Making Baking Easier 

When most of your cooking / baking takes place on the weekends, which mine always do, anything you can do to make it easier goes a long way towards motivation. So this is something I learned from my mom. Ever Christmas my mom would make loaves and loaves of banana nut bread – it was like an assembly line. She was only slightly famous for her banana nut bread. Everyone wanted to be on the list. It wasn’t Christmas without her banana nut bread and I still make it every year since I finally got it right. Lord, that took a few years because the temperature has to change during the baking process, but I never had the timing or the temperature. Thanks mom. Can’t really blame her, I think this recipe was in her blood in a certain way. Once I figured it out, I would take it to Fred and he was happy. And it is just something I need at Christmas, but sometimes I make it in the summer because it has been six months since I’ve had it last. Guess that means it is time to make one this summer. DD_0206

Okay, back to making baking easier – my mom would always prep her dry ingredients ahead of time. Then all you had to do the day baking is get your butter and eggs out and it is super quick to mix everything up and boom! you are done.

So by Thursday night I like to have my plans for the weekend baking finalized and then measure out all my dry ingredients and put them in zip top bags to make the weekend baking easier. And once it is easier bake, it makes motivation happen. To be honest this also makes weeknight baking, when I’m in the mood, easier to just put something together to make me, The Boy, and the test kitchen happy.

I think my office and students would prefer to be called my test kitchen rather than my guinea pigs.  But I also want my friends to challenge me to try new things. 

So this is what I do on a Thursday night … get ready for my baking weekend. Yep.D&D_1950

It really works and makes life so much easier. Thanks mom!

Butter / Egg Usage – December 2016

December started out for me on the 16th. This does not a good month of cooking/baking make. I mean it is December after all, but sometimes after Thanksgiving, you just do the best that you can do. Sad, but true. That and my dishwasher died – serious impediment to doing anything in the kitchen. It is surprising how much so.

dd_1692

Southern Toffee

16 December 2016 – 12 Tbs / 2 eggs – Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bars

18 December 2016 – 24 Tbs – Southern Toffee 

22 December 2016 – 2 eggs – M&M Cookies

26 December 2016 – 8 Tbs unsalted butter- Chex Mix

26 December 2016 – 16 Tbs / 2 eggs – Sugar Cookies

26 December 2016 – 4 Tbs – Real Macaroni and Cheese

27 December 2016 – 2 Tbs – Sautéed Apples

30 December 2016 – 12 Tbs – Pecan Chocolate Toffee Shortbread Cook’s Country

30 December 2016 – 5 1/3 Tbs – Sausage Cheddar Scallion Biscuit Bread
Eggs = 6

Butter = 83.3 Tbs = 10.4125 sticks – 41.65 ozs – 2.603 pounds.

Eggs = 2 +2 +2 +6 – math is involved. = 12 large eggs.

 

 




Pecan Pie Cookies

It is a well-known fact that I will try any kind of “pecan pie” anything. Pecan pie muffins – so there. Pecan pie cookies, hell, even pecan sandies ^ of all sorts of varieties. I just cannot help myself. I am not a huge ice cream person, but the one thing in the ice cream world I do love is butter pecan ice cream, as long as the pecans have a bit of salt on them. dd_1798

If I were not so cheap, I would buy an ice cream machine and figure out how to make the best butter pecan ice cream, but then I might just end up being as big as a house and that serves one well in the grand scheme of things.

So here we have a new pecan pie cookie. One I really like. I also make my pecan pie muffins the same week – do we see a theme? Yep.

1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 (12 Tbs) cup unsalted butter, softened
1  large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Filling
1 cup chopped pecans (Renfroes *)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350°F. Combine all cookie ingredients except flour and baking powder in bowl. Beat at medium speed until creamy. Sift together flour,  baking powder, and salt and beat in at low speed until well mixed. Chill 2 hours.

Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Make indentation in each cookie with a measuring teaspoon; rotate to hollow out slightly

Combine all filling ingredients in bowl; fill each cookie with 1 rounded teaspoon filling. Bake 8-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to cooling rack.

Source: Modified from Land o’ Lakes

* Having local fresh pecans is just an absolute joy. I guess simple things make me happy.

^Make these. No really, do this.

Almost Cowboy Cookies

Yet again another cookie that I never had a child (see: Snickerdoodles). I knew these were sold at the Publix when I was a kid, but we never bought any of them. I think, to me, they were a bit of a mash-up cookie – too many things involved. They are a little bit chocolate chip cookie, a little bit oatmeal pecan cookie and then you add coconut into the mix. Strikes me as strange – but I understand a lot of people really like them. I am so not digging the coconut, so we will try without it this time. I guess that means I need to call them something other than Cowboy Cookies, but I’m not sure what – well, Almost Cowboy Cookies seems to work.dd_1770

I guess the thing that sets me off is I really (no, REALLY!) do not like chocolate with oatmeal. There is nothing worse that thinking you have got a straight up old-fashioned oatmeal raisin cookie and find out – the hard way – Ugh – that it is oatmeal and chocolate chips. Every feeling revolts.

But I guess if going into this you know what you are dealing with it will decrease the amount of shock when you taste the cookie. And apparently, lots of people like this kind of cookie – if they did not the Publix would not sell them. That is a fact.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
6 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
6 Tbs sugar
6 Tbs brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans (Renfroes)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until smooth and then add sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add flour mixture and beat to just incorporate. Stir in oats, chocolate, and pecans. Form dough into 24 balls and bake 12 at a time for 16 – 18 minutes rotating the baking pan half way through. Cool on baking sheet for a minute and the cool on a wire rack. Let baking pan cool and do the whole thing over again.

Makes 24 cookies (that should really be obvious).

Source: modified from Saveur

16 Sept 12 – v.g.

7 January 17 –  indeed, v.g.

2015 Mushroom Pate

Pecan Toffee Shortbread – Cook’s Country

I have a thing about shortbread. It really is kind of magical. I think it is the butter that makes it so good – a shortbread is a butter cookie after all. I do love a recipe that you can mix a day or two ahead and then bake it at your leisure. They say “marry in haste and repent in leisure.” Cookies are not that way – leisure can totally fit into the picture and I think cookies that sit in the fridge for a day or so are always better – when you have the time, that is. They can be convenient if you plan a little ahead,  which I always (almost always) do – because that is just me. I made this recipe the first time in 2009 and I thought it was good, but I think I may need to make improvements to this recipe – see my notes below.dd_1763

I am not a fan of a dough you have to roll out. I think that tells you lots about me. I am lazy-ish mostly – even in baking. Sigh.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
12 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup finely chopped pecans – Renroes, of course.
1/2 cup toffee bits
Confectioners’ sugar*

Sift together flour, cornstarch, and salt over a piece of waxed paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter, both sugars, and vanilla until smooth. Add flour mixture, chocolate, pecans and toffee. Wrap dough in plastic and chill for an hour or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On floured surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters, re-rolling as necessary. Place cookies 1 inch apart and bake until edges are golden brown, about 12 – 14 minutes, rotating half way through. Cool 10 minutes on baking sheet. Sift confectioners’ sugar over to serve. 

Notes:
This is a good recipe, but somehow it just has too much stuff in it to be a shortbread. It is a bit of a pain to roll out – mini chips, toffee, pecans (and I did make them small). I tried to make it simple, but I also wonder if I could not make the same cookie and then roll it into a log and slice and bake – yes, the lazy is coming right back. I do not like rolling out dough, sugar cookies being the exception (and there are several examples of that). I do the same thing with cheese crackers – just give me a slice and bake and I am a very happy girl.

*I kind of skipped the confectioners’ sugar for this and went for sanding sugar. Confectioners’ sugar sort of disappears after a bit (read: very short period of time), but I do like sanding sugar, and since I have been making sugar cookies recently, it was what was in my mind and I thought it worked well.

2015 – Two years ago – Sweet Tomato Chutney

Mini Cheese Ball Bites

So this was a new appetizer for Thanksgiving  but for me it plays into my holiday thing. Holidays call for cheese balls – yes, they do, because I used to make a cheese ball when I was all of 12 years-old for our Christmas smorgasbord – my name for our Christmas Eve feast thing. I have tried to advance my cheese ball experience to go way beyond my immature 12 year-old self. I mean dried beef was involved.* Ugh.  But now that I think about it – what would it be like to try that recipe several decades later? Would it be good or would the food snob in me completely revolt. I am not sure and little scared to try to be honest. I still have that recipe, so who knows what might happen.

This recipe has lots of my favorite flavors: bleu cheese, cranberries, pecans. Those flavors are holidays to me. Especially with our local pecans, just harvested this fall – they are so sweet and totally set off the saltiness of the bleu cheese. Also, I am hard pressed to ever turn down a dried cranberry. [See: Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies]dd_1693

I do love that the base of this can be made ahead – the cream cheese, bleu cheese, cranberry part. Then the day of, make the mini cheese bites, roll in top quality local pecans and add that little pretzel skewer. Excellent. This will also make this recipe in a regular sized cheese ball to go with bread or crackers. May have to do this for the next pot luck at work. We shall see.

8 ozs cream cheese, room temperature
4 ozs bleu cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup dried cranberries, finely minced
1 1/2 cup pecans, minced
pretzel sticks

In a bowl, mix together bleu cheese and cream cheese until smooth. Mix in cranberries. Refrigerate until firm. Using a spoon, scoop into tablespoon sized balls. Refrigerate again until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast pecan pieces in oven for 7 – 10 minutes, until fragrant. Allow pecans to cool. Roll chilled cheese balls in pecans. Keep balls refrigerated.

Just before serving, skewer each cheese ball with a pretzel stick. 

Do Ahead: Make the cream cheese, bleu cheese, cranberry mixture and cover, and refrigerate. When ready to serve, toast the pecans, roll the cheese balls in them, and add the pretzel sticks.

* Here it is for posterity’s sake.

8 ozs  cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar, room temperature
3 Tbs well-drained horseradish
1/4 cup finely chopped dried beef

Combine cream cheese, cheddar, horseradish until well blended. Make into a ball and chill. Roll in dried beef until covered. Chill several hours. Let sit at room temperature before serving. Serve with Triscuits or whatever crackers you like, but when I was 12, Triscuits is what I did. And everyone else did too.

2016 – A Year Ago – Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms

 

Butter / Egg Usage – November 2016

4 November 2016 –  Walnut Tartlets – 16 Tbs (8 for crust / 8 for filling) / 1 large egg

4 November 2016 – Sour Cream Pecan Sandies – 8 Tbs / 1 large egg

4 November 2016 – Keebler’s Pecan Sandies – 8 Tbs / 1 large egg

12 November 2016 – Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes – 1 large eggdd_1645

13 November 2016 – Parmesan Walnut Crackers –  8 Tbs

18 November 2016 – Nut Tassie Dough – 16 Tbs

18 November 2016 – Lemon White Chocolate Chip Cookies – 16 Tbs / 2 large eggs

23 November 2016 – Cornbread for Dressing, two pans – 2 eggs

23 November 2016 – Sugar Cookies with Hershey’s Kiss – 8 Tbs / 1 large egg

23 November 2016 – Butter Crust – 5  1/3 Tbs butter

23 November 2016 – Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie – 4 Tbs / 6 large eggs (yolks only)

23 November 2016 – Sunday Sweet Potatoes – 5 1/3 Tbs / 2 large eggs / 4 Tbs

24 November 2016 – Cornbread Dressing – 3 Tbs / 2 large eggs

25 November 2016 – Lemon Bars – 8 Tbs / 5 large eggs

 

114.9 Tbs butter = 14.3625 sticks = 57.45 ozs = 3.59 pounds

7 eggs