Saturday, December 29, 2012

Crusty French Bread

After so many Christmas sweets and cookies, I am absolutely craving warm, hearty foods. So, let's start talking about my favorite food group. Bread. For me and Truckin' Man, Bread is it's own food group. Most days we would both pass up a cookie, if we could have some amazing bread.

Earlier this year, I started trying some recipes with yeast. I was working on learning how to work with yeast and wanted to master it. I still struggle, but have come so far this year. The bread recipe that is our favorite, comes from Joan over at Chocolate, Chocolate and more... I absolutely love her recipes. She even gave me a virtual "helping hand" while I was learning how to make bread. I will be forever grateful to her!

Making this recipe really is as easy as driving to the store, and you don't have to deal with all the crazy holiday shoppers. It even makes 2 loaves ... one his and one hers!  I hope you try it and enjoy it as much as we do!

Crusty French Bread (Source: Chocolate, Chocolate and more....) 

1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 c. warm water, divided
1 T. shortening, melted (or olive oil)

1 T. sugar
2 t. salt
4-5 c. all purpose flour


Combine yeast and 1/2 cup warm water in mixing bowl, stir until yeast is dissolved. Add sugar, shortening, remaining water and 2 cup of flour. Mix until blended, using paddle attachment on mixer. Add salt and 2 more cups of flour, mix again until combined. Add remaining flour as needed until a soft dough ball forms.

Remove paddle from mixer, and cover bowl to rise for about an hour, until doubled in size.
Remove dough from bowl onto floured surface and divide into two equal pieces.  Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

Roll each piece into a rectangle and roll from long side into a log.  Tuck ends under and place seam side down on a greased baking sheet (I use my stoneware pan) dusted with corn meal. Cover loaves with cloth and let rise again, until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place 2-3 slits in tops of loaves with a sharp knife. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden and loaf sounds hollow when thumped. Let rest for 10 minutes and serve warm.


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Friday, December 21, 2012

Almond Bark - Nut Krispies

Blizzard Draco moved through yesterday, and we survived. It was the worst snow storm I have been through in years. Of course, the benefit to being house bound was lots of time to bake! We were fortunate to not lose power even once through the storm. The winds pounded us, more than the snowfall. The deepest drift I have seen yet, was blocking my path to my chickens and must have been at least 7 foot deep. This girl is not made to handle these conditions! Thankfully, Truckin' Man stayed home during the storm, and he has everything plowed out so I can get to where I need to be! 

One of the treats I made yesterday, doesn't require baking. It's a simple recipe, and so very popular! It is always one of the fastest to disappear from the cookie plates. My bestie borrowed this recipe a month ago to make up for homeless people in the Twin Cities that they were helping during a boot drive. It was nice to know that my recipe was helping out such a great cause. In the bestie's conversations with people about this recipe, it seems so many people know this recipe, but have their own twist on the ingredients. This is how I have been making these treats, since getting the recipe almost twenty years ago. I tried messing with the ingredients once, and swore I never would again. It's as close to perfect, as I am going to get it!

Almond Bark - Nut Krispies

1 1/4 lb. almond bark
1 c. peanut butter
1 c. dry roasted peanuts
1 c. miniature marshmallows
1 1/2 c. Rice Krispies

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  In 9 x 13 pan, melt almond bark in oven for 20-25 minutes. When almond bark is completely melted and smooth, remove from oven. Mix in peanut butter. Stir well. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until everything is coated with the peanut butter mixture. 

With tablespoon, drop spoonfuls onto wax paper. (I used my medium Pampered Chef Scoop for this). If the mixture starts to set up on you, put back in the oven for 3-4 minutes to warm up the mixture. Also, if the mixture gets to "runny" towards the end, add in a sprinkle or two of the cereal or peanuts to add some consistency back to the mix.

Let set until firm. Store in airtight container.

Enjoy :)

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Bark

Oh, the weather outside is frightful and winter looks to be in full swing here!  Don't worry, it's to early for me to be complaining about snow. I really do look forward to having a white Christmas! After the snow fall today, and the system moving in tomorrow night, a White Christmas is what we will have! 

One bonus (for me) with the "bad" weather, is I am home more, with lots more time to get some baking done.  "Christmas Bark" is such a simple recipe, but it's a fun one. I think the pieces of  look so pretty on a cookie plate. Be careful with it though, just because it's simple, doesn't mean it's not addicting. With the salty sweet combo, you really can't go wrong.

Christmas Bark

16 oz. vanilla coating
2 c. pretzels (broken)
1 c. M&M's (Green and Red)
1-2 T. Christmas Sprinkles.

Line 10x15 baking sheet with wax paper.  Melt the candy coating, following package directions. 

Add pretzels and candy.  Mix well. Spread thinly on wax paper.  Sprinkle with "sprinkles".  Cool overnight. Break into pieces. 

Enjoy :)

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Spritz Cookies

Christmas is approaching way to quickly, and I have so much to do! Honestly, when the days get this short, I get so unproductive (aka lazy). I try to do better, honestly I do! My Christmas baking is as far behind as everything else. My girlfriend and I teamed up the other night for a cookie baking session. We had so much fun, and got so much accomplished! If the weather stays decent, I am probably going to her house next week for a second bake-off. 

The most challenging cookie we tackled the other night was the spritz. Laura had complained that her spritz never turn out, I swear by my spritz. The recipe I rely on is out of my 1977 Betty Crocker Cooky Book. This recipe has never failed me.
Well..... Somewhere in one of my many moves, I lost a crucial part to my spritz maker. Fortunately, we had three cookie press's total, so we tried making our own press by substituting parts from others. Let me tell you right now, that does NOT work. No matter how many times you try. Apparently, each part is designed to work only with the set it is sold with. It may "fit" nicely into the other machines, but a nice cookie will not be formed. Unless you like Christmas tree's with spikes on them, then you would be super impressed!
 In the end, we ended up using the oldest press of all, the original non-electric hand twist style. 

How cool is this? My friend used the star blade to make candy cane shaped cookies!
I had never seen this shape before!


Spritz (Source: Betty Crocker)

1 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 t. salt
1 t. almond extract
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
Food Coloring (optional)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix butter, sugar, egg, salt and extract thoroughly.  Add flour and mix thoroughly.  If you are going to use food coloring, mix it into the dough at this time.  Using 1/4 to 1/2 of dough at time, force dough through the cooky press onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 6 to 9 minutes, or until set, but not brown. 

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Pumpkin Roll Bars

Once fall arrives and we start having all the yummy fall flavors, I wish that I would treat us to them more often year round. This year, I made my own pumpkin puree, maybe that will spread the flavor through the year more? It really was so simple to make the puree, I will be doing that again!

Of course, after doing all that work making the puree, I wanted to try it, but on what? There were so many other desserts being shared for Thanksgiving, and we can only eat so much! After bringing home some office leftovers of a pumpkin roll, and Truckin' Man going crazy over that, I knew what direction I was going to head for a recipe. Pumpkin Roll Bars, I had just read about them over at The Recipe Critic.  Even though a pumpkin roll is easy (or so I am told), these were so simple. And they were sooo good! Pumpkiny goodness, with a cream cheese layer baked in, what more could you ask for? Of course, Truckin' Man loved them. He had a lot of driving to do last week, so I packed up a bunch for him to take with him.

Pumpkin Roll Bars (Source: The Recipe Critic)

6 T. unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar

2 large eggs
1 15 oz. can pumpkin or 15 oz of fresh pumpkin puree

1 t. vanilla 
1/4 c. water
2 c. all purpose flour
2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

Cream Cheese Filling
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a bowl, with electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until smooth. Beat in 2 eggs, pumpkin, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and water until well blended. In a separate bowl, mix flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and combine until well blended. Spread 2/3 of the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

In another bowl, beat cream cheese, 1 egg, 1/4 cup sugar, and ½ teaspoon of vanilla until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over the pumpkin batter. Dollop the remaining pumpkin batter over the cream cheese batter and spread out as evenly as possible. With a  knife, swirl together the cream cheese and top layer of pumpkin batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the center of the pumpkin batter springs back when touched. Cool completely in pan, then cut into bars.

Enjoy :) 

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