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Blue Ribbon Yeast Bread (no kneading required!)

18 Oct
Another blue ribbon for my little baker!

Another blue ribbon for my little baker!

Leandro has done it again! My seven-year-old won another blue ribbon at the Long Island Fair for his baking in the Junior Culinary division! What better way of celebrating than sharing it with you on the day of my 550th post and the fourth anniversary of this blog?

Sizing up the competition

Sizing up the competition

Last year it was his Oatmeal Raisin Cranberry Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies. This year it was an extension of his successful Science Fair project on yeast. We’ve been making a lot of the no-knead refrigerator bread we began making for that, so he decided that would be his submission as it is something he can do almost entirely by himself now.

The Exhibition Hall

The Exhibition Hall

This bread, slightly modified from our original to include some whole wheat flour, has terrific sponginess, nice, not-too-crunchy crust, and good yeasty flavor. (My colleagues at LINCC can attest to this, as I brought in some practice loaves)

We get better results with quick-acting yeast than regular AND we include our tips for encouraging the yeast to activate. This is the easiest bread you can imagine and you can keep the extra dough in the fridge for whenever you want warm bread.

Celebratory candy apple. Don't judge....

Celebratory candy apple. Don’t judge….

I’m so proud of him…and in a life where it’s not always clear that I am doing things right, at least I can feel that I am sending him into the world with a love of good food and an ability to feed himself. Yay us!

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

Leandro’s Award-Winning No-Knead Refrigerator Bread

3 Cups warm water (it should feel cozy-comfortable on the hands)

1.5 Tbs salt

1.5 Tbs quick-acting yeast

5.5 Cups unbleached white flour

1 Cup stone ground whole wheat flour

Extra virgin olive oil or other fat for greasing the loaf pan.

Container large enough to hold this much flour and water only doubled in size. You’ll want a cover for it.

Place the water in a large container and dissolve the salt into it.

Stir in the yeast until well mixed. Wait a few minutes for it to begin foaming nicely. We put it on top of a warm toaster oven to encourage yeast activity.

Add the flour, all at once. Stir with a big spoon until well mixed into a sticky dough and there are no big air pockets.

Cover loosely and allow to rise 1-2 hours in a warm place. Again, we put it on top of our toaster oven when it’s on low.

Cover (punching down if necessary) and place in fridge (for up to three weeks).

When you are ready for fresh bread, preheat oven to 450°F. Grease a loaf tin and grab a half to a third of the dough (putting the rest back in the fridge for next time). With greased hands, form a loaf (the cold dough and the fat on your hands — we use olive oil — will keep it from sticking to you), Place in loaf pan and slash across the top with a knife (for a pretty finish) and top with a bit of olive oi if desired. Bake for about 30 minutes or until crust is golden. You can give it a blast at 500°F for the last few minutes to develop the crust more.

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Important Update: Walnut Cup Extra Filling Makes Great Crescent Rolls!

28 Dec

Many of you have undertaken one of my favorite cookie recipes ever: Walnut Cups (delicious walnut toffee inside a cream cheese crust)! And found, as we did this year — and so did my friend and colleague, Cara — that you had leftover filling that you didn’t know what to do with. Do NOT overfill your walnut cups to use it up.

Going into the oven

Going into the oven…this is the right height for filling. Any more and they will bubble over.

Here is the solution:

Marianne happened to have crescent roll dough in, the Pillsbury kind in the tube. so we put about a teaspoon of leftover filling at the wide end of each dough triangle, rolled them up and baked according to package directions.

just a little...

just a little…

Off. The. Hook.

Perfect for breakfast or afternoon tea…these were as good as those Cinnabon ones that smell so intoxicating and irresistible in an airport….

YUM!!!

YUM!!!

So, problem solved and here is a link to the original recipe for holiday Walnut Cups (with cream cheese crust..Lord have mercy!)

Delicious Walnut Cups

Delicious Walnut Cups

Help! Are Candy Houses Meant to Be Eaten?

18 Dec

Soooo, my little guy made a candy house at school this week (mostly on his own, as I was at work, but fortunately 1) he likes to work independently and 2) the other parents who were there kindly kept an eye on him and sent me pictures of the proceedings (Big thanks to Kerry, Kerri, Melissa, and Janice! Also to Fairy Godmother Mimma who picked up supplies for us).

Flat roof

Flat roof

My question is…once it is home, can you eat it? And are you supposed to refrigerate it? (The frosting is from a tin and the sides are made of graham crackers). Thanks to all who comment with some advice….architectural dessert projects of this nature are not my forte….

Happy Holidays!

Natalia

Award-Winning! YES, Leandro’s Oatmeal Cookies Take First Prize!

29 Sep

We shouted! We hooted! We jumped up and down! (Mommy even got a little misty)

The winner!

The winner! Note blue ribbon in the background!

Leandro’s Oatmeal Cranberry Walnut Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies took first prize in the Junior culinary class at the Long Island Fair!

We were completely surprised, because we had made a solemn decision that we didn’t care whether our submissions won. We just wanted our admission tickets (one per submission) and we wanted to be a part of it. We like our own baked goods and we like baking together and winning or losing wouldn’t change that.And then he won!

The calm before the storm. The gorgeous Fair building

The calm before the storm. The gorgeous Fair building

We are, of course, very excited, and we are, of course, sharing the recipe. And of course, we had a marvellous day at the fair with Lori, Brendan, Kate, Abu, Padushi, Madrina, and Betsy. It is always a wonderful time and there is one more day left if you haven’t made it yet!

Makes big batches!

Makes big batches!

Leandro’s Prize-Winning Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip, Cranberry, Walnut Cookies

½ Cup plus 6 Tbs butter, softened

¾ firmly packed brown sugar (I like to mix dark and light brown, but use whatever is on hand)

½ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 ½ Cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp salt

3 Cups quick or old-fashioned oats

½ Cup bittersweet chocolate morsels

½ Cup dried cranberries

¾ Cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until blended and kind of creamy (I don’t have an electric mixer – yet—so I just use a big fork). Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Then add the oats and the fruit and nuts and mix well until all the oats are damp.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes or until light brown. After a minute cooling on the baking sheets, move the cookies to wire cooling racks and cool completely. Store in tightly covered containers.

The right way to celebrate at a fall county fair!

The right way to celebrate at a fall county fair!

You may also like: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (Baking with Kids!)

7 Feb

My intentions were good. But the road I am on took a turn that was paved completely with…Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I was supposed to take Leandro and his buddy, Scott, to the gym with me for their regular weekly play date, where they could scramble in the habitrail (like McDonald’s Play Places without the Happy Meals), watch movies, draw, or just run like the demented maniacs they are after a day cooped up in school. Meanwhile I would do a virtuous hour on the treadmill, go home and make dinner.

It started so innocently...making trail mix!

It started so innocently…making trail mix!

But between one thing and another, we did not go. I attempted to recuperate from said setback by having the boys make their own trail mix for snack. Craisins, walnuts, sunflower seeds and…semi-sweet chocolate chips. Just enough virtue. But mischief was lurking… Continue reading

Walnut Cups – gorgeous holiday cookie alternative (who doesn’t love a cream cheese crust?)

18 Dec

2012-12-16 09.19.14I absolutely cannot believe that I have never posted this recipe!

Yes this much butter, this much cream cheese. Get your jaw off the floor and get cooking!

Yes this much butter, this much cream cheese. Get your jaw off the floor and get cooking!

For the last I don’t know how many years — since my neighbor Teresa brought some over for us one holiday season and was kind enough to give me the recipe — Marianne and family and I (and now Leandro) have included this recipe in our Christmas cookie baking extravaganza although  think last year we did Walnut Toffee Triangles instead. When we went to do the cups this year, I went straight to my own blog and was horrified (or perhaps I should say gobsmacked, simply because I can) to find I had never shared this with you! Continue reading

Walnut Toffee Triangles (freezeable, portable holiday deliciousness)

20 Nov

When Marianne called me the other day to start some holiday baking I thought “What!?! Already!?! It’s too early!” But Marianne is a woman who knows what she’s about in the kitchen; she will have a full house on Thanksgiving and has no time to mess around. 

Even though it seemed like madness, I knew there had to be a method behind it.

And of course there was. Like I said, Marianne doesn’t mess about.

These Walnut Toffee Triangles were pretty easy to make (we did two batches in the oven at the same time; one tray for me and one for her), have a taste and texture reminiscent of baklava without the gooiness or Spanish turrón without the jaw-breaking stickiness. One batch gives you 4 dozen pretty and sophisticated little cookies AND they freeze beautifully, so if you pack them right, you can just pull a few out of the freezer anytime you need a rich dessert. And they are rich, just one or two will satisfy that need for a little something naughty with your coffee (or in my case, tea)!

So, if you are a busy, busy person (and who isn’t these days?), these triangles give you a lot of return for the time investment. And when you bake with friends, well, it’s that much better, isn’t it? Bring on the holidays!!!!

Walnut Toffee Triangles

(you need an electric mixer for this one)

Crust

½ Cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

½ Cup packed light brown sugar

1 large egg yolk

1.5 Cups unsifted all-purpose flour

Topping

1 Cup packed light brown sugar

½ Cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

¼ Cup honey

½ Cup light cream

4 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line bottom and sides of a 13x9x2 baking pan with aluminum foil, extending the ends of the foil beyond the two short pan sides.

Crust: In a medium bowl, with electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter until smooth and creamy. Beat in sugar and egg yolk until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. With mixer on low speed, beat in flour until mixture is smooth. (We didn’t find much difference between a worked dough and a less worked dough, so it’s up to you). Press mixture evenly into bottom of prepared baking pan. Bake 12-15 minutes.

Topping: While crust is baking, in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar, butter and honey; heat until butter is melted. Bring to boil; let boil three minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in light cream and walnuts. Pour mixture evenly over prepared crust. Return to oven. Continue to bake for 19-21 minutes or until top is bubbling.

Cool completely in pan over wire rack. Lift foil by short sides and transfer bar to cutting board. Invert onto wire rack; carefully remove foil. Reinvert bar onto cutting board. Cut crosswise into ten equal strips. Cut each strip crosswise diagonally into five equal triangles (4 dozen cookies).

Oatmeal, Cranberry, Raisin, Walnut COOKIES

17 Feb

Feeling my oats

The phrase “do it right the first time” is especially relevant for dealing with food cravings.

If you want a cookie, don’t pretend, don’t justify, don’t explain, don’t wait. Eat the damn cookie. And don’t eat anything that just pretends to be a cookie or pretends that it is a virtuous cookie; you will have to eat twice as many to get any real satisfaction, then you’ll eat the cookie you wanted anyway.

Let’s face it; most cereal bars are cookies masquerading as health food. So many of them contain an incredible variety and amount of sugars (high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, etc, etc, ad nauseum) and weird processed ingredients and preservatives packed into in incredibly small and — to me — unsatisfying, serving sizes — bars the size of a couple of my fingers —  and they still get to say things like: “heart-healthy” or “0% saturated fats” on their tidy foil wrappers. Really. 

So, rather than futile attempts to make homemade cereal bars that would somehow be more virtuous, me and Leandro just make sugar-laden cookies that don’t pretend to be anything else.

Don’t let the oatmeal, nuts and fruit fool you: this is a sweet treat with plenty of sugar and butter, with tartness, chewiness and crunch to keep it interesting. Eat too many and you will get a tummyache. Eat them frequently and you will get fat. But make them every so often, pass on a few to neighbors, colleagues or the other people who make your life liveable, save a few for yourself to dunk in milk or tea or coffee and everything will be alright.

The recipe is an adaptation of the classic “Quaker Oats Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.” I dedicate it to Canadian comedienne Andrea Martin, (very) late of SCTV and recent of kid’s program, Dino Dan, where she looks weirdly young and smooth-skinned, with what appears to be a surgically modified schnozz, but who is as kooky and loveable as ever as the bizarrely attired art teacher who gets tends to get lost in her “creative zone.” Here is why she gets the dedication: My son — who loves Dino Dan and everyone in it — turned to me the other day and said, “When we bake you and me are in the same creative zone, right Mommy?” and everything felt right with the world.

Oatmeal, Raisin, Cranberry, Walnut Cookies

½ Cup plus 6 Tbs butter, softened

¾ firmly packed brown sugar (I like to mix dark and light brown, but use whatever is on hand)

½ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 ½ Cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp salt

3 Cups quick or old-fashioned oats

½ Cup raisins

½ Cup dried cranberries

¾ Cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until blended and kind of creamy (I don’t have an electric mixer – yet—so I just use a big fork). Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Then add the oats and the fruit and nuts and mix well until all the oats are damp.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes or until light brown. After a minute cooling on the baking sheets, move the cookies to wire cooling racks and cool completely. Store in tightly covered containers.

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