But Sugar is Sweeter

Breakfast

French Croissants

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Before you go running away by the long list of seemingly complicated steps that are involved in this recipe, let me tell you a story.  I actually did the same thing when I saw Annie‘s post about homemade croissants.  I thought to myself, seriously, who has the time (or desire) to do all that!    And yet here I am, telling you about homemade croissants. See, a funny thing happened.  It was called Christmas vacation. After I saw that homemade croissants made the list of  one of Annie’s favorite things from her entire year of hundreds of recipes, I started to think of them in a different light.  Then came a whole week of free time and a house full of people to feed on New Years morning, and croissants suddenly started to seem like a good idea.  And it turned out to be such a good idea that I felt the need to make them again last weekend.  Do they take more time then buying them at the store?  Yes.  But do they taste like no other baked good you’ve ever made before?  Yes.

About half way through making this recipe, I feared the croissants would  turn out  like those crescent rolls that come in a tube.  Then something magical happened in the baking process, and flakey, buttery, French goodness arose.  I was  so excited watching these puff up and golden in the oven, and I think our guests were even more excited about the final result.  Everyone loved these.  I can’t wait to make them again in the future.  They are best eaten shortly after they come out of the oven, but they are still wonderful the next day (they’d probably last a few more days – if you don’t eat them immediately).  While I didn’t include instructions for freezing, I believe the best times to attempt freezing would be after the second lamination of the dough, or after the final shaping of the croissants.  If you try this, I would love to know how freezing turned out!
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French Croissants

Makes 12 large croissants

For the dough:

  • 3 cups (15 oz) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1¼ tsp. salt
  • 1¼ cups whole milk, cold (or use 1 cup skim with 1/4 cup whipping cream)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the butter square:

  • 24 T. (3 sticks) unsalted butter,  cut into 1-tablespoon pieces and kept cold
  • 2 T. all purpose flour

Egg wash:

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
 To make the dough, combine 2¾ cups of the flour together with the yeast, sugar and salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk together and set aside.  Add the milk to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Add the dry ingredients and knead on low speed until a ball of dough forms, about 5 minutes.  Cut the butter into small pieces and add them to the dough.  Continue to knead until the butter is fully incorporated and the dough is smooth.  The dough should form a ball and begin to clear the sides of the bowl, about 5-6 minutes more (10 total).  The dough is sticky, but if it is sticking more to the bowl than to itself add the remaining 1/4 cup flour.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make the butter square, toss flour and butter together.  Using the blade of a large knife or a bench scraper work the butter back and forth until it is smooth and homogenous.  It will be sticky.  Wrap in plastic wrap,  flatten the butter into a 7×7 inch square.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
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Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the fridge and roll out on a floured work surface into an 11 by 11 inch square.  (It may seem small but it will complement the butter square perfectly).

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Place the chilled butter square diagonally on the 11-inch dough square.
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Fold the edges of the dough up around the butter so that they meet in the middle.
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Pinch the dough seems to seal.

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Tap the center of the dough square with a rolling pin in order to soften the butter, and roll the dough into a 14 inch square.  Make sure to flour the surface as you go so the dough doesn’t stick.

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Fold the dough into thirds to form a long rectangle.

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Then starting at the short ends, fold the dough again into thirds.

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At this point wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, or longer.

Repeat this process again- roll dough into a 14 inch square, fold into thirds, then fold into thirds again. Rewrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for another 2 hours, or longer. (I usually do the above steps the day before, and save the steps below for the morning in which the croissants will be served. I believe you could stop at this point and freeze the dough, or half of the dough, but I have not tried this myself.)

Remove the folded dough from the fridge and divide in half.  (You could also roll the dough into one very large 20×20 inch rectangle but I found half of the dough more manageable)

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Roll one of the 2 dough pieces into a 10×20 inch rectangle.

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Then cut the 10×20 inch rectangle into thirds, so that each section is just shy of 7 inches.  Then cut each rectangle in half diagonally.

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Take one triangle, and stretch the dough slightly so that each long side of the triangle is about equal in length.  Cut a 1-inch slit in the bottom of the triangle and roll until the tip of the triangle.

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Place croissants on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicon baking mat, and fold the edges of the dough next to each other to create a crescent.  Repeat with remaining dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until puffy, about 45 minutes.  At this point preheat the oven to 400°.
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Brush croissants with egg wash bake in a preheated oven until the golden brown, about  18-22 minutes, rotating pans half way through baking.

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Allow to cool on a wire rack for several minutes.  Store airtight at room temperature for up to 2 days or wrap well and freeze.  Reheat in a 300˚ F oven for 5-10 minutes.
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Source: Annie’s Eats, as adapted from Baking Illustrated

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Baked Oatmeal with Fruit

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You can really ask anyone who knows me – I’m not much of a breakfast person.  It used to be the standing joke that John would go out to breakfast  with our friend Amanda and order and entire platter of biscuits plus other breakfast monstrosities, while I would go on a 20 mile run. It’s not that I don’t love breakfast food, I just don’t like eating it in the morning.  Sometimes I wish that people went out to brunch for dinner.  I would most certainly order a plate full of pecan waffles, slather them with syrup and not feel guilty at all about eating what is basically a dessert and counting it as dinner.  However, I just don’t like doing this for breakfast.

On any given weekday, I’m franticly trying to get out the door, half dressed and planning to put my makeup on at stoplights on my way to school.  Breakfast is usually a granola bar I grab as I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  So the fact that I have eaten a warm breakfast everyday for the last 2 weeks must tell you that something is up.  I don’t want to go so far as to say this oatmeal has changed my life, but after all they do say a good breakfast is the start to a good day and I have had a very good past 2 weeks.

This dish has taken the reigns as the best oatmeal I have ever eaten, and this is coming from someone who usually eats oatmeal all winter.    It’s moist, flavorful and filled with fruit.  The flavor of the toasted pecans really come through, so don’t try to save yourself a step by tossing them in un-toasted.  It’s a well balanced meal and it keeps you full a lot longer than a granola bar.    I think that perhaps the best thing about this oatmeal is that you can make a batch and easily reheat it for breakfast for the rest of the week.  Since I have no desire to get up earlier than necessary to make myself food, I have made this on Sunday night the last 2 weeks and then reheated it throughout the week.  I ate it 5 days later and it still tasted great.  I plan on making this many more times as the weather gets colder, and I can’t wait to experiment with an apple or pumpkin flavor.  I’ll be sure to share those  with you as soon as I’ve got the recipe down :-)!

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Baked Oatmeal with Fruit

– Make a 1 & 1/2 quart casserole (4-6 servings)

  •  1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup pecans, light toasted then chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup milk (I used skim)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 T. butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ripe bananas, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup blueberries and/or raspberries

1. Preheat oven to 375°.  Grease a 1 & 1/2 quart casserole with butter or cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl toss together oats, pecans, baking powder cinnamon and salt (dry ingredients).

3. In a small bowl whisk together the liquid ingredients reserving 1 T. of butter (maple syrup, milk, egg, 1 T. butter and vanilla).

4. Line the bottom of the baking dish wish sliced bananas.  Then top with about 2/3 of the blueberries and/or raspberries.

5.  Spread the oat mixture over the fruit.  Drizzle the milk mixture over the oats, trying to distribute as evenly as possible.

6.  Bake the oatmeal for 35-45 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with remaining 1 T. of butter.

7. Dish can be served straight from the oven and topped with additional toppings if desired. (I didn’t find this necessary).  Alternatively, this can be made, refrigerated and individual pieces can be reheated in the microwave for about 1 – 1 1/2 minutes.

Slightly Adapted from The  Curvy Carrot, originally from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson


Blueberry Scones

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Believe it or not, I used to order scones from coffee shops because I thought they were a healthy option.  In my defense, they always tasted so dry that I figured they must be healthy.   After making these scones, I realized that they don’t exactly get the title of “healthy” but at the same time, they are way tastier than their coffee shop counterparts.  Plus making them gives you the right to talk in a fake British accent and pretend you’re Kate Middleton for the day.

While these scones might  you feel like British Royalty, they are great for another reason – you can freeze them unbaked, and then bake them from a frozen state.  This is a great option if you want to impress some overnight guests without having to wake up at 4 am.  Just flash freeze them individually on a baking sheet,wrap, and store in a freezer bag until ready to use.

The only tricky thing with making these is that the dough is a little sticky.   I found that forming the dough into a rough square, and cooling it in the freezer for 10 minutes really helped the consistency. I also added quite a bit of flour, but try not to add too much or you might run into the dreaded dryness of a coffee shop scone.   This recipe, as shown only makes 8 scones, so I think next time I will double it, and bake one batch to eat, while keeping the others un-baked  in the freezer for a later date.
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Blueberry Scones 

Makes 8 scones

  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen whole
  • 1½ cups fresh blueberries (slightly less than 1 pint container)
  • ½ cup whole milk (or see my post tomorrow on good substitues for whole milk)
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 cups (10 oz.) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • zest of half a lemon (or 1 heaping teaspoon)
  • For Topping: 2 T. butter, melted and Sugar for sprinling


If you plan on baking the scones immediately, preheat oven to 425˚ F.  Wash and dry the blueberries and place  in the freezer until needed.

Grate the frozen butter on the holes of a large box grater.  In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and sour cream; refrigerate until needed.
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In a larger bowl, combine flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest.    Whisk to combine.  Add the grated butter to the flour mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated.
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Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and fold with a spatula just until combined.  Transfer the dough to a generously floured work surface.  Dust the top of the dough with flour, and knead with well floured hands, 6-8 times, just until the dough holds together in a ragged ball.  Form the dough into a rough square, and place on a floured plate to chill in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.

Return the dough to the floured work surface and roll into an approximately 12-inch square.  Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the surface of the dough, and gently press down so that they are slightly embedded in the dough surface.  Roll the dough up to form a tight log, so that the blueberries are in the center.    Lay the log seam side down and press the the log into a 12 by 4-inch rectangle.  Using a sharp knife, cut the rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. If your knife gets sticky, try flouring it.  Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles.  Transfer to a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet.
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If you are going to freeze these, flash freeze on a baking sheet for 20 minutes, then wrap individually and store in a freezer bag until needed.  To bake, brush the tops of the scones with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for 18-25 minutes (slightly longer if baking from a frozen state). Let cool on a wire rack before serving.

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Slightly adapted from Annie’s Eats, Originally from Cook’s Illustrated Entertaining 


Peanut Butter Banana Bread

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Studying all day can get a little old – so I really needed a change in my routine.  I figured something new for breakfast would be a start.  I secretly bought more bananas then we could eat,  hoping some would end up “banana bread worthy” by the end of the week.   And after avoiding the bananas all week, there were 4 bananas left on their last leg by Friday.  Since I plan on eating this bread for breakfast,  I figured what would be better than adding a little peanut butter to boost the  protein, and the flavor.  I found this recipe on Joy’s blog, which also happened to call for ground flax seed – more protein, more fiber – good stuff.  After finishing off the raspberry bars in a ridiculously short time, I decided I needed to make a snack with a little more sustenance.
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Then of course I had to go and ruin a perfectly healthy morning breakfast by adding chocolate chips to the batter.  They were calling my name from the pantry, and I just couldn’t resist.  I didn’t add too many. Promise. But really you could eat it for dessert if you so desire. You could also try adding butterscotch chips, or peanuts, or walnuts – or whatever happens to be calling your name from your pantry.  I think next time I’m going to put both chocolate chips AND chopped peanuts – because I really love that peanut flavor.  That’s one of the reasons this recipe calls for natural peanut butter – it has a much stronger peanut flavor than Jif.

This is a quick bread, and rightly named.  It doesn’t take much time to make, and you don’t even need to get the mixer out.  It’s pretty much just through all the ingredients in a bowl, mix, and bake.  It’s moist and flavorful  enough to eat just plain, but of course John likes to add butter to his.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread (with Chocolate Chips)

  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4)
  • 1/3 cup plain or vanilla fat free yogurt
  • 1/3 cup creamy all-natural peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (or 1 cup whole wheat flour + 1/2 cup all purpose)
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed meal
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 scant teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of allspice
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, or chopped peanuts

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease a 9×5 loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine all the wet ingredients – bananans, yogurt, peanut butter, melted butter, and eggs.  Mix with a wisk. Then add the brown and granulated sugar and stir.

Then add the flour, flaxseed, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice to the wet ingredients.  (You could also mix the dry ingredients separately in another bowl to start, but I don’t think it’s necessary).

Mix until no lumps remain and then stir in chocolate chips, or your mix-in of choice.

Bake at 350° for 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center come out clean.  Let cool slightly in the pan, and then remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.  Removing the bread from the pan lets the air circulate, so moisture doesn’t condense in the crust – which can make the bread tough.

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Check out those chocolate chips – yummmm.

Adapted from Joy the Baker, Originally adapted from Cooking Light


Cinnamon Sugar Pull Apart Bread

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Have you ever made homemade cinnamon rolls?  After receiving some delicious ones as a gift, we decided to give them a whorl ourselves this past Christmas.  Yes, they were absolutely delicious – but they happen to be something that I’m not sure I can imagine myself making again.  Just a little too much.  Something I personally would prefer as a dessert , and with SO many wonderful options for dessert out there, cinnamon rolls wouldn’t be my first choice.  It also probably had something to do with the fact that I think I ate 4 of them on Christmas morning and then felt like a dying sloth the rest of the day.  So moral of the story,  4 cinnamon rolls = too much for me.   But homemade cinnamon sugar pull apart bread = perfect.

This bread is really divine.  It’s easier to make than cinnamon rolls, it’s unique and it uses ingredients I had around the house.  I adapted it slightly from Joy’s original recipe, only because I almost never buy whole milk, and I hate buying it for the 1/2 cup that a lot of recipes call for.  I know a lot of people just substitute skim – but I think of baking as a science, and I don’t like to mess with science.   When you really think about it, skim milk even looks a lot different than whole milk.  No milk mustache with skim.  So I figured, what could I combine  with skim milk to  give me a milk mustache?  Yogurt!  The recipe came out great, even with fat free yogurt – but if you happen to have whole milk, just use 1/3 cup of it instead of the 1/4 cup milk and 2 T. yogurt.

Cinnamon Sugar Pull Apart Bread

  • 2 3/4 cup flour + more for rolling
  • 1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) quick rise yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 T. butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 2 T. plain fat free yogurt
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
For the Filling
  • 4 T. butter, melted and browned in a frying pan (about 5 minutes on medium)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

In a large bowl, stir together flour, yeast, sugar and salt.
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In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm butter, milk and yogurt, until butter is just melted.  Remove from heat, add water and vanilla and let cool for 3 minutes.
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Using a spatula, stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture.  Then add the eggs, and continue to stir with the spatula.  Dough will be very sticky, but avoid trying to knead it with your fingers like I did.
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If you must, add a little bit of flour.  Just so that you can form the dough into some resemblance of a ball.  This dough should be sticky so try not to overdo it on the flour.

Once formed into ball, place in a well greased bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Once about doubled in size, place dough ball onto a lightly floured surface, and roll into a rectangular shape, about 22 x 14.  ***Alternatively, you could refrigerate the dough ball at this point, and do the remaining steps the next day. (A good plan if you want this for breakfast).

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Mix the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl. Spread the browned butter over the surface with a brush, then sprinkle sugar mixture all over the dough.  (It seems like a lot of sugar – but it’s worth it).
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Cut the rectangle into 6 equal strips.

Then lay the strips on top of each other, and cut again into 6 pieces.
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Place the pieces in a well greased 9×5 loaf pan. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes more.
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Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes. You might need to cover the top with tin foil to keep it from overbrowning. Remove pan from the oven, let rest for 20 minutes, then slide a knife around the edges to loosen the loaf.  Remove from pan and serve warm.
cinnamon sugar pull apart bread
Slightly adapted from Joy the Baker


Healthy Granola

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I’ve really been trying to eat more yogurt, and more fruits and vegetables.  It’s not that I don’t like these things, in fact I actually really love them – its just that sometimes I forget how good they are.  I figured having granola around would be a perfect way to insure I’d eat both yogurt and fruit in the morning.  If I have some awesome granola in the pantry,  how could I pass up a fruit, yogurt and granola parfait for breakfast?

I’ve tried a bunch of granola and  I’ve learned that some granola should actually be in the grocery store right next to the “Cookie Crisps” cereal, because it offers about the same nutritional value.  I’ve got nothing against Cookie Crisps, but if your trying to make yourself a healthy breakfast, don’t be tricked by some “healthy” granola impostor at the store.  This granola actually is healthy, and the flax seed really helps to up the nutritional value.  Flax seed adds some fiber, and  it’s the best source of Omega-3 fatty acids you can get – but you barely notice it’s there. You could definitely try upping the amount used if you’re feeling adventurous.  I found mine in the same aisle as the flour, and it’s sold at most grocery stores.    A lot of granola recipes call for dried fruit, but since I tend it eat this with yogurt and fruit anyways, I like mine plain.

Healthy Granola

  • 5 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 3/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/3 cup flax seed, milled
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 300º.  Mix the brown sugar, honey, applesauce and oil in a small bowl or a measuring cup.  In a large bowl, stir together oats, almonds, salt, cinnamon, ginger and flax seed.  Add the applesauce mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to moisten all the oats.

Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, and spread the granola evenly on the sheet.  Place in the oven for 30 minutes, then remove, and flip the granola using a spatula, cook for 20-25 minutes more.  Remove from oven, and let cool on the cookie sheet.  It will still seem a little moist when you first removed it from the oven, but will crisp more as it cools.