Monthly Archives: December 2015

Make Ahead Cinnamon Buns and Christmas Macarons

My family absolutely loves this recipe for cinnamon buns. They are softer and a bit smaller than a traditional cinnamon roll. My husband prefers them this way! Every Christmas, I make these using the “to freeze” method for my mommy friends. What better gift to give my busy, exhausted mommy friends than the gift of not having to make breakfast at christmastime? I package up the rolls in round paper baking pans along with a container of powdered sugar and cinnamon  for the glaze and a tag with directions to bake the buns and make the glaze. It is one of my favorite gifts to give! I also keep one batch in our freezer to have a simple christmas morning breakfast.

Ingredients
Dough
3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 oz.) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons (3/4 oz.) potato flour or 1/4 cup instant potato flakes
2 tablespoons (3/4 oz.) nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons  (1 1/4 oz.) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons (2 oz.)  soft or room-temperature butter
2/3 cup  (5 3/8 oz.) lukewarm water
1/2 cup (4 oz.) lukewarm milk
Filling
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Topping
2 tablespoons  ( 1 oz.) melted butter
Glaze
1 cup (4 oz.)  confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons (1 1/2-2oz. ) cream or 2 to 3 tablespoons (1-1 1/2oz.) milk
Instructions
Combine all of the dough ingredients in a large bowl, and mix and knead — using your hands, a stand mixer, or a bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a soft, smooth dough.
Place the dough in a lightly greased container — an 8-cup measure works well here —

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and allow the dough to rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it’s just about doubled in bulk.

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Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.
Roll the dough into a 20″ long rectangle, about 12″ wide. This soft dough rolls easily, so you shouldn’t have much trouble with shrinking or “push back.”
Sprinkle 2 teaspoons cinnamon over the surface of the dough. A small sieve or tea strainer works well here.
Starting with a long side, roll the dough into a 24″ log; it’ll naturally stretch from its original 20″ to about 24″ as you roll. In order to make the neatest job of cutting out the buns, use a sharp knife to mark the log at 1 1/2″ intervals.
Slice the dough into 1 1/2″-thick buns. The neatest way to do this, by far, is by looping a piece of dental floss underneath the dough where you want to cut it, then pulling the ends in opposite directions. The floss will cut the dough neatly, without squashing it.
Lightly grease two 8″ round cake pans. Divide the buns between the two pans, spacing 8 in each pan.

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Cover the pans, and allow the buns to rise till they’re crowded against one another and quite puffy, about 60 to 90 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

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Uncover the buns, and bake them for 20 to 23 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top and the edges of the center bun spring back lightly when you touch it.
To serve buns now: Just before the buns are done, stir together the confectioners’ sugar, cinnamon, and cream or milk to make the glaze. Turn the hot buns out of the pan onto a rack, and brush with the melted butter. Spread with the glaze, and serve immediately.
To serve buns later: Turn the hot buns out of the pan onto a rack, and brush with the melted butter. Cool completely. Wrap airtight and store at room temperature for a couple of days; for longer storage, freeze. Just before serving, tent the buns lightly with foil, and rewarm in a preheated 350°F oven for 10 minutes (a bit longer, for frozen buns). Stir together the glaze, brush over the buns, and serve warm.

To freeze buns: Bake the buns in a 325 degree oven for 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

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Wrap tightly and freeze. Take the buns out of the freezer the night before you want to bake them. Let them defrost in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, let them rest on the counter while you preheat the oven to 350. Bake the buns for 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter. Spread with glaze and serve immediately.
Yield: 16 glazed cinnamon buns.

recipe source: King Arthur Flour

To give the cinnamon buns to my friends, I bake them in pretty round paper pans. These pans can be ordered online, or I can find them at Home Goods most of the time. After  I bake them for the first 15 minutes, I let them completely cool, wrap them tightly in saran wrap, then put them in a large twist tie baggie. Now they are ready for the freezer. I put the powdered sugar and cinnamon for the icing in small plastic containers. I finish it off with a ribbon and tag with baking directions.

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My friends love receiving this annual gift!!!!

I also wanted to quickly share the macarons I made for my kids teachers and our neighbors. I made red velvet with cream cheese buttercream macarons and gingerbread spice with eggnog buttercream macarons. I found clear macarons boxes to package them in. I also found free printable labels from liagriffith.com. The labels are made so you can download them and personalize them for your needs! Click on the link above to download your own labels! I loved seeing the teacher’s faces light up when they received the pretty box of macarons. I am always sure to include the hardworking principal, nurse, and secretaries along with all of my kids teachers. I am so appreciative of all of the hard work that they do to teach  my children and keep them safe at school. For my neighbors, I delivered the macarons and our christmas card to their mailboxes.

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I hope you have a wonderful holiday season! Enjoy baking with your family, giving gifts, and spending time with loved ones throughout this next week. Merry Christmas to all and happy baking!

 

Christmas Baking Ideas

What are you baking for Christmas this year? Now that my shopping is complete, my homemade gifts are made, and my kids are off school for winter break, I can finally focus on my Christmas baking! Here are a few things I will be making for our holiday parties.

Funfetti Shortbread Bites from cookingclassy.com

I made one batch of these adorablly delicious shortbread bites with my daughter. They didn’t last long, so we will be making another batch to bring to our family Christmas parties.  This recipe comes from a wonderful blogger at Cooking Classy. I have been following her for the last couple of years. Every recipe I have tried from this blog is fantastic! These are a wonderful treat to bring to your Christmas party or to hand out to neighbors and friends. It is a very quick and easy recipe, and it makes a lot at once. Click on the caption above for the shortbread bites recipe.

 

Italian Ricotta Cookies from cooking classy.com

These Italian ricotta cookies look so delicious. I love trying new recipes, and I cannot wait to try this one! Click on the caption above for the link to the recipe from Cooking Classy.

 

Twix Thumbprint Cookies from cookingclassy.com

These Twix thumbprint cookies from Cooking Classy also look wonderful. I know my family will love these as well! Click on the caption above for the recipe.

 

Holiday Butter Cookies from King Arthur Flour

I have been using this Holiday Butter Cookie recipe for my cutout cookies for the last couple of years. I use fiori di sicilia to flavor the cookies. It is a wonderful blend of citrus and vanilla that makes these cookies so delicious. If you cannot find it, you can use any flavor you prefer such as vanilla extract or almond extract.  I do not roll my dough quite as thin as the recipe suggests. I like my cutout cookies on the thicker side. This cookie has the perfect combination of crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. The cookies also hold their shape after being cooked. I also like the cookie icing recipe. It dries shiny and adds the perfect amount of sweetness to the butter cookies. I will be making quite a few of these cookies this weekend. I am bringing them to my families annual cookie decorating day at my mom’s house. I am also hosting a cookie decorating party for my girlfriends. I provide the baked cookies and icing and the girls bring the wine and appetizers!

I would love to hear what you are baking this year. Let me know in the comment section below! Happy holiday baking!!!

Look for my next post soon…my make ahead cinnamon rolls. Not only do they make a quick and easy breakfast for Christmas morning, but they are also the perfect gift for my mommy friends! What better gift for a busy mom than a quick breakfast that she doesn’t have to cook!

 

 

A New Neighbor Welcome Basket and the Best Homemade Crusty Bread

*This post contains affiliate links

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I have been looking forward to sharing this post with you ever since I had the idea of starting this blog. We recently had a new neighbor move into our cul de sac. I love the idea of bringing a new neighbor a special welcome basket. If you have ever gone through the moving process, you know how taxing it is. Add to that, not knowing anyone in your new neighborhood. Bringing a new neighbor a welcome gift is a great way to introduce yourself to your new neighbors and make them feel more comfortable in their new home. I also use this basket as a house warming gift for friends that move into a new home. I got the idea from my favorite christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. George and Mary use this blessing when the Martini family moves into their new home in Bailey Park.

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The basket includes salt, wine, and homemade crusty artisan bread.

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The recipe for the bread comes from “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” cookbook by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I highly recommend this book. You can click on the book title to view the book on Amazon. The premise of this recipe is to be able to make a delicious crusty artisan style loaf of bread with very minimal effort. You spend five minutes mixing four ingredients together. Let the dough rise for two hours and pop it into the refrigerator. When you want to bake a loaf of bread, pull a one pound portion of dough out of the bucket, shape it, let it rest, and bake it. I have been making this bread for many years now. My husband said I have ruined any other bread for him as he prefers my homemade bread over any restaurant or store bought bread. It is THAT good!!! When I tell people how simple this bread is, they never believe me. I promise, you can make this bread even if you have never baked a loaf of bread in your life! The authors of this book also have gluten free dough that makes a delicious crusty loaf of bread. YES, I said gluten free, delicious, and crusty bread in the same sentence!!! The recipe for the gluten free dough is in the book mentioned above. I am going to give you the master recipe from the book that I mainly use to make boules, baguettes, and dinner rolls along with some tips I have learned throughout the years of using this dough.

MASTER RECIPE

Ingredients:

3 cups (1 1/2 pounds) lukewarm water (you can use cold water, but it will take the dough longer to rise. Just don’t use hot water or you may kill the yeast)

1 tablespoon granulated yeast ( you can use any kind of yeast)

*If you use cake yeast you will need 1.3 ounces.

1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher Salt

6 1/2 cups (2-pounds) all-purpose flour (This recipe was tested using Gold Medal Flour. I use King Arthur all purpose flour. It has a higher protein content, so I use 1lb 12oz)

Mixing the dough:

In a 5 or 6 quart bowl or lidded dough bucket (I got my large bucket from Kohls), dump in the water, and add the yeast and salt.

Dump in the flour all at once and stir with a long handled wooden spoon or a Danish Dough Whisk, which is one of the tools that makes the job so much easier!

Stir it until all of the flour is incorporated into the dough, It will be a wet rough dough.

Put the lid on the container, but do not snap it shut. You want the gases from the yeast to escape. (I snap all of the lid down except for one corner.)

Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours to rise. When you first mix the dough it will not occupy much of the container.

But, after the initial 2 hour rise it will pretty much fill it.  DO NOT PUNCH DOWN THE DOUGH! Just let it settle by itself.

The dough will be flat on the top and some of the bubbles may even appear to be popping. (If you intend to refrigerate the dough after this stage it can be placed in the refrigerator even if the dough is not perfectly flat. The yeast will continue to work even in the refrigerator.) The dough can be used right after the initial 2 hour rise, but it is much easier to handle when it is chilled. It is intended for refrigeration and use over the next two weeks, ready for you anytime. The flavor will deepen over that time, developing sourdough characteristics.

The next day when you pull the dough out of the refrigerator you will notice that it has collapsed and this is totally normal for this dough. It will never rise up again in the container.

Dust the surface of the dough with a little flour, just enough to prevent it from sticking to your hands when you reach in to pull a piece out.

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You should notice that the dough has a lot of stretch once it has rested. (If your dough breaks off instead of stretching like this your dough is probably too dry and you can just add a few tablespoons of water and let it sit again until the dough absorbs the additional water.)

Cut off a 1-pound piece of dough using kitchen shears and form it into a ball.  Place the ball on a sheet of parchment paper… (or rest it on a generous layer of corn meal on top of a pizza peel.)

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Let the dough rest for at least 40 minutes, (although letting it go 60 or even 90 minutes will give you a more open hole structure in the interior of the loaf. This may also improve the look of your loaf and prevent it from splitting on the bottom.) You will notice that the loaf does not rise much during this rest, in fact it may just spread sideways, this is normal for this dough.

You can also try the “refrigerator rise trick,” shaping the loaves and then immediately refrigerating them overnight. By morning, they’ll have risen and are ready for the oven after a brief room-temp rest while the oven preheats.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with a Baking Stone* on the center rack, with a metal broiler tray on the bottom (never use a glass vessel for this or it will shatter), which will be used to produce steam. (The tray needs to be at least 4 or 5 inches away from your stone to prevent it from cracking.)

*(or Cast Iron Pizza Pan– which will never crack and conducts heat really well. Be careful to dry it after rinsing with water or it will rust)

Cut the loaf with 1/4-inch slashes using a very sharp serrated knife. (If your slashes are too shallow you will end up with an oddly shaped loaf and also prevent it from splitting on the bottom.) If your dough is collapsing when you make the slashes, it may be that the dough has overproofed or your knife it dull and dragging the dough too much.

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Slide the loaf into the oven onto a preheated stone and add a cup of hot water to the broiler tray. Bake the bread for 30-35 minutes or until a deep brown color. As the bread bakes you should notice a nice oven spring in the dough. This is where the dough rises.

If you used parchment paper you will want to remove it after about 20-25 minutes to crisp up the bottom crust. Continue baking the loaf directly on the stone for the last 5-10 minutes.

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Allow the loaf to cool on a rack until it is room temperature. If you cut into a loaf before it is cooled you will have a tough crust and a gummy interior. It is hard to wait, but you will be happy you did! Make sure you have a nice sharp Bread Knife that will not crush the bread as you cut. Or you can tear it apart as they do in most of Europe.

If you have any leftover bread just let it sit, uncovered on the cutting board or counter with the cut side down. If you cover a bread that has a crust it will get soggy. Leftover bread makes delicious toast the next morning.

*Recipe Source: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

TIPS

*I always let my boules (round loaf) rest 90 minutes. If you want to bake your bread sooner, shape it into a baguette. I let the baguette rise for 40 minutes and it only takes 20-25 minutes to bake

*When my dough is gone, I do not clean out my bucket. I like to leave a little bit of dough residue in the bucket. It helps to flavor my next batch of dough with a sourdough flavor.

*Don’t be afraid to add extra flour to your dough while you are shaping it if it is too wet to handle.

*I let my shaped dough rest on parchment paper, then transfer it directly to the oven on the parchment. I found the cornmeal to be very messy.

*To make rolls, preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Pull off a 3oz. piece of dough and shape into a ball for each roll. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Let rest 20 minutes. Cut a cross on the top of each roll using kitchen shears or a serrated knife. Brush the tops with melted butter and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Brush  rolls with melted butter right out of the oven. Enjoy!

*Check out the author’s website for more information and instructional videos

Master Recipe-click on this link to go to the artisan bread in five minutes a day website.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does! And I hope you use it to bless all those around you.