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White Bread

So I’ve begun this little love affair with baking bread. There is something so satisfying in watching a loaf of bread rise! I have to admit, out of all of the things to make in the world of cooking, I find bread to be the most challenging! I know! But, as a dear friend told me, she thought it was hilarious that I found cheesecake easy, I guess that we each have our own strengths. I do hope to master the art someday, but in the mean time, I think I’ll dance happily in front of my covered little bowl as the bread rises and I’ll hope it turns out just right!

There is something just so amazing about fresh homed bread. PLEASE NO BREAD MACHINES! ACK! No, I’m talking about fresh, mixed and stirred by hand, kneaded into submission sort of bread! The kind that looks beautiful and all the sides feel so delectable in your mouth– that’s the kind of bread I’m talking about. 

 

A shout-out to bread machines– yes, they are handy, and I’m not against using them. Pizza doughs and other doughs for forming breads are much more accessible this way, but if you must use them to make your bread, at least take the dough out and let it bake in the oven!

 

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tbs. vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups all purpose flour, approx.

In a large bowl, dissolve 1 package of active dry yeast in warm water. Stir until dissolved. Add salt, sugar, shortening, and milk to mixture. Mix in 2 cups of flour, checking for dryness or wetness and adding flour accordingly. If the dough seems sticky, continue to add flour, if the dough feels smooth to the touch, you do not need to add more. On a floured surface, start to knead the dough, adding more flour if needed. Knead for 5-10 minutes. Grease bowl and place dough inside, being sure to flip it once to grease all sides of the dough. Let rise in a warm place for one hour.

 

After one hour, return to dough and punch down and knead quickly. Place bread in buttered or greased bread pan, set in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake bread for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Release bread from pan, and let cool on rack.

 

 
8 Comments

Posted by on January 12, 2012 in Bread, White

 

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Cinnamon Rolls

When I was growing up, I remember with great fondness how my mom used to make us cinnamon rolls every Sunday morning. To be honest, I can’t remember if she made them the night before or the morning of, but regardless, I still remember looking forward to them every week! I do have to hand it to my mom and my Italian heritage for my love of food. Cooking at a young age and being surrounded by good food has always fed my desire to bake and cook! 

Dough:

  • 1/4 oz. package yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup scalded milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 3 1/2 cups to 4 cups all purpose flour

In a bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Let sit for 5-10 minutes or until the yeast bubbles. In a large bowl, mix milk, sugar, melted butter, salt, egg, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add yeast mixture. Mix in 2 cups of flour, incorporate until smooth. Add remaining flour. Knead dough for 5-10 minutes on floured surface. Transfer to well greased bowl, and place in warm oven*. Let rise for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours, or until dough doubles in size.

* Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, or lowest temperature on oven, once oven feels comfortably warm, turn off temperature, and place dough inside. If for some reason during the rising process the oven cools off too much, repeat the first step.

 

 

 

Filling:

  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • dash of cloves
  • 3/4 cup raisins or dried apricots, optional

When dough has doubled in size, punch down and roll out on a flat surface, about a 15×9 rectangle . Spread softened butter over dough, and sprinkle on filling. Press into dough. On the longest end of your rectangle, begin to roll up dough and pinch ends to seal. Cut into 12 to 15 slices.

With remaining butter, spread onto pan. Place cinnamon rolls close in pan, but not touching, leaving room for them to grow. Place back into a warm oven, and let double in size, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, or until just slightly browned on top.

 

 

 

Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In small bowl, combine the butter and cream cheese. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat in slowly at first, and then on high. Slowly add in vanilla extract until creamy. Frost hot cinnamon rolls, enjoy!

 

 
30 Comments

Posted by on January 8, 2012 in Bread, Cinnamon Rolls, Dessert, Sweet Bread

 

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Decadent Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

My grandmother and I have always shared a love of dark chocolate. When I was in college, Gramma made this dark chocolate cake, and was it divine! Since then, we have commonly referred to it as the “decadent” chocolate cake! 😉

Well, I was merrily making this lovely cheesecake, and it called to add cocoa powder… and somewhere in the back of my head, I remembered that I had a can of DARK CHOCOLATE cocoa powder! I could only imagine that if that decadent chocolate cake tasted so wonderful, that a decadent DARK chocolate cheesecake should taste just as divine!(And wow was I right!)

This cheesecake, by far, is the best cheesecake I have ever made. Many times with cheesecake, you can only have a small bite, a small sampling, or a small sliver of sorts because of the richness and almost cloyingly sweet taste your mouth gets after an entire piece. Not so with this lovely piece! The savory flavors of the dark chocolate, contrasted with the rich flavor of the chocolate crust and the berries on top, create a world of beautiful balance! The only next feeling is that you must have another bite of that!

I would not recommend making this cake, unless you have a special occasion to go to. Why? Merely because, on my own, I would have eaten the ENTIRE cheesecake singlehandedly!

Crust:

  • 2 cups Oreos, ground
  • 4 tbs sugar
  • 6 tbs butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Combine Oreos, sugar, and butter. Mix with a fork. Press into a 9-inch spring form pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Cheesecake:

  • 3 cream cheese (total of 24 oz.)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa
  • 1 tbs vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • Berries of choice for topping

Raise oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Beat cream cheese until it has a light a fluffy appearance. Add sugar and continue to beat on high, making sure to clean off the sides of the bowl to ensure a thorough mixing. Add cocoa powder and vanilla, mixing slowly at first. Add eggs and mix well. Pour cheesecake mixture into cooled crust. Tap the cheesecake on a solid counter to take out any extra bubbles and to help prevent the cheesecake from cracking. Place in the oven, and bake for 35-40 minutes. When cheesecake appears almost completely done, turn off the oven, and crack the door, allowing the cheesecake to adjust to the outside temperature. This also helps prevent the cheesecake from cracking. Set aside to cool. Before releasing the cheesecake from the springform pan, insert a butterknife around the sides and circle around the cheesecake. Set aside to cool completely. Top with berries and frosting if you so desire*!

*Note: Do not decorate with berries and frosting until a few hours before you intend on presenting or serving this dish. Be careful also to let the cheesecake completely cool, otherwise your frosting will start to melt.

 
33 Comments

Posted by on December 26, 2011 in Cheesecake, Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Dessert

 

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Chocolate Covered Pretzels

All through my years of growing up, my grandparents would make huge batches of chocolate covered pretzels. I used to love during Christmas time when they would give us our own little individual bags. I never fully appreciated how LONG it takes to do all of this, until I did it myself! Definitly worth the time, but you might want to set up your “dipping” station in front of the tv or have someone good to talk to for awhile. You can do these in simple milk, dark, or white chocolate. You can get fancy with them and drizzle opposite color chocolates on them. Or you can do a Christmas twist as I did in some of these pictures, and used crushed candy canes in the dipping chocolate.

  • 15 oz. bag of pretzels
  • 2 bags of 14 oz. Wilton candy melts (chocolate of your choice)

Melt candy coating according to instructions on the bag, most include using the defrost on your microwave. Dip pretzels and place onto wax paper. Let sit until cool and hard. Enjoy!

 

 
9 Comments

Posted by on December 23, 2011 in Chocolate

 

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Chocolate Pecan Bark

Yesterday was one of those days when you feel like making something…. but not really putting in the effort of baking. I always have these BIG dreams of making things, and then sometimes when I actually get to opening the flour bag, I lose the energy to do it. So yesterday included recipes that made me “feel” like I was doing big hard things… when they weren’t at all. These is an easy recipe and is very attractive.

  • 1 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of toasted pecans, chopped
  • melted white chocolate for drizzling about 1 cup

Melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave or on the stove in a double boiler. Spread the chocolate on wax paper in a 9×13 rectangle, leaving it at least 1/4 inch thick. Toast the pecans sprinkle over the chocolate. Press into the the chocolate. Melt the white chocolate and drizzle over the chocolate pecan mixture. Set aside until hard. Break into irregular shapes.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on December 23, 2011 in Chocolate, Dessert, Nut

 

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Venison Pot Roast with Butternut Squash

Ever since I tried butternut squash, I am slightly obsessed with it. I can’t seem to try it in enough ways or seem to get quite enough to satisfy my appetite for it! Probably my new most favorite vegetable, I am constantly looking for new recipes to incorporate it into.

This recipe happened a bit on accident, which sometimes in the cooking world, can be your greatest success. Genius seems to strike at the oddest times, with the most unpredictable of circumstances, and with the most unsuspecting items.

The gamey flavor of venison suits nicely with the extra celery and the unique flavor of butternut squash. I could see this recipe also doing nicely with the addition of parsnips, but I did not have them at the time.

  • 2 lbs venison pot roast
  • 6 carrots, cut into 3rds or 4ths
  • 2 cups sliced celery, including leaves
  • 1 large butternut squash, cut into chunks
  • 4 onions, quartered
  • 1 cup flour
  • Italian seasoning
  • Garlic salt
  • Onion salt
  • Black pepper
  • Steak Seasoning

Coat roast with steak seasoning, and sear in a frying pan, making sure every part of the roast is seared. Toss chopped vegetables in bowl with the cup of flour, garlic salt, onion salt, and Italian seasoning. Place the roast, and vegetables in a Crockpot slow-cooker. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on December 10, 2011 in Butternut Squash, Meat, Onions, Vegetable, Venison

 

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Frosted Sugar Cookies

Being a music teacher, I have many opportunities and liberties to do fun things with my students. Each semester I help my students prepare for a recital, Christmas and “Spring”. My first year as a music teacher, my students seemed to lack the drive to practice their songs. Slightly stumped, I decided to do a slightly different incentive and announced a “cookie week”. I set up a system of “points” where the children might earn cookies as rewards. I wasn’t entirely sure what to make, but I figured my best bet would be to make the two most popular cookies: chocolate chip and sugar. My chocolate chips had always been a wild success, but I had never yet made a sugar cookie. I called up my mom and asked for a recipe which she had previously used as a “cutout” cookie recipe. I was definitly not going to be cutting out cookies for over 50 students, especially when you could earn up to 5 cookies for each student!

I don’t remember all of the details of how this recipe transformed into what it is today, but I think some of it was experimentation, and some of it was accident. Either way, these cookies are OUT OF THIS WORLD. After I made them that very first year, I have had students and teachers alike requesting I make them again. The cookies became a bit of a legend around the school and each year when I would announce it being time for “cookie week” I would see the excitement in my students eyes, and magically all the work I wanted them to do would miraculously happen!

Last year, because of wedding preparations and whatnot, I never got around to making the cookies. This year when I announced to one of my students about the upcoming “cookie week”, he replied with big eyes “I’ve only HEARD about these cookies!”.

While I was preparing to make these cookies, my husband Tom told me I should call them the “try them if you dare” cookies. I laughed and asked him why, “well,” he said,” Because you can’t just eat one, you have to eat at least 5 or 6 and then you just have to keep coming back for more; they’re SO good!”

By far, my most popular cookies, these finiky little jewels are worth the trouble. Beware, the batter is incredibly addictive, but far more addictive is the end result! Do not make if you are trying to stay on your diet! 😉

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla
  • 3 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 4 cups flour

Preheat the oven to 357 degrees F. In a stand up mixer, beat together the white and brown sugar with the shortening. Add the salt. Beat in each egg. Add the vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the baking soda and buttermilk, set aside and let them react. The mixture should about double in size. Add the buttermilk mixture to the original batter and stir only just enough that the ingredients are combined. Add flour, if the batter looks too wet, add 1/4 c more. Cook for 8 minutes, or until there is a light tan color on just the tips. DO NOT OVERCOOK! Set to cool, and frost with your favorite frosting and sprinkles! 🙂

 
9 Comments

Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Cookie, Dessert

 

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