Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Over The Top & In The Middle

It would have been wrong for the cookie baker to have a cooking camp and not bake cookies. So it was that for the last edition of cooking camp, we made cookies. And since it was the last one, we went all out, making cookie-stuffed cookies.

Short Friend was once again camping, (what is it with this obsession with camping? Nature is fine in it's place - outdoors. That doesn't mean that we need to be in it's place. But I digress.) so Tall Friend again brought his little sister to share in the fun.

These outrageous cookies caught my eye on Pinterest. They're basically a stiff chocolate chip cookie dough wrapped around oreos. The result? A mammoth cookie that's got great taste, contrasting textures, and a fun surprise in the middle. Really, what's not to love? Plus, as a bonus, shaping the cookies involves playing with your food. It's like playdoh that you're allowed to eat. (But we did have to cover that once you lick your hands, you MUST go wash them. I think we had to cover that several times.)

We also covered some cookie-making basics (stuff that I covered in this post). It was all pretty simple stuff. The only tough part was keeping the kids from snacking on the oreos. I'd gone to great trouble to search out and purchase sandwich cookie without hydrogenated fats (well, it wasn't great trouble. They were on an end cap at Whole Foods. I saw them and grabbed them.) Another member of my family had already found the package and opened them and before I killed him, I hastily counted the cookies remaining. Ah, just enough with none to spare (but the family member's life was spared). I put the precious remaining cookies in a zip-loc bag and hid them. Yes, sometimes a baker has to do that to protect the ingredients.

Forming the cookies was everyone's favorite part. You take two balls of dough, sandwich the oreo in between, and smoosh (a highly technical baking term), then add dough as necessary to cover and seal in the sandwich cookie. The resulting dough mounds are plopped onto baking sheets, cooked, and tasted, I mean cooled on wire racks.

The verdict? Thumbs up! We ate cookies with our lunch and watched an educational baking video, Tangled, which covers the importance of cast iron frying pans.

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 package chocolate sandwich cookies (preferably without hydrogenated fats) (or 24 cookies, if your husband finds the package and snacks on them)

1- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.

2- In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugars with a mixer until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

3- In a medium bowl mix together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring just until combined. Add the chocolate chips when there are still traces of flour showing.

4- With a medium cookie scoop, form balls of dough. Place a ball on either side of a chocolate sandwich cookie. Smoosh together and seal up the edges so the cookie is totally encased in cookie dough.

5- Place the dough balls on the prepared baking baking sheets and bake for 13 minutes, or until the tops are set and the edges begin to brown.

6- Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I'm Going Nuts

When I was little I couldn't see the point of the newspaper. (I understand that with the internet, no one sees the point of a newspaper now, but this was way back when.) Why would anyone want to start their day looking at depressing pictures of war, stories of crime, and horrible economic news? The only part of the paper worth anything was the comics page. While my parents drank nasty coffee and read their awful part of the paper, my sisters and I would eat our sucrose flakes and squabble over who got to read the funnies first. (Although, really, including Mary Worth, Apartment 3G, and Judge Parker in the funnies was odd, because they were never funny.)

Once the comics were mined for their nuggets of humor, all that was left was the puzzles and little filler sections. One of those fillers was a column called Ask Andy. Andy was, apparently, some sort of genius, because he had answers for every question that was mailed in to him. Or, he printed the questions that he knew the answer to and pitched the rest. Either way, I was always trying to come up with a great question to send in so I could see my name in print.

The questions that were printed were on the order of "Why is the sky blue?" and "How do snakes move in the sand?" I'd come up with a stumper and run it by my dad, the physics professor. He encouraged my enthusiasm for scientific enquiry, hoping I'd grow up to be a super science nerd, too. Sorry to disappoint, Dad.

I never got a question printed. I don't remember that I even mailed in a question. My dad always had the answers. It could be that he was smarter than Andy.

One question that would be worthy of sending in to Any would be "why don't seeds and nuts sprout in the shell?" And the answer to that question leads to the kitchen.

Nuts contain high amounts of enzyme inhibitors. That's the reason that eating a lot of nuts can make your tummy feel unhappy. God put the enzyme inhibitors there to keep the nuts from sprouting prematurely, trying to make a new plant when it's not even in the ground. That's a good thing. But having those enzyme inhibitors in your tummy is not a good thing.

So how do you make nuts a happy thing for your digestive system? The same way that God does. Soak those suckers. When you plant a seed and wait and wait and WAIT for little green bits to poke through the ground, what's happening underground is germination. Part of that process is the seed (or nut) getting wet enough long enough for the enzyme inhibitors to be neutralized so that growth can happen.

In my kitchen this translates to a big bowl of saltwater on the counter with a batch of nuts having a pool party in it. I soak the nuts, drain, then dry either in the oven or food dehydrator. (Good information on how to soak various types of nuts is in this post.) After they're dried till crispy, I put them in a zip-loc bag and store them in the freezer. I often carry a small bag of walnuts in my purse as a snack to keep my blood sugar level even. When I offer them to friends (it's rude to snack without offering to share, my mother told me), I'm frequently told "No, thanks. I don't like walnuts." Then when I encourage them to try my soaked nuts, they're amazed at the difference. No bitter taste! No heavy feeling in the tummy! It's wonderful how simple soaking changes them so much.

Once you try soaking nuts, I doubt you'll go back. And once you've fallen in love with the new and improved flavor of walnuts, you'll want to try this recipe to showcase their great taste. These bars are sticky, crumbly, gooey, loaded with nuts, flavored with honey and are absolutely delicious. Plus they're super easy to make. So get soaking and baking!

Walnut and Honey Bars
- adapted from The Cookie Book

1-1/2 cups (6 oz) all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 cup (4 oz) butter, diced

scant 3 cups (11 oz) soaked and dried walnut halves
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup (2 oz) butter, melted
1/4 cup (2 oz) light brown sugar
6 Tbsp dark clear honey
2 Tbsp light cream

1- Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. Lightly grease an 11 x 7-inch baking dish.

2- In a food processor, combine the flour, confectioners' sugar, and butter and process until the mixture forms crumbs. Pulse, adding 1 to 2 Tbsp water till it makes a firm dough.

3- On parchment paper, roll the dough out into a rectangle to fit the bottom of your baking dish, 11 x 7-inch. Flip the parchment paper over the baking dish, peeling the dough off to line the bottom of the baking dish. Trim and fold the took edge inwards.

4- Prick the base thoroughly with a fork. Line it with foil and weight the foil with baking beans or pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and foil, return the dish to the oven, and bake another 5 minutes, until cooked, but not browned. Remove the pan and reduce the temperature to 350 deg. F.

5- Sprinkle the walnuts over the base. Whisk together the remaining filling ingredients. Pour over the walnuts and bake for 25 minutes.

6- Place the pan on a wire cooling rack to cool completely before slicing.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Butt Wait, There's More

Warning: this post contains material pertaining to bottoms. If you are easily offended, or just want something more delicious than what I'm offering today, I suggest you click on to the the next blog.

Bottoms, also known as buns, are the topic of the day. But if I said buns, then you'd go looking for a tantalizing bread product, preferably dripping with sugar and cinnamon. Now that I've got your mind on that track, check out this post, then join me back here.

You back, cinnamon roll in hand? Good. Now we can get to the bottom of today's issue. Buns. I mean bottoms.

Most people probably don't think about bottoms much. Unless you're trying on jeans, or working out, or at the pool, or ice skating (I tend to fall down a lot), or....OK, maybe people do think about bottoms a fair amount. But the people who think about buns a whole lot are new parents.

Doing diaper changes every couple of hours (or minutes, depending on the little one) gives a concerned parent the opportunity to assess the state of their child's buns all day long. Are they smooth and healthy or are they covered in an unsightly, painful rash?

As a new parent I didn't know any better than what advertising told me, so when my precious little bundle of joy got a bad diaper rash, I reached for the Desitin. People, that stuff is nasty. It's basically zinc oxide. It stuck to his poor, fragile skin and to the diaper, so when I next changed the diaper, it pulled off a layer of skin. Ouch! It made a painful problem much, much worse!

After that horrible experience I did some searching for natural alternatives and found a wonderful ointment made with herbs. It soothed, it healed, and it didn't have any nasty chemicals in it. But it was also expensive. So I set about trying to make my own version.

The main ingredient in the ointment is comfrey. Comfrey is a member of the plant family known as "weed." But a useful weed. It contains allantoin, a cell proliferant (meaning it encourages cells to grow and spread). For blistered buns, this means swift healing. Hooray!

Now comes the part of the post where you get angry at me. I've sold you on comfrey and now you want to know where to get it. Well, I get mine in my sister's back yard. Her house used to be owned by a naturopath who grew a medicinal herbal garden. Plus, due to a stream running through the property, local regulations mandate that no chemicals be used in the yard. So it's organic, plentiful, and cheap!

If you do an online search, there are several places that sell organic comfrey seeds. If you don't have the space or inclination to grow your own, you can also order comfrey oil. But that can be spendy. Finding your own source and making your own is the thriftiest way to go.

Once you've located comfrey, you need to turn it into comfrey oil. This is so easy, it's ridiculous. You soak it in oil. That's it. Then you add whatever thickening and soothing agents you'd like, and, hey, presto, Bun Goobies!

Bun Goobies? Yes, we like to name things weird names. We also like to make up lyrics to known tunes and possibly sing them at diaper changing time. Here, as an added bonus for today's post, are the lyrics to the diaper changing song, sung to this tune.

Diaper Changing Song

Puttin' on the bun goobie goobies on
Puttin' on the bun goobie goonies on
Puttin' on the bun goo-oobies

I put the goobies on the buns
Cause you are my honey bun
I don't want your buns all sore
So I'm putting on more and more

(Freestyle for the rest of the song or the rest of the diaper change, whichever ends first.)

Bun Goobies

Fresh, organic comfrey leaves
Olive Oil (doesn't need to be fancy or expensive)
A clean stone (optional)
Beeswax, grated
Cocoa butter (optional)
Coconut oil (optional)
Calendula oil (optional)*
Essential oil for fragrance (optional)
Baby food jars

Rinse and towel dry the comfrey. Into a clean jar (I like to use a quart canning jar), cram as much of the comfrey in as you can. Pour the olive oil into the jar slowly, allowing it settle into the spaces between the leaves.

It's important to keep the leaves submerged under the oil. Leaves that aren't covered can start to mold. If that happens, you'll need to toss it all and start over. To prevent that from happening, place a well-washed stone on top of the leaves to keep them from bobbing up above the surface. Also, filling the jar to the top with oil discourages mold growth.

Place the jar in the sun and leave it there for one to two weeks (depending on how warm it is). If sun is unavailable to you (hello Northwest weather), you can place it in a food dehydrator or an oven on low for 4-24 hours.

When the oil is done it will be green with a strong, funky smell. Funky like comfrey and oil, not funky like decay. Line a sieve with cheesecloth and place it over a bowl. Pour the oil into it and allow it to drain into the bowl.

The first time, just allow gravity to do all the work. This is the first "pressing". Set that oil aside. For the second "pressing," use a wooden spoon to mash the leaves, pressing all the oil out that you can. This results in a darker oil, but it's still good. Throw the comfrey leaves onto your compost heap.

In a saucepan over low heat gently heat the oil. To each cup of oil, add 1/4 cup of grated beeswax. Stir until the wax is melted. At this point you can add any of the optional oils. Be aware that adding extra oils will change the consistency and you might need to increase the amount of beeswax that you use.

Check for proper firmness by placing one tablespoon of the mixture in the freezer for just a minute or two. Test the firmness and adjust if necessary. To make it firmer, add more beeswax; to make it softer, add more oil.

When you're satisfied with the consistency, remove the salve mixture from heat and immediately pour into clean baby food jars.

Label and store in a cool dark place. It will last for months, even years.

It's an awesome baby shower gift and it's also useful as an all-around first aid ointment.

* You can make calendula oil the same way as the comfrey oil, if you have access to organic calendula. I recommend growing your own. They're a lovely, cheerful flower, and the petals make a very soothing oil.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cool and Creamy, Sweet and Dreamy

Although the general purpose of Cooking Camp is to have fun, I do try to incorporate some specific skills into each week's lesson. This week my band of happy little campers were to learn about working with chocolate. I'm not any kind of an expert, but since I have done tempering and dipping a few times without disastrous results, that's enough of a knowledge base to be able to pass along. The key to being a teacher is being at least one step farther along than the student, right?

To showcase our tempering skills, I picked peppermint patties, those delightful confections with a cool peppermint center surrounded by the snap of dark chocolate. Mmmmmmm.

The campers were excited to try them, but it was a bit difficult to get them to focus on the task at hand. I don't have many photos of them doing actual cooking tasks as they were constantly distracted by iPods, conversations, Words With Friends, and general goofiness. Trying to get three teenagers who are best friends to focus on a task is kind of like herding cats or juggling jello. I'm so glad I don't work in a high school!

I tried a new recipe for the patties because this one didn't require the overnight air drying of my previous recipe. The peppermint filling was a bit stickier than I was anticipating, but once dipped, it was the creamiest, most delicious I'd ever had.

The tempering process ended up being a bust as far as a learning moment. Because it was a fairly warm day, the chocolate took a long time to cool and the campers cut short their kitchen time to go to the ice skating rink. Hey, I understand. Summer's short and you have to pack in as much as you can. So while they skated, I dipped, and they got to take home a bag of the most amazing peppermint patties you can imagine. Not the most beautiful (I've previously discussed my dipping skills), but what they lacked in glamour, they more than made up for in taste.

If you love peppermint patties, you've got to try these! They are wonderful on their own, but would also be amazing if you put them in brownies or ice cream; however, there are no guarantees you'd be able to keep them from just being eaten the day they're made.

Best Ever Peppermint Patties

2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
1 T butter
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar, for kneading and rolling
10 ounces 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Beat 2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar with corn syrup, water, peppermint extract, butter, and a pinch of salt using an electric mixer (with paddle attachment if using a stand mixer) at medium speed until just combined. Knead on a work surface dusted with remaining 1/4 cup confectioners sugar until smooth. Roll out between sheets of parchment paper on a large baking sheet into a 7- to 8-inch round (about 1/4 inch thick). Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Remove top sheet of paper and sprinkle round with confectioners sugar. Replace top sheet, then flip round over and repeat sprinkling on other side.

Cut out as many rounds as possible with cutter, transferring to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm, at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, gather scraps, reroll, and freeze, then cut out more rounds, freezing them.

To make chocolate coating:

Melt three fourths of chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Don't let the temp get over 120 deg. F. Remove bowl from pan and add remaining chocolate, stirring until smooth. Cool until thermometer inserted at least 1/2 inch into chocolate registers 80°F.

Return water in pan to a boil and remove from heat. Set bowl with cooled chocolate over pan and reheat, stirring, until thermometer registers 88 to 91°F. Remove bowl from pan.

Balance 1 peppermint round on a fork and submerge in melted chocolate, letting excess drip off and scraping back of fork against rim of bowl if necessary, then return patty to sheet. Coat remaining rounds, rewarming chocolate to 88 to 91°F as necessary. Be sure to work in small batches. You need to keep the chocolate in the right temperature zone and the filling as close to frozen as possible. Once the filling warms up it goes all limp and is difficult to keep on your dipping fork. Let patties stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour.

In warm weather, store in the refrigerator.

Makes about 2 dozen

Note: In warm weather, the longest part of this process is waiting for the chocolate to cool down to 80 degrees. You can plan your work around this. Perhaps start with the melting of the chocolate, then making the peppermint filling as the chocolate cools.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Birth Day Cake

I recently had a birthday. It was a very good day with lots of well wishes, cards, presents, and a cake. But it started me thinking about what an odd thing it is to celebrate your birthday. You are queen (or king) for a day with no chores, no hassles, just your choice of cake, your choice of dinner, and presents (at least, that's how it works in our family.)

So what is it the birthday girl (or guy) did to deserve all this attention? Arrive. Yup, that's basically it. You just show up, take a breath, and all of a sudden you're a super star. But who made it all possible? Who put in the work to make it happen? That's right, the mother. 9 months of pregnancy, up to 3 days of labor, excruciating pain, possible surgery, and she gets nada.

Why doesn't the mother get the credit and recognition every year? She's the one who should get the cake. She should also get to retell the birth story every year, in graphic detail, including how long the labor was, how much it hurt, and how many stitches were required. And the baby that she birthed should give her a thank-you gift every year.

Since my mother lives in another state, I couldn't share my birthday cake with her. Which is too bad, because it was really nice. I usually go with a chocolate overload cake, but this year I wanted something a little lighter. I had some nice, ripe mangos on the counter, so I chose a recipe that combined layers of sponge cake with a delicious mango mousse. Topped off with fresh mango puree, it was lovely.

Sorry you couldn't have a slice, Mom. Thanks for giving me life. Oh, and there's a little something for you at The King's English. :-)

Mango Mousse Cake
- adapted from Sky High - Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

6 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups cake flour
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly warm

Rum Syrup:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light rum

Mango Mousse:
2 cups diced mango, from 4 or 5 mangoes
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup plus 1-1/2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp unflavored gelatin powder
2 Tbsp light rum
1 cup heavy cream

1- Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. Line the bottoms of three 8-inch cake pans with rounds of parchment paper. Place a large bowl and beaters from a hand-held electric mixer in the freezer.

2- Place the eggs in a large heatproof bowl. Gradually beat in the sugar and the vanilla. Set over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until all the sugar dissolves and the eggs are warmer than body temperature. Remove from the heat and, with the mixer on medium-high, whip the eggs until very fluffy and stiff enough so that a slowly dissolving ribbon forms from the dripping batter when the beaters are lifted.

3- Sift the flour and return it to the sifter. Carefully sift about a third of the flour over the top of the eggs. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold it in. Repeat with the remaining flour, folding just until blended evenly. Drizzle the melted butter over the batter and gently fold it in. Divide the batter between the three prepared cake pans.

4- Bake the layers for 12 to 14 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let the layers cool completely in the pans. To unfold, run a butter knife around the rims to gently release the edges of the cakes. Tap them out gently and remove the paper on the bottom of each layer.

5- In a small saucepan combine the sugar, lime juice, and water for the rum syrup. Cook over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil until the syrup is reduced to 1/2 cup. Remove from the heat and add the rum.

6- Place the mango chunks in a medium saucepan. Add the water, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 10 to 15 min. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

7- Transfer the cooled mangoes, along with any liquid in the pan, to a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Remove 1/2 cup of the mango puree, stir in 1-1/2 Tbsp of the sugar, and set aside for garnish. Place the remaining mango puree in a large bowl.

8- Put the gelatin in a small glass or ceramic dish. Add the rum and let soften for about 5 minutes. With a microwave on low, heat the gelatin until dissolved, 10 to 15 seconds.

9- Whisk the gelatin and remaining 1/3 cup sugar into the mango puree until the sugar dissolves.

10- In the large chilled bowl, whip the cream until stiff. Using a rubber spatula, fold the cream into the sweetened mango puree.

11- To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate, flat side up, and soak it with 1/4 cup of the Rum Syrup. Spread one 1/3 of the Mango Mousse over the layer evenly. Repeat with the second cake layer, using another 1/4 cup syrup and another 1/3 of the mousse. Add the last cake layer. Soak this with the last of the syrup and mousse. Chill for about an hour, to allow the mousse to set up. Garnish with chopped mangoes, if desired.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cooking Camp - The Sibling Edition

The original invitees to Cooking Camp were Serena, Tall Friend (TF) and Little Friend (LF). The plan was to meet every Friday through the summer and have them learn new kitchen skills and techniques. That plan was derailed when LF had to go out of town for 3 weeks. So the second Cooking Camp was smaller. Which actually was just as well because it involved lots of caffeine. We made coffee ice cream and iced coffee, and the three of them amped up on caffeine might have been more than my kitchen could handle.

This week, to add a little zip to the mixture, we invited the younger siblings. TF's little sister, SF (Short Friend), and Serena's little brother, Samuel, (Samuel) made guest appearances. They were both thrilled to be invited to be part of the cool kid crowd. They were also thrilled that we were making cinnamon rolls. And not just any cinnamon rolls, but monster cinnamon rolls.

We talked about yeast and how to wake it up, we covered gluten and a bit about the different types of flours (why you don't use bread flour for cakes, and vice versa), and they also learned a super cool trick for cutting rolls with dental floss. (Slide a length of floss under the roll, bring the ends of the floss together and cross them to pinch off a perfect circle.)

Also, they learned the importance of not interrupting the teacher when she's counting out loud the number of cups of flour being added to the dough. And the importance of resisting the temptation the chime in with random numbers to "help" the counting. And that "the magic of television" works much better if the dough made the previous day, rising in the refrigerator overnight, gets pulled out an hour ahead of time to come to room temperature. (Oops! Cold dough is really difficult to roll out.)

Then while the rolls baked, they got in a game of Calvin Ball Croquet. So, another successful Cooking Camp in the bag!

Monster Cinnamon Rolls
- makes 24 generous rolls

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup milk
3/4 cup plus 1 tsp sugar
1-1/4 tsp salt
7-1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
5 large eggs
8-1/2 - 9-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar
1/2 c. butter
3 Tbsp ground cinnamon

2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
enough milk to make glue-like consistency, about 2 Tbsp.

1- For the dough, heat the butter with the milk, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt in a small saucepan until the butter is melted. Set aside to cool. (If you are using raw milk, heat till small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan. Scalding the milk destroys the enzymes that interfere with the yeast growth.)

2- In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, add the remaining tsp sugar, stir, and set aside for 10 minutes, until the mixture is bubbly. Add the lukewarm milk mixture and the eggs and beat until well combined.

3- Add the flour a cup at a time, stirring and using enough flour to form a stiff dough. Turn out on a floured board and knead until smooth and satiny, approximately 10 min. (or place in the bowl of an electric mixer and knead with a dough hook until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl, approximately 5 min. I have a 5 quart KitchenAid and the dough burbles up and wraps around the dough hook, so I need to scrape it down frequently).

4- Place the dough in a very large buttered bowl, turn to butter the top, and allow to rise, covered loosely with a kitchen towel, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, approximately 1 hour.

5- When the dough has doubled, punch it down and divide it in half. Roll one half out to a large rectangle, about 12" x 24".

6- Butter two 9 x 13 baking pans. For the filling, melt the butter. Spread 1/2 the butter evenly over the surface of the dough. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle 1/2 of it evenly over the melted butter. Roll up the dough lengthwise, pinching the dough together to form a seam when rolled. Cut the dough log in quarters, and then each quarter in thirds. If you are particular about pretty rolls, trim off the ends. Place the rolls in a buttered 9 x 13" baking pan. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Cover the rolls loosely with a kitchen towel and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

7- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls for about 20-30 minutes or until puffed and browned. Mix the icing ingredients and drizzle over the rolls. Allow to cool to room temperature on racks (if you can).

If you prefer a cream cheese frosting:

Combine 1/2 lb. cream cheese, softened with 1/4 cup whipping cream and 1 tsp vanilla extract until smooth. Add 3-4 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted, blending until smooth and soft, not stiff.


If you want to "pimp up" your rolls, you can throw raisins, chopped nuts, coconut, or your favorite exotic ingredient into the filling.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Deliciously Repurposed

Leftovers are the bane of my existence. I hate having bits and bobs, odds and ends from cooking projects cluttering up my counters, cupboards, and refrigerator. A half a bag of teff flour, 3/4 cup of alphabet pasta, and an amazing amount of egg whites interred in their tiny plastic coffins in the refrigerator are just a few of the things that make it hard to put away groceries. I have so many leftovers, that it's hard to find a place for actual food.

Cooking camp, although it was a lot of fun, did have the aggravating side effect of producing more leftovers - a whole pan of marshmallows. I didn't want my kids to just hork down the whole pan as I'm not tall enough to be able to reach the ceiling to peel them off of it, were they to consume that much sugar. So, what to do with a pan of marshmallows?

Recently on Pinterest I saw a delicious idea - s'more truffles. Leftover marshmallows seemed like a great excuse to make truffles. I played around and came up with my own recipe and they were delicious! I put little mini-muffin papers into an egg carton and sent some to work with my husband, some to youth group with my daughter, and gave some to visitors that stopped by. And the few that were leftover? Well, I'm not crazy enough to complain about leftover truffles!

S'more Truffles

1 lb. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp espresso powder
Homemade marshmallows
powdered sugar
1 packet of graham crackers, crushed into fine crumbs
1 lb. milk chocolate

1- Place chopped chocolate in medium heatproof bowl.

2- Combine whipping cream and espresso powder in medium saucepan. Bring cream mixture to simmer over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally. Pour cream mixture over chopped chocolate; let stand 1 minute, then whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

3- Place the chocolate mixture into the refrigerator to cool and thicken, about 2 hours.

4- Using kitchen shears, cut the marshmallows into the size of mini marshmallows. Dip the shears in powdered sugar frequently to keep them from gumming up. Rolls the mini marshmallows in the powdered sugar to keep them from sticking to each other, then shake off the excess sugar.

5- Place the graham cracker crumbs into a shallow bowl. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

6- Remove the thickened chocolate from the refrigerator. Using a small scoop (about Tbsp size), scoop up a ball of chocolate, smoosh a little marshmallow into the center, cover it over with chocolate, and drop the chocolate ball into the graham cracker crumbs, rolling it to coat it completely. Place the ball onto the prepared tray.

7- Repeat with the remaining chocolate and marshmallows. As soon as a tray is full, place it into the refrigerator. If you're working in a hot kitchen, you might need to work with only a portion of the chocolate at a time, keeping the rest in the refrigerator to stay firm.

8- Allow the chocolate balls to firm up in the refrigerator, from 1 hour to overnight.

9- Use the milk chocolate to dip the chocolate, following the tempering instructions in this post.

Store the truffles in the refrigerator.