Posts Tagged ‘baking’

cinnamon sugar biscotti

She had never made it without trying (unsuccessfully) to substitute several healthier ingredients like applesauce (she doesn’t recommend it…). I had never even attempted it. But that afternoon, Kelsey Beth and I set out to make cinnamon sugar biscotti.

(If you think biscotti is that brittle stuff that’s hard to chew, you’ve never had good biscotti.)

I used a recipe from one of my all-time favorite food blogs, Annie’s Eats.


It actually uses ingredients you probably already have on hand! (I love recipes like that… the cheapo in me sings for joy a little bit.)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 Tbs butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
For the topping:
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (or…. and I didn’t think of this until afterward… but you can just save the unused egg white from the main recipe and just use that instead of using a whole other egg.)

The recipe actually calls for a lot more sugar and cinnamon in the topping, but it also means you’ll have way more cinnamon sugar left over than you know what to do with. Even my adapted version will probably leave you with excess, but at least it’s a little better.


As we were making them, we were a little doubtful of how they would turn out, since they started out so oddly shaped and small. We were pleasantly surprised, however, when they puffed up perfectly and sliced into neat little fingers of biscotti.

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together (in a separate bowl from the flour mixture) on medium-high speed (we used a handheld electric mixer) about 3-4 minutes or until fluffy.
  4. Blend the egg and egg yolk into the butter mixture, and then add the vanilla.
  5. Reduce mixer speed to low, and mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture.
  6. Break the dough in half, and shape each half into a log about 9 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. It will probably fall apart while you shape it, but just be gentle and try it again. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Place each log on the baking sheet about 3-4 inches apart.
  7. Combine the sugar and cinnamon for the topping. Brush the top of each log with the egg mixture and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar topping.
  8. Bake 40-45 minutes (halfway through baking, rotate the baking sheet so the back part is moved to the front). Remove the logs from the oven and let them cool just enough to handle. Slice at an angle to achieve about 10-12 slices per log (Yes, it is possible. No, unfortunately I did not get a picture of this part.).
  9. Replace the biscotti on the baking sheet, cut side down, and generously sprinkle on more of the cinnamon sugar topping. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes. (Though I think we ended up doing it closer 20 minutes… This worked for us, but don’t overcook it! It may still seem a little soft when you check it, but once you take it out, it should harden up.)

I had only eaten biscotti a few times in my life. It just wasn’t a food I normally thought of. This recipe may have just changed all that. We dipped it in hot chocolate, but it was wonderful by itself too; it wasn’t dry or flavorless at all. Our husbands arrived just as we took the biscotti out of the oven (perfect timing, huh?), so they got to try it too.

We split the leftover biscotti and sent Kelsey Beth & co. home with a bag of it. The next day, we found out that both parties (us and them) had both ended up completely finishing the biscotti that very night.

cinnamon biscotti on a plate


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Soft warm pretzels

There’s something special about pretzels.

No, not the tiny hard ones you buy in a bag (though they do have their place!). I’m talking about the big, warm, soft, salty variety that makes you want to live in a pretzel shop. My friend Andrea and I decided that not only can soft pretzels end wars and cure world hunger, they also make the PERFECT snack. What more could you want in a food?

I found them on one of my favorite blogs, Annie’s Eats, and then my friend Tram made them and posted about it on her blog, Momma Bird’s Kitchen. I’d been wanting to make them for months, and I finally got my chance.

Mine aren’t as cute and little because (A) It was really hot outside, and I was going back and forth to Stephen and the grill outside by the pool, and (B) I was in a huge hurry and juggling corn cobs and dishes and a spastic timer. And also because I wanted to eat them and didn’t want to waste time making them look pretty. Thus, I ended up with the “rustic” look. That I intended them to have all along. Ahem..


By the way, if you missed my previous post, I’m splitting our Memorial Day Menu into several posts:


So, without further ado (who am I kidding? There’s always plenty of ado when I’m around), the Glorious Pretzels of Peace and Love.


You really don’t need any special ingredients! That’s awfully exciting for someone on a budget (though you do need a hefty amount of baking soda…).

For the dough:
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  •  4 Tbs butter, melted
  • A splash of vegetable oil for greasing the bowl
The original version calls for kosher salt or at least big chunky pretzel salt, but I didn’t have any. It didn’t really affect the flavor, but it sure would’ve been prettier with the right salt.
For finishing:
  • Cooking spray or silicone pan liners
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 Tbs water
  • More salt for sprinkling


The actual baking process is pretty quick, but you do have to let it rise. Also, I only have a hand mixer. I don’t have a stand mixer with a dough hook. If you do, use it. If not, work harder and still end up with delicious pretzels.

  1. Combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Mix on low speed until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and butter and mix just until it starts looking like dough. At this point, either switch to the dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes, OR flour your hands, stick ’em in and moosh them around for a while until the dough becomes more solid and smooth. Move the dough to a large bowl with a little vegetable oil drizzed in it. Turn the lump of dough once to coat the top with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about 55 minutes (it should double in size). I put it in the trunk of my car. This is Texas, friends. I’m surprised it didn’t start baking in there.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Lay the silicone pan liners on 2 baking sheets, or spray both sheets lightly with cooking spray. Put the water and baking soda into a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Take one piece, roll it into a long rope, about 18-24 inches. Make a U-shape with the rope, twist it, and fold it back over to make a pretzel shape. Once you have all the dough shaped into pretzels, place one of them into the boiling water for about 30 seconds each. Fish it out of the water with a slotted skimmer and return it to the baking sheet before moving on to the next.
  4. Brush the tops of the pretzels with the egg/water mixture and follow with a light sprinkling of salt.
  5. Bake 12-14 minutes or until “dark golden brown.” Cool on a rack for about 5 minutes before serving. Or not:
Stephen sneaking a pretzel
We were going back and forth to the pool/grill, so Stephen took the golden opportunity to snatch a pretzel off the cooling rack. Please note the guilty look.

Next, I’d really like to try mini pretzels, cinnamon sugar pretzels and mustard pretzels. But not all at the same time. That would be weird.

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homemade gingerbread cookies with raisins

I have no idea where she got this recipe. All I know is, it was a legend in our family, and I have very fond memories of this special treat. It’s fun, versatile, easy, unique and delicious. Really, it’s that awesome.

My sister-in-law, Rebecca, came over and made these with me tonight, molding them into adorable shapes and popping them in the oven. That, coupled with watching the movie Julie & Julia while the dough was in the refrigerator, made us feel all culinary and inspired and French. We can dream.


It’s actually pretty basic. The only thing you might not have on hand is molasses. It looks like a long list, but it’s mostly just spices.

  • 1 cup butter (I always use unsalted)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed down in the measuring cup)
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves (optional, but I always use it)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

I also sometimes use raisins on the cookies when I’m molding them into shapes.


You need to set aside a little time to make these, but it’s mostly just waiting. There’s hardly any busy work. I made a second batch of dough tonight to bring to a friend’s house tomorrow so we can just mold it into shapes and bake it.

  1. Melt the butter, brown sugar and molasses together in a medium saucepan. Stir, and then let cool for at least 10 minutes (If it’s too hot, it will scald the egg).
  2. Combine all remaining dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla to the butter mixture, then immediately add it to the flour mixture and stir well. Cover and chill the dough at least 2 hours, or overnight.
  4. Form shapes on ungreased cookie sheets (I always use Airbake cookie sheets, they’re amazing. Its virtually impossible to burn the bottom of your cookies on those.). Make sure they’re not too close together, because they do rise a little. Bake 12-15 minutes at 325°. Remove from pan and let cool (or not…).

They’re awesome with milk, but sadly I didn’t have any in my refrigerator tonight. Thanks for baking with me, Becca!

Melting butter with molasses and brown sugar


Dry ingredients in mixing bowl


Melted butter, molasses, brown sugar, egg and vanilla


Mixing bowl with dry and liquid ingredients


Gingerbread cookie dough after refrigerating


Cookie dough twist

Becca is neat and organized. Here are her cookies lined up in pretty rows:

Organized cookies

I am random and sporadic. Here are my cookies sprawled all over the cookie sheet:

Random sporadic cookies on cookie sheet

Et voilà!

Homemade braided gingerbread cookie

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Homemade cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven

I really wanted to make cinnamon rolls one day, but most of the recipes I found required ingredients I didn’t have on hand. I had already told Stephen of my plans, however, so there was no turning back. After a quick search, I found a recipe (with normal ingredients!) on this adorable blog called Shoplifting in a Ghost Town. Side note: Who calls them cinnamon buns? It sounds like a hot dog bun. Mustard and ketchup for breakfast, mmm-mm!

Hers was a little hard to follow, because you have to scroll all over the place to match up the ingredients with the directions. However, it’s the cutest recipe I’ve ever seen, so at least go check it out just to make you smile!


Surprise, surprise – I didn’t make any drastic changes! Here’s what I used:


  • 2 1/4 tsp (or 1 package) yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup warm (not hot; she says go for “baby’s bathwater” temperature) milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbs butter, softened (I always use unsalted)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbs vanilla extract (I use Mexican vanilla… YUM)
  • 4 1/2 cups flour


  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 Tbs softened butter


  • 1/2 package cream cheese, very softened (I used the “1/3 less fat” neufchatel cheese, but it ended up slightly lumpy, so it might be smoother with real cream cheese)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 Tbs vanilla extract (or less, but I love the extra flavor)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (I used a little less than a cup)


It’s pretty easy to make, but you need to block out some time to let it rise. I actually made the dough ahead of time, let it rise and then stuck it in the refrigerator for a few days. It lost some of its “pouf” because of it, but not much, and it still turned out perfect. I would definitely go the refrigerator route again, especially if I wanted to make the cinnamon rolls for breakfast without a huge wait.

  1. Warm the milk in a mixing bowl and pour on the yeast. Let it sit for a few minutes before stirring.
  2. Add the 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp salt, 2 Tbs vanilla, 2 eggs and 6 Tbs butter and mix.
  3. Stir in the 4 1/2 cups flour. I started with 2 cups, stirred in 2 more cups, and then added the last 1/2 cup. It should be thick enough to knead together.
  4. Heavily flour a flat surface (like a kitchen counter) and knead the dough for a few minutes until it’s smooth. Flour your hands too!
  5. Lightly grease another bowl and place the ball of dough inside. Make sure the bowl is big enough, because the dough should double in size after rising. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp dishtowel and let it rise in a warm place. I set the bowl on a stool near a space heater (but make sure it doesn’t get too hot!). It should take about 1 1/2-2 hours, or until it doubles in size.
  6. While it rises, you can mix together all the ingredients for the filling (except the butter) and set aside.
  7. When the dough has doubled in size, flour that flat surface again and place the dough on it. Roll it into a large rectangle. Some people use a rolling pin. I use a bottle of smoky olive oil. To each his own…
  8. Spread the 2 Tbs of softened butter on the dough rectangle. And by “spread,” I mean smear it around with your fingers. Cover it with the filling mixture.
  9. Roll it up long-ways and cut about every 1 1/2 inches. Place in a buttered dish (I ended up using 2 small dishes for 12 cinnamon rolls). Optional: let it sit in the pan for about 30 minutes to expand some more. I didn’t do this and they turned out great. Bake at 350° for about 40 minutes.
  10. Beat together the frosting ingredients and pour on top of the cinnamon rolls when they’re finished.
  11. Devour with your husband and sister-in-law (or whoever is in the vicinity). Leave no prisoners.

I didn’t get any pictures when I initially made the dough, but here’s what it looked like when I put it together:

Cinnamon roll dough with filling spread out

Rolled up cinnamon roll dough

Unbaked cinnamon rolls in the pan

Bowl of icing for the cinnamon rolls

Close-up of fresh homemade cinnamon roll

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