Overnight French Toast

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Waking up to breakfast smells is probably one of the best ways to wake up. I don’t have a personal breakfast chef, so if I want breakfast at home, then it’s up to me. Overnight oats are terrible lie of a breakfast, but overnight French Toast (which is really just a lightened up bread pudding with a lot of cinnamon and nutmeg) is a fantastic alarm clock for your olfactory system.

Enjoy a scoop with some greek yogurt and maple syrup and you’re pretty golden.

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No hard and fast recipe:
Half a loaf of old bread, sliced.
Whole Milk
A little bit of sugar.
2-4 eggs. I probably settled in the middle at 3. Also a good way to use up yolks.
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
Vanilla extract if you want it.

Heat the milk and sugar up, temper the eggs and add to the milk & sugar. Toss in vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg.

Butter/oil up a baking dish. Layer the bread slices.

Pour milk and egg mixture over bread slices. Cover, let soak overnight.

If you don’t have an oven that you can program to bake at set times, sorry, you’ll have to wake up in order to bake this. Otherwise bake it at 325-350 for an hour before you want to get up. Take off the foil 20-ish minutes at the end of baking to firm up the top.

Cream Cheese Cut Out Cookies

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It’s starting to snow, so today seems like the perfect time to share my Breaking Bad snowmen from Christmas. The mister saw me icing the top hats and thought they bore a striking resemblance to the pork pie hats Heisenburg wore in Breaking Bad and requested some custom cookies on the fly.

I think I have found a new form of expression – royal icing on cookies. My kind of art – edible and not too serious. I’m not usually a fan of cut out cookies. I usually find their flavor to be lacking for the amount of effort involved. Mix the dough, chill the dough, clear off a counter, roll the dough out, cut the cookies out and hope they don’t break or morph while transferring them to the sheet, re-roll and repeat until dough is gone. Hope cookies keep shape and don’t brown while baking, cool, make frosting, decorate, let dry. So much work for what isn’t much flavor other than carb and sugar. A drop cookie is usually so much more satisfying!

But a friend made cut out cookies using this recipe for Cream Cheese Cutouts from Taste of Home, and I liked them enough to endure the process of sugar cookie baking.

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I baked them and froze the baked cookies a few days before I needed them, to make the process easier on myself. I find it so much more relaxing to prep and bake stuff ahead of time and have “fun” assembling and decorating at a later date. Plus it seems like less dishes. I know it’s the same number of dishes, but it’s less at once.

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These are my sugar goth children. Black powder coloring for this. Oh, and by Royal icing, I mean I used water and powdered sugar until it was viscous, then let it dry. I also used some of the buttercream from the recipe, but the royal icing was more fun to play with and came out easier.

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Oh, shooting stars! All nice and red, white, and black. It’s a vaguely goth Christmas in my house.

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Bite sized cookies. These would be perfect for a tea party. The nice thing about these cream cheese cut outs was that they didn’t brown in the oven while still baking up firm and not soggy. Any way, I like food I can paint on. This was fun.

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The cream cheese cutouts provided a nice base layer to the tiered cookie platter. Vegan toffee on top, pumpkin gingersnaps and chocolate chip cookies in the middle, and cream cheese cutouts on the bottom. It’s not the holidays in my house without a side of possible diabetes.

Cream Cheese Cutouts
8 oz butter3 oz cream cheese
7 oz sugar
1/4 t salt
1 egg
1 t vanilla extract
10.625 oz all purpose flour (I used King Arthur)

Cream together butter, cream cheese, sugar, salt until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract & mix. Add flour.
Chill a few hours in the fridge.
Roll out, cut, and bake at 375F 7-10 minutes.

Oatmeal Toasting Sandwich Loaf (All Bread Flour)

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Breadku:

This is tasty bread
What I wanted homemade bread
to be as a child

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Homemade bread was always great as a kid for the first hour or two out of the oven, until it turned into a hard, grainy and dry loaf later on. But these were the dark ages. Days without internet feedback with trial and error, and documented recipe nuances. I recently had a flashback of this when I tried some bread made in a bread machine at a demo, with that familiar toughness and dryness. The kind that leads to cotton mouth and easily gives way to crumbs.
This oatmeal toasting/sandwich bread from King Arthur Flour is what I always wanted in a homemade loaf of bread. It turned out wonderfully. It uses all bread flour, and a hearty cup of oats. The bread stays soft after you cut it. All hand kneaded and baked over here. I remain skeptical of a bread machine’s ability to put out a decent loaf of bread, even sandwich bread.

Half of this loaf went to a dear friend. The rest I sliced up for ease of consumption (while the Mr cringes at my knife skills, I still remain the only one in our household who is able to slice an even slice of bread from a loaf). It retained moisture overnight and made for both good toast and sandwich bread the next day. Even pre-cut it retained moisture and pliancy. Consider this a sandwich bread we’ll keep on rotation in our kitchen.

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I tweaked the recipe ever so slightly, using 1 T molasses and 1.5 T sugar in place of the 3 T sugar, and approximately 2.5-2.75 C of bread flour in total (2 mixed in initially, the remainder added during hand kneading).  Butter slathered on top for a nice and soft loaf overall. Seriously, that interior was nicely springy and soft.

The Cookie Experiment

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I don’t know about you, but I like a little science with my cookies.  I was curious to see how I liked my cookies baked: At a higher or lower temperature? I baked some cookies at 350F and 325F.

Chewy Dough Label

I started off with some soft batch cookie dough (you swap out 2 T or so of cornstarch for flour in a given recipe to make them soft batch). Refrigerated for a day, and ready to bake.

Chewy Dough

Hmm, someone’s been eating my cookie dough. Par for the course in Albany Jane’s house.

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I also picked up a small cookie scoop and was curious/skeptical of its portioning abilities. Turns out it’s great and man do I ever love it. The cookie above on the left was scooped out with the scooper, the one on the right I scooped out by hand. The right has a little more character, and the one of the left is pretty damn uniform.

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Good amount of scooping size consistency, too. Any way, the cookies above were baked at 350F. They had crisp edges and soft, gooey interiors. My kind of cookie. Mmm.

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Then I let them go 2 minutes longer at 325F.

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OH NOES I DON’T LIKE THIS COOKIE. The cookies cooked at a lower temperature but for a bit longer wound up puffier and less chewy and gooey. If that’s your thing then, well, bake ’em at a lower temperature for a little longer. Very uniform texture. Not very pliable.

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My favored cookie on the right. 350F gives the cookie a chance to fully cook, while leaving the interior delightfully chewy and soft. The cookies baked at a lower temperature developed slightly more caramel undertones, but were overall less pleasing to me because of their uniform texture.

So how do you like your cookies? A little crisp on the edges, and gooey in the center? One texture? Crunchy? Or maybe straight out of the container?

Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie

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Have you ever picked up a cook book and had almost all of the recipes sing out to you? Rosie Daykin’s Butter Baked Goods is like that for me. The book itself is gorgeous (and available at Albany Public Library!), beautifully laid out and the recipes inviting and easy to follow. When I borrowed it from my local library I worked my way through seemingly half of the recipes over the course of a week – and everything was delicious!

The Sour Cream Rhubarb pie was a delight that I’d never tried before, and cooked up beautifully. I mean, put a crumbly crust on anything and I’m sold.
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And can I let you in on a little secret? I used store bought pie crust. After years of making my own I’m ready to realize my own limitations. I can’t make a pie crust to save my life lately and the premade kind is a huge time saver.

Any way, grab the book (it’s worth it), but the gist of the recipe is:
1 uncooked pie crust.

An 8 oz container of sour cream.
A bit of sugar to sweeten things up (but not too much)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
3 C rhubarb

Butter + Sugar + Flour for the crumb topping

Mix together the sour cream, sugar, eggs, and flour.
Cut the rhubarb into small pieces. Toss it in the pie crust.
Pour the sour cream mixture over it.

Bake at 375-400 for 20-30 minutes until the top sets just a little bit.

Mix together the butter + sugar + flour for a crumble, then sprinkle it over the set pie top.

Lower to 325F and bake until the crumble is lightly browned and delicious, about 30-ish minutes more.

It’s best the same day its made so that crust and crumble stay crisp. It’s also delicious if you have some leftover slices and freeze them. Oh my gosh it’s so good frozen. It’s like a delicious frozen ice pop. Even better than those pinky white strawberry shortcake ice cream bars.

It’s A Tea Party

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What do adults do? Throw tea parties with copious amounts of sweets, of course. At least, that’s how I adult. I spent the better part of a week off and on over the course of a month prepping cookies and cakes. Wanna know how to whip out a tea party with the majority of the foods baked the morning of? Prep everything ahead of time. I made cookie dough and froze it in 32 oz yogurt tubs. I cut and froze scones. Baked them all off in the morning. I baked cakes ahead of time and decorated them that morning (defrosted), too. You can also prep frosting a few days ahead of time, too. Prep, prep, prep!

Above we have red velvet cookies (with white chocolate chips); gluten-free, vegan quinoa raisin cookies; and below we have savory garlic chive scones.
Behind them is a white cake with guava paste filling, and vanilla buttercream. So moist!
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Matcha green tea “blondies” or “brownies” with white chocolate chips. Super fudgy and not too sweet.
Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies courtesy of R.
Sweet scones.

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Mudslide cake with kahlua chocolate and irish cream frostings. So much frosting. I used a recipe from Butter Baked Goods – holy cow, that’s an awesomely moist chocolate cake.
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Quince jam shortbread bars on the top, and more garlic chive scones on the bottom. By the by – I made these tiered tea stands using some old plates from a thrift store, and some hardware from Amazon. Super easy, and super cute!
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Daniel B was a champ and drove up to TC Bakery for their last retail day and picked up an array of treats: Paris-Brest.
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Berry tart
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Famed lemon tart, and a bunch of macarons after I had lamented earlier that my house was too humid to make macarons so that they wouldn’t be on the menu. So sweet.

Overall, the older I get, the more I realize that adulting doesn’t have to be all about paying your bills and saving for retirement. I suppose the reality is that things are always changing. People age. They have kids. You buy a house in the ‘burbs. But you can still have bursts of whatever you think is fun in between all of that responsible adulting. And the best part is having lots of people to share these fun times with.

Chocolate Coconut Flour Cake

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Happy Birthday, D! D entered the very end of her twenties, and I wanted to bake her a cake. She’s not doing gluten lately and loves chocolate, so I thought hey, gluten-free chocolate cake made with coconut flour! This is an ultra-decadent and delicious cake. This was an especially special birthday to me, as D also shared it with my belated kitty, who turned 10 (everyone fed her as many treats as she wanted).
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She went out for a wine tasting and nibbles before cake time. Albany John and I had plans earlier in the evening, so we met at our place for cakey good times. I used this nut-free recipe for the cake.

Chocolate Coconut Flour Cake Recipe

2 C coconut flour
1 C unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t baking soda
0.5 t baking powder
2 sticks of butter (1 C) at room temp
1 3/4 C sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 3/4 C milk (or milk sub, I used buttermilk. Drop your baking soda to 1.5 t if you’re using regular milk)
1/4 C melted coconut oil
9 eggs

And here’s how I make every recipe so it’s only one dish that gets dirty:

Cream together butter and sugar. Add the eggs (one at a time) and vanilla extract. Then add in the milk. Scoop in the coconut flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix the dry stuff on the top a bit to combine, then mix it all in with the wet ingredients on the bottom. Then add in the melted coconut oil. Stir until well combined. The coconut flour will absorb the liquid while you’re mixing and seem like it’s drying out.

Bake in two 8 or 9 inch buttered cake pans at 350F until a toothpick comes out clean. About 30+ minutes.

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Here’s what your batter looks like when it’s ready to be moved into the cake pans. Kind of looks like frosting, or maybe playdoh.

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You’ll have to pat the batter into the pan. Coconut flour batters are vastly different than their wheat flour brethren.

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Seriously. It doesn’t fall or anything. You just plop it in…
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And smooth it out.

This made a little more than two 9-inch cake pans for me (my pans were shallow, though) so I baked the remaining batter in a little pan. It was good out of the oven. Kind of like a cakey brownie texture.

So, after we bake it, we let them cool. You can cut them in half if you want and make a 4 layer cake, but I’m not that delicate and didn’t want to mess this up for the birthday girl.

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I made a whipped chocolate ganache frosting and frosted the cake the night before. You can see the holes in the cake where I put skewers to then wrap in plastic wrap. Or as Albany John called it “I thought you were creating a protective force field to keep me out of it,”.

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I wasn’t super jazzed with my frosting skills or how the ganache came out (it was more like buttercream).
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Then I slathered the frosted cake in more liquid chocolate ganache.

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More chocolate ganache fixes everything, right?

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Well, come cake time, we had a cozy little set up going (this is as close to decorating as I’ll ever get).
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Happy Birthday, to an awesome friend.

The Queen Of Tarts

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Spring is here, which means my winter of tarts will likely be coming to an end. Or maybe I’ll just start using seasonal stuff in my tarts.  I bought a few tart pans, and my favorite is this Fox Run 14″ x 5″ tart pan. The shape makes me happy.

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I’ve been using this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for a sweet tart shell that doesn’t really shrink. It’s pretty awesome, and the best part is it’s all made in the food processor in a cinch. The recipe makes a bit more than you’ll need for the tart shell. By the way, Smitten Kitchen’s Whole Lemon Tart is also an awesome recipe. The filling is SUPER lemony and also made entirely in a blender (which I <3 for clean up). I made that recipe with a full tart shell recipe in a larger circular tart pan, and oh man was that ever a hit.

This particular pictured filling was cheesecake with some random bits of fresh strawberries (that were going south quickly). Cheesecake fillings are super easy – cream cheese + sugar + stuff (this can be cream, sour cream, milk, egg… something to thin it out a bit)
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The recipe makes more than this rectangular tart pan needs, so I flipped over a mini muffin/cupcake tray and wrapped some pieces with remaining dough. Filled with some whipped cream and aww, yeah. Yum! They are very tan because I forgot about them while par baking the tart shell in the background. Filled with cream, they just tasted like crunchy pie crust. Cream fixes everything, right?

Gluten Free Scones

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Hodgson Mill posted a recipe for “Gluten Free Baked Beignets“. I used quotes because there is no way you can all these beignets in any way, shape, or form.  However, they are perfect as gluten-free scones. Not as light as wheat-based scones, but pretty decent for coconut flour scones. Hodgson Mill took my criticism well on Twitter. But seriously, don’t confuse these for beignets. It’s like calling a dinner roll a funnel cake. Two completely different things.

I don’t have any issues with gluten, but I will jump on any recipe that uses coconut flour. I can’t get enough of the stuff.

Baking in my Bathing Suit has been gluten-free lately, and she came over to help me make these.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

2T Warm Water
1 t yeast
1/2 t sugar
(Proof the three above ingredients if you want, otherwise just toss it all together)

1 C Gluten Free AP Flour
1/2 C Coconut flour
2 T Sugar
1 t baking soda1/2 t xanthan gum
3 T coconut oil, melted
1/2 C milk
1 t lemon juice
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract

Combine all of the dry stuff, then drizzle in the melted coconut oil and mix so it evenly distributes and looks kind of clumpy. Then add in the liquids (including the proofed yeast, if not, toss in the yeasty trio now). Mix well.
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Here’s what it looks like when it’s all combined and mixed. Then you cover it and let it rise for about an hour.

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Put some parchment paper on the baking sheet you intend to use. Sprinkle with some gluten free flour
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Plop the risen dough on this sheet, then knead/fold it for a little while so the dough comes back together.

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Then roll it out into as much of a rectangle as you can make, he he. (Straight lines are not my strength)

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Then cut into triangles. Or however you want them shaped.

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Spread them out a bit on the parchment-lined pan. Then cover and let them rise another +/-30 minutes. (note: I made these in winter, so my house is cooler and a 30 minute rise time is normal. In the summer this may be reduced to less than 30 minutes)
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Here’s how they look after poofing for a half hour. Wow, lookin’ pretty scone-y.
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And here they are fresh out of the oven. 400F until the edges just start to get a slight tan. I think this was about 8 minutes for my in my convection oven.
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Figured I’d try them tossed in powdered sugar in the spirit of beignets. Also because these aren’t very sweet.
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They looked pretty, but you can leave the powdered sugar off your own. Not much stuck to them.
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But these gluten free scones were great with some freshly macerated fruit!

 

Winter Nesting

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I’ve managed to pick up just about every bug out there this winter, and evidently what I tend to do when I can’t do much of anything else is bake. I’m home-bound. Nothing else to do. Small burst of energy to normal levels. It does feel cozy and satisfying to be baking things in my own little place throughout the winter, but I’d gladly change out my immune system so I could try snowboarding this season (I’ve gotten sick every time I planned on going!).

Any way, here is some bread. I’ve been baking bread like crazy. Not eating all of it, but putting a good dent in it (the Latham birds grudgingly accept stale bread and will eat it within a few days). The loaf above was a simple artisan bread in 5 type recipe, but I’ve been playing with pain a l’ancienne and some baguettes as well, with decent results.

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King Arthur Flour Hermit bars as a breakfast treat for the husbear one morning. They hit all of his old man flavor favorites – molasses, golden raisins, and lots of chew.

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These froze up quite nicely, too.

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Venison turned into jerky. My uncle was nice enough to give me some venison (quite a lot of it, actually), and I haven’t been all that into it lately, but I have been all about jerky. Flavored that up with some soy sauce and other random spices at home, let it sit for a day in the fridge.

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Then put the convection oven on its lowest setting, which is about 170F.

P1040143Final product after a few hours in the oven. Pretty decent jerky, had me wishing I’d written down what I put in the jerky marinade.

Any way, I’m at least glad for some sort of productivity during my winter funks. Although I would much rather swap it for a better immune system. I’ve been stubbornly trying to keep up with my normal activities all winter long, but I am finally resigning to the reality of my weakened immune system this winter. Still, I remain upbeat – spring will be here soon and the warmer weather will do me good. I choose to find joy in the small things instead of defeat (I will never be defeated!). I can still bake, I have friends to share my baking with, and I am warm and cozy in my very own little house this winter.

Now if you’ll excuse me, this Ghostbusters marathon isn’t going to watch itself.