Tag: baking (page 1 of 5)

My Baked Doughnut Confessions

I’ve been riding a baked doughnut pan roller coaster of emotions.

I have always loved doughnuts. In fact, I even work at a specialty doughnut shop. The owner typically makes fried cake and yeast donuts, but also bakes these little, gluten-free donuts on Fridays. I’ve never tried one because they’re in such high demand and limited quantities; I want the people who actually need them to have them. What I have noticed is that they are light in texture and fluffy. I began to assume baked donuts were all just so.

Baked donuts enticed me at work while baked doughnut recipes filled my social media feeds. Finally, I bought a doughnut pan for myself. It only cost about $7 on Amazon. When the package arrived, I ripped open the box with zeal and admired my new pan. I hugged the pan and reassured it that we’d have a happy life together.

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Browned Butter, Speculaas, Sea Salt, Nutella & Chocolate Crispy Treats

Yup, I did it.

I put all of my favorite things into a batch of crispy rice bars.

Homemade rice cripsy treats are special no matter your age. When I grew up, my folks only bought the packaged ones in the blue wrappers. I always found them to taste dense and bland. At some point I tasted homemade rice crispy treats and they blew my mind with their buttery, marshmallow goeyness.

As if homemade rice crispy treats can’t get better, Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats can: The browned butter adds a toasty, creme brulee flavor and the sea salt balances the sweet. Plus, Pearlman’s recipe calls for a whole stick of butter in contrast to the traditional Rice Crispy recipe which lists two-three tablespoons.

And then, the owner at a local bakery I work at added Speculaas to sea salt, butterscotch, and brown butter rice crispy treats. Cookie butter! This got my mind churning and I decided to try making them at home. I also added a chocolate-Nutella topping similar to what you’d find on a Scotcharoo and finished the bars with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.

If you’ve never tried cookie butter, it reminds me of a peanut butter made from crushed up Biscoff cookies; those buttery, gingery cookies that Delta passes out on flights. It goes by the names cookie butter, Biscoff spread and Speculaas. I found knock-off versions of both cookie butter and Nutella at ALDI and Trader Joe’s.

“Theoretically, this has to work,” I told Jake before we taste tested the batch.

It did.

crispy treats II

In addition to the toasty browned butter flavor and hint of salt, you’ll also taste the Biscoff cookies. The chocolate topping firms up when it’s cool similar to that on a Scotcharoo bar. My measurements for cookie butter and Nutella are terribly inexact. I simply tossed in a couple big scoops of each. Feel free to use more for a stronger flavor. Hazelnut spread is fairly soft, though. If you add a higher ratio of spread to chocolate chips, the topping might firm up less.

Find less expensive versions of Nutella & Biscoff spread at ALDI and Trader Joe’s.

Ingredients:
6 cups of puffed rice cereal (not quite a full box).
10 oz. of marshmallows (most bags seem to be 10 oz).
1 stick of butter (I use salted)
1/4-1/3 teaspoon of flaky sea salt
Speculaas / Cookie Butter, a couple good spoonfulls (I used about 1/2 cup).
Bittersweet chocolate chips, about 3/4 bag
Nutella / chocolate-hazelnut spread
Flaky sea salt to sprinkle on top. Regular table salt will taste too harsh

Instructions:

  1. Melt one stick of butter in big pot. Cook gently until the butter turns golden brown and smells toasty. Watch carefully so that the butter doesn’t burn. If you use a smaller pan to melt the butter, you will have to transfer the marshmallow-butter mixture to a bigger bowl to mix. 
  2. Add the marshmallows and stir until they melt into the butter. The mixture will be sticky. Stir in about two serving spoon-sized scoops of cookie spread and add the salt.
  3. Turn off heat. Pour in six cups of puffed rice cereal. Stir quickly to combine while the butter-marshmallow mixture is still warm.
  4. Pour into a lightly greased pan (I used a 9X9). With lightly buttered fingers, press the treats gently into an even layer. Buttering your fingers prevents the mixture from sticking to your hands. Don’t press the mixture too hard, otherwise it will become dense.
  5. Melt about 3/4 of bittersweet chocolate chips with a couple of big spoonfuls of Nutella (about three oz). I just used the microwave.
  6. Spread evenly over the puffed rice treats. As long as the chocolate isn’t very warm, sprinkle flaky sea salt on top.
  7. Cut and serve when cool. If you can’t wait until they topping firms up, that’s OK too!

How To Make Perfectly Imperfect Lefse At Home

I lied.

Earlier, I boasted that my lefse is better than your grandma’s. My first batch may have been better than your grandmother’s, but this batch probably wasn’t. Still, it’s pretty damn good.

Jake and I come from families with Scandinavian heritages. Our grandfathers epitomized the Stoic Norwegian stereotype and our grandparents drank strong black coffee. My grandparents’ shelves were decorated with rosemaling and books about Norwegian trolls. Although my parents didn’t outwardly embrace their Scandinavian heritage, they wore the wool sweaters decorated with reindeer and played the cassette tape “How to Talk Minnesotan” every time guests arrived. I looked forward to holidays where relatives brought pickled herring and rolls of lefse rolled around thick layers of butter and brown sugar. Growing up in Minnesota, encountering these foods at holiday meals or potlucks was the most normal thing in the world.

Homemade lefse is so special because making lefse is hard. It’s not impossibly difficult, per se, but most certainly a labor of love. The process involves boiling potatoes, ricing them twice, stirring in the salt, butter, and cream, and letting the mixture chill overnight. This step is essential. The next day, one must knead flour into the potato mixture and divide the dough into balls and chill them again. The final step is rolling out the fussy dough as paper-thin as possible and quickly cooked the lefse on a griddle. Making lefse is like a walking meditation.

There’s a reason why one branch of my family prepares it once a year. Everyone pitches in at the lefse-making party to roll out the dough and cook the lefse on skillets and electric griddles.

Lefse cravings are easily solved in Minnesota. Simply visit (most) any grocery store and grab a package from the refrigerated aisle. One can even visit a specialty Scandinavian food store like Ingebretsen’s or cafe like The Finnish Bistro for “lefse scramble” and “lefse wraps.” Pre-made lefse usually doesn’t taste like it’s made with cream or butter, but it’ll scratch the itch.

I am by no means a lefse-making expert, but I know how to make lefse that tastes really good. It’s not paper-thin or perfectly round; some pieces more closely resemble flour tortillas than translucent sheets. I don’t own a special lefse griddle, textured rolling pin, or cloth-covered board. But, if you want to make delicious, imperfect lefse at home, stay tuned as I tell you how to improvise with basic kitchen tools. The one tool you must have is a potato ricer.

Homemade Lefse

Ingredients:

Five pounds of potatoes. I use russet. Other recipes specify red.
7 tablespoons melted or softened butter. I use salted
1 cup of heavy cream
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 1/2-3 cups of unbleached, AP flour
More flour for rolling out the dough.
Serve with: Butter & brown sugar

Instructions:

1. Fill a large pot halfway full of cold water.

potatoes

2. Wash potatoes. Peel and cut into similarly-sized chunks. If you save some of the peels, you can roast them into a snack. Toss potato pieces into the cold water as you cut, so they don’t oxidate and turn brown.

DSC_0621

To roast potato peels, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 375 degrees F. until crispy.

3. Place pot on stove top and bring to a boil. Simmer until the potatoes are fork tender or easily smashable with kitchen tongs.

potatoes boilig

4. Drain potatoes. Rice them twice while they are still warm.

5. Stir in the butter, salt, and cream. Cover and chill overnight.

mashed potatoes

6. The next day, knead flour into the potato mixture. I start with two cups and usually end up kneading in about three. You may need more or less. The lefse will have a more delicate texture if you add less flour. Once the dough is mostly incorporated, divide it into two parts for easier kneading. The dough should feel smooth, slightly elastic, and a little bit sticky but not too wet.

7. Roll the dough into small balls and chill for about an hour. Warm dough is almost impossible to work with. It will rip, tear and stick to the rolling surface.

potato balls

8. Preheat griddle. I use a big electric skillet.

9. Liberally dust your surface and rolling-pin with flour. Gently roll out the ball of dough, making sure to sprinkle more flour underneath and on top as needed so that it doesn’t stick. If you find yourself using a lot of flour, that’s ok. Roll as thin as you can without ripping it. A spatula or dough scraper makes this process easiest. If you find that the particular ball of dough keeps ripping, simply roll it back into a ball, re-flour your surfaces, and try again. 

10. Gently transfer your lefse to the griddle with a spatula, dough scraper or lefse stick immediately after rolling it. If you let the paper-thin dough sit on the counter, it will warm-up and stick.

lefse flip

11. Cook lefse until it light golden brown bubbles form. Flip.

12. Transfer cooked lefse to a plate or clean towel. You can fold them in half or quarters. Cover with another clean towl and allow them to cool completely on the counter before storing.

13. To freeze the lefse, layer unfolded sheets between waxed paper. Place in freezer bags and store. Wrapping the bags in foil can help prevent freezer burn flavor. When you are ready to use the frozen lefse, thaw in fridge.

14. This might be sacrilegious, but I like a little crisp on my lefse. Reheat by briefly cooking them in a skillet. Spread with butter, sprinkle with brown sugar, and roll into logs.

IMG_6672

Is lefse one of your family traditions? Or have you never seen it before? I love talking lefse. 

Helpful Lefse Links:

Heavy Table: Lefse from Scratch: Worth the Effort?

The New York Times: Lefse Recipe by Molly Yeh & Sam Sifton

An Adopted Korean Makes Her First Batch of Lefse: My old Simple, Good & Tasty piece

How We Make Our Favorite Thin-Crust Pizzas

One of my favorite meals to prepare is homemade pizza. Restaurants often refer to them as “flatbreads,” but we here, we just call them pizzas. Homemade pizza dough does take some time to prepare, but it isn’t very difficult. Therefore, I typically make pizza for Sunday suppers.

Our favorite pizzas don’t even involve tomato sauce. I just smear the dough with olive oil and garlic, and sprinkle over salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes before adding the toppings. Fresh mozzarella is our cheese of choice. It’s pricier, but has an ideal chew and richness. Scoop up a ball at your local Italian deli or find some at ALDI or Trader Joe’s. Instead of covering the whole pizza with mozzarella, I stretch one ball over an entire recipe of dough by pinching off pieces and dotting them between the other toppings.

The best part about making homemade pizza is that you can add whatever toppings you like. Any vegetable you find at the farmers market probably makes a great topping. We’ve enjoyed pizza topped with everything from roasted kholarabi to shaved radish to blanched potato slices. Here’s a list of our favorite pizza toppings and instructions for making my favorite dough.

Broders Pizza

Pizza inspired by our favorite pie in the whole world, The Eggplant Special at Broders Cucina Italiana in Minneapolis, MN. Topped with fresh mozz, roasted eggplant, bell pepper, caramelized onions, and goat cheese mixed with herbs.

Yeast doughs are more forgiving than you might assume. I avoided making yeast doughs for years because they intimidated me so much! If the yeast is not old and you allow the dough to properly rise twice, all should be well. It’s easy to feel tempted to rush the second rising, but, this will really mess up the texture of your bread. My culinary instructor at Minnesota State Community & Tech College always reminded us that yeast dough rises once for flavor and twice for structure.

When I prepare pizza crust dough, I look for a texture that’s smooth, elastic, and not too sticky. If you find that your dough is too dry, slowly drizzle in a little bit of water at a time, and, if it’s too wet, mix in more flour.

Favorite Toppings:
Fresh mozzarella: We stretch one ball over a whole recipe of pizza dough.
Sliced bell pepper
Roasted eggplant
Shaved hot chilis
Caramelized onions
Roasted (or pulled) chicken
Reduced balsamic vinegar: Reduce in a saucepan until thick and sweet. 
Basil
Slow roasted tomatoes: Instead of roasting at a high heat, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake at a low temperature (250-300ºF) until the juices thicken and the skins are tender. This could take hours. Cherry tomatoes work well, but if you only have whole tomatoes, cut into small pieces and remove some of the pulp.  

Pizza Jeni

Pizza inspired by Maxwell’s of West Fargo’s Roasted Chicken & Basil Pesto flatbread: Fresh mozz, pulled chicken leg meat, caramelized red bell peppers and onions, balsamic drizzle.

My Favorite Thin Crust Recipe
Adapted from Saveur’s recipe for Lahmacun. This is an excellent recipe in itself!

Ingredients:
2 cups AP unbleached flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 scant teaspoon kosher salt
1 packet of yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus a little extra for oiling the bowl

Instructions For Making The Dough With A Stand Mixer:

  1. Place two cups of flour and a scant teaspoon of salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, add the yeast, warm water, and sugar, and gently stir. Water that is too hot will kill the yeast. I don’t measure the temperature, but aim for slightly above luke warm. The yeast will bloom after 5-10 minutes.
  3. Pour the yeast into the dry ingredients. Add the olive oil and mix with a dough hook at a lower speed until it forms a ball. If the mixture is too dry and won’t combine, slowly stream in a little bit of water. If the dough feels too sticky, add more flour.
  4. When you like the texture of the dough, mix on a medium or medium-high speed for about five minutes. It should feel smooth, elastic, and slightly sticky.
  5. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, flipping it around so that the entire surface is oiled. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until it doubles in size. If your home is chilly or you can’t find an available window sill, turn your oven on briefly just to warm it. Rise the dough inside the oven.
  6. When it’s time to make the pizza, punch down the dough and remove it from the bowl.
  7. Divide the dough in half to make two larger pizzas, or smaller balls for personal-size pizzas. Gently roll them out on a lightly floured surface. The thinner you roll the dough, the thinner your pizza crusts will be.
  8. Place on sheet pans lined with parchment, cover with tea towels, and allow to rise again. They might not dramatically double in size, but they should appear puffy.

Topping Your Pizzas:

  1. Brush a light coat of olive oil on the surface of the risen pizza crusts. Rub with grated garlic and sprinkle with salt, pepper and/or crushed red pepper flakes.
  2. If you like pizza sauce, spread it on the dough. We prefer it without.
  3. Add your favorite toppings.
  4. Space pinches of mozzarella over the pizzas.
  5. Bake 400ºF (or higher) until the dough is crisp and golden brown around the edges and the cheese caramelizes.

Taste Test: Duff Goldman Jeepers Creepers Premium Cookie Mix

It’s time for another product review and taste test. In the spirit of Halloween and second chances, I chose Duff Goldman’s Jeepers Creepers: Where’d You Get Those Peppers Premium Cookie Mix. Yes, it really does say that on the box.

The mix costs $3.99 plus tax at my local Target and calls for the additions of 1/2 cup of butter, two egg whites, and an optional teaspoon of vanilla extract. I wasn’t terribly impressed with his Purple Rain cake mix and Not Your Bagel Cream Cheese frosting (review here). This cookie mix looked fun and since it called for real butter, I felt optimistic.

Duff Box wm

Back of box wm

The box contains the cake mix, candy eyes, and three colors of gel food coloring.

kit contents wm

Here are the ingredients you are asked to provide:

DSC_0580

To Charm City’s credit, the mix includes a lot of peepers. I tried an eyeball and found it tasted like powdered sugar. The texture wasn’t too hard, which I had been afraid of, but I didn’t enjoy them enough to eat more. Therefore, I only added two eyes per cookie, which left a lot of leftovers.

DSC_0582

The instructions are simple: Combine the cake mix, egg whites, butter, and vanilla in a bowl. Divide the dough into three equal portions, and mix one food coloring packet (orange, purple or green) into each bowl. Portion tablespoon-sized balls onto a cookie sheet two inches a part, and bake at 350ºF for 14-17 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown.

DSC_0586

The final step instructs bakers to press the googly eyes into the cookies while they are still warm. This step is especially important because the eyes absolutely will not stick otherwise. I found that I had to tuck the edges of the eyes into a still-warm and slightly gooey cookie crevice to secure them.

finished wm

Taste Test: The cookies looked adorable. They tasted very sweet and like “birthday cake” flavor. I realize cookies are supposed to taste sweet, but, like the Purple Rain cake mix, they struck me as overkill. However, we all have different sweetness thresholds. The texture of the cookie was pleasantly crisp and chewy.

People who like “birthday cake” or Funfetti flavor will probably enjoy these cookies. “Birthday cake” happen to be one of my least favorite flavors in the world. Jake thought the cookies tasted fine, but wouldn’t go out of the way for them. If you don’t mind spending $3.99 for a boxed mix that makes 20 cookies that taste like “birthday cake,” these cookies might be for you.

*When I edited my video, I realized my phone didn’t record my official taste-test of the cookies. The only clip I could find was a candid shot of me returning for a second bite of the cookie. 

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