baking

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Blueberry Scones

Published September 2, 2014 by jenmatteson

I’ve been on a bit of a berry kick lately, and unfortunately, my eyes were bigger than my berry hungry stomach. Get it!? Of course, the best price for berries is Costco, where you get a crap-ton (yes, it’s a scientific measurement) for the same price your local grocery sells those teeny tiny cartons. So, while it’s a better bang for your buck, it’s quite a bit of berries to eat for two people. Not to mention that I eat mostly blueberries – what we have the most of – and Nate exclusively eats raspberries (which, yes, I prefer, but are SO much more expensive).

Blueberry Scones

We were heading out of town for the 4th of July weekend, so I knew if we didn’t eat them up, they’d go bad. I decided to make something we could take with us for the weekend, so I whipped up these beautiful blueberry scones.

I may or may not (mostly may) have been making a handful of other things at the same time, so I overlooked the fact that there is lemon zest in these. Whoops! They still taste awesome, but I wished I remembered because they would have had just a little more pop! The scones are flakey and light, and not too sweet. A perfect little breakfast snack – a great idea to bring to share at work or any brunch gathering!

Blueberry Scones

Blueberry Scones

Source: Adapted from Marth Stewart
Servings: 8

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, picked over and rinsed
1 tsp lemon zest
1/3 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing tops
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together flour, 3 tbsp. sugar, baking powder and salt. Add butter and pulse until the largest pieces are the size of peas. Transfer to mixing bowl and stir in blueberries and zest.

3. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together heavy cream and eggs. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in egg mixture. Lightly stir with fork until dough just comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few times to mix well.

4. Pat dough into a 6-inch square about 1 1/4 inches thick. Using a floured knife, cut into four 3-inch squares, then cut squares in half on the diagonal to form eight triangles. Transfer to prepared baking sheet, brush tops with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

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Croissants

Published May 12, 2013 by jenmatteson

I have really been putting these off because I knew how time-consuming they would be.  But, I’m really running out of time to get my 30 Before 30 list done, so I had to bite the bullet and go for it.  It was actually a good weekend to make these because it was slightly chilly, and ridiculously windy.

Croissants

I was home alone on Friday night, and whilst making enchilada sauce, cilantro pesto and prepping my veggies for the week, I thought it’d be a good idea to start the dough for the croissants.  I’d just spent the afternoon at my parents house, relaxing by the fire with a cocktail, and then stopped at the grocery store on the way home.  I got in my comfies, cleaned up the kitchen (of course only so I could get it dirty again), and opened up Baking with Julia to start the croissant dough.  Like a good girl, I had already read through the entire recipe (and it’s LONG), so I knew what to expect.  I knew I could let the dough do its second rise overnight in the fridge, so I wanted to get to that point. Well, guess what?  I didn’t get any compressed yeast at the store, which was the first GD thing on the ingredient list.  Seeing as though I was already in my comfies and had a glass of wine poured, I decided not to go to the store again.  Plus, I wasn’t even sure my store would carry compressed yeast (I’ve never bought it before), so I didn’t want to take the chance of running out to grab some, and coming back empty-handed.  What a waste of time.

Layered Croissant Dough

Croissants

Instead, I Googled a recipe for croissants using dry active yeast seeing as though that was what I had on hand.  First recipe to come up: Martha Stewart’s.  Now, she may be a thieving felon, but damn, that woman knows her way around a kitchen…and a home.  I would absolutely love to live with her for a week.  Okay, a month.  Minimum.  Though I know Momma Marsha was counting on me to make Julia Child’s croissant recipe (from the cookbook I borrowed from her), I went with Martha’s, purely for convenience.

Croissants

Convenience is the farthest thing from making croissants, which I knew going into this from Momma Marsha.  While making them, I thought, I don’t think I would ever make them again unless I wanted to punish myself.  I didn’t at all think it was hard, but it really is time-consuming.  I started the dough on Friday night and finished late late on Saturday night.Everything seemed to be going swimmingly, until I got to the baking part.  The bottoms of the croissants completely burned.  The tops looked pretty, tasted buttery and were ultra flakey, but the bottoms were far from elegant.  I’m thinking maybe I let them rise in too warm of a place and the butter melted before putting them in the oven.  That being said, I might attempt these one more time (not any time soon) so I can get a better result.

Croissants

Croissants

Source: Martha Stewart
Servings: 16 croissants

Ingrdients:

1/3 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1 tbsp sugar, divided
1 tbsp salt
1 1/3 cups warm milk (110 to 115 degrees)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
2 tbsp olive oil
3 1/2 sticks (14 oz) chilled unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
2 tbsp heavy cream

Directions:

1. In a liquid measuring cup, combine water, yeast and 1 tsp sugar.  Allow to proof for 5 minutes.  In another measuring cup, combine remaining 2 tsp sugar, salt and warm milk.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour.  Add yeast mixture, milk mixture and oil.  Blend everything together by cutting and pressing with a rubber spatula, incorporating all flour.  The dough will be wet.

3. On a well floured work surface, turn the dough out and let rest for 3 minutes to allow the flour to absorb some of the liquid.  Start kneading by lifting edges and flipping over onto the other side.  Continue movement, turning from one side to the other, end over end until dough is smooth and draws back to shape when pressed out, about 8-10 times.  Do not over-knead.

4. Transfer dough to clean bowl.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.  Punch down and turn out onto lightly floured work surface.  Using floured hands, push dough into 12-inch by 10-inch rectangle.  Fold dough in three, like a business letter, and transfer to a lightly floured baking sheet or plate.  Cover with plastic wrap and set in warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.  You could also let it rise overnight in the fridge.

5. Punch down the dough, cover with plastic, and return to refrigerator for 20 minutes.  This will allow the gluten to relax, making it easier to roll out.

6. Place butter on a lightly floured work surface and beat with rolling-pin to soften.  Smear butter out with the heel of your hand so it’s spreadable consistency, but still cold.  Refrigerate if it becomes soft and oily.

7. Place dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll out into 18 by 10-inch rectangle.  Facing the rectangle, lengthwise, spread the butter as evenly as possible on the upper two-thirds of the rectangle, leaving a 1/4 inch border.  Fold the bottom, unbuttered, third of the dough up to the middle.  Fold top third down to cover it.

8. Lightly flour the top of the dough and the work surface.  Turn the dough so the edge of the top flap is to your right.  Roll dough out into 18 by 8-inch rectangle.  Move quickly, starting within one inch of the end near you moving to within one inch of the far end.  Fold dough in thirds as before.  Wrap in plastic and return to fridge for 1 hour.

9. Remove dough from refrigerator and sprinkle with flour and deflate dough by tapping lightly with rolling-pin.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 8 minutes, to relax gluten, if necessary.  Repeat rolling and folding process, as above, twice more.  If butter has hardened and congealed into flakes, beat the dough with light firm taps, from one side to the other, until butter has softened.  It must be able to stretch the length of the dough and width of the rectangle inside the dough as your roll it out until it has softened.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight.  If refrigerating overnight, cover with board and 5 pound weight.  Resting overnight will facilitate shaping.

10. Place chilled dough on lightly floured surface.  Deflate dough.  Roll dough out to 25 by 12-inch rectangle.  Cut in half, lengthwise.  Return one half of the dough to the refrigerator.  Cut the other half into triangles with a 5-inch base.  One half should make about 8 triangles.

11. Roll the triangles out to enlarge slightly.  Roll toward the tip, creating tension by using your other hand to stretch the top of the triangle away from you.  The dough should overlap 3 times, with the tip sticking out from underneath.

12. Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet, about 2-inches apart, curving inward, creating a crescent shape.  Cover with lightly with plastic.  Repeat with second piece of dough.  Let stand in a warm place very spongy and doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

13. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and heavy cream.  Lightly brush over the tops of the croissants.  Open oven door and spritz heavily with water from a spray bottle and quickly close the door.  Place croissants in oven and spray the bottom of the oven with water once more.  Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 15 minutes, turning after 10 minutes to ensure even baking.  Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees and continue to bake until cooked through, about 5 more minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Tomato Basil Bread: Panera Copycat

Published February 10, 2013 by jenmatteson

I have been eyeing a KitchenAid stand mixer for a few months now.  When they first came out – okay, when they first came out again a few years back – I wasn’t buying into all the hype.  But I also didn’t cook and bake nearly as much as I do now.  I was completely satisfied with my hand mixer – seriously.

Tomato Basil Bread

Nate and I moved in together in the summer of 2011, which meant the marrying of our stuff.  He had an old Krups stand mixer that was a hand-me-down from Mama Marsha.  I’m quite sure he never used it.  But, I made some really good use out of it over the last year and half.  Here’s what it looks like:

My low powered stand mixer

Once I started baking a little more, I realized that it didn’t have quite as much power as I thought it should – it couldn’t handle large bread doughs and thick cookie doughs.  Finally, I came to the conclusion that I should invest in a new stand mixer for myself (I rarely spend a lot of money on anything, let alone kitchen gadgets – unless you count my awesome fridge!).  Like almost any large purchase I make, I did a lot of research before making a decision on what I wanted.  From what I found, the new Cuisinart and KitchenAid were fairly similar. Part of the reason I went with the majority and wanted the KitchenAid was because Mama Marsha had one, so we could swap attachments.

Just last week, I got my 20% off one item coupon for Bed, Bath, and Beyond, plus I saw that KitchenAid had a $30 mail-in rebate, which made the $350 Artisan Series $250 – a $100 savings!  I immediately told Nate that I was going to get it, to which he responded, “no”.  After a conversation, he said he didn’t think it was money we needed to be spending now, which I understand, but was sort of annoyed as I rarely buy myself anything, I’ve wanted this for a while, and I had the patience to wait until I could get it $100 less than regular price.  But, I agreed, and begrudgingly decided not to buy it. 😦

Turns out, his parents had purchased one for us for his birthday/our Valentine’s Day gift.  I found out the next day.  I was so surprised and super excited to start using it.  Mama Marsha said it wasn’t the Artisan Series, which I didn’t really mind – as far as I know, the only difference is the Artisan has more power and a larger work bowl.  Anything was an upgrade from what I’d been using!  Here is my new baby:

My new KitchenAid stand mixer!

I knew the first thing I wanted to make was bread – my sworn enemy.  I had recently had lunch at Panera Bread, and I have always loved the tomato basil bread.  I get it on any sandwich I order.  It’s so light but packs so much flavor!  After a quick Google search, I found quite a few copycat recipes.  I’m not sure why, but I settled on a recipe from The Keenan Cookbook.  It was a fantastic choice on my part, because this bread turned out so tasty!  It was hard to be in the kitchen while this was baking.  The tomato and basil combo smelled heavenly, which is exactly how the bread tasted.  Someday, I’ll master this bread thing…but I think this is a great start!

Tomato Basil Bread

Tomato Basil Bread

Source: Adapted from The Keenan Cookbook
Servings: 1 loaf

Ingredients:

2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
3/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2 1/2 – 2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook, dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add basil, parmesan, tomato paste, sugar, olive oil, salt and crushed red pepper.  Gently stir until ingredients are combined.  Add 2 cups flour and start mixer.  Once dough begins to come together, add an additional 1/2 cup flour.  Add additional flour if needed to form a stiff dough.  Continue kneading dough for 1-2 minutes in mixer, or by hand for 3-5 minutes.

2. Transfer dough to greased bowl, turning once to cover all sides of dough with oil.  Cover with damp cloth and let rise until doubled in size, about one hour, in a warm place.

3. Punch dough down and knead for 1 minute.  Shape into a round loaf and transfer to a greased baking sheet.  Cover and let rise for another hour.

4. With a sharp knife, cut a large “x” into the top of the loaf.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Published February 10, 2013 by jenmatteson

Let me start by saying Nate doesn’t like carrot cake.  There aren’t many things he doesn’t like, but unless I see him eat it and then he says he doesn’t like, I don’t believe him.  Knowing that he doesn’t like carrot cake, I wasn’t really planning on making it, however, I had some cream cheese frosting left over from my red velvet cupcakes that I wanted to use up.  I decided that I’d make carrot cake, and seeing as though Nate “doesn’t like” carrot cake, I’d make cupcakes, so they are easy to bring into work, rather than a whole giant cake.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I didn’t have a recipe in mind before I started, so I headed over to Prevention RD, on of my faves, to see if Nicole had any recipes.  What do you know?  She did!  Even better, she had a lightened up version of the cake.  Score!  I’ve had this huge tub of fat-free plain yogurt in my fridge for a few weeks, which I bought on accident.  I was meaning to buy plain yogurt, which I almost never buy non-Greek style, for perfectly flakey buttery pie crust.  I didn’t want to use the fat-free for the pie crust, as it was for an event I was doing, and didn’t want to take any risks.  I decided to cut the butter in the recipe with the yogurt.  There isn’t a lot of butter, but at least it’s a start on making a dent in that vat of yogurt!  When you are substituting yogurt for butter in baking, you need to use half the original amount of butter, and half the amount of yogurt as butter.  So for example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup butter, you would use 1/2 cup butter, and 1/4 cup yogurt.  Nicole’s recipe called for 6 tbsp butter, so I used 3 tbsp butter, and 1 1/2 tbsp yogurt.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

The result was great!  The cakes were moist and fluffy, with a rich sinful flavor.  The frosting was really unnecessary, but I used what I had left anyway, because although frosting isn’t “necessary”, it’s still delicious!  Even better, Nate said they were “really good”.  This is why I never believe him when he says he doesn’t like something…what does he know?

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Source: Adapted from Prevention RD
Servings: 52 mini cupcakes

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups grated carrots (about 5 carrots)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 tbsp fat-free plain yogurt*
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
*you can substitute the yogurt for 3 more tbsp of butter

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add grated carrots to flour mixture, and toss to combine.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine sugars, butter and yogurt.  Beat at medium speed until well combined.  Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla extract.  Add flour and buttermilk while mixing, alternating between the two, starting and ending with flour.   mixture.  Continue to mix until all ingredients are well combined.

3. Prepare a mini cupcake tin with cooking spray (or cupcake wrappers).  Spoon 1 tbsp batter into each cup.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack to cool.

4. Top with cream cheese frosting, if desired.

Fennel Whipped Potatoes

Published November 21, 2012 by jenmatteson

A little less than a month ago, we had a gala for the local chamber that I am a part of.  This year, I was the co-chair of the gala planning committee.  One of the great perks of this role is do a menu tasting and pick out what we want to serve at the event.  The best thing I tasted that day was fennel whipped potatoes, which oddly enough, ended up on the gala menu 😉  I was looking forward to the day of the gala for weeks, just thinking about getting to eat those potatoes again.  Sadly, they weren’t as good as the first time 😦

But, the good news is that I have the capability to make them myself.  So I did, for our friend’s Thanksgiving over the weekend.  I changed up the recipe a bit, as I couldn’t bear to not have butter in my potatoes on Thanksgiving (maybe when it’s just Nate and I, I’ll try the olive oil).  Also, I ended up making more than 4 lbs of potatoes (someone told me it didn’t look like enough – and now we’ll be eating potatoes until they’re coming out our eyeballs!), probably more like 8 lbs.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have any more fennel bulbs than what the recipe called for, so while I could taste the fennel, there wasn’t quite enough for my potato addition.  These were still fun to try for a new spin on Thanksgiving, plus I got to use my new (very old, new to me) potato ricer (thanks, Mom!)  Boy, were my arms hurting after ricing 8 lbs of potatoes 😦  These potatoes were so fluffly and light, I can’t wait to make them again!

Fennel Whipped Potatoes

Source: Adapted from Food and Wine
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
salt
3 medium fennel bulbs, halved lengthwise, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 cup half and half
8 tbsp unsalted butter
freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

1. In a large pot, cover potatoes with water, add salt, and bring to a boil.  Cook potatoes over moderately high heat until fork-tender, about 25 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, set a steamer basket in a large saucepan with 1/2-inch boiling water.  Add fennel, cover and steam over moderate heat until tender, about 12 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Transfer fennel to food processor or blender.  Add half and half and puree.

3. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot.  Shake potatoes over high heat until thoroughly dry.  Working over a large bowl, mash the potatoes through a ricer.  Using a hand mixer, whip potatoes and add in butter and fennel puree.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bacon Blues?

Published July 7, 2012 by jenmatteson

Who doesn’t love bacon?  Seriously.  I generally try to eat healthy, but there are some things that are just better with bacon.  There really is no substitute.  Have you ever tried turkey bacon?  If not, don’t bother.  It really doesn’t even come close to bacon as a substitute.

One thing that isn’t so awesome about bacon is that it splatters grease everywhere when you fry it; it gets all over your stove top, countertops, sometimes even on you.  I hate frying bacon.  But a great way to cook it without the hassle is in the oven.  If you place the bacon strips on a wire rack with a baking sheet underneath and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until it reaches desired crispness.  Viola!  Less mess, less grease, and perfectly cooked, crisp bacon.

Another thing that is not always so great about bacon is the way it’s packaged.  If we are eating bacon, we are eating maybe 4-6 slices at a time.  Well, have you ever tried to take just a few slices off a slab of frozen bacon?  You really can’t without destroying the bacon slices, or completely unthawing the entire slab.  If you take an extra 5 minutes when you get your bacon home from the grocery store to separate and freeze the strips, then you’ll be able to grab just one or two slices at a time when you’re ready to use.

Line a baking sheet with wax paper.  Lay strips of bacon in a single layer on wax paper and freeze.

Once bacon is frozen, about one hour, you can just peel each strip off the wax paper, throw in a gallon sized zip-top bag, and boom!  Bacon at your fingertips in an instant.

What’s your best time-saving tip in the kitchen?

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