cardamom buns, again

Bakers have got to be the most popular people around, what with all of the sharing they must do. Every time I venture back into baking world I am faced with the same inevitable challenge that follows: what do I do with all of the food afterward?? I am but one person and, although I have a sweet tooth that can rival most 3rd graders, I simply cannot finish two dozen cookies and an entire cake on my own. I’m sorry.


So, you can imagine my relief when I came across this recipe from Bon Appétempt. Swedish cardamom buns. Here’s why I’m happy — 1.) These are buns designed to be enjoyed during a relaxing tea time, among friends (read: they’ll eat what I can’t); and 2.) They freeze beautifully (or, more time for me to eat what others could not).

Cardamom has rapidly moved to the forefront of the favorite-spice race in my kitchen this past year. Any chance I have, I’m grinding those cute little seeds: into oatmeal, any cookies, sweet breads, even my coffee grounds.

These buns have more than a few steps, yes (more than I usually do), but they are very much worth it. Your entire home will fill with the smells of warm spices and buttery yeast.

Oh, and, nuking them for 15 seconds brings them right back to life after being frozen for weeks. Boom.

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Cardamom Buns

Dough:

• 1 1/2 packets dry active yeast

• 5 T butter

• 1 c milk

• pinch of salt

• 3 1/2 T sugar

• 1 t ground cardamom

• almost 3 c flour

Filling:

• 3 1/2 T butter, room-temperature

• 3 1/2 T sugar

• 1/2 t cinnamon

• 1/2 t ground cardamom

Topping:

• 1 egg, lightly beaten

• turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)

– Make dough: Melt butter with milk in saucepan until luke warm. Add yeast and let sit a few minutes until foamy. Stir in salt, sugar, and cardamom.

– Transfer yeast mix to a mixing bowl or, if mixing by hand (as I did — it’s not too much work, trust me), a large bowl. Add 2/3 of the flour and mix until smooth and shiny, I just used my hands. Add a little more flour (save some for kneading later) and keep mixing until dough pulls from the sides of the bowl.

– Cover bowl with a towel and let rise in a warm place (like near the oven) until it has doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

– Make filling: Mix all filling ingredients together. That was easy.

– Prepare muffin cups — either use sturdy foil muffin liners that can stand up on a baking sheet (as I did) or fill each cup of a muffin tin with liners.

– Flour a work surface and turn dough out to knead. Knead until smooth and shiny again, then cut in half. Roll out each half into a rectangle of equal size, about 12″x12″. Evenly spread filling over one rectangle, (not quite to the edge), then top with the other rectangle.

– Roll up rectangle sandwich, long side-to-long side, and cut into equal-sized rounds. A sharp knife helps here.

– Place one round in each muffin cup. Cover filled muffin cups with a towel and let rise until doubled in size (again), about 30-45 minutes.

– Preheat oven to 425°F. Once buns have risen, coat each with a little egg wash and a generous sprinkling of turbinado sugar.

– Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden.

**Enjoy either that day or the next to avoid drying out. Or pop them into freezer bags and keep them in the freezer for…a long time. IF you don’t eat them by then.

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spice girl

Scary, Baby, Ginger, Sporty, Posh.

My first concert ever was to see The Spice Girls. In middle school. With my dad.

And he put purple highlights in his hair to match mine. Greatest dad?

My friends and I were so obsessed with the Spice Girls we all bought platform shoes (that resulted in no ankle injuries, oddly enough) and planned on going as the group for Halloween one year. I was assigned the role of Posh Spice who, as you could probably guess, is a spitting image of myself: black hair, olive skin, 5’3″, British…

Not the best fit. Some things were never meant to be, I guess.

So maybe the Spice Girls didn’t stick with me, although I do sing a mean “zigga-zig-aahhh,” but another form of spice did: molasses spice cookies.

(Lame segue?)

I make these all the time. Really, all the time. I have a tupperware container filled with them at any given moment. Good source of iron from the molasses, I tell myself. It’s probably their fine coffee-dunking ability… (Dunkability?)

I haven’t settled on one particular recipe for molasses spice cookies yet. For awhile I was making one from an old Gourmet magazine, then a Barefoot Contessa creation, and now this one from the food blog 101 Cookbooks. It may look like a lot of ginger but don’t worry, they aren’t overly spicy. Kind of gingersnap-like. I modified the recipe a bit — technically these are only “double ginger cookies” since I left out the crystallized ginger, no lemon zest, and substituted half the butter for canola oil.

Still plenty good, though, as the tupperware is currently empty.

The yield for this recipe (or any cookie recipe, really) depends on how big you scoop your cookies. I have a mini ice cream scooper that gives me tablespoon-sized cookies that I like to use. You could make these bite-sized if you split a tablespoon of dough in half, or make them jumbo by making them two tablespoons.

I like to make sure the cookies will fit within the rim of my coffee cup. Just saying.

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Molasses Ginger Spice Cookies

(adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

• 2 c whole wheat or spelt flour

• 1 t baking soda

• 4 1/2 t ground ginger

• 1/2 t salt

• 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

• 1/4 c molasses

• 2/3 c sugar

• 1 1/2 T fresh ginger, finely grated

• 1 egg, beaten

• large-grained sugar (such as turbinado or “Sugar In The Raw”), for dusting

– Preheat oven to 350°. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. Pour turbinado sugar into a bowl and set aside.

– In a large bowl, prepare dry ingredients: mix together flour, baking soda, ground ginger and salt.

– In a small saucepan heat butter until just melted over medium-low heat. Add molasses, sugar, and fresh ginger. Take mixture off the heat to allow to cool down a little. When mixture is no longer hot, whisk in the egg.

– Pour molasses mix over dry mix and stir until just combined. Form cookies into desirable size and roll in turbinado sugar.

– Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until cookie tops start to crackle.

** Optional: walnuts. I was going to use them (as shown in the pictures) but forgot all about it. Smush one walnut half in the top of each cookie before baking and it will get toasty as the cookies bake. It’s a nice crunch.


Thanksgiving past

I know it’s been two weeks already, but it seems Thanksgiving was just upon us. I’m still reading about how to recycle leftover turkey and cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes and dressing and…

This year’s Thanksgiving was a new experience for me: the cheese shop was open both the day before and after the holiday, as retail stores tend to be, so time allotted to travel home was next to nil. Not only was I away from family for the holiday (for the first time ever! if you don’t count that year I had pneumonia) but the acquisition/consumption of a Thanksgiving meal was squarely set upon my own shoulders. No problem there! Because I wasn’t cooking for a crowd, just a mere two, I made a mini menu that I think worked out pretty well: turkey breast wrapped around apple-fennel stuffing (i.e. “stuffed”), roasted garlic buttermilk mashed potatoes and gravy, root veggies, cranberry relish, and pecan pie. Not bad.

There was one Thanksgiving element I missed out on that resonated with me more than anything, though: pumpkin pie. In my opinion, and maybe this is just my damn sweet tooth talking, pumpkin pie is almost more essential to a Thanksgiving meal than *gasp* the turkey. I know that’s basically sacrilegious to say, but I think for me it’s true. Or maybe I just love desserts. Either way…

So, I had a pumpkin void to fill but only my own mouth to feed. Yes, I could probably tackle a whole pie, but no one wants to see that. What to do?

I found this great recipe on Dashing Dish, one of the many food blogs I follow like a crazy person. These mini pumpkin pies are perfect because a.) they’re pretty darn healthy (something insane like 40 calories each?!) and I don’t feel bad eating a plate-full, and b.) it’s a muffin-tin recipe, and if you know me even a little you know I will always gravitate toward those.

The pies are super-quick to make and, more importantly, to bake. (Short waiting period until eating!) Now I know there are some purists out there who think using a food processor is cheating (no sensual connection through your hands, blah blah blah) and I’m usually right there with ya, but using one here almost makes this recipe too easy. So, I did. However, I’m sure mixing it by hand would be fine too, maybe with a little different texture as a result. Enjoy!

-a

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Mini Pumpkin Pies

• 1/2 cup egg whites

• 1/2 cup pumpkin (I used canned, but if you’re feeling adventurous…)

• 1 t pumpkin pie spice (blend of cinnamon, cloves & nutmeg is fine)

• 1 cup sugar* (I actually used a little less)

• 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese

• 12 wonton wrappers

** Optional: whipped cream

– Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.

– Blend all ingredients (except wonton wrappers) in food processor until smooth.

– Press wonton wrappers into prepared muffin cups.

– Equally distribute filling into each muffin cup.

– Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the center of each mini pie is just set. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon, if you want. And you’ll want.

* Instead of sugar you could substitute in 1 teaspoon of Stevia, the herbal sweetener, which the author of Dashing Dish seems to have an affinity for, but I didn’t have any so I used sugar.

P.S. Here’s the one down-side to the new apartment that I love (pictures to come): no dishwasher. Boo.


cornflake chicken

Oh, hey 1950’s!

Cornflake chicken. Until a few weeks ago, I had never experienced cornflake chicken. It is a repeating staple for a wonderful couple for whom I cook, though, so I get to have it every week! Needless to say, it is currently my favorite chicken recipe.
Cheap, easy, modifiable. You can switch up almost every ingredient in this dish — even the meat! Not a chicken fan? I bet a nice pork chop would be delicious. Cornflakes provide a nice crunch to the outside, but crushed-up crackers (something whole grain would be good) or Panko bread crumbs could substitute for the exterior breading.

This recipe is also great because it can easily be modified to feed one person, or twenty!
Here’s the combo I have been eating recently, serving four people…

-a

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Cornflake Chicken
(courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. Mallor)

• 4 chicken breasts
• 2 T mayonnaise (<– Isn’t that unhealthy? It will keep your chicken moist!)
• 2 T plain yogurt
• about 1 cup cornflakes, crushed
• 1/2 T ground mustard
• honey
• salt and pepper

everything you will need

– Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
– Season chicken breasts liberally with salt and pepper (Remember: chicken is pretty bland. It needs seasoning help.).
– Mix mayo and yogurt together on a large plate. You could season with more salt and pepper, if you want.
– Crush cornflakes. A resealable bag works great here. Dump crushed cornflakes onto a large plate and add the ground mustard. Mix around with your hands so the mustard is distributed evenly.
– First, dunk all sides of the the chicken breasts in the mayo/yogurt mix. Shake off any excess. Second, coat chicken breasts in cornflake/mustard mix.

yogurt dunk

cornflake dunk

– Put chicken breasts on the foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle honey over each breast.

– Cook for about 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
(If you are unsure about your chicken being done, check it! My roommate, Sam, cuts into everything he cooks — don’t worry! This never affects the taste :))

ooooh yeah


the first of many muffins to come…

Muffins have a soft spot in my heart (and stomach). Healthy, covered with icing as a cupcake, veggie-filled — it doesn’t matter. An individual cake, just for me, in a special little wrapper package? Perfect.
This is one I make quite often. The recipe is basic and fast and, with some of my modifications, I never feel guilty about eating more than one (which happens every time I sit down to eat one). It’s also great because, with a longer cooking time, it can be converted into a loaf of banana bread. Double yum.

This recipe has been adapted from one I found awhile back from The Fresh Loaf. I have changed a few things from the original: I use applesauce in place of some of the butter, and I substitute half of the flour with whole wheat flour for added texture (and to be healthy). I also sprinkle oats on the top of my muffins, just for a little cute touch.

-a

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Banana Nut Muffins

• 1/2 cup applesauce (plain or cinnamon)
• 1 T butter, softened
• 2 eggs, room temperature
• 2 or 3 ripe bananas
• 1/2 – 2/3 cup sugar (depending how sweet you like your bread)
• 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
• 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
• 3/4 t salt
• 1/2 t baking soda
• 1/4 t baking powder
• 1/2 t cinnamon
• 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (or, your favorite nuts – maybe even chocolate chips!)
** optional: a pinch of additional spices, like nutmeg or cloves

– Preheat oven to 350°. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray or line them with paper muffin cups.
– In a large bowl, combine applesauce through sugar. Mash with a fork. Leaving lumps of bananas is a good thing!
– In a medium-sized bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients.
– Add the dry mix to the banana mix. Stir in walnuts. Spoon mix evenly into muffin tin.

fill the muffin cups almost all the way up with batter

– Bake for about 20 minutes (depending on your oven), or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Note: Make sure not to over-bake these. With the whole wheat flour in there, it’s easy to get a tough and dry muffin with over-baking.

I broke into one so fast I almost forgot to take a picture...