Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dinner rolls

Dinner rolls

Every year, I like to contribute something different for Thanksgiving dinner -- I'm trying to slowly feel out what recipes I'll want to use when I have my own Thanksgiving dinner someday, when it's my turn to cook the whole meal. Last year, I made the pumpkin pie. The year before, I made an awesome green bean casserole (from scratch, which makes all the difference in the world -- no canned soup here!). And this year, well, I was running out of options, 'cause certain things are sacred in my mom's Thanksgiving dinner.

Well, strike that -- almost EVERYTHING is sacred. And to some extent, I don't blame them, 'cause Thanksgiving is partly about tradition, about time-honored recipes you pull out every year. So the turkey was settled (though I actually did get my hands on that one year, discovering that brining wasn't really worth the effort), and so was the stuffing, the carrots, potatoes, cranberry sauce (always from a can, though I've been itching to try making that some year), even the pumpkin pies (though I contributed an apple pie, largely because my boyfriend likes it way better than pumpkin).

What wasn't already carved-in-stone tradition, not to be tinkered with? The dinner rolls. Every year, they're the typical store-bought brown-and-serve variety. They're not BAD, per se. They're alright. But they're not particularly good, either, so I figured, why not try making my own?

I attacked these with some trepidation, 'cause it seems like bread doughs never want to rise for me quite as quickly as they should, and then I get impatient with them. On top of that, the recipe for these swore that you could freeze them and then bake them from frozen with no ill effects. And y'know, it was right. I popped these in the oven at Mom's, and a little while later, we had fully cooked, golden brown rolls, slightly flaky around the edges and a bit yeasty in the middle, maybe not the greatest bread product known to man, but perfectly good rolls, good enough to earn compliments from everyone at the table. I might even make these again for Christmas dinner, though I can be a bit of a magpie-ish baker, so my attention might move on to trying something else by then (and hey, cookie season's nearly upon us! And there's gingerbread, and cakes, and candies, and, and...).

Dinner Rolls
From "The Best Make-Ahead Recipe"

4 1/4 c flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 envelope rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 c whole milk, warmed to 110 degrees
12 tbsp butter, melted, plus a little extra for brushing on before baking
2 egg yolks
1 egg

1. Whisk together 4 cups of the flour with the sugar, yeast and salt.
2. In another bowl, whisk together the milk and butter, then the egg. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix until a dough comes together.
3. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding the remaining 1/4 cup of flour if it's too sticky. (The mixing and kneading can be done in a stand mixer, if you've got one, but I don't, so I did it all by hand.)
4. Form a smooth, round ball, place in a large, oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about an hour.
5. Divide the dough into 24 even pieces, form into smooth, tight balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until double, about an hour.
6. At this point, you can pop the tray into the freezer, freeze the rolls until firm and transfer them into a zip-top bag for storage.
7. To bake, arrange the rolls on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with melted butter. Bake at 375 degrees until golden, 15 to 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 25, 2011



It's the day after Thanksgiving, and everyone's thoughts have now turned to leftovers. Well, that and holiday shopping, of course. But food is my focus, most of the time, and now that it's late November, we've got lots of leftover turkey and stuffing and whatnot to deal with... not to mention the remnants of the fall harvest.

Did anyone else buy waaaaay too many apples this fall? *raises hand* Yes, definitely. But fret not, 'cause those leftovers can be turned into something yummy, too, no matter how bad they're starting to look -- not rotten, mind you, but the bruised ones are just fine here, the ugly ones, the ones that look like they really need to be used up right now, today, before it's too late, before they go bad.

Applesauce is the perfect fix for this situation. It's delicious, it's really simple to make, and you can can it, which means that you can taste September even in January or May.

Loosely adapted from "The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving"

Apples, peeled and cut up, enough to fill a large saucepan (this will depend on the size of your apples, obviously)
Water, just a splash
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 c sugar (but feel free to use a lot less if you're using sweeter apples -- I only used 2/3 c or so in mine)

1. Splash a little bit of water into the pan containing the cut-up apples. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn down the heat and boil gently for 5 to 20 minutes, until the apples are tender.
2. Mash up the apples with a potato masher until of the right consistency (if you like it chunky, leave chunks; if you like it super-smooth, hit it with a stick blender or put it through a food mill).
3. Add the lemon juice and sugar and bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar.
4. Pour into sterilized canning jars, leaving a half-inch of headspace. Add lids and rings, screwed on fingertip-tight.
5. Process jars in a large, covered pot of boiling water for 20 minutes. Remove the pot's lid and wait 5 minutes, then remove the jars of applesauce and place them somewhere out of the way to cool, making sure not to tilt them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011



Sometimes, it's the simple things where I find myself lacking.

Sure, I can whip up some pretty good cookies, or even a cake or two, but had I ever made something as simple as cornbread? No, no I had not. Not unless you could those little blue and white boxes, of course.

But there was chicken and chorizo stew in the slow cooker (a dish that makes me think I should talk my boyfriend into blogging, too, 'cause that stuff is awesome), and cornbread sounded like a nice accompaniment, so I pulled out my trusty "Baking Illustrated," 'cause that's always my fallback for baking something I've never made. The result? Well, it was alright. It wasn't quite sweet enough for my taste, though. (Maybe I'll throw more sugar in next time. Or maybe I'll try a different recipe.) But it was plenty corn-y and had a nice texture. I also learned a new use for cornbread, besides just eating it straight (thank you, Interwebs!) -- it's pretty tasty for breakfast if you fry it in a little bit of butter (or bacon fat, if you happen to be cooking bacon) and pour some syrup over it. I never would've thought of that.

From "Baking Illustrated"

2 tbsp butter, melted
1 c yellow cornmeal
1 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2/3 c buttermilk
2/3 c milk

1. Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Push the mixture up the sides of the bowl to form a well in the center.
2. Crack in the eggs and mix lightly, then add the buttermilk and milk. Stir until almost combined, then mix in the butter and stir until just combined.
3. Pour into a greased 9-by-9 or 8-by-8 pan.
4. Bake at 425 degrees for about 20-25 minutes, until the top is golden brown and lightly cracked and the sides have pulled away from the pan.
5. Cool on a rack for 5-10 minutes, the cut and serve warm.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pumpkin chip cookies

Pumpkin chip cookies

Have you ever tried cinnamon chips? I hadn't, but I came across a few recipes for pumpkin cookies that included them, so I decided to get some. What I discovered, though, is that apparently, at my grocery store, they're a seasonal item -- they didn't have them when I looked a few weeks ago, but then later on, they did. And they were worth the wait -- they add just the right spicy-deliciousness to these classic pumpkin cookies. I'm definitely going to buy a bunch more bags to stock up before the holidays are over, not to mention plenty of pumpkin. Some people may say that pumpkin cookies are a fall thing, but I'd eat these all year, they're that good. In fact, I think they might be my new favorite cookie.

Pumpkin Chip Cookies
Adapted from Libby's

2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c butter, softened
1 c pumpkin
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
10 ounces cinnamon chips (one bag)

1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl.
2. In another, larger bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the pumpkin, egg and vanilla. Then, beat in the dry ingredients.
3. Stir in the cinnamon chips.
4. Drop tablespoon-sized dollops onto a parchment-lined (or greased) cookie sheet.
5. Bake at at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, until the edges are firm.
6. Let cool on pans for 2 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.