Friday, December 30, 2011

Garlic and Herb Rolls

I'm always on the lookout for new, great bread recipes. I don't know if it's the holiday season or what, but I am just loving bread right now. (Trying to squeeze in some extra carbs before the new year?) Regardless, I made myself a batch of these Garlic and Herb rolls, and they were instant winners.

Of course, since it's bread, you'll need some yeast. One package of yeast (or 2 1/2 tsp.) will do you.

Warm some milk and butter in the microwave. My butter is usually straight from the fridge. I end up microwaving the butter and milk together for about a minute. At that point, the milk is too hot too add but the butter is still pretty firm. I stir them together until the butter melts into the milk, both softening the butter and cooling the milk.

Test the heat of the milk/butter with your finger. It should be just warmer than your body temperature. When you've achieved the right temp, pour the milk in with the yeast.

Once the milk is added, you can measure out some sugar. That's what the yeast will eat, making the rolls light and fluffy.

Two eggs will give the rolls some body and richness.

Salt is next.

Now add half the flour. Mix for at least a minute on high.

For herbs, I used a dried Italian seasoning. Mine has thyme, basil, marjoram, oregano, and rosemary, I believe.

Garlic powder brings the garlic flavor to the table.

And, because I like things that are peppery, I added some black pepper.

Add the rest of the flour. Mix until all the flour is incorporated.

Once the dough has come together, you can add the cheese. I used two kinds of cheese--mozzarella and Parmesan.

First, the grated mozzarella.

Then the Parmesan.

Mix until the cheese is incorporated and the dough pulls away from the mixing bowl. If the dough still appears sticky, slowly add flour until it becomes elastic and clings to the mixing paddle in a ball.

See? It'll be a nicely formed ball, cohesive and stretchy, but not sticky.

Pour a bit of oil into a large bowl.

Form the dough into a ball in your hands and place in the bowl, tossing once or twice to distribute the oil all around the outside.

Lightly cover the bowl and place somewhere warm.

Let the dough rise for an hour-an hour and a half, until doubled in size.

Shape the dough into balls, pinching the bottom of the dough balls. This will help them rise to their optimum shape.

Place the dough balls onto a lightly-greased pan, and let rise another 30 minutes.
Brush with a lightly-beaten egg for some shine.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 20-25 minutes. Let cool slightly before slathering with butter, dipping in soup, stuffing with meat, or simply eating warm and plain.

Recipe: Garlic and Herb Rolls

1 package (2 1/2 tsp.) yeast
1 c. milk
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
3/4 c. salt
4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten

In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast with warmed butter and milk. Add sugar, eggs, and salt. Mix until just combined. Add half the flour; mix on high for a minute until dough is sticky. Add Italian seasoning, garlic powder, pepper, and remaining flour. Beat until herbs are well incorporated. Add cheese; mix well, until dough forms a ball and pulls away from the bowl.

Place dough in a lightly-oiled bowl; cover and let rise 60-90 minutes or until doubled in size.

Form dough into balls. Let rise, covered, in a lightly-oiled pan for 30 minutes, or until risen.

Preheat oven to 350F. Brush tops of rolls with beaten egg. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Vanilla Malt Frosting

Hi there! Hope you had a great holiday! We had no snow here--I feel a bit cheated. Do you think I can get a refund on my vacation time? ;)

Here's a bit of recipe revisited. The open house for the curling club came up again, and since my Eight-Ender Stout Cake seemed so popular last year, I decided to make it again. But this time, I frosted it with vanilla malt frosting, which really brought out the boozy qualities of this dense cake!

To make the frosting, I whipped some butter and powdered sugar.

And look! I'm using a new bowl! I got a set of new mixing bowls from an Internet Secret Santa exchange I participated in. Thanks, Secret Santa!

The butter was still a bit cool. Here's a trick if your butter's not creaming and you're supposed to add liquid later in the recipe--add the liquid a bit sooner. It will help soften the butter and make it more manageable.

Malt powder will, of course, add the malty aspect to the frosting.

Whip, whip, whip.

More whipping, with the addition of more half and half.

Vanilla will make your frosting smell like the most delicious vanilla malt ever.

A pinch of salt will enhance the flavor of the frosting.

Try not to lick too much of the frosting off the beaters.

I frosted my completely cooled Eight-Ender Stout Cake.

And, to make it extra festive, I decorated it with Christmas sprinkles.

I'm secretly five years old.

But that's okay! Even a five year old would enjoy this moist, dense cake (I know mine did!) I didn't think it could get any better than with the Vanilla Bean Frosting--but I was wrong. Malt makes all the difference! Try it yourself!

Recipe: Vanilla Malt Frosting

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar
3/4 c. malt powder
1/2 c. half and half
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, cream butter until soft. Gradually add powdered sugar and malt powder until completely incorporated. Add half and half, vanilla, and salt; whip until combined and frosting is light and fluffy. Spread on cooled cake.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

I've been trying to psych myself up for making these cookies for weeks now. It's not that I didn't want to make them--it was more like I wanted to make them for Christmas, and without snow here I haven't felt festive enough to do it. Finally, I buckled down and made them--and am delighted. They were much easier than I'd built them up to be in my mind, and they're so festive that I almost forget that we still don't have snow.

To begin, soften some butter.

Measure some dark brown and white sugars. The darker the brown sugar, the better.

Next you'll need some molasses. To make things a little less sticky, spray a measuring cup with cooking spray.

The molasses will come right out.

Cream the butter and the sugars together. Then crack in an egg, and mix it in well.

Chocolate will make these cookies stand out. Grab a bar of bittersweet baking chocolate.

Break it into bits, and melt it in the microwave. Stream it into the butter/sugar mixture.

In a second bowl, measure some flour.

Add salt.

Then baking soda.

For more chocolate flavor, add cocoa powder.

Now for the gingerbread flavors. Ginger first.

Then cinnamon.
Next is my personal favorite spice, nutmeg.

And, to add some sass to your cookies, cloves.

Mix the dry ingredients together, and then add them slowly (a cup or so at a time) to the butter/sugar/chocolate mixture.

You'll get a pretty dry mixture. Pat it into a ball or two and wrap in plastic wrap. Toss in the fridge for an hour or two, to make handling easier.

When you're ready to roll out the cookies, liberally flour a clean work surface, and your rolling pin as well.

Give the dough a couple quick kneads, to compress it together. Then roll it out, as thin as you like. Some people like thinner cookies. Others like them fat and fluffy. I like mine medium--thin enough where the outsides are crisp, but the insides are still just slightly soft.

When your dough is at your ideal thickness, dip your cookie cutter in flour to prevent sticking.

Then cut straight down into your dough, trying to fit as many cookie cuts into the dough as possible. The more you roll your cookies, the tougher the cookies will be.

I like to pull the outsides of the dough away from my cookie.

Then I slide a thin spatula underneath the dough to lift the cookie off and place it on a lightly-greased baking sheet.

If your work surface is well-floured and your dough cool enough, you should have no problems moving the cut-out cookies.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes. Let them cool slightly before moving to cooling racks. Then let them cool completely before decorating.

While the cookies are cooling, you can make the frosting. Some frostings call for meringue powder. I steered clear from using that, since it's expensive and also tends to go bad in my kitchen (I don't decorate cookies often.) This recipe uses egg whites. The sugar in the frosting is a natural preservative for the frosting, so you shouldn't have to worry about the raw whites. If you don't want to use raw eggs, though, I'd look for a recipe that uses meringue powder, or just use a simple frosting of powdered sugar, water, and flavoring.

I separated three eggs. I kept the yolks and used them for something else. The whites should go in a large, clean bowl. Make sure there are NO bits of yolk in with the whites, and that your bowl is very clean and there's no grease inside.

A bit of cream of tartar will help the whites whip.

Pour in a whole bag of powdered sugar.

And, for flavor, some vanilla. If you prefer another flavor (orange or almond, for example), use that instead.

Whip the frosting for 5-8 minutes, until it's well whipped and stiff.

I transferred the frosting to a squeeze bottle. If you'd rather use piping bags, that's completely up to you.

The great thing about this frosting is that it drys quickly, and hard, so you can stack your cookies. However, you don't want it to dry while you're decorating. So cover any excess frosting with a moist towel, to keep it from drying out.

Now pipe! Pipe for all you're worth!

The other great thing about this frosting is that it's so easy to manage. And it dries in about five minutes.

Here's my favorite cookie!

With just a little effort (and some fun piping!) I've got some nice, festive holiday cookies!

Recipe: Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

3/4 c. butter, room temperature
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. molasses
1 egg
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. cocoa
1 1/2 tbsp. ginger
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Recipe: Decorating Icing
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 bag powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with brown sugar, white sugar, and molasses. Stir in egg. Stream in melted chocolate.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, cocoa, and spices. Stir until combined. Add flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture a cup at at time, stirring just until combined. Chill dough at least 1 hour.

Turn refrigerated dough onto well-floured work surface. Using a well-floured rolling pin, roll out dough to desired thickness. Cut out cookies and move to lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375F for 8-10 minutes. Let cookies cool slightly before moving to cooling racks.

In a mixing bowl, combine egg whites, cream of tartar, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Whisk on high for 5-8 minutes or until frosting is stiff and shiny. Transfer to piping bag or squeeze bottle to decorate cookies. Keep frosting covered with moist towel when not using.