Friday, October 29, 2010

Kentucky Pecan Chocolate Cupcakes

Now you can skip the difficult decision to choose between eating chocolate chip pecan pie or a chocolate brownie.  This recipe combines both and adds a kick of bourbon, so you might lean towards calling this a recipe for "Derby Pie" cupcakes.  However, this recipes does not have that title since the creators of Derby Pie are so protective of the trademarked name (25 lawsuits).

Creating the cupcakes involves baking of cupcakes, cooking a sugar mixture for the filling and icing, filling the cupcakes and also icing them.  The end result is a very decadent dessert, bursting with the flavor of chocolate fudge and caramelized nuts. Based on that, you may want to save this for a special event or holiday. Also, the cupcakes are always appropriate should you intend to host a Kentucky Derby party.

If you prefer not to use bourbon, you can basically delete it from the instructions.  I found that the cupcake batter and filling is too runny if you add water or maple syrup in its place. The icing may need some water in place of the bourbon to get it to the right consistency.

The recipe makes about 16-20 cupcakes.

Kentucky Pecan Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted fromCupcake Project

Cupcake batter ingredients:
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs (room temp)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup butter (room temp)

Filling Ingredients:
1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
1 cup choc chips
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
4 beaten eggs (room temp)
1/4 cup bourbon
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

Frosting Ingredients:
Part of filling from above
3 tbs bourbon
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar

Method for cupcake batter:
In a medium size bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside. In a small soup bowl, mix milk and vanilla extract. Set this aside also.

Then take a larger bowl and with an electric mixer (hand or stand) beat butter until it becomes smooth.  Add sugar and continue to beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes.  The end result should be a light, fluffy batter.

Next, with a wooden spoon, you will fold in 1/3 of the flour mixture.  Continue to fold until no dry ingredients remain.  Add half of the milk/vanilla liquid to the batter and mix well.  Repeat those processes, ending with the flour mixture, until all is combined. Set batter aside.

Making and using the filling
In a small saucepan, melt butter on medium heat.  While stirring constantly, add corn syrup and sugar and continue to cook on medium until sugar dissolves. The sugar is dissolved once you are unable to feel a gritty consistency at the bottom of the saucepan. Remove from heat and put saucepan in the fridge (on a potholder) to cool.  Set timer for 5 minutes.

Then take a large bowl and whisk together the bourbon, vanilla, eggs and salt. The timer for the saucepan will go off shortly.  When this happens, check the temperature of the sugar mixture-it should be lukewarm to the touch.  If not, put back in fridge for another 5 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then prepare the cupcake pan by greasing the top edge of each of the batter holders. I use a non-stick spray and spray on a paper towel and then rub it on the pan. Place the cupcake liners in the holders.

Once the sugar mixture is the right temperature, remove from fridge and beat with a wooden spoon to mix in butter pieces that started to solidify at the top.  Slowly pour and whisk the mixture (constantly) in the bowl with the bourbon and eggs. Use a spatula to scrape the saucepan to make sure all is included with the bourbon/egg batter. When all is mixed together, fold in chocolate chips and pecans until evenly distributed.

Separate the filling in half between 2 bowls, setting aside one 1/2 for the icing.  Take 3/4 of the other half and fold it into the chocolate batter and set aside the remaining 1/4.

Fill half of the cupcake liners with the batter.  Be very careful not to overfill, you do not want your cupcakes to bake beyond the liner.  Go back to the remaining 1/4 cup of pecan filling and put 1-2 tsp of this filling on top of the cupcake batter in the liners.  This filling should now put the liners at 3/4 full.

Place the cupcake tin in the preheated oven and set the timer for 10 minutes to bake.  Then turn pan and set for another 10 minutes of baking time.  Using a toothpick tester, check to see if done.  If not, add a few more minutes until tester comes out clean.  These took exactly 20 minutes in my oven.

Remove cupcake pan and set on cooling rack for 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan and let cool.

During the cooling time, you will need to prepare the filling for the icing.  Take a baking sheet and line with parchment paper.  Give the filling a good stir and then pour onto baking sheet.  Place pan in oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove and let cool.

Making and using the frosting
With an electric mixer, beat butter until smooth.  Then beat in 3 cups of the sugar, one cup at a time, until no dry sugar remains. Then mix in bourbon and vanilla.  Beat in the last cup of sugar, making sure all is mixed in.  Fold the cooled filling into the frosting mixture, distributing evenly.

When cupcakes are completely cooled, frost tops by using a butter knife or spatula.  The cupcakes, being so rich without icing, do not require the typical thick swirl of piped icing on top. Besides that, the nuts in the icing prevent the frosting from being piped.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Three Cup Chicken

I am out of the sweet mode today due to making several very rich and decadent cupcakes for donation.  All of you craving something sweet and chocolate need not fear, that recipe is coming up this friday.

This is one of the favorite dishes of Chinese take-outs on the east coast, but I have yet to see it on the menu at places here in Texas. This is not really an issue, because it is very easy to make at home. This combination of soy sauce, rice wine and dark sesame oil really turns chicken into something special. An easy and delicious meal is just the ticket on a busy day. This recipe was adapted from Scent of Spice, which is a blog that is currently in maintenance mode.

Three Cup Chicken
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup (low salt) soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine
1/2 cup dark sesame oil
1/4 cup fresh basil
6 slices of ginger
10 cloves of peeled garlic or minced garlic
8 deboned chicken thighs

In a saucepan or wok, stir fry the ginger at a medium temperature in the sesame oil until the ginger becomes dry.  Then add the chicken pieces and stir until done, when all pieces have no trace of pink.  Put in the garlic and the first 4 ingredients listed above, continuing to stir.

Once mixed, turn heat down to simmer and cover.  Mixture should be cooked until the liquids become thick, which should be about 15-20 minutes.  Then mix in the basil.

Serve hot over a bed of rice with an egg roll or spring roll on the side.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Coconut Dinner Rolls

These light, airy rolls have a very a subtle flavor of coconut .  Paired with an Asian or Hawaiian main course, these tie the meal together.  If the size was altered, (this recipe yields 8 big rolls) the bread could be used as buns for the Teriyaki Pork Sliders (previous post). At this time, I am unable to track down the source of this bread recipe.

Coconut Dinner Rolls
1 cup of coconut milk
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs butter (melted & more for pan preparation)
3 1/2 cups flour (additional for dusting & kneading)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup warm water
1 pkg active dry yeast

Combine coconut flakes and sugar in a small bowl.  Then pour in warm water and sprinkle in yeast, mixing a few times.  Set aside about 15 minutes to let the yeast react.  The mixture should swell and become bubbly.

In the meantime, sift flour and salt together in another bowl.

Once the yeast mixture has completed the reaction time, add to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon.  Continue to stir and add butter and coconut milk until well combined.

Take dough out and place on floured surface. Start the kneading process and add flour as necessary.  The dough should become soft and elastic in about 5-6 minutes.  Once completed, form dough into a ball and dust with flour.  Put in a clean, dry bowl to rise.  Cover bowl with kitchen towel and place in warm area (I used 100 degree oven).  It should rise to double in about 1 1/2 hours.

While dough is rising, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and butter the paper (side facing up).

When the rise is completed, divide dough into eight pieces. Roll each piece into balls and place on baking sheet, spacing 3-4 inches apart.  They are now ready for the second rise.  The baking sheet should be placed in a warm place and the rolls are not to be covered.  The rolls should take about 45 minutes to rise to double their original size. During the rising time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Bake rolls for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Serve warm or cool to room temperature.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Nutty Stuffed Zucchini

Since we all should be eating our veggies, it is time that I post something for this category.  Most of your average eaters like zucchini.  It is a well accepted vegetable as opposed to beets.  Every time I think of beets I think of Dwight Shrewt (on the TV show called "The Office") and his beet farm.  Farming beets is probably a very unprofitable venture.  Come to think of it, I do not know a single person who likes beets.  Anyhow, back to the zucchini recipe:

Nutty Stuffed Zucchini 
adapted from recipe link
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tbs grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp oregano
4 zucchini
1 tbs melted butter
1 onion
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt

First, prepare a casserole dish or bottom of a roasting pan by spraying with non stick spray.  Then chop up the onion and set aside.  Take a zucchini and slice down the length, your slice should be an inch to 1 1/2 inches wide.  Then hollow out the inside like a canoe, leaving 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick shell.  Also, cut off about 1/2 inch from each end.  Discard the ends and chop up the pieces left from hollowing out the zucchini and put in the bowl with the chopped onion.  Continue with the rest of the zucchini.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Put the oil in a saute pan and place on the stove at medium heat.  Once the oil is heated add the walnuts, chopped zucchini pieces and onions.  Stir and cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes and remove from heat.

Then add your spices (salt, pepper, parsley, oregano and thyme) and mix until combined.  The bread crumbs and Parmesan are to be stirred in next. Once everything is evenly distributed, stuff the mixture inside the hollowed out zucchini. 

Place zucchini in the prepared dish/pan and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and brush with melted butter.  Then put back in oven to bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Teriyaki Pork Sliders

Well it seems as if every type of food is going to the "mini" stage. It may be psychological that if we eat items called "mini" we do not consider it as eating much.  It also could be that we want finger food that is eaten easily on the run.  One of the recently made popular "mini" foods is the slider burgers.  This is now followed by "mini" hot dogs.  I just hope that in the future we are all not slaving in the kitchen making 100 tiny foods to support 1 actual meal!

Regarding this recipe, I wanted to make an appetizer in a slider form, but did not want the standard burger.  After reviewing several types of sliders, pork with an asian flavor was the choice.

It proved to be a good decision. If you make these, be prepared to deflect feelings of regret and guilt that you did not make more.  Kindly remind your guests staring at their empty plates that these are appetizers-not a meal. This recipe makes 12 sliders or 4 "appetizer" servings by restaurant standards.

Teriyaki Sliders
adapted from real mom kitchen
6 rings of pineapple, each cut in 1/2*
Honey teriyaki bbq sauce ( I found teriyaki only and mixed in honey to taste)
3 slices of provolone cheese, each cut in fourths
4 mushrooms, sliced  ( I used Shitake)
2 tsp grated ginger
1/4 cup teriyaki or teriyaki stir fry sauce
4 chopped scallions (separated in 1/2)
1 lb ground pork
1 pkg dinner rolls (I used Kings Hawaiian)
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
mayonnaise ( for bread spread)
flour ( may need to add in)

The first thing to do is the prep work.  Chop, slice, grate as stated in above ingredients and place each separately in a small bowl.

Take a small food processor and pulse together the mushrooms and 1/2 of scallions until finely chopped. These are small burgers, so it is important that this mixture is fine.  Put mushroom/scallion mixture in medium bowl and add teriyaki or teriyaki stir fry, breadcrumbs, pork and ginger.  Mix until evenly distributed.

Then you will need to shape the burgers.  Divide mixture into 12 portions by using 1/4 cup for each.  If you find mixture too runny, mix in flour until you reach the right consistency-this issue may be caused by using teriyaki instead of teriyaki stir fry sauce. I was unable to find teriyaki stir fry sauce.

Turn on broiler.*  Take a baking sheet and line with foil. Spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Set oven rack 4 or 5 inches from broiler.  Place patties on baking sheet.  Prepare another sheet and place the pineapple on it and a third sheet placed with split rolls (cut side up).

Each pan will need to go in separately to be broiled.  Place the rolls under the broiler in the oven and watch closely.  As soon as the edges brown, remove pan and set aside.  Do the same with the pineapple.  Lastly, broil the patties broil in oven about 3 minutes then turn and broil for another 3 minutes. Remove pan and place 1 piece of provolone on each burger and place back in oven. Leave in oven to melt (watch closely). Once cheese is melted, take out pan. 

After all is broiled, spread the top half the rolls with mayo.  Assemble the sliders by placing a pineapple piece on the bottom of the bread roll. Then add the pork patty and top with 1 tsp bbq sauce and a sprinkle of the sliced scallion.  Place the other half of the roll on top.  If you want to garnish, stick in a toothpick with a small piece of a dill pickle (or any veggie of your choice) speared on the other end.

*You can also opt to use the grill instead of the broiler for all cooked or toasted items (pork patties, pineapple and rolls). To make things easier, do not cut the pineapple rings and rolls (only split) until after grilling.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Steakhouse Beer Bread

This is a recipe for those "little" loaves of bread that are served up at restaurants prior to the meal.  This bread has a mix of honey which offsets the malty taste of the beer.  I used Shiner Bock brand beer in this bread, but I guess you can use whatever beer you prefer.  The things to remember when choosing a beer is that the darker the beer, the darker the bread.  Also, "extra" stout beer (Guinness) will give you a strong malty tasting bread which will cancel out the sweetness of the honey included in this recipe.

Steakhouse Beer Bread
adapted from recipe goldmine

1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cup to 1 3/4 cup beer (flat, room temperature)

Lightly coat 2 baking sheets with oil.  Place warm water in large bowl and sprinkle with yeast.  Let sit to dissolve for 5 minutes.  Then whisk in honey and set aside.

In a smaller bowl, sift together salt and both types of flour.  Fold in sifted ingredients to yeast mixture. Then slowly add the oil and the flat beer.  Mix all together until totally combined.

Take dough out of bowl and knead, either with an electric mixer with a dough hook or by hand.  If kneading by hand, this should take 10-15 minutes.  The electric mixer should take less time.  In both instances you may need to add a little flour while kneading to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or dough hook.  You will know kneading process is over when dough does not stick to hands or is not sticking to mixing bowl. It should be smooth and have a spongy consistency.

Oil a medium size bowl and place ball of dough inside.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise.  Do not place in warm oven or drafty place, it must rise at room temperature to double its original size.  I placed my bowl inside the microwave to rise.  Rising time should be about 30-50 minutes.

Once dough has doubled, punch down and then let rest for 5 minutes.  Take out dough and divide into 4 round loaves.  Place each loaf on prepared baking sheets.  Each loaf will need to be scored twice with a sharp knife.  Each score will placed two inches apart and be two and 1/2 inches in length. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise another 30-50 minutes or until doubled in size.

During rising time, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

After bread loaves have doubled, place in oven to bake about 30 minutes.  Remove and place loaves on rack to cool.  Once cool, slice and serve.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Almost Tortuga Rum Cake

Whenever I see a "specialized" business, I always wonder if the employees ever get tired of the same thing day after day.  For instance, my hairdresser said it would be very boring if all her clients had long straight hair and she only cut the ends.  Chef Ramsey said when he first started out, he must have made a billion chef salads.  I guess we all hope that paying our dues with the boring stuff lets us move on to greater things. So good luck to the lady in Grand Cayman that makes all the Tortuga Rum Cakes day after day.

The Tortuga Rum Company sells the original rum cake and 3 flavors (lime, coconut and orange).  They also make some rum fudge and candies. Below is a copy cat recipe from someone that goes by the name of dewey decimal. This is a very rich cake and tastes best the day after baking.  However, if you feel like eating without baking click here

Almost Tortuga Rum Cake
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter (cut into cubes-room temperature)
3 tbs plus 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup Whaler's Vanilla Rum
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 (3.5 oz) package of vanilla instant pudding
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Rum Soaking Glaze
1/2 cup Whalers Vanilla Rum
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup butter

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Take a large bundt pan (12 cups) and spray with non-stick cooking spray, making sure all areas are coated.  Then sprinkle the chopped walnuts in the bottom of the pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt.  Then stir in sugar.  Once combined, add in butter and 3 tbs of the vegetable oil, beating with an electric mixer on low speed.  Beat about 3 minutes until it becomes the consistency of fine gravel with equal particles. Put the eggs in the butter/flour mixture, one by one, beating after each addition.  Continue using the electric mixer and add 1/2 cup of rum, 1/2 cup of oil, vanilla extract, pudding mix and milk.  Beat at medium speed for 3 minutes, scraping down side of bowl at the halfway point.

Pour batter into pan.  Make sure batter is level and smooth on top, then place in oven for about 55 minutes or until tester comes out clean. After baking, take cake out of oven and place on cooling rack. The next step is to glaze the warm cake.

Place sugar, butter and water in a small saucepan on medium heat and bring to a boil slowly, you do not want it to boil over. Instantly after it reaches a boil, turn heat down to a simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved and it becomes a the consistency of syrup.  Take off of heat and stir in 1/2 cup of rum until evenly distributed.

While cake is still warm, pour some of the hot syrup into the cake pan and let soak in.  Continue this process until all syrup is gone. Since you do not want to flood the cake with the syrup, this may take several intervals of soaking time.

Before removing from pan, the cake must be fully cooled. Note that this cake is too delicate for transport, so it is not one to pack for a picnic or lunch.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Butterscotch Cashew Cookies

There are not that many recipes out there that call for cashews.  Out of all the nuts, I believe my husband likes these the best.  I am a pecan lover myself, but these cashew cookies are a change of pace.  The butterscotch chips are a good addition to the cashews.  The cookies have a "middle of the road" texture-crisp on the edges but soft in the center.  So brighten up someone's boring lunch by placing these cookies inside their bag or lunchbox. They will be reminded that variety is good.  After all, Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors still exists for a reason.  This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Butterscotch Cashew Cookies
adapted from Cookie Madness 

1 3/4 to 2 cups chopped cashews
2/3 cup butterscotch chips
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4oz or 1 stick of butter (room temperature)
1/3 cup sour cream
3/4 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup light brown sugar

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.  Turn oven on and set at 350 degrees.

In a medium size bowl, sift together baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour.  Set aside.  In another larger bowl, place butter and sugar.  Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together.  This should take about 3 minutes to reach a fluffy consistency.  Then beat in the egg and vanilla. This is the last step with the electric mixer.

Take a wooden spoon and fold in the sour cream to the butter mixture.  Once completely combined, mix in 1/3 of the sifted dry ingredients until few streaks of flour remain.  Continue with this process until all flour is incorporated into butter mixture.  Lastly, pour in butterscotch chips and nuts.  Fold into batter with wooden spoon until all is evenly distributed.

Scoop a rounded teaspoon of batter and place on baking sheet.  Continue with this process, dropping batter about 1 1/2 inch apart on sheet.  Bake for about 12-14 minutes, turning baking sheet at halfway interval. Cookies are done when edges start to brown.  Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then place each cookie on rack to completely cool.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kahlua White Chocolate Brownies

The title to this recipe was just called "White Chocolate Chunk Brownies", but there is a lot more to it than that.  These brownies have no cocoa/chocolate, just Kahlua, coffee, pecans and white chocolate.  This was reason enough to change the name on this recipe.  Since it does have instant coffee, the coffee flavor is quite pronounced.  However, the white chocolate offsets the coffee flavor quite nicely.  These bake up to be a like the consistency of a fudgy brownie and are great with an ice cold glass of milk.  This recipe is for 12 servings.

Kahlua White Chocolate Brownies
adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine (prior to 2005)
3/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
1/2 cup and 2 tbs of white chocolate chips ( 5oz)
2 tbs Kahlua or coffee liqueur
3 tbs instant coffee
1 tbs water
2 eggs
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour
2 cups packed light brown sugar

Prepare a 10 inch cake pan by buttering all sides and putting parchment on the bottom. Then preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

On low heat, melt the butter in a saucepan and add sugar.  Continue mixing sugar and butter until dissolved.  Remove from heat and set aside. In another small bowl, stir instant coffee with the tablespoon of hot water. This will also need to be stirred until dissolved.  Place butter/sugar mixture and dissolved coffee into a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon.Set aside to cool to room temperature.

In the meantime, sift together the salt, flour and baking powder.

Once the wet mixture has reached room temperature, add eggs individually and beat with an electric mixer after each addition.  Then pour in the Kahlua and beat until combined.

With a wooden spoon, combine all the sifted ingredients into batter until evenly distributed. Then mix in the nuts and white chocolate chips.

After all is incorporated, pour batter in the pan. To smooth and even out the batter, use a wet knife over the top. Place in oven for 35-40 minutes or until tester comes out clean.  Take pan out of the oven and place on cooling rack.  Let brownies cool completely in pan.  Then run a knife around the edge and flip pan upside down on a plate.  Peel off parchment paper and cut into wedges and serve.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pretzel Bites

With all the sweet bakery items on this blog to date, I figured it was time to do something savory.  These pretzel bites are salty and packed with ham and cheese.  Unlike the big pretzels, these do not turn chewy with time but remain soft on the inside if stored properly.  They are best enjoyed warm.  If you are making these for a crowd, you might consider doubling the recipe.  A football game will last a lot longer than the bites will, they are very addictive.  This recipe makes 48 one inch bites.  There are several recipes out on the net with some different boiling and coating methods, but I choose this one due to its simplicity.

Pretzel Bites
adapted from Pennies on a Platter blog
1-2 tbs coarse salt
4 tbs melted butter 
4 tsp baking soda
6 cups water
3/4 cup shredded cheese
3/4 cup chopped ham (I used already sliced deli meat & cut up smaller)
2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup warm water
2 tbs and 1 tsp packed brown sugar
1 pkg of active dry yeast (if using fast rise yeast, see **)
olive oil (for greasing bowl for rising)

Start by putting 1 tsp brown sugar, yeast and warm water in a large bowl and mix together.  Sprinkle yeast on top and set aside for about 5 minutes to foam up.  **Fast rise does not require this wait time.  In another smaller bowl, combine remaining brown sugar (2 tbs) and warm milk until sugar is dissolved.  Take a wooden spoon and mix 2 1/2 cups of flour in with the yeast mixture.  Then add in warm milk ingredients.  Continue to mix in the additional flour as needed until you have the consistency of a soft dough.

Place dough on a floured surface and knead a few times.  Then take olive oil and brush on the inside of a bowl.  Form the dough into a ball and place in oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Put in a warm (draft free) place to rise for about 2 hours.  During the rising time, mix the shredded cheese with the ham in a small bowl.  Also, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

After 2 hours of rising time, your dough should be double in size and have a few bubbles on the surface.  I always let dough rise in my oven.  I turn on the oven and once it reaches 100 degrees I turn it off and then place the rising bowl inside.

Once dough has risen properly, take out and divide into 4 equal sections.  Take one section and using a floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 12X4 inch rectangle.  On one of the long sides of the dough, measuring about 1 inch above the edge, place a 12 inch row of the ham and cheese mixture on the dough, pressing lightly.  Starting with the ham and cheese edge, roll dough up tightly into a small long log.  Cut the log into 12 one inch pieces and place pieces on the parchment lined baking sheets.  Repeat this process with the additional sections of dough.

Let dough rise at room temperature uncovered for about 30 minutes.**Fast rise yeast does not require this rising time. Turn on oven to preheat to 400 degrees.

In the meantime, bring 6 cups of water to a full boil.  Reduce to simmer and sprinkle in all baking soda.  Drop in pretzel pieces in batches and boil for about 20 seconds on each side.  Scoop out pieces with a slotted spoon, draining off as much water as possible, and place on baking sheet.

Place sheet in oven and bake until pieces are golden brown, about 15-18 minutes.  Remove from oven and brush with melted butter and then sprinkle on coarse salt.  Serve warm with ranch or mustard for dipping. 

With a twist: you might try using some chopped veggies instead of the meat.  For something more spicy, opt for jalapenos.  However, make sure the vegetable pieces are dry after chopping. Mushrooms, since they give off so much water when cooking, may not be appropriate for these.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


If you are unfamiliar with brookies, then you are missing out.  Brookies are 2 layers (brownie and chocolate chip cookies) baked in a mini pie pan.  Above, you can see it served with ice cream, which makes for a decadent and rather large dessert.  Perfect for sharing.  This recipe comes from 2 young guys, Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, that own a place called "Baked" located in Brooklyn, NY.  They have a special talent in making delicious, yet untraditional, baked goods.  They were guests on Martha Stewart's show and revealed the recipe.  It makes six cookie pies.

adapted fromMartha Stewart website

Ingredients (chocolate cookie dough)
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup and 2 tbs flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Ingredients (brownie)
1/2 cup butter cut into cubes
5 oz dark choc chips (60-70% cacao)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs dark cocoa powder
3/4 cup flour

You will first make the cookie dough. Sift together the amount of flour, salt and baking soda listed in the cookie dough ingredients.  Set bowl aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream together butter and both sugar amounts for the cookie dough.  Once dough is light and fluffy, add the egg then beat until incorporated.  Then add vanilla and beat for another 5 seconds.

Take half of the sifted dry ingredients from the separate bowl and add to butter/sugar mixture. Beat with electric mixer for about 15 seconds, then add the rest of the dry ingredients and beat again, until no flour streaks remain. Take a wooden spoon and fold in chocolate chips.

This dough will need to be covered and put in fridge for at least 3 hours or more.

During the chill time, you can prepare the other layer.  Take 6 four inch round pie tins and butter bottom and sides.  Following the measurements of the brownie layer ingredients, sift together flour, cocoa powder and salt.  Set aside.

The chocolate chips will need to be melted at this time.  Place chips and butter in the pan of a double boiler and melt chocolate over water pan, stirring constantly.  Once completely melted, remove pan and let cool to room temperature.

When chocolate reaches room temperature, add eggs (one by one) and whisk to combine.  After eggs, blend in the vanilla extract and both sugars until completely distributed.  Slowly fold in the sifted ingredients, being careful not to over mix.

Fill each tin with the chocolate batter, taking care not to fill beyond the half way point.  Transfer all filled pie tins to the the refrigerator.  These will need to cool at least an hour.

Once both doughs have chilled the proper amount of time, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Take the cookie dough and divide into 6 equal amounts and shape each into a ball.  Then flatten to a disk, making sure that the center is still domed at the center/top.  Also, these will need to be slightly smaller in diameter to the top of the pie tins.

Remove the pie tins from the fridge and place on cookie sheet.  Then put 1 cookie dough disk on top of each tin of batter.  Place baking sheet in preheated oven and bake until edges are brown, about 20-25 minutes.  The baking sheet will need to be rotated at the halfway point in baking.

Once baked, remove from oven and let cool about 5 minutes.  Serve topped with ice cream while still warm.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Jumbo Harvest Squash Muffins

With pumpkin recipes all around, I decided to use a recipe calling for a butternut squash.  The most time consuming thing about this is roasting the squash prior to making it into a puree.  Next time, I will roast and make the puree one day and continue on with the muffins the next day.  The muffins turned out very moist and sweet, so I declined to add any topping or glaze. The flavor will even pass the taste test of the pickiest (veggie hater) member at the table. 

Jumbo Harvest Squash Muffins
adapted from 
3 cups roasted butternut squash
5 1/4 cups flour
2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs
3/4 cups of walnut halves
3/4 cup pecan halves
1 cup pumpkin seeds*
3 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp nutmeg
2 1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 1/8 cups buttermilk
Prep work:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash in fourths and scrape out all seeds.  Place face up in a 9X13 pan with 1/2 cup of water in bottom. Cook for 1 hr or more, until all areas are fork tender. Once roasted, set aside to cool.

Put nuts and seeds in a shallow pan and toast in oven for 15 minutes.

When the squash has cooled, scoop out flesh and place in blender or food processor to puree.  You may need to add a little water to help smooth the texture.  Set aside 3 cups.  Depending on how big your squash is, you may end up with more than 3 cups.  The excess amount can sit in fridge for up to 3 days or be frozen.

The nuts and seeds, when cooled, are to be ground into a fine powder.  A blender or spice grinder can be used for this process. Put aside once completed.

Making the muffins:
 Turn the oven temperature down to 325 degrees.

In a medium size bowl, sift all the dry ingredients (flour, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt).  Add the nuts and seed mixture with a wooden spoon until all is incorporated.  Set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat together both types of sugar and canola oil.  It should all be evenly distributed after about 3 minutes.  Then put in the butternut squash and beat for another 2 minutes.  Each egg will need to be mixed in, beating after each addition. This is the last use of the electric mixer, so you can put it away.

With a wooden spoon, fold in half of the buttermilk and half of the flour mixture into the squash batter.  Once combined, repeat until there are few flour streaks.

For your pan, put oil around the top opening of the muffin hole and place muffin paper inside hole.  With a large spoon or regular ice cream scoop, fill each muffin paper at least 3/4 full. You can fill higher if you want a bigger top.

Bake in oven 20-35 minutes or until tester comes out clean, tops should be a golden brown.  After baking, remove muffins from pan and place on rack to cool.  If you go over to the link, there you will find a recipe for 2 loaves.

*here in Texas, pumpkin seeds are easily found in the snack aisle of Wal-Mart.  If your grocer does not have them, you might try using sunflower seeds.   

Friday, October 1, 2010

NY Cowgirl Choc Chip Cookies

The title of this recipe may have you wondering how it came about.  Apparently there was a woman from NY who liked visiting Texas so much, she relocated to the Hill Country on a ranch.  In turn, she wrote a wonderful cookbook, putting her own twist on the original Milk Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie.  You will find several recipes out on the net for Cowgirl cookies, but this one is unique in the fact that it has cocoa nibs.  The nibs are chopped pieces of shelled cocoa beans.  The nibs give the cookies a nutty deep chocolate flavor that goes well with the other chocolate chips in the batter.  This recipes yields 3 dozen cookies.

NY Cowgirl Cookies
adapted from delicious discourse blog and the actual cookbook
1/2 tsp ground or grated nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 sticks or 1 cup butter (room temp)
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
2 cups flour
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups semi sweet choc chips
1 1/2 cups milk choc chips
1/2 cup cocoa nibs

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.  Add the oats by stirring with a wooden spoon. Set aside.

In another larger bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter and both sugars together until fluffy and no butter lumps remain.  Add one egg and beat until combined.  Repeat with additional egg.   Then mix in the vanilla extract.

Take a wooden spoon and fold in 1/2 of the dry ingredients to sugar mixture.Add the remaining flour mixture until dough no longer has any dry areas.  Then add in (either by hand or by spoon) all the chocolate chips and cocoa nibs until evenly distributed.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.  The refrigeration time can be extended for several hours, if you want to prepare dough way in advance of baking. During the cooling time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

After cooling time, remove dough from refrigerator and shape into 36 round balls, about the size of golf balls. Since these cookies are more puffy than most, the dough will not spread much during baking.  Place dough balls on cookie sheet accordingly.

Bake for 12-14 minutes until edges turn a golden color.  My oven took about 13 minutes to bake the cookies. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet.  Then place each cookie on a cooling rack.

These cookies are fairly sturdy, so they are good for transporting in cookie tins as gifts or in a lunchbox.