I’ve been using it for a few months and I have to say that I really, really love it.

There are about a jillion recipe apps out there. Most of them, however, are just electronic cookbooks. That’s not what I wanted. I wanted a place to keep and organize all my recipes; not somebody else’s. Here’s the recipe problem I was hoping to solve: I’ll oftentimes be at the store and realize that I’m supposed to bring somebody dinner the next day, or I have to make cookies for a bake sale, etc. But here I am at the store and I can’t remember how many lemons I need for the lemon squares or whether it’s parsnips or rutabagas I put in my beef stew. Some of the recipes I use are online and I can look them up on my phone, although I have to stand there in the middle of the produce section for five minutes trying to locate the recipe.  Most of my recipes are in my cookbook, though. Not so convenient when you’re at the store.

I also wanted to have all my recipes available digitally so when someone asks for a recipe I can just whip out my phone and send it to them immediately.

I’ve been hoping to find an app where I can store my recipes and organize them in my own way. I’m not OCD about very many things, but recipes are one of them. When I stumbled upon Paprika I was very hesitant to try it because it’s $4.99. That’s a lot for an app. And the ipad app is another $4.99, cough choke*. But I’ve been desperate. I’ve had to call up my kids from the store one too many times and have my seven-year-old try to read me a recipe. Talk about frustrating! (You can also get a version of this for your PC. And by PC I mean a Mac. I don’t know if this is available for actual PCs because I turn up my nose at such things. But the computer version is $20! Jeez O Pete, that’s a lot of money for a recipe program. But I can see how it would be super handy to be able to sync all recipes wirelessly between your iphone, ipad and computer.) Oh, by the way you can get this for your Android too.

But then I think how I spend more than $20 going to see a movie with my husband that only lasts for two hours and isn’t $30 for recipe apps that I’ll use every day such a better deal? Yes!  Anyway, here’s why I like Paprika:

–Very clean, easy-to-use interface. You can figure it out in about three minutes. It also has a tutorial. I love an app with a tutorial.

–You can add, rearrange and edit categories. This is the thing that all other recipe apps lack. I like to organize my recipes just so. For example, I like to have a breakfast category. You’d be surprised how many cooking apps don’t have a breakfast category. (I’m sorry, pancakes do not belong in the bread category!) I also like to arrange my categories in order of service, not alphabetically. Therefore breakfast always comes first and dessert comes last. I like salads put together with side dishes because a lot of times I think of salads as a side dish and I like to be able to peruse the whole category for possibilities. But here’s the awesome thing about paprika: I can have a whole category for salads and I can list salads under side dishes too! It’s a lot better than a traditional cookbook that way. You can also create subcategories within each category. Under “desserts” I have subheadings of “cakes”, “cookies” and “pies”.

–It’s super easy to add recipes. You can add them by hand, which is totally straightforward. Or you can add them from your favorite cooking sites with the touch of a button. There’s a browser within the app that lets you go to any site; you simply press “save recipe” when you’ve found the one you want and it automatically adds the picture, and separates and formats the ingredients and directions for you. You can also edit each recipe in case you’ve changed it to alter your tastes. Most cooking websites are supported. If not, you can always cut and paste recipes into Paprika which is still super easy.

–You can scale the ingredients. Next to each recipe is a button that will let you change each recipe size, either making it smaller or larger. If you’re like me and try to double recipes in your head, only to forget to double some of the ingredients, this feature is a life-saver.

–There are several timers within the app. Anytime there are cooking times listed in a recipe, you can just click on those times and a pre-set timer pops up. Each timer has the item listed underneath, so if you’re cooking a couple of different items, you’ll know which one the timer is ringing for. Is that convenient or what?

–There’s a nifty grocery list feature. It arranges items according to the aisle at the grocery store. So cool. And it consolidates items so you don’t get eggs listed three times from three different recipes. You can add and edit super easily to delete things you already have at home or add items extra items that you need from the store.

–You can search for recipes depending on items you have on hand. You can also create menus on a calendar. I kind of fly by the seat of my pants because my schedule has the habit of getting completely out of control at the last minute. But if you are a plan-aheader this is just great.

There are a couple of features that I think are superflouous, like a star rating system. If something doesn’t get five stars it doesn’t make it into my collection. But if you are a chronic saver of new recipes to try, this might be a good thing.

I really can’t think of many things I don’t like about this app. If you cook, I would highly recommend it. And if you don’t cook, what is the matter with you?

 

*I have my iphone and ipad in the kitchen with me to cook quite often. I hate touching my grubby hands all over my electronics but what’s a girl to do when she needs to scroll down to see the rest of the recipe? Use a baby carrot instead! It totally works on a touchscreen and is much cleaner than the hands you just used to squish up raw ground beef into meatballs. Just stay away from the ranch dressing, OK?

You guys! Last weekend was one of those times when everything stacks up and crushes me near to death. It’s all I could do to keep breathing til last night.

First of all, it was my anniversary. Nice, pretty mellow. But still it’s a whole evening when I had lots of other things to do. What other things, you might ask? Well, at church the men are given a little gift on father’s day. A lot of times the teenage girls are in charge of it (actually, the leaders are in charge. The girls just hand them out). But this year the women were in charge. I was thinking of something store-bought but I realized how much I hate to receive store-bought stuff so I decided to make some monster cookies. In case you have lived a sheltered, pitiful life and don’t know what they are: kind of a half-peanut butter, half-oatmeal cookie with M&Ms and chocolate chips. Only I don’t have a good recipe. So I had to search the interwebs to find something worthy. Which required me making a whole ton of Monster Cookies to try out. The grand winner was this recipe by Sally’s Baking Addiction. It’s a keeper because it’s not too heavy on the oatmeal; too much oatmeal makes a cookie taste blah. So my anniversary cut into my baking time.

On my way home from working out on Friday I stopped to buy all the M&Ms and chocolate chips. Nothing like being absolutely soaked with sweat holding 15 bags of candy. I’m sure people suspected bulimia. And the stores here don’t provide grocery bags (of course I had forgotten mine in the car, as always) so I was dropping bags of M&Ms left and right. Those suckers are slippery! But I made it home with all my chocolate and began to bake.

I spent some of Friday and most of Saturday making 90 giant Monster Cookies. I have a gigantic mixer that does three or four batches at a time, so it really wasn’t as much trouble as it sounds. My counselors did all the wrapping and labelling and i think the cookies were a big hit.

But you know that wasn’t all I had to do, right? Mister dragged me to a movie on Friday night. I can’t remember what it was called but it was Danish and I liked it very much. It put me behind schedule. As did the wedding we had to go to in San Antonio on Saturday morning. Two hours each way for a 40-minute ceremony. Oy. But we discovered a new (and delicious!) BBQ place halfway between San Antonio and Austin and that made everything all better (the brisket melted in my mouth. Divine!)

Also this weekend: Arabella had to give a talk in church. Mormons don’t have a clergyman that speaks in church every week. Instead, members of the congregation are asked to speak about a given topic. Everybody gets a turn, aren’t we so lucky? Once kids turn twelve they’re fair game for speaking, too. This was Arabella’s first talk and it was about fathers so that meant that I had to help her with it instead of pawning it off on Mister. Much encouragement and proofreading ensued.

This wasn’t our only “first” at church either. India got asked to play the prelude music in church for the first time (piano not organ). Meaning I had to nag her to practice several times (“Mom, nobody even listens to the prelude music!”). She did a really good job and I’m guessing she’ll get asked again. Our house was filled with hymns all weekend, which seems nice in theory but really just put me on edge.

Then there were the teenagers nagging me to sign up for summer church camps right this second, requiring me to decide exactly what our itinerary is going to be as camp is four states away and will require travel of 10-12 days total. There is nothing that I despise as much as planning things in advance and I’ve been avoiding the details of our big summer trip. But there I was trying to get the kids all signed up for camps, knowing that there were only four slots left at the session they wanted to go to (“what do you mean you can’t remember your camp password from last year? Well, then they can email it to you. You forgot your email password too???” ) It took over an hour but we finally got it squared away.

There were Father’s Day presents to wrap, cards to nag the kids to make, and the Father’s Day meals to prepare. And a whole bunch of church busywork that takes a million years and is no fun at all but had to be done for Sunday.

It’s really a wonder that I only burned one tray of cookies. As much multi-tasking as I was doing, there should have been a few dozen burned.

And then there was Jasper. Poor, poor Jasper. It was his birthday on Sunday too. But I felt sorry for him having to share his day with Mister, and that it was on a Sunday (no eating out or having much fun being the Sabbath Day and all), so we lied and told him that we hadn’t looked at the calendar properly and that his birthday was actually Monday. Thank goodness he bought it! Having his birthday yesterday instead of Sunday was so much better. We went swimming with friends and he didn’t have to share his special day with his dad. It ended up being a great idea. I’ll have to remember to lie to my kids a lot more often.

OK, this is officially the most boring blog post I’ve ever written. But I just wanted you to know what I’ve been up to. I’ve had good reasons to slack on blogging and I’ve got the dark circles under my eyes to to prove it.

 

Arabella loves to read my cookbooks and pick out things for me to make. My kids are all sugar addicts like their mother so her recipes are usually in the dessert category. A couple of weeks ago she picked out this beauty from my Cooks Country magazine that she wanted me to make as her birthday cake; it’s a S’mores Ice Cream Pie:

I seriously love s’mores.  Not the biggest fan of ice cream, but it was a hot day yesterday, so I was OK with it. Birthdays are always a huge deal around our house and require a massive amount of work: make the requested breakfast, take the child lunch at school, make a birthday cake, make the requested dinner (or hope they want dinner out) and usually buy/wrap a bunch of presents.

I figured an ice cream cake means no baking or icing so it would be a lot less work. Uuuuggggh. This dessert was so much trouble! The graham cracker crust needs to be baked, so the oven does have to be turned on. Then there is a layer where chocolate is melted and combined with heavy cream and corn syrup. But because I was making this when the babies were walking in the door from school I forgot everything but the chocolate which, when frozen, became hard as a sheet of metal. Then a layer of marshamallow fluff was spread over that. Do you know what a pain it is to spread marshamllow fluff? A horrendous pain, not to mention incredible messy and sticky. It tasted super yum, though, so everyone ate their ice cream off the top and then held the crust like a sloppy chcolatey cookie to eat at the end.

Also, when the pie is ready to serve, the ice cream is covered with marshmallows and broiled quickly to brown them. It was a delicious step and one that really made the dessert taste like s’mores. Unfortunately it also made the pie start to melt and by the time the graham crackers were affixed to the outside and candles were lit, the whole thing was melting like crazy. I ended up throwing the dripping pie onto the table and screaming at everyone to hurry up and sing, for Pete’s sake the stupid dessert is getting chocolate everywhere.

So if you have all day with nothing going on and really feel like undertaking an arduous task (and you like s’mores a lot), this might be a good dessert to try. Also, make sure that there are a lot of people who will eat this instantly because an ice cream dessert in a springform pan with the sides removed is probably not the best idea. It was super delicious, though. I mean, it tasted really good and was very smore-y.

Arabella was extremely happy with this, even though I put the leftover pie in the freezer, slammed the door and yelled, “I hate everything!”  (good thing Arabella had scurried off to look at her presents). Not my finest cooking moment but the birthday girl felt loved and that’s the whole point.

 

 

 

 

 

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Everybody needs to know how to make a pie. It’s just one of those life skills that all Americans should have. Despite the saying, “easy as pie”, it’s actually kind of hard. Not hard, exactly, but complicated. I made this tutorial because I want to take the intimidation factor out of pie crust. Let’s face it, pie crust is the scariest part of pie-making.

Today I’m going to teach you how to make a double pie crust. That means it’s for a pie with a top and a bottom (like an Apple pie). You can also blind bake the crust. Blind baking means cooking the pie crust empty; you’d use this for a pie with a filling that won’t be baked in an oven: usually chilled pies like Chocolate Cream or Lemon Meringue. If you blind bake the crust you’ll only need half of the dough (because you’ll only need a bottom crust). Don’t half the recipe! Pie crust freezes beautifully so save the remaining dough for another time (just throw it in a ziploc and keep it in the freezer. Don’t forget to label it because you will have no idea what it is when you run across it in a few months.)

Here we go. Pie crust doesn’t have many ingredients: fat, water, salt and flour. I like to gussy mine up with a little sugar too. (The complete recipe is at the end of the post.)

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The salt and water are pretty straightforward. If your tap water tastes gross, use bottled. Either way it needs to be cold. Put it in a bowl with some ice cubes just to make sure. Flour needs to be all purpose. I like King Arthur the best.

Then there’s the fat.  There are a dozen types of fat that can be used in pie: butter, shortening, oil, lard and suet, among others. Butter, as you can guess, tastes the best. That’s kind of a no-brainer. An all-butter crust is phenomenal. But lard is unbeatable at making the texture flaky beyond belief. I like to use a combination of butter and lard. Here’s the thing: not just any lard will do. You don’t want the kind from the grocery store. It is disgusting. It smells like a barnyard and is hydrogenated to make it shelf-stable.

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The kind of lard you need is called leaf lard. No, it’s not made from leaves. It’s made from the fat around a pig’s kidneys. It doesn’t smell or taste weird. It’s just pure fatty loveliness. You’ll probably be able to find it from a small butcher shop or artisinal meat producer. Try the local farmer’s market. You’ll want to look for these clues: It must be refrigerated and non-hydrogenated. I buy it for $10 a jar and that makes about 4 pies worth.

If you can’t find leaf lard, don’t worry. All-butter crusts are amazing. Shortening and oil belong in the pantry. For the best pie splurge on butter and–if you find it–leaf lard.

If you’ve got a food processor, making piecrust is a million times easier than doing it by hand. If you are processor-less use a couple of forks to smash things up. Or you can use a pastry blender. I had one of these for several years and it totally does the job. Some cookbooks recommend using your hands. All the ingredients need to stay as cold as possible while pie-making. Nice warm hands do not keep butter cold. Use a tool.

 

Combine all your dry ingredients in the food processor and mix them up.

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Cut your butter up into slices. It should be cold. Drop the butter pieces into the flour mixture and try to keep them from sticking together.

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Pulse the butter for about 3 seconds and then add the lard. If you’re using all butter, keep going. We need to talk about what makes a good pie crust. It needs to be tender, it needs to taste good and it needs to be flaky. Butter is going to give it a great taste, but the lard is going to help with the texture. The less pie crust is processed, the flakier it will be. As the butter and lard melt, they’ll leave behind big air pockets; this is what causes flakiness.

If you’re making a pie that will bake in its crust like an Apple or Cherry pie, you’ll want butter pieces that are about the size of peas (and smaller). If you’re going to make a pie that’s filled afterwards like a Strawberry Pie, you don’t want the juice to leak into all the flakes and make it soggy. So you’ll want a not-as-flaky crust. To do this, make the pieces of butter and lard smaller. The mixture will look more like course sand.

I’m planning on making a Lemon Pie, so I want the fat pieces to be pretty small. This is how it looks after the fat has been processed with the flour. There are a few pieces that are the size of small peas but most of the mixture is pretty fine.

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Next you’ll take your little bowl of ice water. Add a tsp. of canola oil to it and whisk it up as well as you can. Add 6 Tbs. of water/oil mixture and process it in five 1-second pulses.

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The crust is going to look pretty dry. The way you’ll know if you’ve added enough water is to take a small handful of crust and press it together. If it smooshes together and makes a fingerprint, you’re all set! If it’s still too dry to come together add more water/oil mixture–1 Tbs at a time.

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Once your dough is the right consistency, takeout of the food processor and separate it into two equal sections. Squish each half together until it forms a disk. Wrap each disk with plastic wrap

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Chill the pie crust dough in the fridge for at least half an hour. You can keep it there for a couple of days, if needed.

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If you won’t be needing a second pie shell, freeze the extra disc of dough. Keep it in the plastic wrap and slip it into a ziploc. It should last for a month or two.

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Now you’ll need your next batch of equipment: a rolling pin, a pie plate (I like Pyrex the best) and something to roll out the crust between. I recommend parchment paper or these super awesome bags designed just for that purpose. You can find them at fancy kitchen shops or online. I bought mine here and it was $5. I’m so in love with this pie crust bag!

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Whether you use parchment or a pie crust bag, the pie crust will be a smidge sticky when it gets warm. I recommend sprinkling some flour on your parchment or tossing some in the pie crust bag.

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To figure out how wide you need to roll your pie crust, measure across the top of the pie plate and add a couple of inches. When it’s the right size, peel off the top piece of parchment/pie bag then place it back on lightly. Now flip over the crust and peel off the bottom piece of parchment.

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As gracefully as you can, flip the crust upside down as you are placing it in the pie plate. You need to be as quick as a wink to get it right but you can do it.

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Ease the pie crust into the bottom and sides of the pie plate ever so gently. This stuff is incredibly fragile; try not to poke a hole in it!

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You’ll probably have a big flap of crust hanging over the edges. I like to keep this quite long and fold it under to make the crust edges nice and thick (I freely admit it–crust is my favorite part of the pie!). If you do need to trim it, clean off a pair of scissors and cut the crust with those. It’s much easier than trying to use a knife. You won’t need to cut your crust any shorter than this:

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If you’re making a pie with a top crust you’ll roll the top out, fill the pie and lay on the top piece.

Bend the remaining edges under once or twice. Now you’ll shape your pie edges. There are lots of different patterns but let’s do a plain old scallop. If you’ve got any fingernails at all, they’ll poke right through the dough, so I always use my bent fingers like so:

 

 

If you’ll be blind baking your crust you’ll need to bend the crust over the lip of the pan just a bit. This will hold the edge of the crust in place while it bakes. Sometimes the crust will slouch down in the pan; bending it over the rim a tiny amount will help solve that problem.

If your crust hasn’t got any filling in it, you’ll need to poke some holes in it to keep bubbles from forming. A fork is just dandy for this.

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Once your crust looks perfect you’ll need to put it in the freezer for about 20 minutes. A crust made with butter tends to puff up when it bakes and if it’s not throughly chilled when it goes into the oven, the edges and designs (if there are any) will swell up and not look as pretty. Make sure when you put it into the freezer not to smack it on the top of the ice maker. Arrrrgh.

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When you’re about to take your pic crust out of the freezer, preheat your oven to 375°. It’s very, very helpful to keep something in the pie shell as it’s baking to keep the crust from slouching down the edges, as I mentioned before. You can find all sorts of pie weights and things like that sold in stores but this is what I like to do: Use a heat-proof bag; the kind used for baking a chicken or turkey.

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Fill it with rice and use the twist tie to keep it shut. Nestle it into the pie crust.

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Bake the pie crust for 15-20 minutes then remove the bag of rice (use a hot pad! That sucker will be hot!) Continue to bake the crust until it’s golden brown on the bottom. Probably another 15 minutes. Cool the crust and load it up with your favorite pie filling!

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I’ve tried lots of recipes and this one from EverythingPies.com is my favorite. If you don’t have leaf lard just use all butter.

2 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup leaf lard
6-8 Tbs ice water
1 tsp. canola oil

Mix dry ingredients together in a food processor. Add butter and lard and process til butter is the size of small peas. In a small bowl whisk water and canola. Pour 6 Tbs water/oil over flour mixture. Process for short pulses until dough barely starts to come together. It is wet enough when it can be pressed or squeezed and it holds its shape.

Seperate dough into two equal sized disks. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least half an hour. Remove from fridge and roll into shape. Line pie plate with dough, add weights/rice and bake at 375°  for 15-20 minutes. Remove rice/pie weights and bake until crust is golden brown on bottom (another 15-20 minutes). Remove from oven and let cool before filling.

One of my very favorite things growing up was to come home and find my mother not there. She was very bossy and we fought a lot but that wasn’t the reason why; I loved to make baked goods while she wasn’t around to tell me I was doing things wrong. She also would make me share anything I baked and that was entirely distressing to a sugar-crazed glutton like me.

The year I turned 11 I learned how to make pie crust. I suppose my mother taught me or maybe I just went through her recipe files and taught myself. Either way I figured it out. At first I stuck to making rolled out dough sprinkled with cinnamon. It’s still one of my favorite treats to this day. But eventually I decided to incorporate one of my other favorite ingredients: strawberry jam. It wasn’t homemade. I don’t think I knew that homemade jam even existed. I used plain-old Smuckers to make tarts. I called them tarts as they looked like pop-tarts. This is how they looked in my nursery rhyme book too (“The Knave of Hearts, he stole some tarts”). Nowadays, though, tarts are just teensy pies. The things I traditionally think of tarts are called hand pies. This term is horrid. If an apple pie is made of apples and a lemon pie is made of lemons, what conclusion would you draw of a hand pie? Exactly. If you know a better name, please tell me.

I could barely wait until my jam tarts were out of the oven before gobbling them up. Usually I didn’t wait and would burn my tongue on the steamy filling. Once I added a spoonful of marshmallow fluff to each jam tart but that was gilding the lily a bit, even for a passionate sugar-lover. I would happily eat an entire batch of tarts, wrapping them in the prettiest dishtowel I could find and sneaking them throughout the evening. Everything would be cleaned up meticulously before my mother got home. Not that she would have cared, really, but I liked having secrets.

Not all my goodie-making experiments turned out so well. Once I tried to melt chocolate chips in a saucepan thinking that they would magically become hot fudge. Instead I completely burned the chocolate and could not get it out of the pan to save my life. Panicking, my solution was to throw the pot into the snowy woods in my backyard. My idea seemed to work and nobody noticed. I’m sure my mother tore apart the kitchen looking for her pan but nobody thought to ask me, seeing as how I was only nine.

Then spring came. The snow melted. And one day my very angry father came storming into the house wanting to know who had left a pan outside. My brother was just a baby so my sister Arianne (who was six at the time) and I were told to stand on the steps so that our faces were at the same level as my father’s. Over and over he demanded to know what had happened. There was no way I was going to fess up. I knew that irate look on my father’s face well. It meant one thing: Spanky-town.

Arianne and I both adamantly denied any knowledge of the pot. Had I half a brain I should have blamed it on one of our terrible babysitters. But all I knew is that I wasn’t about to get in trouble. And no child was as stubborn as I was. My father continued grilling us for an eternity. Finally he announced, “well, I’m just going to have to spank you both until somebody admits it.” This was too much for my poor, tenderhearted sister. “I did it! I left the pan outside!” she wailed. I could not believe this brilliant turn of events. I looked at my sister out of the corner of my eye and remember thinking one word: sucker. I then skipped happily off to my bedroom while I assume my sister got laid across my dad’s knee.

I never felt bad for an instant. Looking back I can’t believe how horrible I was. Apparently those years of Sunday School lessons bounced right off my forehead.  But I did learn to use a double boiler when melting chocolate.

 

*The picture is from one of my very favorite blogs: Aunt Ruthie’s Sugar Pie Farmhouse. She has a delightful–gulp–hand pie recipe that you might want to try.

how to make bacon

For years I cooked bacon on the stove because that’s the way my mom and grandma always did it. When I went to college my roommate, Heidi, showed me how to cook it a better way. Technically, it’s baking your bacon. If you only make a couple of slices at a time, cooking bacon in a frying pan makes sense. If you use half a package or more, making bacon in your oven is the easiest and fastest way to do it. No splattering grease all over your stovetop; no flipping bacon halfway through; no cooking six pieces at a time because that’s all the room you have in your frying pan. Once you start making bacon in your oven you’ll never go back.

All you’ll need is bacon, a baking sheet with sides, and tin foil (I guess it’s technically aluminum but tin is a lot quicker to say).

First you’ll want to preheat your oven to 400°. The get out your baking sheet. Here’s mine. It’s pretty grody. I’ve made bacon in this thing probably 500 times. Maybe even a thousand. I’ve had this pan for almost two decades and we eat bacon at least once a week; you do the math. You don’t have to line the pan with tin foil but using it means you don’t have to scrub the pan when you’re done. Why clean things when you don’t have to?

 

Open your pack of bacon and lay the strips out. I happen to know that with my size of pan and a pack of Kirkland bacon from Costco (YUM!), I have to overlap the pieces a smidge to get them all to fit.

 

Once your oven has reached 400°, place the bacon on the bottom shelf for 15-20 minutes.
bacon in oven
I like my bacon really crispy and that takes 18 minutes in my oven (I told you I make it a lot!). Your oven might be different or you might be one of those odd people who likes floppy bacon. Check the bacon after 15 minutes and go from there. (Oh man, I’m completely salivating and about to lick my monitor!)

cooked bacon in pan

While the bacon’s cooking get a plate out and line it with a couple of sheets of paper towels. When the bacon comes out of the oven, you’ll remove the slices with tongs and put them on the plate to drain. I do a second layer of paper towels on top of the first and finish laying out the bacon. I use a couple more paper towels on top of that and let it drain for a few minutes.

yummy bacon

After the bacon has been eaten (usually within 30 seconds), I put all the greasy paper towels on top of the tin foil, then roll the whole thing up and throw it in the garbage. No need to find a can to drain the bacon grease into.

Now you know the easy way to make bacon. So what are you waiting for?

 

 

 

 

I cook a hot breakfast pretty much every morning and make dinner most nights and there are some tools that make meal prep a lot more pleasant. These are gadgets that fill me with joy every time I use them. I do love a handy gadget and have bought a lot of them over the years. Most tend to take up more space than they’re worth but some are golden. I figured that Christmas would be the perfect time to tell you about my favorites, just in case you’re looking for some gift ideas for the cook in your life (or non-cook that you’re hoping to inspire).

This funky bagel cutter is a new addition to my kitchen but my family adores it. We eat bagels a lot. Like a dozen or two every week. And cutting bagels easily is a total pain, even for me. You’d think I would have enough experience to do it properly. For a while we had one of those contraptions that looks like a guillotine but it was a pain to store–it took up way too much room. I was thrilled to find the TableCraft Bagel Cutter last year. It’s a smallish knife with two plastic guides that slide over each side of the bagel. It couldn’t be easier to cut a bagel perfectly in half. Although the knife is pretty sharp I feel fine letting my kids use it. And the fact that I don’t have to be on constant bagel-cutting duty is fantastic! I just throw it in my knife drawer in between uses. At $15 it would make a great and affordable gift for any bagel-eaters you know.

bagel cutter

These Endurance measuring spoons have gotten more use in my kitchen over the last decade than anything else. Not kidding. I have used these thousands and thousands of times. They are still going strong and I can’t recommend them highly enough. $15 may seem a little steep for a set of spoons when you can get plastic ones for $5 but they are so, so, so worth it! The thing I like the most about these more than any other type of measuring spoon is that they are long and thin so even the tablespoon measurer can fit into a spice bottle. The sides of these measuring spoons are pretty straight and the bottom is flat. That’s really great if, for example, you have been using the 1 tsp. measurer for some cinnamon and then you need only half a teaspoon of salt, you can eyeball it pretty well without having to get out another spoon. That’s a lot harder with round measuring spoons. Here’s a tip: When I was growing up we kept our measuring spoons hooked together on the ring they came on. It was a complete pain–like cooking with a set of keys. I finally realized they work a lot better if they’re seperated. I don’t want to have to dig around in the drawer for spoons, though, so I keep all three of my measuring spoon sets in a little vase (actually a votive candle holder) on the counter next to my mixer.

measuring spoons

Years ago I got a Zyliss garlic press. I was enchanted by the ability to throw a clove of garlic with the skins on into my press, squeeze and perfect mashed up garlic would come out! My old Zyliss has been a workhorse (I love garlic and eat it in nearly every meal) but it only held one small clove. So I tried several other garlic presses that had larger capacities. These just didn’t get nearly the amount of garlic out that my Zyliss did. I was thrilled earlier this year to find a new larger Zyliss–the Susi 3–that combines maximum squeezability with a larger capacity.  And it’s got a handy cleaner-outer that gets the leftover peel out. I’m not going to lie to you, sometimes it takes some major elbow grease to squeeze the garlic press (especially when there are two cloves inside) but it seems to be the nature of the beast. All brands are similar in that way. Even so, this is one of those tools that everyone should have. And at around $15 it’s a great deal.

Everybody needs a good rolling pin. At some point I promise you’ll need one. Those dumb rolling pins with handles are wimpy. I’ve seen ones that are marble or metal but for my money you just can’t lose with a sturdy wooden rolling pin. I prefer the style of rolling pins that are straight across, not tapered. My favorite rolling pin came from Sur La Table years ago and I use it not only to make pies but to roll out bread dough for cinnamon rolls, to smash nuts and Oreos, and to beat my recalcitrant husband (kidding! Mister is very obedient.) Mine was $30 and was made in France (which meant I had to buy it because I’m snobby like that). Ateco makes this rolling pin that is very similar but is maple wood, not beech. The length is the same (almost 20″. It’s beautifully long!) but it’s less than $13! What a bargain!

You will certainly need a rolling pin if it’s pie you’ll be making. Too afraid to make pie, you say? Well, try out this nifty thing: it’s a zippered piece of thick plastic that helps you roll out pie crust into the perfect shape and size. When I first bought this I figured it was just some stupid gimmick. Wrong-o! It’s fantastic. Pie crust is much easier to roll out and there’s no more rolling things into a giant rectangle. Not to mention there isn’t the wastefulness of throwing away parchment every time you make pie crust. You guys, this thing costs $5. Totally worth it.

Ah, my cooking thermometer. How I love this thing. I’ve tried different styles but I keep coming back to this one. Did you know that the best way to check if bread is baked throughly is by taking its temperature? (It should be around 190°) My thermometer has been used for everything from frying donuts to making soap. My husband regularly swipes it to check the meat on his BBQ. It’s one of those things that you never knew how much you needed until you finally get one. This is my favorite style of kitchen thermometer since the probe is at one end of a thick wire and the readout is at another. It’s much easier to read than the kind of thermometer that has a readout on the probe itself (fine unless you have to stick your head in a 400º oven to read it). It has a beeping alert to tell you when the food has reached its proper temp.  I started out with a Polder many years ago. When my first one broke (I put it in my apron pocket then accidentally threw it in the washer), I got a cheaper version at Costco. Sadly I didn’t realize it was only for meat and the highest temp it measured was 200º. How dumb! I learned my lesson and got a Thermoworks which is pretty similar to my old Polder. It’s still going strong and was worth every penny of the $20 I spent.

 

I can’t believe more people don’t know about Bake-Even Strips! I would marry these if I could! They are the greatest secret ever for making a cake that’s totally flat on the top. They’re by Wilton and you can get them in the cake decorating section of any craft store. They cost about $9-10 but most craft stores have coupons so use one for a set of these! Here’s what you do: put the strips in a huge cup of water for a couple of minutes. Then lift a strip out and run it through your fingers to squeeze out a little of the extra water. Wrap it around you cake pan (make sure it’s a cake pan with sides that are straight up and down. The cheaper cake pans have slanted sides. Why, I do not know. Get yourself a couple of 8″ pans with straight sides if you don’t have any) and as it bakes it will insulate the outsides of the cake so the entire thing bakes at the same time and you have a completely flat cake. No more trying to even out the top of a dome-shaped cake. Yahoo!

 

I make cookies probably three times a week. Cookies are hands down my favorite thing to eat. And I will be more than happy to show you all the blue ribbons I’ve gotten from the State Fair over the years. So when I tell you that, next to a mixer, the most important thing you need for making cookies is a good cookie scoop, you need to listen to me. My hands-down favorite is the OXO Cookie Scoop. These cookie scoops come in three sizes. Medium is the one that I can’t live without (although the large is a nice size for muffins). It makes absolutely perfect cookies in a flash (about 2-3″ across depending on how much the dough spreads). Please don’t tell me you’re still scooping dough out of the bowl with a teaspoon! Get out of the stone age and buy this cookie scoop! I’ve used other brands and this is the best.

 

My mother swore by spring whisks while I was growing up. Some people listen to their mothers but I tend to do exactly opposite of what she says. So when I grew up I bought traditional whisks for my kitchen. But this is a case of mom being right: Spring Whisks (sometimes called French whisks) are simply the best. They get in the corners of containers that bigger whisks can miss, and they do a much better job of breaking up clumps; super helpful if you’re making a roux or white sauce. Although I hate to admit that my mother was right, this Spring Whisk is the best. It’s several inches taller than spring whisks you’ll find in stores–better for keeping your hands clean and away from any hot pans.

Ok, So this next item isn’t a gadget. But at less than $15 it’s still gadget-priced. It’s a bread pan made by USA Pans. I make loaves quite often and was always cursing the pans. It seemed like bread stuck to every single kind of pan–especially glass or metal ones–no matter how well I greased them. I found these pans on Amazon and ordered three. There’s no way to describe these except to say True Love. These pans are gloriously heavy and are lined with a layer of silicone called Americoat (how patriotic!). Without them even being greased bread just slides right out. Every time I use one of these I exclaim at least once, “I love this pan!!!” I’ve also bought the Pullman Pan which makes a huge, square loaf with a very pale, soft crust (perfect for sandwich bread but you need a different recipe since the pan’s bigger). It’s even more magnificent since I was always forgetting to grease the lid (a very bad thing to do). And best of all, USA pans are made in–you guessed it–America! My goal is to eventually replace all my baking pans with USA Pans. They’re that good.

 

Happy Baking and cooking, everyone! If you have any gadgets you just adore, please let me know!

 

 

 

I bought these all myself with Mister’s hard-earned cash. I get a tiny smidge of money if you buy these things from Amazon but you are welcome to get them wherever you want. Some items might be harder to find locally than others. Like that bagel cutter–never seen it in any store.

I’m thinking of changing the name of this blog to “I’m an Idiot”, seeing as how that’s the theme of most of my stories. Honestly I don’t know what’s happening. I am dropping things, breaking things, crashing into things; it’s a little scary. Can that be the sign of a brain tumor? What about dimentia? Is 41 too young for that? Because I’m sort of losing my mind.

For Fess-Up Friday may I present the pizza dough incident that occurred this week.

Setting: My kitchen.
Characters: Me, one son, three daughters and four of their friends.

I decided to make pizza dough, which I do about once a week. Everyone was hungry as we’d just gotten back from swimming. Normally I let the dough raise on the back porch because it’s hot and humid* but I wanted to speed things up a smidge so I preheated the oven a bit and put the dough in to raise. In a big plastic bowl.

Fifteen minutes later I decided to preheat the oven to 500º–the temperature pizza cooks at. At no point did the fact that there was already something oven occur to me. Not even when I started smelling something very odd.  Eventually the odd chemical-y smell got incredibly strong and I opened the door to find a bowl halfway melted and dripping all over the oven.

I’m very proud to say that I did not swear even once. Not even when the plastic puddle on the bottom of the oven burst into flames.

oven on fire

The nice thing about fires in the oven is that all you have to do is shut the door and it will eventually go out. I stood there with a fire extinguisher but all I could think was, “this is going to make the biggest mess if I spray it.” So I didn’t. And the fire went out after a few minutes.

Although the 90% of the bowl melted, the bread did not get burned. But the bread probably would have given us cancer if we’d eaten it. The plastic smelled so horrendous!

bread melting bowl

I’m sure my house is now full of toxins but the good news is that I’m apparently already brain-damaged. So no harm done!  And the oven was surprisingly easy to clean up once it cooled.

Have you melted anything you’ve regretted?

P.S. There are drawbacks to letting your dough rise outside. Even if it’s pretty well covered, you know how sneaky bugs are. This was a loaf of bread India made last week. A fly had crawled down into the corner of the pan and baked right into the corner.

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Want to see it closer up? So gross. You might want to think twice about eating anything I cook for you.

 

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At some point in every woman’s life, there will be a yearning to make cinnamon rolls. (OK, probably every American woman. I can’t imagine some Chinese lady in a rice paddy standing up one day and thinking “I would like to make a sweet bread I’ve never heard of.” Or however you say that in Chinese.) Most women ignore this primal urge because–my gosh!– how intimidating! Some women give it a shot and if you have never made yeast bread it can turn into quite a debacle. Making cinnamon rolls isn’t difficult as much as it is complicated. But I’m here to hold your hand and tell you that you can do it. It might be a little scary, but you really ought to know how. To motivate you a little, let me tell you that the cinnamon rolls in this tutorial are the best I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a lot of cinnamon rolls. If you think Cinnabon is good, wait until you try these!

This is my friend Bonnie. She has never made bread before. She made her first attempt at cinnamon rolls last week and it was not a success. So I invited her over to show her the ropes. (She is also the Relief Society President of my ward. If you think your failure in the kitchen is going to keep you out of that calling, wrong-o!). I’m all about teaching a man to fish, so Bonnie did a lot of the work in this tutorial. It was nice having an extra set of hands to help snap pictures (usually I must rely on 12-year-olds with notsogreat photography skills). If Bonnie, a total breadmaking amateur, can do it, so can you!

 

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Let’s talk about yeast before we begin. Yeast is actual living creatures, like tiny and uninteresting sea monkeys. They’re dried and most often put in packets. Look at the date on the packets because once the expiration date has passed, it has passed. They’re dead. To make sure your yeast is alive and kicking, you need to proof it. Which means putting it in some lovely warm water where it promptly divides and grows and starts to get all bubbly. If this doesn’t happen after about ten minutes, your yeast is dead. Throw it out. Or you can skip all this rigmarole and get instant yeast instead. Instant yeast is preserved differently. Much more yeast is kept alive so there is no need to proof it to make sure. You just mix it in with your dry ingredients and it will magically work. Instant yeast (as opposed to regular yeast which is called “Active Yeast”) is a bit harder to find in stores. (If you live in central Texas you can get it at HEB.) It comes in a big one pound bag which looks like a block. I open the block and then keep it in an airtight container in the freezer where it will last much longer. Rapid-Rise yeast is very similar to instant. So if you can’t find instant yeast, get rapid rise. It will pretty much behave the same; i.e. no proofing needed.

Step one in our recipe will be combining the wet ingredients. You’ll want everything to be very warm since yeast loves to be nice and cozy. First you’ll need a room temperature egg. Since I never, ever think far enough to advance to let an egg sit on my counter long enough to warm up, let’s get it warm the cheaters way:  put it in a bowl with hot water for ten minutes.  Then break it into the bowl of your mixer and whisk it gently.

Combine the milk and water in a big measuring cup and heat it in the microwave for about 60 seconds.  This goes in the mixer bowl too. As does the butter which should have been melted in the microwave as well. You can also put in the vanilla at this point. (Notice how we’re using the paddle attachment. Don’t use the whisk!)

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Now throw in all the dry ingredients:  flour, salt, sugar, flour, gluten and yeast.

A note about these ingredients: if you have it, use bread flour. It will make a sturdier bread that will rise higher. If you have regular flour that will work just fine too but the texture won’t be as lovely.  It’s not a deal-breaker, though. Also nice but not necessary is vital wheat gluten. You can get this at the store near the flour. It will add height and structure to your bread. I highly recommend it but if you don’t want to get it, your rolls will still turn out okay.

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When I turn on a mixer full of flour, I generally drape a dish towel over the top for the first minute so the ingredients don’t fly all over the place.

Once your bread dough has gotten thoroughly mixed, you’re going to remove the paddle attachment and replace it with the dough hook (if you have one).  Once you put on the dough hook, this counts as kneading, not mixing.  You’re going to knead the dough for about five minutes. This helps the gluten to develop nice long strands that give bread its texture and height. You may want to try kneading by hand if you’re feeling ambitious. I’m super lazy so I rarely do this.  There is always the eternal question of how much kneading (whether by machine or by hand) is enough.  I’ll tell you how to find out.  You can apply this to any sort of bread-making: white bread, whole wheat, whatever. All yeast bread needs to develop gluten. After you’ve kneaded this bread for five minutes, rip off a chunk of dough that’s a little bigger than a ping pong ball. You’re going to pull it apart slowly and gently with both hands. If the gluten hasn’t developed well enough, the dough will simply rip apart in the middle. You’ll need to knead more.

 

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Knead it for another minute or two and try again.  If your gluten has developed enough, the dough will become translucent and thin before it starts to rip (holding it up to the light will make it easier to see.) This is perfect:
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Once your gluten has developed enough, you can stop kneading and start rising. Take a nice clean bowl and give it a light spray with Pam. Place your dough at the bottom and cover the bowl with either a clean tea towel or plastic wrap. Place it in a warm spot until it has doubled in size.  I like to preheat my oven for about a minute then turn off the heat. It gets to about 110°, a temperature that yeast loves.  At this temp, it takes about 45 minutes for it to double. If you have a chilly kitchen it will take up to an hour and a half. In my case with Bonnie it was just long enough to go get some tacos at Torchy’s. Yum!

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While your dough is rising you’re going to soften a stick of margarine. Ew, margarine? Who uses that? I use butter pretty much exclusively except for making cinnamon roll filling. Let me tell you, margarine makes it much stickier and gooier. You want sticky, gooey filling, right? If you use butter it’s more likely to melt and dribble into the bottom of the pan.  I swear these will taste fantastic! Trust me! There’s all sorts of weird butter-esque stuff at the store these days. Look for the box that says “margarine”.  In a separate bowl you’ll mix brown sugar and cinnamon.

Once your dough has risen, you’ll grab it and throw it gruffly down on the counter, kneading it a couple of times. The dough is so soft and squishy at this point; not at all sticky. Honestly it reminds me of my stomach after I have a baby. What a pleasant thought, no?

You’ll now need a nice big expanse of countertop to roll out your dough. I have a great big Silpat that is just the right size. Take a rolling pin and keep rolling the dough until it’s 24″ x 15″. Make it as rectangular as possible. This takes a lot of elbow grease but it’s worth it.

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It’s time to spread your margarine. You’ll spread it clear up to three edges. Leave the edge closest to you margarine-free so it can be sealed.

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Sprinkle the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly over the margarine, leaving the free edge bare. To make sure it stays put while baking, we’re going to press the sugar into the margarine with a rolling pin. This is my favorite rolling pin in the whole world. I got it in France about a million years ago. You can get a similar one for around $18 here on Amazon.

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Let’s roll this sucker up! Rolling it tightly is going to give you lots of spirals and makes the difference between an impressive cinnamon roll and a lame, amateurish one.  It also improves the bread-to-gooey-cinnamon ratio. Start opposite the clean edge.

 

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Once it’s all rolled up, you’ll want to pinch the edge closed.

 

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After it’s pinched, gently roll it over so the smooth side is facing up and let’s get ready to cut. To cut the rolls we’ll use a perennial favorite: dental floss. I was lucky enough to have cinnamon in my drawer, but any flavor is fine. You won’t be able to taste it. Using a knife will squish the rolls and make them look misshapen and ugly.

First cut off any unevenness on the ends. They don’t need to be perfectly straight, but just get rid of most of the weirdness. To cut the dough, scootch the dental floss under the roll and criss cross the strands at the top. Then pull tightly and voilà! A nice, clean decapitation!

 

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This batch of cinnamon rolls will yield 15. So we need to divide your giant log into 15 even sections. I like to use a table knife to play around with spacing. I gently press lines where I will later used the dental floss to cut. You know the old carpenter’s rule: measure twice, cut once? Well, it applies here too. Nothing’s worse than to be almost done slicing off rolls and realizing you’ve been cutting them all wrong and will now be four short.

In this picture you can see my dental floss and the yucky ends I cut off from both sides.

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After I’ve cut off my ends I mark off three evenly-spaced sections about 8″ long. Then I divide each section into five smaller sections. If you’ve done it right, each cinnamon roll will be about 1 1/2″ thick. You can use a ruler or just eyeball it. (Also just so you know, locals pronounce Pedernales “pur-duh-NAL-iss”. No, it does not make any sense phonetically.)

 

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If this isn’t quite how it worked out for you, mathematically-speaking, then do the best you can. Just remember that you’ll want to end up with 15 cinnamon rolls.

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Ideally the best way to bake these is in three 8×8 pans. These rolls are thicker than most standard cinnamon rolls. If these rolls are all crammed together in one big pan some will still be raw, and some will be cooked too much. If you’ve ever been to Cinnabon when they’ve gotten pans fresh from the oven you’ll notice that there are only six rolls per pan. It’s because thicker, taller rolls don’t cook as well when they’re all baked together. If you’ve cut your rolls thinner (3/4″-1″ is the traditional width), placing them in a big, shallow pan is fine. But I don’t care for them when they’re this thin. I like a more substantial, hefty cinnamon roll.

The pans should be lined with parchment unless you’re in love with scrubbing hard, baked-on cinnamon sugar.

 

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The pans I use are pretty cheap.  They don’t need to be fancy or great-quality. You can get them anywhere. I use 8x8s all the time so I think they’re a good investment. Otherwise, you can come up with any sort of configurations among the different pans you have. Just make sure you’ve got 1-2″ between each roll.

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Now it’s time to let the rolls rise again. You’ll let them rise until they’re just barely touching. It won’t take as long as it did the first time. I’d check the rolls after 25 minutes to see how they’re progressing. While they rise you should make the frosting. (I’m not going to give you a photo tutorial because 1. it’s pretty basic and hard to screw up, and 2. pictures of white frosting in a bowl are beyond boring.)

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Once the rolls are touching, preheat the oven to 330º and bake until they’re golden brown (about 16-18 minutes. Longer if you have more in a big pan.)
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Gorgeous!

Ocassionally one or two rolls will develop a Tower of Babel spiral coming out of the center. If this happens, gently press the top of the spiral down with a fork until the roll is perfectly flat across the top.  While the rolls are still warm, slather with frosting. You might want to hide one from the hordes of locusts family at this point. You deserve at least a couple of these.

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These rolls take about four hours from start to finish. Most of the time will be waiting around while the dough rises and you won’t have to do anything. But it means you’ll be getting up pretty early to make these for breakfast. A lot of times I’ll make most of the recipe the night before. You can do everything up to letting the rolls rise in their pans. Before they’ve done their second rise, cover the pans with  plastic wrap or a towel and put them in the fridge overnight. The next morning they’ll do their final rise and be baked. Just be warned that since they’ve been very cold all night, it will take them much longer to rise. Preheat your oven for one minute (don’t forget to turn it off!) and let them rise there. It may take up to 70 minutes for them to rise. Give yourself an hour and a half from the time you take them out of the fridge til the time breakfast will be served, just to be on the safe side.

Hildie’s Marvelous Cinnamon Rolls

DOUGH:

1 egg at room temp, slightly beaten

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 tsp. vanilla

4 1/2 cups bread flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 Tbs. vital wheat gluten

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 oz. yeast

FILLING:

1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

5 Tbs. cinnamon

ICING:

4 oz cream cheese, slightly softened

1/2 cup butter, slightly softenend

1 3/4 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

3-4 drops lemon flavor

In a mixing bowl, beat one egg with a whisk. Pour milk and water into a large measuring cup and heat in microwave until very warm (about 60 seconds). Add to mixing bowl. Add melted butter and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients to mixing bowl in order listed (these can also be made in a bread machine on the “dough” setting).  Mix ingredients til well-combined. Remove paddle attachment and use dough hook. Knead with dough hook for five minutes.

Allow dough  to rise in a warm place until doubled (45-60 minutes). Remove dough from bowl and roll into rectangle 24″ x 15″.  Spread rectangle with softened margarine, avoiding one long edge. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle over margarine, avoiding clean edge.  Use a rolling pin to lightly press sugar into margarine.

Starting at long edge opposite clean edge, roll up dough tightly. Pinch edge to seal.

Using dental floss, trim edges flat. Gently mark off 15 rolls about 1 1/2″ wide. Cut with dental floss.

Line three 8×8 pans with parchment paper. Place five rolls in each pan and let rise til gently touching (25-40 minutes).

Preheat oven to 330° and bake until golden brown (16-18 minutes). Don’t bake more than two pans at once.

FROSTING:

Place cream cheese and butter in mixing bowl. Using whisk attachment, beat for four minutes on low speed. Then beat for four minutes on med-high speed.

Add one cup of sugar and mix on low for one minute. Add remaining sugar and mix an additional minute.  Add vanilla and lemon and mix on high for one minute on med-high.

Frost rolls while still warm.

 

 

This time of year I cannot get enough pumpkin.  I especially think that pumpkin and chocolate chips are a groovy combination.  There are lots of recipes out there for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins and/or Bread. These are really more like cake. Cake that is loaded with sugar then topped with cream cheese icing. (Oh, how I love Cream Cheese icing. My pulse is quickening just thinking about it.) But this recipe isn’t about dessert. I wanted to take the nutrition provided by pumpkin and create homemade muffins that would be suitable for breakfast. In other words, I don’t want to feed my kids cake in the morning. I want them to eat a delicious muffin that is also healthy.

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I use a lot less sugar in my recipe than you’ll find in traditional pumpkin spice cake. I also boosted the nutrition by including whole wheat flour (if you don’t have any you can use all white. But we all need more fibre in our diets and kids won’t notice it at all in these muffins so you might as well get some. Or grind your own if you can.)  Since there isn’t any cream cheese icing (I know, I’m such a meanie!), I made sure these muffins have an extra burst of sweetness with chocolate chips. I’m pretty sure kids will eat anything with chocolate chips.

I’m really pleased with how this recipe turned out and feel good giving these to my kids for breakfast or a snack. Muffins are quicker to make than cake (good for mornings), but you can also pour the batter in a well-greased bundt pan and bake for 50-60 minutes. This could be a great thing to do the night before since these taste even better the next day.

 

You guys know there’s a pumpkin shortage, right? All that nice flooding this summer killed the pumpkin crop. Stock up when you go to the store, because canned pumpkin is going to be hard to find by Christmas. I bought 15 cans last week alone.

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First you’ll combine the dry ingredients of flour (whole wheat and regular), white sugar, spices, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Set the bowl aside.

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Then in a mixer you’ll combine the brown sugar, eggs, oil, vanilla and pumpkin.  Mix this up well.

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Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix til well-combined. It’s especially helpful to dump all the ingredients into, not next to, the bowl.

 

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Stir in the chocolate chips by hand. Okay, okay, you can throw in a few extra.

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Now you’ll need to put these in a muffin pan. I always use paper liners for cupcakes because it truly makes them rise higher. But muffins are a lot less picky. You can bake these in the pan with no liners and they’ll do fine as long as you spray the pan very liberally with Baker’s Joy or Pam. Fill 3/4 of the way full. These will get a nice dome on top without spreading.

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Breakfast Muffins

dry ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

3/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

Wet ingredients:

3/4 cup brown sugar

4 eggs

1/3 cup oil

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl combine wet ingredients and mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix to thoroughly combine.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Grease a muffin pan (or use paper liners) and fill cups 3/4 of the way full. Bake at 350° for 14-16 minutes.

or

Grease a bundt cake pan and pour batter in evenly. Bake at 350° for 45-55 minutes.