Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sweet Potato Garlic Knots

Recipe Review: The sweet potato adds a unique flavor to these easy to make garlic knots.

After the success of my valentines day pretzel experiment I've suddenly found myself unafraid of making my own bread. The yeast and the rising and the kneading all sounded too many possible steps that I might flub. Now it just seems silly that I waited so long. Attach the dough hook to your KitchenAid and no kneading is necessary. Perfect dough just forms before your eyes. I've always wanted to make my own garlic knots, so they became my next project. A quick tastespotting search led me to a variety using sweet potatoes- yum!

Sweet Potato Garlic Knots
adapted from: kholercreated.com
yield: 16 rolls

1 cup warm water
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 cup sweet potato puree
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups flour
6 cloves minced garlic
1/8 cup olive oil

To make sweet potato puree: Wash and peel sweet potato and cut into 1 inch squares. Place in a large pot of boiling water and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until fork tender. Remove from heat, drain, and return to pot. Beat with hand mixer until smooth.

Pour warm water into the bowl of your stand mixer and add yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes, then add in honey, olive oil and sweet potato puree. Mix until well combined.

Attach dough hook to mixer. On lowest setting add flour and salt very slowly. Continue to mix until dough forms, about 5 minutes. Remove dough, rinse and dry bowl. Use olive oil to generously oil the inside of the bowl. Return dough to bowl and roll to coat with the olive oil. Place in a warm area, cover with saran wrap and allow dough to rise for at least one hour, until it has doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Divide dough into 16 equal pieces. On a floured surface roll them into 8 inch strips and tie into knots, tucking ends under each knot. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until golden. While rolls are baking mince garlic and combine with olive oil. Brush a generous coating onto rolls immediately after removing from oven. Lightly salt rolls with fresh ground sea salt. Allow to cool for 3-5 minutes before serving.

printable recipe

These were really yummy. Nothing beats fresh bread out of the oven. Spread them with some herbed butter and they are heaven. I can't wait for the fall when I can try this out using pumpkin puree. I brought these to a housewarming potluck, and I was surprised how quickly they disappeared. I want to experiment with making the dough in advance and then either freezing or refrigerating the knots. How awesome would it be to have them all ready and just pop them in the oven?

Last weekend out fridge broke down so we found ourselves frantically calling people on craigslist and ended up with a huge chest freezer for only 40 bucks! I'm actually excited because now we can really make the most of our costco membership. Also I now will have the opportunity to do things like cooking huge batches of chili and freezing it, or buying sale turkey's after thanksgiving. So if you know if any freezer friendly recipes, or tips or maximizing the freezer let me know!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels

Review: It looks like a pretzel, it tastes like a pretzel, and its not that hard to make!

disclaimer before we start: That pretzel picture is pretty lame. They tasted good though. I'm sure I'll be making them again so hopefully I will eventually update this post with better pics.

A KitchenAid Mixer will change your life. For reals. A year ago I had never baked from scratch before. I was a box cake mix girl. As you might have noticed I now am completely obsessed with baking from scratch, most often its cupcakes, but its pretty much always dessert. As I pulled home made soft pretzels out of the oven it really hit me how much I've changed. A year ago pretzels were something that you bought- not something that you made. It really is all because of the KitchenAid that I got for Christmas 2010. I don't think I would have ever attempted all the different recipes I've made without it. I use it at least once a week now and it has become an essential part of my kitchen.

Anyways back to the Pretzels. Kevin and I decided on doing a low key Valentine's day, dinner at a local restaurant (nothing too fancy) and we decided to forgo the gifts. I couldn't just not do anything for him though, since he was taking me to dinner. Also I really love celebrating holidays, and love giving creative gifts. Kevin has a bit of a soft pretzel addiction, so I decided that I would make him some homemade ones.

Soft Pretzels
adapted from Alton Brown
yield: 8 pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
11 oz of whole wheat flour
11 oz of all purpose flour
2 oz of butter melted
vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp water
sea salt

Combine the water, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixed and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins of foam. Add the flour and the butter. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl. Removed the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it. Remove the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for approximately 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and coat with non stick spray.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in a 8 quart saucepan.

In the mean time turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece into a 20 inch rope. Twist into your favorite shape. For a classic pretzel make a U shape, cross the ends twice and then fold in half, pressing the ends into the bottom of the U.

Boil the pretzels one at a time for 30 seconds each. Remove from water and place on baking sheets. Brush with egg yolk and sprinkle with alt. Bake until golden brown, approximately 12-14 minutes. Let cool and enjoy.

Pretzel making diagram via tomatoesontomatoes.com

 printable recipe with diagram

These were super yum! The original recipe didn't use wheat flour but I like to up the nutrition content and I had both flours on hand. These were super yum and they tasted like pretzels. (Ok so I know that's sort of a weird thing to say, but sometimes you make homemade things and they don't taste like their store bought counterparts. This did.) Kevin is now requesting that we use the pretzel dough to make mini pretzel pizzas. I don't see why that wouldn't work. I also want to make pretzel pigs in a blanket using small pieces of sausage and pretzel dough. I need to win the lottery so I can stay home all day and try new recipes. That would be heaven.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thin Mint Truffles

Recipe: Decadent Dark Chocolate and Mint truffles that are a cinch to make!

Welcome to part one of my Thin Mint themed baking experiments. I'm not really sure how many follow ups there will be, but I'm already thinking of some thin mint cupcakes and brownies. Lets start off easy though with some no bake Thin Mint truffles.

These yummy treats are very similar to cake balls, but instead are made with cookies, so they are actually even simpler, and don't require your oven. I think that thin mints are perfect for this- but you can use Oreo's too. If it's not Girl Scout Cookie season, you can find Keebler grasshopper cookies year round .  

(Ummm hey Girl Scouts this box of cookies is a whole lot smaller than when I used to sell them, yet the price is the same. not so cool.)

Thin Mint Truffles
makes about 3 dozen

2 packages of thin mints
8oz cream cheese, softened
1 bag of dark chocolate melts

Dump cookies into food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. In a large bowl combine crumbs and softened cream cheese and mix until thoroughly combined. Roll into small balls and refrigerate for 15- 20 minutes.

According to package directions melt chocolate. Dip cookie balls into chocolate, transfer to a baking sheet lined with wax paper, and allow to set. If desired sprinkle any decorations on before chocolate hardens. Store in fridge for up to a week and enjoy!

printable recipe

These are seriously easy to make if you just master the dip technique. (Which admittedly took me quite a while.) I use a toothpick to dip, and then blob a little more chocolate on top to cover the hole. Sprinkles and other decorations make things cute and cover mistakes and imperfections. Another tip is you should try not to burn your first batch of chocolate. I microwaved on high rather than 50%. Super Fail.

Sidebar: It has always bothered me that truffles means both chocolate and delicious fungus. Truffle french fries and cheese are ah-ma-zing, but would be considerably less so had they been drizzled in chocolate. Turns out the chocolates are named after the fungus (can we classify it as something else? the word fungus grosses me out) because they look similar. Truffles from the ground look sorta like little chocolate lumps. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Valentine's Day Cake Pops

Recipe Review: Sweet treats to get ready for Valentines Day! They taste as good as they look!

I have FINALLY figured out how to dip cake pops! I've had so much trouble before. Leave it to Bakerella- the cake pop guru to make a video so it suddenly seems so simple! Turns out I never melted enough chocolate and so I was having to twist the pops all over the place and that's why it wasn't working.

I had a cupcake job this weekend and had some leftover batter. I decided to tint it pink and purple and make some cake pops for valentines day! Cake pops are awesome because you can make them a few days in advance and they stay fresh and yummy. Now that I had mastered the cake pop dip, it was time to decorate. I bought conversation hearts but only a few of them actually looked good, and most of the phrases have been updated to things like "text me" and "tweet me" yuck. What happened to "Be Mine"?? I ended up crushing the heats with a rolling pin and sprinkling them onto the pops. Cute!!!

I've updated my cake pop instructions with hints that I've learned along the way.

Here we go!

1. Bake a normal sheet cake and crumble into a bowl. I like to cut off any hard corners or brown edges.

2. Add frosting. I use about 1 cup for an entire 9 x13 cake. Mix well so that frosting is evenly distributed. Its better to add it a little at a time if you are unsure about how much to add. At this point the mixture should be moist but not heavy and you should be able to easily roll into balls.

3. Roll cake/frosting mix into 1 inch balls, pop them in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. (I have even left them overnight)

4. Melt your chocolate or candy melts according to the directions on packaging.  I like to use a glass measuring cup rather than a bowl because the depth is good for dipping.

5. Press a lollipop stick about halfway through the cake ball. Remove and dip into melted chocolate then reinsert. Place upside down on baking sheet. Once you have dipped all the sticks place in fridge for 5 minutes

6. Dip entire cake ball straight down into melted chocolate. Rock slightly if needed to make sure whole surface is covered but do not twist. Remove from chocolate and gently tap sides while rotating to let any extra chocolate drip off.

7. Sprinkle with any decorations if desired, and carefully place into styrofoam or floral foam to dry.

Only one week till Valentine's Day! Now that I've got the treats and blogging done I should probably figure out what to get Kevin!

P.S. I'm pretty proud of myself for actually doing this ahead of the holiday rather than after. The only downside is that I doubt these will last until Valentine's Day so I'm sure I'll end up baking something else this weekend.