Monthly Archives: January 2016

Cinnamon Star Bread for My NYE Hostess

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Every year, my next door neighbor hosts a New Years Eve party. If you have ever hosted a party of any sort, you know how much work goes into the prep and planning and how exhausting it can be to host. Knowing that this particular party always includes adults and kids staying up late, I thought making a breakfast basket for my neighbor and her family would be a perfect hostess gift.

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This year, I decided to make chocolate croissants and an impressive looking and most delicious cinnamon star bread. I am so thankful to have wonderful neighbors and friends to celebrate with! What better way to show thanks than with a freshly baked breakfast! I wrapped the cinnamon star bread in saran wrap, boxed up the chocolate croissants, and put them in a basket along with a bottle of fresh squeezed orange juice from a local grocery store.

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The cinnamon star bread is much easier to make than it looks! It is a sweet dough with a cinnamon sugar filling and a soft and tender interior. It is sure to impress all with taste and appearance!

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Cinnamon Star Bread

Ingredients

DOUGH
3/4 cup + 2 to 4 tablespoons (7-8 oz) lukewarm water, enough to make a soft, smooth dough
2 cups (8 1/2 oz) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons)(2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor*, optional; for enhanced flavor
2 teaspoons instant yeast,
2 tablespoons (7/8 oz) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1 1/4 oz) nonfat dry milk
1/4 cup (1 5/8 oz) potato flour or 1/2 cup instant mashed potato flakes

FILLING
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 cup (2 1/4 oz) cinnamon sugar
Instructions
1. To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough.
2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 60 minutes, until it’s nearly doubled in bulk.
3. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, cover the balls, and allow them to rest for 15 minutes.
4. On a lightly greased or floured work surface, roll one piece of dough into a 10″ circle. Place the circle on a piece of parchment, brush a thin coat of beaten egg on the surface, then evenly sprinkle with 1/3 of the cinnamon-sugar, leaving 1/4″ of bare dough around the perimeter.

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5. Roll out a second circle the same size as the first, and place it on top of the filling-covered circle.

6.Repeat the layering process — egg, cinnamon sugar, dough circle — leaving the top circle bare.

7. Place a 2 1/2″ to 3″ round cutter in the center of the dough circle as a guide. With a bench knife or sharp knife, cut the circle into 16 equal strips, from the cutter to the edge, through all the layers.

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8. Using two hands, pick up two adjacent strips and twist them away from each other twice so that the top side is facing up again.

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Repeat with the remaining strips of dough so that you end up with eight pairs of strips. Pinch the pairs of strips together to create a star-like shape with eight points. Remove the cutter.

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9. Transfer the star on the parchment to a baking sheet. Cover the star and let it rise until it becomes noticeably puffy, about 45 minutes. While the star is rising, preheat the oven  to 400 degrees F.
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10. Brush the star with a thin coat of the beaten egg. Bake it for 12 to 15 minutes, until it’s nicely golden with dark brown cinnamon streaks; the center should register 200°F on a digital thermometer.

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Remove the loaf from the oven and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: one star loaf, about 8 to 12 servings.

Recipe Source: King Arthur Flour

Baking Tips:

*The buttery sweet dough flavor can be purchased online through King Arthur Flour and Amazon.

*See my tips and techniques page about how to measure flour if you are not weighing your ingredients.

*Don’t be afraid to tackle this bread! It is much easier than it looks!

How can you bless others with cinnamon star bread:

  1. Give it as a hostess gift
  2. Make it for a brunch you are hosting or it bring it to a brunch you are attending
  3. Make it as a special treat for your co-workers
  4. Make it on Saturday evening for your family to enjoy for an extra special Sunday breakfast.

 

 

Heart Shaped Soft Pretzels for My Sweeties

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I love Valentine’s Day! I love any excuse to shower extra love, attention, and baked goodies on my kids and all those around me. We had a rare, lovely couple of days with nothing scheduled this past weekend.  So, I decided to get my Valentine’s decor out, which inspired me to make my kids a special Sunday snack. I took my recipe for soft buttery pretzels and made them into heart shapes. You will be amazed at how easy these are to make. The dough mixes up quickly and only needs to rest for 30 minutes. Two of my kids love them doused with cinnamon and sugar. I serve the cinnamon sugar pretzels with delicious whipped cinnamon honey butter. (See recipe below in “Baking Tips.”)

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The other child likes the traditional salted pretzel.

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You can also take this recipe and make soft pretzel sticks or pretzel bites. Whatever way you decide to shape them, they are amazing! I often make pretzel sticks or bites for get togethers, and they never last more than 30 minutes. These are such a crowd pleaser for any age!

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Soft Pretzels

Ingredients

DOUGH
2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1/4 oz) instant yeast
7/8 to 1 cup (7-8 oz) warm water*
*Use the greater amount in the winter, the lesser amount in the summer, and somewhere in between in the spring and fall. Your goal is a soft dough.
TOPPING
1 cup (8 oz) boiling water
2 tablespoons (1 oz) baking soda
coarse, kosher or pretzel salt, optional
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, melted

Instructions

To make dough by hand, or with a mixer: Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat until well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, until it’s soft, smooth, and quite slack. Flour the dough and place it in a bag, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

To make dough with a bread machine: Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine, program the machine for dough or manual, and press Start. Allow the dough to proceed through its kneading cycle (no need to let it rise), then cancel the machine, flour the dough, and give it a rest in a plastic bag, as instructed above.

While the dough is resting, prepare the topping: Combine the boiling water and baking soda, stirring until the soda is totally (or almost totally) dissolved. Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm (or cooler).

Preheat your oven to 475°F. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with vegetable oil spray, or lining it with parchment paper.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces (about 70g, or 2 1/2 ounces, each).
Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Pour the baking soda/water into a 9″ square pan.

Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 20″ to 22″).

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Shape each rope into a heart shape, pinching the ends together at the bottom point of the heart.

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To make a traditional pretzel, roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28″ to 30″ long), and twist each rope into a pretzel.

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Working with 2 hearts at a time (or 4 pretzels at a time), place them in the pan with the baking soda/water, spooning the water over their tops; leave them in the water for 2 minutes before placing them on the baking sheet. This baking soda “bath” will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color.

Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheet. If your heart shape comes apart, just reshape it on your pan. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt, if desired.

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Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they’re golden brown.
Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you’ve used it all up. Dredge any unsalted pretzels in cinnamon and sugar if desired. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave.
Yield: 8 large pretzels.

Recipe Source: King Arthur Flour 

Baking Tips:

*To make pretzel bites: Roll the six pieces of dough into 10″ ropes. Cut each rope crosswise into 6 to 10 equal pieces. Dip the pieces into the baking soda solution, place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and top with pretzel salt or sea salt if desired. Bake in a 400°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and roll the bites in melted butter; about 6 tablespoons should do it. Dredge any unsalted pretzel bites in cinnamon sugar if desired.

*I serve the cinnamon sugar pretzels with cinnamon honey butter.

*I strongly urge you to weigh your ingredients. Not only will you get a more precise measurement, but it also eliminates the need to use measuring cups. That’s one less thing to wash!!!! BONUS!!!

*See my tips and techniques page on how to measure flour if you do not weigh your ingredients.

Cinnamon Honey Butter

Ingredients

1/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons good honey
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions
Combine the butter, honey, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Serve at room temperature.

Recipe Source: Barefoot Contessa

How can you bless others with heart shaped soft pretzels?

  1. Surprise your kids and/or significant other with a special snack or treat.
  2. Box a few pretzels up and deliver them to the secretaries and school nurse at your child’s school.
  3. Have some neighbors and friends over to celebrate Valentine’s day with coffee/tea and heart shaped pretzels!

Mini Chocolate Chip Scones and Coffee Date

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This is one of my favorite scone recipes of all time! It seems to make everyone happy. Its also a great introduction to a scone. If you have never had one before, or if you have thought you don’t like scones or have been afraid to try them, you must try this recipe. These delicious mini scones are full of mini chocolate chips and have a glaze over the top which makes them melt in your mouth.

I first made this recipe for my best friend about six years ago. She was in the middle of changing jobs, moving across the country, and trying to find a new home in a very short amount of time. Needless to say, she was stressed out! Her husband is from England and she had been making scones for a few years. I had never made them at this point, but thought I would give it a try to cheer up my bestie. They came out so well, I think we both ate at least two or three that evening. After all, they are mini! Since then, this recipe has become one of my go to treats to bring to gatherings, and share with friends and family. My children absolutely love these and jump for joy when I make them!

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I had invited a neighbor over for coffee last week to catch up and talk about her recent trip to Disney World. I am in the midst of planning a Disney trip of my own, and wanted to ask lots of questions and get her advice. I wanted to make her a couple of nice treats to go with our coffee. She is pregnant with her third child and has two little ones to take care of.  I wanted to make her feel special and treat her to a nice morning. I knew I wanted to make her crustless quiche lorraine, but I couldn’t decide what kind of pastry to make. When my neighbor told me she had to bring her youngest sweet little one with her, I knew these chocolate chips scones would be perfect! I haven’t found a child who does not love them! Her daughter was shy at first, and didn’t want to try one. But after a while, she ate one and wanted a second immediately! Thankfully, this recipe makes 32 mini scones, so I had plenty to box up and send home with them to enjoy the rest of the weekend.

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Mini Chocolate Chip Scones

Ingredients 

2 3/4 cups (11 1/2 oz) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup (2 3/8 oz) sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup (4 oz) cold butter, cut in pats
1 cup to 2 cups (6-12 oz) mini chocolate chips, or finely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or the flavoring of your choice
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup (4-5 3/8 oz) half and half or milk
Glaze
3 1/2 cups (14 oz) confectioners’ sugar
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 oz) water, enough to make a thin glaze
1 teaspoon vanilla, optional
Instructions
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients.
Work in the butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly; it’s OK for some larger chunks of butter to remain unincorporated.

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You can use a pastry blender or a stand mixer to cut in your butter. I used a stand mixer for this job. I recommend covering your bowl with a towel so flour does not fly everywhere!

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Stir in the chips or finely chopped chocolate.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla or other flavor, and 1/2 cup half and half or milk.
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together. Stir in additional milk or half and half if the dough seems dry, and doesn’t come together. You should see the specks of butter in your dough.
Scrape the dough onto a well-floured work surface. Pat/roll it into an 8″ to 8 1/2″ square, a scant 3/4″ thick. Make sure the surface underneath the dough is very well floured. If necessary, use a giant spatula to lift the square, and sprinkle more flour underneath.

Cut the square into 2″ squares; you’ll have a total of 16 small squares.

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Now, cut each square in half diagonally, to make 32 small triangles.

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This is all easily accomplished with a rolling pizza wheel; if you’re working on a silicone mat, be very careful not to press down too hard as you cut.
Transfer the scones to a parchment-lined or well-greased baking sheet. They can be set fairly close together; you should be able to crowd them all onto an 18″ x 13″ half-sheet pan. I like to use an insulated pan lined with parchment paper.

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For best texture and highest rise, place the pan of scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered. While the scones are chilling, preheat the oven to 425°F.
Bake the scones for 17-18 minutes, or until they just start to brown around the edges. Remove the pan from the oven, and allow the scones to cool right on the pan.

Glaze
Make the glaze by stirring together the sugar, water, and vanilla. If the sugar seems particularly lumpy, sift it first, for an extra-smooth glaze.
Now you’re going to coat each scone with glaze. You can dip each one individually, which is quite time-consuming. Or line a baking sheet (with sides) with parchment, and pour about half the glaze atop the parchment. Set the scones atop the glaze, swirling them around a bit to coat their bottoms. Then drizzle the remaining glaze over the top. Use a pastry brush to brush the glaze over each scone, to coat it entirely. The glaze is very thin, so this is easily done. Sometimes I only brush the tops of the scones with the glaze. I find this to be plenty of glaze, so if I am short on time, I do not worry about dipping the bottoms.
Transfer the scones to a rack set over parchment, to catch any drips. As you pick each scone up, run its sides over the glaze in the bottom of the pan, both to use up some of the extra glaze, and to make sure all sides are coated.
Allow the glaze to set before serving the scones.
Yield: about 32 mini scones.

Recipe source: King Arthur Flour

Baking tips:

*Start with really cold butter

*Do not overwork your dough. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients JUST until the dough comes together. If you still have a few crumbles at the bottom of your bowl, you can carefully work them into your dough as you pat it into a square.

*See my tips and techniques page for the proper way to measure flour if you are not weighing your ingredients.

*If you have time, be sure to let your scones chill in the freezer for 30 minutes

How can you bless others with mini chocolate chip scones?

  1. Bring them to your next gathering
  2. Bake some for your family, and share some with your neighbors
  3. Package a few scones in a simple white paper lunch bag. Attach a bag of tea and a tag saying “Enjoy a pick me up with a cup of tea and chocolate chip scones”

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Give it to a friend having a a tough day, a teacher to enjoy during her/his lunch break, or to show your appreciation to a coworker, boss, friend, your child’s bus driver, etc. Or give to a friend just because!

4. Bake a batch and drop it off at your local police station or fire station