Recipes

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?

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.

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?

 

 

 

 

How to Make Pizza

September 19, 2012 · 4 comments

in How-To, Recipes, Yum

homemade pizza

Our family, like many others, eats pizza a lot. It gets expensive but who can resist a nice hot meal that you don’t have to leave the house for? Eventually I decided to learn to make it myself. It’s so crazy easy (and cheap!) that we haven’t ordered out for pizza in forever. This tutorial will show you how to make delicious pizza crust and sauce. It takes about an hour and fifteen minutes from start to finish (but most of that is waiting for the dough to rise). That’s probably as long as you’d wait for pizza delivery on a Friday night! You’ll be surprised how easy this pizza is and how fantastic it tastes. It’s pretty hard to screw up, so don’t be afraid!

The easiest way to make pizza is with a food processor. I use my food processor pretty much every day. I love this thing! It’s possible to make the crust in a mixer or even–how quaint!–by hand. But it takes about 90 seconds in a processor. Here’s what you’ll need to make two medium (but very filling) pizzas:

pizza stuff collage

First you’ll start the crust. It can rise while you’re getting everything else ready. Here are the ingredients:

1/2 cup hot water
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast (rapid rise is also OK). Check the expiration date!!!
4  cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/4 cups room temp water
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

In a two-cup measuring cup you’ll put 1/2 cup of hot tap water. Not steaming, just really warm. Stir the yeast into it. This is called proofing and it’s going to wake up your yeast. If your yeast is good it will start to look clumpy and have several bubbles on the surface after about five minutes. If it just sits there looking pretty much the same then you’d better go get some different yeast; your pizza will be a failure if your yeast is no good!

yeast in measuring cup

While your yeast is proofing, put the flour, salt, sugar, and garlic powder into the food processor and give it a whirl.(If you don’t have a processor, do the same steps but in your mixer with the paddle attachment.) If you’re a fan of whole wheat, you can substitute half of the bread flour in this recipe for whole wheat flour.

Once your yeast has come alive (5-10 minutes) you’re going to take the measuring cup and add enough warmish water to fill up the cup to the 1 3/4 cup mark. (That means you’ll be adding 1 1/4 cups of water to what you already have.) Then you’ll add 2 Tbs. of olive oil to the same measuring cup. It won’t mix up very well; not a big deal. You’re going to pour it all into the food processor anyway.

While the processor is going, pour the measuring cup full of yeast/oil/water into the flour mixture. It should combine into a dough within about 30 seconds. Keep processing it for another minute. That’s it!

pizza dough

 

Liberally sprinkle some flour onto your kitchen counter and dump your dough out. Knead it for about 30 seconds, just until it’s smooth.

kneading pizza

 

Spray a bowl with Pam and place your dough inside. It’s going to rise in here. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out. It should rise til it’s about doubled in size, somewhere between 45-60 minutes. Putting it somewhere warm (not over 115°!) will speed things up.

dough rising

While your dough is rising, rinse out the food processor and make the sauce. You’ll need:

1 can of diced tomatoes
3/4 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp dried basil
2 cloves of garlic, minced

Drain the can of tomatoes and dump it in the food processor. Put in all the other ingredients and process till it’s smooth.

diced tomatoes

I bought my Zyliss garlic press about twenty years ago and it’s still going strong. I’ve gotten other brands of garlic presses over the years but none is as good as my trusty little Zyliss. Every time I use it (probably five times a week. I adore garlic.) I think, “I love you, little garlic press!”

Once your dough has risen, you’ll need to preheat the oven to 500°. My oven takes a good 15 minutes to get that hot.

Now is the time to shape your pizza. Forget tossing it in the air or things like that (unless you really want to. If you have sons I promise they will try it). Here is the easiest way to get a nice flat crust: get a sheet of parchment paper. (If you don’t have any, go get some. For real. You need it.) Take a blob of dough. My kids all like to do their own pizzas; they don’t need much dough, maybe about the size of a Clementine orange. If the dough sticks to your fingers, dip it in flour first. Now start in the center and use your fingertips to push it into a big circular shape.

pushing pizza dough

Then gently pull and stretch the crust until it’s pretty thin, except for a thicker section around the edge. This pizza dough bakes up really thick so it’s almost impossible to get too thin. I happen to like really thick crust.

stretching dough

 

If you end up with extra dough–and you might since this recipe is enough for our family with a couple of pieces to spare–you can make an extra pizza to eat later. This pizza crust is much heartier than the crust from most pizza places. I can barely eat two pieces without feeling stuffed.  You can also freeze the leftover dough in a ziploc bag. Just let it defrost next time you want pizza and you’ll be all set. You can freeze any leftover sauce too.

Once your crust is the right size, you’ll prick it all over with a fork. This keeps giant air bubbles from forming.

fork pizza

 

Now slather the whole thing with olive oil. If you don’t have a pastry brush just use your fingers. It’s good for your skin!

olive oil pizza

 

Put the pizza sauce in a bowl and spoon it onto the pizza. I’m not a huge fan of tomatoes so I go easy on it; my husband loves tomatoes so he likes it really heavy on sauce. Yet another reason why we usually make our own individual pizzas. Sometimes we’ll splash some BBQ sauce over the top or skip tomato sauce altogether and make some alfredo sauce. For those times when we feel like we need to gain a few pounds.

sauce on pizza

Topping time! This is all up to you. For sure start with some shredded mozzarella. I love pepperoni and black olives. Mister likes pepperoni and pineapple (weird). Sometimes I’ll put on some spinach and mushrooms. Use whatever you want; that’s the joy of DIY pizza! Just remember that your pizza will puff up a lot more than a commercial pizza does; your toppings will seem a lot sparser after the pizza’s cooked. So put on more stuff than you think you need. Here are York and Jasper’s pizzas:

uncooked pizza

To bake your pizza you can use a pizza stone if you have one. Or you can get some thick terra cotta tiles from Home Depot ($1.50 each!) and use those instead. They tend to break after a couple of uses but who really cares since they’re so cheap.But for either of those methods you’ll need a way to get the pizza in and out of the oven. That means you’ll need a pizza peel which is basically a giant spatula with a long handle, like what you see at pizza restaurants. Pizza is incredibly floppy and really, really difficult to get into an oven (especially one that is 500°) without dropping half the toppings onto the floor.

You can use a cookie sheet, but if you’ve got a houseful of people who’ve made their own little pizzas, you’re going to encounter some mishaps trying to get the raw pizzas onto the baking sheet. Plus the crust just doesn’t get as crispy on the bottom.

I recommend putting the pizza and the parchment straight into the oven. Yep, just set the parchment paper straight onto the oven rack. The crust is almost as good as when using a baking stone. There isn’t the ordeal of trying to remove around a floppy, unbaked pizza. The pizza doesn’t get stuck to the baking stone (a common problem) and it’s pretty headache-free. I have tried every method of pizza cooking and removal and this is the easiest!*  The paper will brown but it’s not going to catch on fire or anything.

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If you’re baking a small pizza check it after five minutes. Unless you’re baking a super gigantic pizza it shouldn’t take more than ten minutes to cook. Just leave it in til the crust is dark golden brown.

When it comes time to take the pizza out of the oven, slide the oven whole rack out. This is one hot oven and it’s super easy to burn yourself. Have a cookie sheet in one hand and using a spatula, push the pizza toward the cookie sheet. The browned parchment is very brittle and it’ll just rip if you try to pull on it. Use the cookie sheet as a giant spatula to put the parchment/pizza on the counter or a cooling rack for a couple of minutes.

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Once the cheese is cool enough not to burn the roof of your mouth, slice it up and enjoy!

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Oreo Fruit Dip

March 11, 2012 · 5 comments

in How-To, Recipes, Yum

This is a dip for fruit. It’s probably well known to many of you (minus the Oreos) as there are not a ton of fruit dips out there.  I love to combine all sorts of different textures of food, I thought the sweet crunch of Oreos would combine well with the creamy tang of fruit dip. Feel free to eat this with apples, bananas, strawberries, or just skip healthy choices altogether and get out a box of Nilla Wafers. Whatever you choose, this is an incredibly yummy dip. It’s good enough to take to a party, but easy enough that you could whip it up for an after school-snack. Here’s how to make it:

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The ingredients are Oreos, A stick of cream cheese, a container of Marshamallow Fluff and about a cup of Cool Whip (optional). This recipe is chock full of delicious chemicals.  Try not to look at any labels; all that matters is that it tastes delicious. (Pardon the bargain-brand ingredients; I was feeling very cheap at the grocery store.)

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You’ll start by combining the cream cheese (softened, if possible) with the marshamallow cream and mix it well. I like to add a pinch of nutmeg. You can if you want too. Unless you don’t like nutmeg. I’m apologizing in advance for the marshmallow cream. It is quite possibly the most obnoxious food to work with. Sorry.

 

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Once it’s mixed well, you ‘ll add a huge dollop of Cool Whip. I have to admit here that I don’t really get Cool Whip. You know it has to defrost in the fridge for five hours before it’s ready to eat? Who thinks that far ahead? Meanwhile, whipped cream takes approximately three minutes to make. Why would someone choose Cool Whip? I guess because the sugar is already added? I dunno. But it makes this dip a little bit fluffier so if you have some you should add it. If not, feel free to stick with the cream cheese and marshmallow fluff. Those two alone make a lovely combination.

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Now comes Oreo-crushing time. You’ll take about a dozen or so and put them in a ziploc bag then smash them all up with a rolling pin. If you haven’t figured out how to crush Oreos by this point, I give up. Just leave them in slightly large-ish pieces. You want to keep them crunchy, not ground up.

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Add the Oreo pieces along with the Cool Whip to the cream cheese mixture and fold it all together gently.

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Spoon the dip into a bowl and serve with your favorite fruit! Yum! (Keep any leftovers refrigerated but return to room temperature before serving.)

Oreo Trifle

March 8, 2012 · 6 comments

in How-To, Recipes, Yum

In the spirit of Oreo cookie’s 100th birthday, we’re going to make an Oreo trifle today. Trifle are such great desserts to bring to a party; they usually feed a lot of people and they have a big “wow” factor. The scallops created by the Oreos make this trifle extra pretty. It’s not hard to do, but you will dirty quite a few bowls (that’s the downside of making any trifle; they aren’t hard work to make, just to clean up!) Here’s how to make this:

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Here are the ingredients (the quantities in the recipe are correct despite what the picture shows):

2 packs of regular Oreo cookies

2 pints of heavy cream

2 packs of cream cheese

1 box (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 cups milk

2 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup powdered sugar
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The first thing you’ll need to do is clear a space in your fridge for this monster. There is nothing worse than being ready to refrigerate something and having to spend 20 minutes cleaning the fridge out while you’re supposed to be going on to the next step of your recipe.

OK, now crush the Oreos. You will want to crush about 1 1/3-1 1/2 bags of cookies. Use the rest as accent cookies. The easiest way is to throw them in your food processor for a minute or two. Your next best choice is to put them in a sturdy ziploc bag and go at them with a rolling pin. If the bag starts to get holes just put it in a second bag. Kids love to do this. If you have any “helpers” this is a perfect job for them. There won’t be any doubt who will win this showdown.

 

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Once your Oreos have become pulverized, separate them into two bowls. They don’t need to be perfectly equal; just eyeball it. Set one bowl of Oreos aside. To the other you will add your melted butter.

 

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Stir up the melted butter and Oreos and press them into the bottom of a trifle bowl. If you don’t have a trifle bowl, a clear glass bowl will work well too. Once I even used a big glass vase. If you’d like to buy a trifle bowl, I’d suggest checking your local thrift store. Lots of people give them away because they rarely use them.

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Now here’s where the fancy part comes in. To make the pretty scallops along the sides, you’ll want to use Oreos that have been cut in half. Here’s the best way to do it. Separate the Oreos that you didn’t crush so you have one side with filling and one without. You’ll want to gently try to break each Oreo side in half.  Don’t use a knife!  Sometimes you can cut the side with filling and it will work OK. But the plain side will definitely shatter. Just break them in half with your hands and hope for the best.

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After you’ve got several halves, arrange them printed-side facing out around the top of the Oreo layer. Chill this in your fridge for about 15 minutes.

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While the trifle is chilling you’ll make your whipped cream. Put both pints of cream in a bowl with the vanilla and the powdered sugar. Turn your mixer on high and whip until soft peaks form.

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After that’s all whipped up you’ll need to whip both sticks of cream cheese. You’ll either need another bowl for your mixer (if you have one) or you’ll need your hand mixer for this job. You might be tempted to skip this step but don’t! You’ll have huge lumps of cream cheese in your trifle if you do.
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Once your cream cheese is lovely and smooth, dump it into the whipped cream and fold them together gently.

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Spread half of the whipped cream mixture onto the trifle. Refrigerate the remaining half.

Next you’ll make your pudding layer. In a medium-sized bowl combine two cups of milk with the pudding mix. Beat on high for about two minutes.

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Pour the pudding over the whipped cream layer of the trifle. Chill for ten minutes.

Next it’s time to add the remaining crushed Oreo. Spread them neatly over the pudding layer.

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Again we’ll take Oreo halves and split them in two and place them around the top edge of the Oreo layer.
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Spoon the remaining whipped cream mixture over the crushed Oreos. Smooth it nicely. Neatness counts!

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Garnish with extra Oreos and chill for at least three hours. I think this trifle tastes best the next day after the flavors have had a chance to meld a little.

I hope your family likes this dessert as much as mine does!

Our first recipe in honor of Oreo’s 100th birthday this week is for Oreo-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies. These cookies are totally gilding the lily, which is an excellent thing when it comes to baked goods. I know you’re thinking this is like the cookie version of a terducken, but they really are divine. As the chocolate chip cookies bake, the Oreos get softened up and make a lovely chocolatey mouthful of deliciousness. These cookies are particularly wonderful while they’re still warm. Here is how to make them.

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Your first step will be to make some chocolate chip cookie dough. If you buy store-bought dough I will divorce you. It takes five minutes to make cookie dough from scratch. You can do it. Here’s my recipe:

3/4 cup melted butter

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

Blend well with mixer. Then add:

1 egg yolk

1 egg

2 tsp. vanilla

Blend on med/high for about three minutes.

In a separate bowl combine:

2 1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Mix til barely combined. Add 1 cup chocolate chips and stir by hand.

 

Once your cookie dough is done, you’ll need a pack of Oreos. Double Stuffs are nice here; the white filling is a good counterpoint to all the chocolate. But if you have regular Oreos, they’ll do just fine.

Your first step after making the dough is to get a big blob of it. I use my ice cream/muffin scoop and fill it about 3/4 of the way.

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Take your ball of dough and pat it gently til it’s kind of flatish.

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Place your Oreo in the middle of your flattened dough and fold/push the dough edges up over the top of the cookie.

 

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You’ll end up with a ball-type shape. Smoosh most of edges up onto the top. The cookies tend to spread quite a bit, so you’ll need to freeze them for about 15 minutes before they go into the oven. While the cookies are in the freezer, preheat the oven to 325°.

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Bake the cookies for about 13-14 minutes. If they’ve spread too much and look odd, cut the edges off while they’re still hot from the oven.

Pour yourself a glass of milk and enjoy!

March 6th marks the hundredth birthday of Oreo cookies. They are very special to me because they’re the only store-bought cookie that I like (I am the snobbiest of cookie snobs).  Every time I eat one I think, “boy, I forgot how good these are!” Did you know that they are the best-selling cookie in the U.S. as well as China? Although they had to lower the sugar content to get Chinese people to eat them. This alone proves that Chinese people are crazy. Less sugar??? [shaking head]

Also, a campaign was launched to teach the Chinese how to properly eat an Oreo: you know, twist the cookie apart and dunk it in milk (scraping the weird white filling off with your teeth is optional, I guess).  I am not a cookie dunker, so I find this weird and disturbing. Why not encourage them eat Oreos straight out of the package? Everyone knows you’ll eat twice as many cookies this way. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty much impossible not to eat a whole row of Oreos in one sitting.

You know what would be a great way to commemorate the 100th birthday of Oreos? To eat 100 Oreos! An elegant way to celebrate, no?  But due to the fact that I haven’t been eating much sugar lately, my digestive system might actually explode if I did that.  But I invite you to.  Who will do it?  Who will let me eat 100 Oreos vicariously through them? Anyone?

Nobody?

In that case lets spend the rest of the week eating things with Oreos in them.  For the next four days I’ll post a recipe featuring Oreos.   Today I will leave you with the link to, hands-down, my most popular blog post.

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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.