shortcut

The past couple of times I’ve made cookies, I haven’t baked the whole batch together. Instead I portion out the dough, roll it into little balls & freeze it on a cookie sheet. Once it’s been in the freezer a few hours I move it to a zip top bag, and voila! ready to bake cookies, in whatever number you need.

They don’t last as long as I’d really like, but I think they last  a bit longer than three dozen cookies sitting on my counter begging me to eat them before they get hard. (Chocolate chip cookies should always be chewy, if you don’t agree, we can’t be friends. Sorry.)

Anyway, so maybe you do this same thing, or maybe you buy the pre-made dough they sell in the refrigerated section by the cinnamon rolls in a can. And maybe you’re like I was this afternoon, and you want cookies, but just one or two. And maybe it seems like a waste of time and energy to heat up your whole oven for two measly cookies, so maybe you think “Hey, I’ve got this toaster oven that is almost exactly the right size for two cookies.” And so if you’re thinking that might be a good idea:

image

I already thought that. It’s not a good idea. The cookies will burn on the top, while remaining raw inside. Also, they kind of look like biscuits, instead of proper cookies.

[Cue music for “The More You Know”]

ingenuity

I’m housebound today because the hubs has my car. His is out of commission with a flat tire (which he discovered just as he was leaving for work this morning and had no time to change). I had planned to go to the grocery today to pick up a couple of things, most important of which is pita bread. We’re having mini chicken pizzas tonight, which I make on pitas. But they don’t always have them in stock at my grocery, including earlier this week when I did the shopping. So what to do? Make homemade pitas from scratch, of course!

image

In my last post I mentioned my go to bread bible: Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads which just so happens to have a recipe for pitas. They’re actually quicker and easier to make than I’d expected No long proofing times, nothing in them that I don’t always keep on hand. And they’re good!

bagel

At the request of one of my friends, I documented my bagel-making process and am including my recipe. The recipe has been adapted over time from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads, which is an excellent resource for breads of practically any type. My recipe makes about two dozen garlic bagels (and they are very garlicky!) but you can make whatever kind you like by omitting or replacing the garlic powder and minced garlic. You could replace the garlic powder with cocoa and increase the sugar slightly for a sweeter morning treat. You could scrap the garlic powder and top with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, rosemary, whatever!

To start:

1ingredients8 cups bread or all-purpose flour + extra for kneading
1/3 c sugar
2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp garlic powder
2 scant Tbsp yeast
3 cups hot water
4-5 cloves garlic
1 egg

also:
approx 2 qts water for boiling
1 Tbsp sugar
nonstick spray or parchment paper
plastic wrap

Begin with the 3 cups hot water. I put it in a bowl and heat in the microwave until quite warm, but not boiling. Stir into this the yeast, breaking up any clumps. Let it sit a few minutes and the yeast will activate.

2yeastIn the meantime, mix together the dry ingredients: 7 cups of flour (save the rest to add in as you knead the dough), sugar, salt, garlic powder.

Once you have that together, mix in the water/yeast mixture. Before I got my stand mixer I did it all by hand, and used a big wooden spoon for the initial mixing. With a stand mixer use your paddle attachment. Either way, mix until you’ve got a big wet ball of dough, then add a bit of the remaining flour (half a cup or so) and get ready to knead.

3doughIf you’re doing this by hand, turn out onto a floured surface and knead about 10 minutes. If you’re using a mixer, switch to the dough hook attachment, and knead on low speed, stopping a couple of times to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

As you knead the dough should become firm and no longer sticky. Add more flour as needed. I usually end up using about 8 cups total, maybe a hair more.

4kneadedWhen you are finished kneading, form the dough into a ball, get a big clean bowl, and oil the sides. Plop the ball of dough down in there & turn to coat. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and put in a warm place to rise for about an hour.

5risingBefore you go watch TV, create your workflow for later. You’ll start with a flat surface to work your dough into bagels. Next to that should be your stove top. You’ll want to fill a medium saucepan about halfway with water, and put in a tablespoon of sugar. You’ll boil this later, but it’s way to early to turn on the heat now. On the other side of the stove, you’ll want a plate or tray covered with paper towels where you’ll put the bagels after you get them out of the water. Next to that, put your minced garlic, and you’ll also put some egg wash (you’ll make this a little later, but just leave room for a cup, and a small basting brush. Finally, your baking sheet(s) which you’ll spray with a little nonstick spray, or cover with parchment paper. Now that you’re all prepped, have a little break.

When the hour is up, turn on the oven to 425°F, and put the saucepan on a burner and turn it to medium heat. You want it to gently simmer, but not boil. There should just be a few  bubbles coming to the surface, if there are lots of big bubbles, dial it back.

Anyway, back to the dough. Uncover it, and punch it down a little with your fingers, then turn it out onto a floured work surface. Use a knife or dough scraper to cut off small portions of dough, about 2-3 ounces and form into little balls. They need to rest for about 8-10 minutes.

6ballsWhile you’re waiting for that, get out an egg and separate the white into a small dish or cup, add a little water and mix up. This is the egg wash you’ll use on the bagels to help make them extra shiny and help the garlic adhere.

Once the little balls of dough are rested, it’s time to form the bagel shape. Roll the ball between your palms until the dough makes a long snake. Wrap the snake around your hand and overlap the ends, then roll the ends between your palms to seal them together. Then lay it back down to rest again and move onto the next.

7bagelsOnce you’re all done, start with the first two or three bagels, and plop them down in the simmering water. Don’t let them get too crowded, just do two or three at a time. They may sink at first, but they should float back up pretty quickly.

8boiling Let them boil about 30 seconds, then flip them and boil another 30 seconds. Remove them to your paper towels and let them drain off while you start the next set.

Once the bagel has drained and cooled for a minute or two, brush the top with egg wash, then sprinkle on a bit of the garlic. Then it goes on the baking sheet. The bagels shouldn’t puff up very much while baking, so they can be relatively close together, but don’t crowd them or let them touch each other. Continue in this pattern: boil, cool/drain, egg wash, garlic, tray until you’ve worked through all the bagels, then bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top. The garlic will be crispy and brown on the edges.

9finishedLet them cool completely before storing. Since there are no preservatives, they’ll only last a few days before they get stale, so your best bet is to freeze any you won’t use right away.

baking day

Yesterday was baking day in the uglythreads household. My husband had a cookie carry-in at work, and I had a wicked craving for some homemade sugar deliciousness. To wit:
chocchipChocolate chip cookies. Classic and delicious, I used mini and jumbo chips to increase the chocolaty goodness. I adapted from the New York Times recipe here. I used regular AP flour, and mini & jumbo semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of “bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves” which I assume is foodie for “chocolate chips that are much more expensive than the ones currently on special at the local foodmart” (2 for $4!)

I also made a treat to keep at home. We’ve always called these “Seven Layer Bars” though that’s a misnomer, because it only contains six ingredients. Some internet research tells me these are also sometimes called “Magic Bars” and may have originally included butterscotch chips. The recipe is super easy, and yields this gooey wonder:

7layer

Seven Layer Bars:
melt a stick of butter in a 9×13 baking dish
crush a package (about 8) of graham crackers, and pour in the dish with the butter. Mush it down into an even layer with your fingers.

Next open up a can of sweetened condensed milk and pour evenly over the graham cracker layer. Next comes a layer of chocolate chips, followed by one of shredded coconut, followed by nuts (I use walnuts, you can also use pecans, cashews, macadamia nuts, whatever) then pop it in an oven at 350°F for about 20 minutes, it until the coconut gets toasty.

Let it cool a bit to set up, and then cut into bars and eat with a big ol’ glass of milk. Holiday baking: accomplished.

 

carrots

image

Check it out! Approximately 22 ounces of homemade baby food (carrots, if you’re curious) batched up & ready for the freezer. Yeah, I’m that kind of mom. Tomorrow we’ll have something much less healthy: xmas baking.

image

breakfast

Breakfast can be a tough time of day. When I worked, it was always a mad-dash to get to work on time, and I had neither the time nor inclination to make myself bacon and eggs or anything like that. Most mornings I didn’t even have time to sit down to a bowl of Lucky Charms. So it was sometimes toast and/or a piece of fruit on the go. More often it was the drive-thru or nothing. I’m particularly fond of a Starbucks about two miles from my house with a drive-thru. Drive-thru Starbucks is both wonderful and evil.

I now have theoretically more time to make and eat breakfast, but some mornings it’s just beyond my capacity to make and consume a proper meal with only one free hand. To help on those days when Zooey demands constant attention, I made myself some breakfast pastry:

These are carrot walnut muffins with a caramelized cream cheese topping. All I need to do to these is grab one and pour myself a glass of milk. It’s totally possible to do all that while holding a baby.

It’s just a basic carrot muffin recipe, and normally I put a little dab of cream cheese frosting on top. But this time, I heated a little butter & sugar until it just started to caramelize and added cream cheese. Then I put a spoonful of this mixture in the muffin tin with the batter before it bakes. Since it’s on top, it caramelizes even more and gets a kind of crispy brulee consistency. Mmm.

My husband does not really do sweet for breakfast, and so for him I make these:

These are garlic bagels, which I have never seen in a store, and are only found in one bagel shop in our area. Since it is neither cost-effective nor convenient for him to go to this one shop all the time, I make these bagels about two dozen at a time, and put them in our deep freeze in bags of 3-4 bagels. Whenever he’s out, he brings a bag in from the freezer and in the morning he makes a little sandwich out of them with a piece of cheese and a turkey-sausage patty. Not quite as good as the giant bagel, egg, sausage, bacon, and cheese sandwich at the breakfast place, but rather less likely to make your heart explode.

I don’t usually like bagels; usually they’re huge and much too dense. The homemade version, however, is much better, and they keep well in the freezer. They’re a little labor intensive–as yeast breads sometimes are–but very much worth it, particularly if you do a double-batch on a Sunday afternoon.

So that’s how we do breakfast around here.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp red food color
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. spray 2 muffin tins with cooking spray & line with cupcake liners (this recipe should make 2 dozen). In medium bowl mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt.

In separate, larger bowl, whisk together wet ingredients-oil, egg, milk, food coloring, vinegar & vanilla. Slowly add dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spoon mixture into muffin tins, filling approximately 2/3 full with batter.

Bake 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cupcake comes out clean.

While you let those cool, make cream cheese frosting.

  • 1 8oz. package of cream cheese
  • ½ cup butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp milk

Cream cheese and butter should be room temperature. Cut together sugar, cream cheese and butter, add milk and vanilla, then mix with stand or handheld mixer until thoroughly mixed.

When cupcakes have fully cooled, ice with cream cheese frosting. Ta da!!!