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Cranberry Orange Hot Cross Buns

20 Apr

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Happy Easter to all of you – I hope that yall are having a beautiful day! Hot cross buns are traditional to eat on Good Friday, so I’d made a batch to munch on during Holy Week. I’ve made a similar version before but they were pretty plain without any dried fruit. So naturally I wanted to jazz them up this time with the cranberry and orange flavor combo which is one of my favorites! Especially since I don’t like raisins, which is the usual dried fruit that’s added. Sorry to all you raisin lovers out there, but you can sub any kind of dried fruit that your heart desires.

So whether you make these for the holidays or just because, I hope you enjoy! And because I’m reminiscing about spending last Easter in Rome, “Buona Pasqua” to you all!

Cranberry Orange Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1 package (1/4 oz) active dry yeast (also equals 2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 tsp granulated white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Plus 1 egg and 1 Tbsp milk or water for an egg wash before baking

Glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp milk
A few drops of orange extract (optional)

Yield: 1 dozen

Directions:
To make the buns: In a small saucepan or in the microwave, heat the milk until lukewarm (about 100 degrees F). Add the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar and stir to combine. Set aside for about 10 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.

Meanwhile in the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, spices, and salt. Once the yeast is foamy, gradually add to the flour mixture and beat until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the melted butter, egg, and orange zest and beat until incorporated. With the mixer on medium low speed, with the dough hook, gradually add the cranberries and continue to knead the dough until it is silky smooth and elastic. Add more flour if necessary.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning the dough once, so the top is lightly greased. Cover with plastic wrap  and place in a warm spot to rise until it has almost doubled in size (about 1 1/2 – 2 hours).

When the dough has doubled in size, gently punch it down to release the air, and divide into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a small round ball and place on a lined baking sheet. (lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat) Place three buns to a row, four rows altogether. They should be spaced so they have enough room to double in size.) Cover the buns with a tea towel or lightly spray a piece of plastic wrap with a nonstick cooking spray and place lightly over the buns. Place in a warm spot until almost doubled in size (about 60 minutes).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the tops of the buns with an egg wash (one beaten egg mixed with 1 Tablespoon milk or water) and brush the tops of the buns with the wash. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for about15 minutes, or until the buns are nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze: Combine the powdered sugar, milk, and orange extract if using and mix until smooth. Add a little extra powdered sugar if it’s too runny, till you get the consistency you want. Place the glaze in a paper cone or small plastic bag. Cut the end of the cone or bag and pipe a cross on the top of each bun.

Source: Slightly adapted from Joy of Baking

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Mardi Gras King Cake

15 Feb

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I’ve always wanted to attempt making a homemade King Cake for Mardi Gras, and this year, per my husband’s request and my sheer determination, I decided to go for it! I didn’t have a recipe to start, but then I saw that The Catholic Foodie has shared his tried and true recipe with the world. Any new recipe is a little intimidating, but with a little time and attention, this is literally a piece of cake!

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This starts as a pretty normal bread recipe, but the hints of lemon and nutmeg really make it something special. I decided to add some pecans and cinnamon to the cream cheese filling to add a little more texture and flavor. As for the icing, you can either make colored icings instead of sprinkles, but just FYI – colored sugars are SO easy to make in whatever color you’re needing. Just put some granulated sugar in a ziploc bag, add a little gel food coloring, and smoosh it together for a while till it’s all incorporated. Voila – cheap and simple colored sugar – fit for a King Cake!

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I hope yall had a fun Mardi Gras and are having a blessed Lenten season!

Mardi Gras King Cake

Ingredients:
2 packets of active dry yeast (4 1/2 tsp)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks of butter, melted
1 cup warm milk (about 110 F)
5 large egg yolks, room temperature
4 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if possible!)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vegetable or olive oil
1 lb cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 plastic king cake baby
5 Tbsp milk, room temperature
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Purple, green, and yellow food coloring or colored sugar

Yield: 1 large cake (about 15-20 servings)

Directions:
For the dough: Combine the yeast and the granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. If you don’t have a stand mixer, don’t worry, you can do the same thing by hand in a large mixing bowl. Add melted butter and warm milk and beat for one minute at medium-low speed. With the mixer still running, add the egg yolks and beat for another minute. Add the flour, salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest and beat until everything is incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball (or starts to climb up the dough hook). As with any dough, you may have to add water (a tablespoon at a time) or more flour to get the right results. Remove the dough from the bowl and, using your hands, form it into a smooth ball. Using vegetable or regular olive oil, lightly oil a large mixing bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, rolling it around to coat it on all sides with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place for about 2 hours. You want the dough to double in size.

For the filling: In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, pecans, cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar. Blend using a fork or an electric mixer on low speed. Set aside.

After the dough has doubled in size: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Using your hands or a rolling pin, roll it out into a rectangle about 30 inches long and 6 inches wide. Take the cream cheese filling and spread it out lengthwise over the bottom half of the dough. Flip the top half of the dough over the filling and seal the edges with your fingers, pinching the dough together. Shape the dough into a cylinder and place it on a lined baking sheet seam side down. Shape it into a ring and pinch the ends together, doing your best so that there’s no visible seam. Cover the ring with plastic wrap (or a clean kitchen towel) and set aside in a warm, draft-free place. Let the dough rise until doubled in size (about 45 minutes). Preheat oven to 350 F. Once the cake has doubled in size, remove the plastic wrap or towel and brush the surface of the cake with 2 Tbsp of milk. Place cake in oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until it is golden brown. Remove from the oven and carefully place the cake on a wire rack so that it can cool completely. When it is completely cooled, insert the plastic baby from the bottom of the cake.

For the icing: In a mixing bowl, combine 3 cups of confectioner’s sugar, 3 Tbsp of milk and 3 Tbsp of lemon juice. Stir well with a fork or whisk. Once the cake is completely cooled, spread the icing over the cake with a spoon. Sprinkle colored sugars alternately in purple, green, and yellow. Or instead of using colored sugars, before icing, divide the icing into three small bowls and color them with purple, green, and yellow food coloring. Ice the cake, alternating the icing colors. Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Source: Slightly adapted from The Catholic Foodie

Polish Babka

11 Apr

Babka is a Polish bread that’s traditionally made for Easter. I saw a recipe for it and was intrigued – I love learning about food traditions from other countries. Apparently “babka” is Polish for “grandmother”. It’s named so because the shape is reminiscent of a grandmother’s skirt, especially if you serve the slices fanned out in a circle. Cute, right? 🙂

This is a super simple recipe and while it is a yeast dough, there isn’t any kneading required. Just mix the ingredients together, let it rise the proper amount of time, bake it, and boom – you have a delicious treat. The texture is nice and is on the border between bread and cake. My variation left out the usual raisins and dried fruit, at least this time. Even without the addition it’s so good and has just enough sweetness where it could be used as a dessert or an addition to breakfast or brunch.

The rum syrup that’s added right after baking gives the babka a nice extra oomph. But if you decide to add the rum glaze, this grandma isn’t very kid friendly anymore! You can always make it milder with apple juice or milk, or leave out the glaze altogether, but the grown up version we ate had some definite rum action going on.

Happy Easter season to all of you!

Polish Babka

Ingredients:
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
3 large eggs, at room temperature
Heaping 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) softened butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup raisins (optional)

Rum Syrup:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp rum (or apple juice)

Rum Glaze:
1 cup confectioners sugar
Pinch of salt
2 Tbsp rum (or apple juice)
Splash of milk

Yield: 1 cake (approx 12-16 servings)

Directions:
Place everything for the bread in a mixing bowl and beat at medium speed until cohesive. Increase your mixer’s speed to high and beat for 2 minutes. Add the fruit, beating gently just to combine. (optional)

Cover the bowl and let the dough rest/rise for 60 minutes; it won’t appear to do much. Scoop the batter into a greased bundt pan. Cover the pan, and let the dough rest/rise for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake the babka for 35 to 40 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads at least 190 degrees F.

While the babka is baking, prepare the rum syrup. Combine all of the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, and boil, swirling the liquid in the pan, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat.

Remove the babka from the oven. Poke it all over gently with a toothpick or fork and slowly pour the syrup over the babka’s surface. When the syrup is fully absorbed (about 20 minutes or so), carefully loosen the babka’s edges, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack.

To make the glaze, mix all of the ingredients together, stirring until smooth. Drizzle over completely cool babka. Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Source: King Arthur Flour

Red Velvet Souffle

14 Feb

Happy St. Valentine’s Day! While hubby and I never do anything elaborate to celebrate, I still like to bake a little something special to show I care.

To be honest, I’ve been completely intimidated by the idea of making a souffle. I’ve seen them made on Food Network and various food blogs and have heard the warnings about how temperamental they can be and the risks of them caving in. But I finally sucked up my fears and decided to give it a try. Key word: try.

I meticulously followed the directions and felt good about it. Once they were in the oven, it was the moment of truth. I turned on the oven light and took a peek – they looked beautiful!

Whew – what a relief! I can’t wait to really master this food and attempt other flavors, both sweet and savory. This time around, I actually halved the recipe because: 1. I didn’t have enough ramekins available and 2. I didn’t want to risk having a ton of failed desserts sitting around, just in case.

Needless to say, this was a surprising success. Who wouldn’t love a red fluffy dessert on St. Valentine’s Day? Hubby and I sure did – hope you had fantastic day full of love and sweet things too! 🙂

Red Velvet Souffle

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp Butter or Cooking Spray
4 oz Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar, Chopped
5 whole Eggs (separated)
1/3 cup Sugar
3 Tbsp Milk
1 Tbsp Red Food Coloring
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 pinch Salt
2 Tbsp Granulated Sugar

Yield: 6 souffles

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of 6 ramekins butter or cooking spray. Set the ramekins aside on a baking sheet.

Microwave the chocolate in a bowl at 30 second intervals, stirring in between each interval, until almost completely melted (about 2 minutes total). Then stir the chocolate until smooth. Stir in 4 egg yolks (make sure the chocolate isn’t too hot), 1/3 cup sugar, milk, food coloring, and vanilla.

Beat the 5 egg whites and salt with a whip attachment on high speed with your mixer. Slowly add the 2 Tbsp of sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture (1/3 at at time). Very gently spoon the mixture into the ramekins.

Bake for 21-24 minutes or until they rise and set. Dust the tops with powdered sugar or add a dollop of whipped cream. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Source: The Hill Country Cook

Gingerbread

2 Jan

Homemade gingerbread is such a treat during the holidays – this classic dessert is so moist and the spices taste like the essence of holiday baking. I made a slight change to my favorite gingerbread recipe that comes from my aunt, who actually got it from an Inn that she used to work at. It is just rich enough to feel like a decadent dessert but doesn’t go overboard or leave you feeling heavy. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top for a simple garnish. Or according to my aunt, for another yummy spin, spread some lemon creme on a slice to get the same flavor as the Lemon Filled Gingerbread Cookies I made in the fall. Sounds delicious!

Gingerbread

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup boiling water

Yield: 20-24 pieces

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until combined. Add the molasses and buttermilk, mixing to combine. In a separate bowl, dissolve the baking soda in boiling water. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients alternately with the baking soda water.  Pour the mixture in a greased or foil lined 9×13 pan.  Bake at least 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool completely and cut into squares. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or top individual slices with lemon creme. Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from the Green Gate Inn

Peppermint Bark

1 Jan

Happy New Year! I hope yall had a nice evening and a great start to 2012. I can’t believe it’s already here – my how time flies! 🙂

This was one of the easiest holiday desserts I’ve ever made! Just melt chocolate, add crushed peppermints, and voila – you have a tasty and festive treat. The nice part is that you can use whatever type of chocolate you like. If you’re more of a dark chocolate person, go for it! Or if you hate white chocolate, either skip it or use a different flavor. It’s so simple and would be the perfect addition to your holiday dessert platter!

Peppermint Bark

Ingredients:
1 2/3 cups milk chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
4 tsp peppermint extract
1/4 cup peppermints, crushed

Yield: 16 large triangular pieces

Directions:
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, foil, or a silpat sheet and set aside. Melt the milk chocolate in a bowl, stirring until completely smooth. (slowly in the microwave or over simmering water, whatever method you prefer) Remove from heat and add 2 tsp of peppermint extract. Stir to combine. Pour the melted chocolate onto the prepared baking sheet and spread to make a large rectangle. Put in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to cool and harden.

Melt the white chocolate in the same way, remove from heat and add the remaining 2 tsp of peppermint extract. Stir to combine. Pour the melted white chocolate on top of the milk chocolate, spreading quickly and carefully to avoid melting the milk chocolate layer. Spread the white chocolate evenly, but leave milk chocolate edges showing. Sprinkle the crushed peppermints on top and press them gently to secure. Place the pan in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to cool and harden.

When cooled, either cut or break the bark into large squares, and then into triangles. Serve and enjoy!

Source: Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies

26 Dec

Hello my darling readers – welcome to the start of the “12 Days of Christmas”! That’s right, Christmas hasn’t ended, it has it’s own season too! (ending January 6th, aka: Epiphany) And to celebrate this joyous time of year, I’m going to post some tasty treats twelve days in a row. Be prepared – some yummy things are coming your way!

You know those sugar cookies you can buy at the store that are incredibly soft with a super sweet layer of frosting and topped with festive sprinkles? Well folks, you can make them at home! These cookies are perfect to make for any holiday or special occasion because the frosting and toppings can be easily customized. Wrap these up for a simple and delicious gift that anyone would be delighted to receive!

PS: Congrats to Melissa, who won the OXO Egg Beater giveaway! Keep an eye out for an email from me.

Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:
For the cookies:
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
5 tsp vanilla extract

For the frosting:
6 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted (plus more, as needed)
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
6 Tbsp milk (plus more, as needed)
Food coloring (optional)
Sprinkles (optional)

Yield: 2 dozen medium sized cookies

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until soft and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated and evenly mixed. Cover and chill the dough for 1 hour.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, scoop a scant quarter cup of dough and roll into a ball. Flatten the ball slightly and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the cookies at least 2-3 inches apart. Bake about 10-12 minutes or just until set. (Do not overbake!  The edges should be no more than very lightly browned if at all) Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for several minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter, vanilla, and milk to the bowl and whisk until smooth. Whisk in additional milk if too thick, 1 teaspoon at a time, or more confectioners’ sugar if too thin, 1/4 cup at a time, until it reaches your desired consistency.  Tint with food coloring if desired. Use an offset spatula or spoon to frost the cooled cookies. (If the frosting begins to thicken as you decorate, just continue to whisk in small amounts of milk to keep it workable.) Top with sprinkles if desired. Store in an airtight container and enjoy!

Source: Slightly adapted from Annie’s Eats