Saturday, December 29, 2012

Oreo truffles

I've had these and seen these at many events. They are easy to make but time consuming but it isn't bad if you are waiting on other goodies to bake or chill as well.

Minty fresh Oreos in the food processor
8 oz package cream cheese
Pre Hand Rolled scoops of cream cheese/Oreo mixture
After they are dipped in chocolate and have been chilled
Mint Oreo Truffles
Makes 65 small truffles

8oz package of cream cheese (room temp)
1 package of Oreos (mint)
8 oz dark chocolate

Send the Oreos for a whirl in the food processor. Or in a bag with a can/rolling pin. Mash them up til they are crumbs. No chunks.

Add the cream cheese and combine until a smooth texture.
Put the bowl in the fridge and let it chill for about an hour. The crumbs are easier to work with when cold.

Melt chocolate (1/2 at first) over a double boiler (a glass bowl with the chocolate is placed on top of a pot of water that is being heated on a low setting). This melts the chocolate evenly and keeps it melty while working with it. I am moving and didn't have any bowls so I use a glass Pyrex 2 cup measuring cup and put that in a small pot filled with water over the lowest stove temperature setting.

I used my smallest cookie scoop and served out the crumb mixture. Roll it between your hands and then dip in the chocolate. I used a fondue dipping fork that came with my Cakepop maker. Dip individually and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat mat.

Chill in the fridge and then serve!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pizza Dough

While I like to think that everything I make comes out most excellent, it is not always true. I tried to make this well reviewed pizza dough from AllRecipes from scratch. I have never used yeast before and I have never made pizza dough before - so this was an exciting adventure!

This is a no rise dough that can be created and turned into pizza in an hour! 

I used my food processor to combine the ingredients. However when adding the yeast to the flour mixture some of the liquid leaked out the bottom (food processors only can hold limited amounts of liquid). So I think this had a lot to do with the texture of my dough. It was a stiff/biscuit type of dough.

Next time I think I would add a little more oil a tad bit more water or reduce some of the flour. I also dusted the surface quite a bit with flour since I was worried about sticking (those cinnamon rolls have me nervous now!). You should also use cornmeal to coat the pan. While the flour does the job, I think the cornmeal will add a great texture and flavor that flour can't do and the flour added to the biscuit texture of the dough.

One review said to use half the water with the yeast, then add in rest of the water when combining the yeast and flour. Another review used their mixer with the dough hook. I've never used my dough hook attachment, so I'm excited to try the dough next time!

I added in about a tsp of onion powder, garlic powder, and a heaping tsp of oregano to the dough. I liked this flavor and will keep with it. Other reviews used Italian seasoning.

I used a tomato basil jar pasta sauce and the 6 cheese Italian blend from a bag.

I precooked the dough for about 5 minutes as some reviews said the cheese melted before the dough was done, but I don't think that was necessary as the entire thing cooked so quickly in the 450F oven.

One reviewer had an idea for toppings: "My favorite is 1T softened butter and 1 1/2 T garlic bread seasoning spread over the crust. (don't use too much!) Fresh diced tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella , sprinkled with basil and black pepper before and after baking"

But anyways, here are some pictures to tide you over for now and I'll be sure to update!

Dough patted into a ball and let rest
Rolled out!
Sauce and cheese, brushed the crust with olive oil

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Epic Cinnamon Rolls

Girls Night! Anyone looking for some holiday brunch ideas?! Our theme this month was Breakfast for Dinner. We had Craisin/Raisin/Coconut Baked Oatmeal, a Spinach, Onion, and Gouda Quiche, Blueberry muffins, some Breakfast Sausage, Fresh Fruit, and Cinnamon Rolls.

Have you ever watched the Cinnabon folks magically create those delicious cinnamon rolls?? It is quite an art. I have never made cinnamon rolls from scratch before but I have been very intrigued and pinning many different recipes. This one caught my eye since the dough didn't have to rise or need random ingredients or yeast! Great for an impulse throw together recipe! It had the added benefit of letting me use the food processor. Though you could also use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.

I couldn't believe how easy and tasty these cinnamon rolls were!! Because it was a new recipe it did take me longer, but you could whip these babies up in less than an hour! And 20 minutes of that time will be tapping your foot while smelling the cinnamon glory that awaits you! You can also pre-make them and leave them in the fridge to cook in the morning.

Two things that surprised me was that these were not overly sticky sweet (more cinnamon less sugar sweet) AND there really wasn't as much butter in them as I had expected. I thought that these rolls were similar to the Pillsbury pop out of a can ones, minus all the preservatives. 

The recipe below was adapted from Don't Forget Delicious: Fastest Cinnamon Rolls. I substituted in sour cream for the ricotta/cottage cheese (I'm kind of cheap...) and made my own buttermilk concoction of milk and white vinegar (yep, still cheap!). I didn't have cardamom or allspice so I used nutmeg in its place. Another option for buttermilk would be using plain yogurt. I think I might try that next time.

My dough was very sticky (probably from the sour cream/ricotta swap) so I had some trouble with it sticking hands, the counter, the cutting board, the knife, my phone from when I tried to take a picture (limited pictures during the dough process), the recipe, my laptop, the stove, etc. Long story short, I would add more flour next time. However, working with dough can be a trial and error situation - you learn what dough consistency you are looking for, you also never know about humidity or heat which can also impact the dough textures. Also, when adding in flour, add it in a little at a time because the dough texture can change quickly.

Cream cheese frosting would also be good, but I made more of an icing glaze since I had these ingredients in the house. Again, these ingredients vary but go with whatever consistency you want - thicker add more sugar, thinner add more milk.

Future variations: adding in walnuts or pecans, using the dough base for fruity rolls or chocolate chips.

These are pretty heavy, one was quite filling. Recipe made 8, we ate 7, there were 6 of us.

Even though they may not have been the prettiest of cinnamon rolls (this time!), the recipe is a keeper and I would try it again for a brunch or family breakfast.

Sour cream, "buttermilk", sugar, melted butter, and vanilla
Add the rest of the ingredients
Dump onto floured surface, kneed, flour some more, roll it out
Apply butter with back of the spoon and then pile on the sugar/spice combo

Spatula that helped me roll
While they look like they are struggling, they smelled awesome - so at least they would be tasty!
They expanded a lot during baking!

Add icing and serve!
Update 1/12/2014: I tried to make the Ina Garten cinnamon rolls but the yeast didn't rise properly and the rolls were tough and dry. Honestly, not worth trying other recipes when this one works so well!!

Update 2/1/2014: I want to make these without planning and I never have sour cream, ricotta, or Greek yogurt in the fridge (both good substitutes for sour cream). I found a baking substitute and it actually worked! I did a rough estimate to make the substitute from 1 cup to the actually requirement of 3/4 cups. 1 cup sour cream = 3/4 cup sour milk (milk & vinegar) + 1/3 cup butter. These are extra moist and should bake for closer to 30-35 minutes and cover with tinfoil towards the end to keep the rolls from getting too brown. 
updated picture with our fancy camera!

Cinnamon Rolls 
Makes 8 rolls

  • 3/4 cup sour cream : see above for substitute
  • 1/3 cup "buttermilk" : milk + 1/3 tbsp white vinegar = 1/3 cup; let sit 5 minutes after combining before adding into mixture
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • approx 2 cups all purpose flour (up to you to determine stickiness)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • Just under 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar (dark or light)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar, or to taste
  • 3 (ish) tablespoons milk (or until desired consistency, I used light cream)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 400°F. Grease the sides and bottom of a 8 or 9″ baking pan with cooking spray. 

Combine the sour cream, "buttermilk", sugar, melted butter, and vanilla in food processor and process until smooth, about 10 seconds. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and pulse in short bursts just until the dough clumps together (approx 5-8 pulses). 

The dough will be soft and moist. If it is sticking to your hands, add a little more flour.

Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it with floured hands 4 or 5 times until smooth. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12×15-inch rectangle (approx same size as plastic cutting board size, err on the side of smaller rectangle). I had lots of holes as I rolled the dough out too thin, but it also could have been because my dough was sticky.

Brush the dough with the melted butter, (drizzled the butter and then spread with back of a spoon) leaving a 1/2-inch border unbuttered around the edges. In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar and spices. Sprinkle the mixture over the buttered area of the dough and press gently into the surface. 

Starting at a long edge, roll up the dough. If you are having trouble with the dough sticking, I used a floured narrow spatula to scoop up the edges to roll that way.

With a sharp knife (floured if dough is still too sticky), cut the roll into equal pieces. Set the pieces, cut side up, in the prepared pan; they should fill the pan and touch slightly, but don’t worry about gaps. 

Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, 20 - 25 minutes. Let it cool for 5 minutes.

While baking is in process... In a small bowl combine powdered sugar, milk and vanilla to make a smooth glaze. Add milk as needed to achieve desired consistency. Spread onto warm rolls. Let stand 10 minutes and serve.

I dolloped the icing on the rolls and served right out of baking dish.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pecan Pie Bars

While it may seem that I have stopped baking/cooking... that is only partially true. I have been storing up for some holiday baking!! Here are some pecan pie bars that I made for work! I found the original recipe on Pinterest and I love making things in bar form - you can taste things before serving! Folks will be sure to notice a slice of pie missing!

I couldn't believe how easy these were to put together. I changed only the halved the recipe and used a 9x9 pan. I swapped heavy cream for light cream and dark brown sugar for light brown (since that was what I have). The dark brown sugar won't make a big difference except that the topping will be a bit darker and the taste may be a bit sweeter. I sliced the bars very small so it created about 35 bite size desserts.

All in all this took maybe an hour to make and at least half of it was the bars baking.

The bottom was similar to a shortbread. I would under cook the bars a little because the top does get a little crunchy/crispy if is cooked too long.

What would I do differently? I would make a bigger batch!

Add dough, its crumbly
Press down
Combine Butter, Brown Sugar, Honey, and Cream
Pour onto the cooked shortbread
Let it cool over night, remove from pan, slice and serve!

Pecan Pie Bars
Adapted from Just a Taste 

For crust:
1 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

For topping:
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 of 1/3 cup honey (approx 2 2/3 tbsp)
1 tablespoons light cream
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a 9x9-inch pan with foil, with enough of an edge to be able to pull it out at the end.

Make the crust by creaming together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add in the flour and salt and mix until crumbly.

Press the crust into the foil-lined pan and bake for 20 minutes until a light golden brown (it might not change color too much, but keep an eye out for the edges starting to get really brown, I took mine out at 17 minutes).

While the crust bakes (since it only took about 10 minutes to prepare the filling, I the stove on low and stirred occasionally until the crust was done), prepare the filling by combining the butter, brown sugar, honey and heavy cream in a saucepan and stirring constantly it over medium heat (it all melts and comes together). Simmer the mixture for 1 minute, and then stir in the chopped pecans.

Remove the crust from the oven and immediately pour the pecan filling over the hot crust spreading it to cover the entire surface. Return the pan to the oven and bake an additional 20 minutes.

Remove the pan and allow the bars to fully cool in the pan (I did over night on the counter).

Use the foil overhang to lift out the bars and transfer them to a cutting board. Peel off the foil, slice into bars and serve!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Moore State Park

Moore State Park, Paxton, MA

We spent about an hour here and felt that we covered most of the trails. This is a flatter park with a big hill in the middle that many of the paths cross. The paved areas are good if you have small children or just looking to walk around. There is a little pond to look at and walk near but you can't walk all the way around. There is a pretty water mill too. There are paths in the woods and a very short trail that is paved.

The paths were narrow and not super maintained so I don't think I would come here to go running or anything since it seems easy to wrench an ankle or slip.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Upton State Forest

Upton State Forest, Upton, MA

First snow of the season! So we went to celebrate with a run through the snowy woods. We did about 4 1/2 miles of trails, saw a pretty pond, and met several hunters looking for Bambi (WHATT?!!??).

This was a easy place to find with lots of trails. It is recommended to wear bright colors all years due to hunters in the area. The very well marked trails are wide enough that you can run next to each other with room to spare and they are relatively smooth. There is enough incline in the hills and distance to explore that it is a good work out and have lots to look at.

I think it would be nice to go back here for some cross country skiing (not that I own any of the gear) or for snow shoeing (not that I have that gear either)!

In case you are wondering what to wear, it was about 40 degrees, no wind. I work sneakers, wool socks, cold weather compression pants, borrowed an Under Armour long sleeve shirt, fleece jacket, North Face wind breaker, fleece neck warmer, and thin cotton gloves. I was cool when standing still but comfortable when running.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mt Toby

Mt Toby, Levertte, MA

It was hard to find the trailhead and we drove around for a bit. Eventually two women (one wearing a tiara!) pointed us in the right direction but for those adventurers: From Montauge Rd (rt 47) follow Reservation Rd and there is a small trail head that starts along there.

This was a nice 2 hour round trip hike, on the steeper side at times. There are several trails to explore so if you have a map ahead of time you could plot out a creative route to the top. We followed the creatively named Power Line Trail and followed the power lines up to the top tower. We climbed the metal Sunderland Fire Tower to see the views from the top, but we didn't stay up there for too long.

Since we drove for a while to get to Mt. Toby, we wanted to make it count. We stopped over at the Montague Book Mill and were awkwardly stared at so we popped into the neighboring music/movie store and then the art gallery. Then we drove over to eat at 2 of my favorite places in Amherst: Fresh Side (Pad Thai tea rolls!!!) and then Go Berry (best tangy froyo place ever!!)