Leaven for the Rest of Us

Who doesn’t love homemade bread? And can we talk about that smell?!? Personally, I can’t get enough of it. If homemade bread intimidates you, this is a great recipe to try. Good bread just takes a little bit of practice.

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Start with your ingredients.

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Heat 2 cups of water and dissolve a small amount of your sugar in the warm water. Stir in yeast and let sit. The temperature of the water needs to be between 95 – 115 degrees F. Once you make bread a few times, you’ll get an idea of what the temperature should feel like. When I teach my kids about dough, I have them feel water that is too cold, too hot, and then the right temperature. If your water is too hot, it will kill the yeast. If your water is too cold, it won’t activate the yeast. Yeast is what makes the bread rise, so you want to be sure the water is the right temperature. Adding a little sugar just speeds things up.

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After about 10 minutes, you should see a significant change in the yeast. If nothing has happened, you will need to start the yeast over. It should look like this.

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Melt the butter and add butter, honey, 2 1/2 cups of water, salt, remaining sugar. Mix to combine.

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Add yeast to mixing bowl and mix to combine.

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Begin adding flour. I used white flour this time. This is what the dough should look like after 4 cups have been added.

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Keep adding flour, a few cups at a time. This is after 8 cups of flour.

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I ended up adding about 11 cups total. Knowing when the dough is done will come with time and practice. It should be slightly sticky to the touch.

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Knead the dough for 8 minutes in the mixer.

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The dough should have a nice shine to it. Isn’t it beautiful?

Divide dough into 4 equal parts. I use a kitchen scale for this since I’m terrible at eyeballing.

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Spray 4 bread pans with pan spray.

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Shape dough into loaves and place in the pans.

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Place in warm oven and let rise for 30 minutes and doubled in size.

Remove bread and heat oven to 400. Place bread back in oven and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325 and bake for another 25 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Remove bread from oven and pans. Place on a cooling rack. While bread is still warm, butter the tops of the loaves.

Enjoy!

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I’m blaming it on my holiday sickness. I forgot to let this bread rise. Apparently it’s my first day. I just made sure the internal temperature was around 200. This proves what a great recipe this is. Of course bread should rise, but know that the bread will still turn out.

Bread
Recipe type: Bread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 loaves
 
Great for beginner bread bakers.
Ingredients
  • 4½ cups warm water
  • 4 TBSP Butter
  • 6 TBSP Sugar
  • ¼ c Honey
  • 1 TBSP Salt
  • 2 Heaping TBSP Yeast
  • 2 TBSP Dough Enhancer
  • 10-12 cups of flour (white/wheat/mixture)
Instructions
  1. Warm 2 cups of water.
  2. Dissolve 1 TBSP of your pre measured sugar in the water.
  3. Add yeast, stir, and set aside.
  4. Add remaining water, sugar, salt, honey, and melted butter into the mixer bowl.
  5. Mix to combine.
  6. Add yeast mixture and combine.
  7. Begin adding flour, 2 cups at a time, stopping occasionally to scape down the sides of the bowl.
  8. Continue to add flour until dough starts to clean the sides of the bowl.
  9. Turn mixer on high and knead for 8 minutes.
  10. Turn dough out onto an oiled surface and form into 4 loaves and place each loaf into a well-greased bread pan.
  11. Place pans in a slightly warm oven to proof for about 30 minutes, until doubled in size.
  12. Take bread out of the oven and preheat to 400.
  13. Place bread into oven and bake for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 until bread is done. (about 30 minutes)
  14. Remove from oven, remove bread from pans and place on cooling rack.
  15. While loaves are still warm, butter tops and allow bread to cool completely before storing.

Favorites

The secretaries at the high school are always dropping (not so subtle) hints for cookies and treats. They certainly do a lot for me and my program, so whenever I can, I oblige. For Christmas I made the office staff their favorite cookies. Coconut macaroons was first up on my list.

I love that this recipe is so simple and delicious! Drizzle chocolate to add some class.

Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons
Recipe type: Cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: About 20 cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks.
  3. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.
  4. Drop 1 TBSP of batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.
  6. While cookies are baking, melt chocolate in a double boiler.
  7. Drizzle melted chocolate over cookies using a piping bag or spoon.
  8. Cool and serve.

Sugar Cookies

These are not the kind of sugar cookies you are probably thinking of. And that’s exactly the reason why I love them. There’s no frosting shenanigans. Just great cookies. Here we go.

The crew.

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Cream shortening, sugars, vanilla and eggs together.  Mix well.

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Add flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.

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Mix well again.

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Form dough into balls. I like to roll out all 48 cookies before I coat them in sugar. Just to make sure they are all the same size.

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Roll cookies in additional sugar. Coat completely.

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Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Do not flatten.

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Bake at 350 degrees fro 8-11 minutes. Cookies will start to crack around the edges when done. Cook longer for crispier cookies.

NOTE- Whenever working with a range of time, always start with the lower number. You can always add more time.

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Sugar Cookies
Recipe type: Cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 Dozen
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups shortening
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp salt
  • extra white sugar (for rolling balls of dough)
Instructions
  1. Cream shortening, sugars, vanilla and eggs together. Mix well.
  2. Add flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Mix well again.
  3. Place additional sugar into a bowl.
  4. Form dough into balls and roll each ball in the bowl of sugar.
  5. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Do not flatten.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees fro 8 -11minutes. Cookies will start to crack around the edges when done. Cook longer for crispier cookies.

Sweet Memories

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If you’re looking for a new Christmas cookie this year, try this one. As kids we were obsessed with these cookies. There were a few treats I would consider staples at Grandmas. Chocolate Pillows was one of them. While I was in college I asked Grandma for the recipe (which I got) and also her cookie press! #win

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 These are always fun to make. But to me, it’s more about the memories associated with the cookie, than the cookie itself.

Let’s get started.

First, gather your ingredients.

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Sift flour and salt together. I used to skip over sifting, but now I’m convinced it’s these simple steps that make a good cookie, great.

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Cream butter (Grandma always used salted butter, so that’s what I used. But the original recipe calls for unsalted) and sugar. Beat until smooth.

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Add egg and vanilla. Beat well.

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Add in dry ingredients.

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Chill the dough in the fridge for a few minutes. While my dough was chilling I washed up the dishes…

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Got my cookie press out…

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And got the chocolate ready…

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Form the dough into a roll that will fit into your cookie press.

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Follow cookie press directions to assemble and add dough.

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Press out a “line” of the dough along the ungreased cookie sheet. Lay the rectangles of chocolate out end to end with just a little space between them. Press out another “line” of the dough over the chocolate, covering it completely. Repeat this procedure until your cookie sheet is filled, keeping the unused dough in the fridge so it will retain its shape when pressed. Until you get the hang of your cookie press, your dough will rip and tear. It is hard to get long pieces of dough. When my dough tore, I pinched it back together. Stick with it!

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Using a knife, lightly score between each piece of chocolate.

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Bake at 375 until golden, about 12 minutes. Upon removing from oven, immediately cut between each piece of chocolate and remove to a cooling rack.

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Happy baking!

Chocolate Pillows
Recipe type: Cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: About 48
 
A family favorite, delicious anytime of the year.
Ingredients
  • 2½ C Flour
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 C Unsalted Butter
  • ¾ C Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 10 Hershey's Chocolate Candy Bars
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Sift flour and salt together. Set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugar. Beat until smooth.
  4. Add egg and vanilla. Beat well.
  5. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  6. Chill the dough for a few minutes.
  7. While dough is chilling, break chocolate bars into small rectangles and prepare cookie press using the saw tooth disc.
  8. Form dough into a roll that will fit in your cookie press. Fill cookie press.
  9. Press out a "line" of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  10. Lay the chocolate pieces on top of the dough, leaving small gaps in between each piece of chocolate. Repeat this procedure until your cookie sheet is fill, keeping the unused dough in the fridge so it will retain its shape when pressed.
  11. Using a knife, lightly score the dough between each piece of chocolate.
  12. Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes.
  13. Upon removing from oven, immediately cut between each piece of chocolate and remove to a cooling rack.

It’s That Time of the Year

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Next week I’m in charge of some kind of cooking/baking activity for my Beta Sigma Phi Sorority. I have been racking my brain trying to come up with something that would be fun and work out well. Since most people give out treat plates during the holidays, I thought I would do a couple cookie recipes.

One that I will be sharing is Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. This recipe comes from the Cooks Illustrated Magazine. If you have never read Cooks Illustrated, I highly recommend it. (Nerd Alert!) They share the science behind the cooking and the process they go through to get the final product. It’s a great read! This recipe also work at high altitude, which I am always excited about.

Gather ingredients.

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Prepare cookie sheets by placing parchment paper on them. I like using silpats. Whatever you use, it just needs to be nonstick.

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Whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl.

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Whisk brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a different bowl.

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Combine chocolate and butter in a small pot and melt on stove over low heat.

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Whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture until combined.

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Side note. I was quickly running out of hands, taking pictures, pouring, whisking that I was having problems holding the bowl as well. If you ever have this problem, bunch up a towel under the bowl. The towel will act as a third hand and hold the bowl in place.Like this:

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Fold (gently mix) in flour mixture until all combined.

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Let dough sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. At this point, I was very skeptical that this was going to work. The cookie “dough” was more like brownie batter. When 10 minutes was up, my dough was thicker, but not thick enough to roll into balls. I tried, but it wasn’t pretty. I used two spoons to get the amount of dough I wanted and dropped it into the granulated sugar. Once it was covered with the sugar it was easier to work with. And once baked they turned out fine. I decided to let the dough sit for an extra 10 minutes. And like magic, it thickened right up to the point I could roll it into balls.

Roll each ball in granulated sugar and then in powdered sugar. Place on cookie sheet.

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Place 11 balls on each cookie sheet. So they have plenty of room to spread out.

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Bake in the oven for about 12 minutes.

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Cool on a cooling rack.

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I cannot get enough of these cookies. They are such a pretty and delicious cookie!

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: Cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 22
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (1½ ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups packed (10½ ounces) brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup (3½ ounces) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (2 ounces) confectioners' sugar
Instructions
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in bowl.
  2. Whisk brown sugar; eggs; espresso powder, if using; and vanilla together in large bowl. Combine chocolate and butter in a small pot and melt over low heat.
  3. Whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture until combined. Fold in flour mixture until no dry streaks remain. Let dough sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  4. Place granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar in separate shallow dishes. Working with 2 tablespoons dough at a time, roll into balls. Drop dough balls directly into granulated sugar and roll to coat. Transfer dough balls to confectioners’ sugar and roll to coat evenly. Evenly space dough balls on prepared sheets, 11 per sheet.
  5. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until puffed and cracked and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone), about 12 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Let cool completely on sheet before serving.