Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ham and Cheese Breakfast Buns

In their glorious form as dinner rolls
Well, now that most of the holiday-ing is over, I fear that I will soon be embarking on some of my resolutions for 2012 that involve less cream, less butter, and less over-the-top decadent desserts. Not permanently. I have just decided that, probably from now on, the month of January will be dessertless. It will also be soda-less, cookie-less, cake-less (except for my son's birthday party), ice-creamless, and specialty coffee-less. It will include more fruits and vegetables, more fiber, and more whole grains. I am also resolving to drink my eight glasses of water a day. I figure that if I put "drink 8 glasses of water" and "eat two servings of veggies" on my daily to-do list then I will probably do it. If I don't put it on the list, it probably won't get done. And for the record, I am trying to eat two servings of vegetables outside of my meals, not that those are the only vegetables I am get what I am saying, right?
So, before all of those resolutions take effect, at the magical stroke of midnight (it's all over SUNDAY!!) I have resolved that for the remaining few days of 2011, I will have as much of the aforementioned soon-to-be-forbidden things as possible. Including these delicious-looking breakfast puff things.
Another thing I will probably make this Saturday, along with those breakfast things, will be these ham buns. I am planning on making them with some of the leftover baked ham that I made for our Christmas celebration. Which, as a little side note, instead of using apricot-pineapple jam, this year I used orange marmalade and it was AMAZING! And, a great little punch idea, if you are having a New Year's Day bash, you can make a delicious punch out of 3 bottles of sparkling apple cider, 1 bottle of cranberry-pomegranate juice, the juice of two limes, and a few frozen cranberries floating in the top. Unless, of course, you want to make an ice ring, which I completely forgot to do. I just filled my punch bowl (AKA upside down cake dome) with water and ice and let it set until I was ready to combine the magic juices. It was really, pretty good.
So, here are the hambuns. After you assemble them, you can freeze them, setting them out on a counter the night before, or just leave them in the fridge until the next morning. You would need to leave them out for about half an hour, or increase the cooking time to make up for the cold dough.

Ham and Cheese Breakfast Buns
(makes about 24)

For the Dough
1 1/4 oz packet active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup sugar
7 1/2 to 8 cups flour
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled, plus more for brushing
2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons Dijon
1 Tablespoon salt, plus more for sprinkling

8 oz ham, finely chopped
2 cups grated cheese (your choice: sharp cheddar, pepper jack, Gruyere)

1. Bloom the yeast: Place 1/2 cup warm water (about 110) into a large bowl, sprinkle with yeast and whisk in the sugar. Let sit about 1 minute, then gently stir in 1 cup flour. Set aside.
2. Make the dough: Mix the melted butter and milk in a mixer with the hook attachment on low speed. Add the eggs and mix until blended. Scrape in the yeast mixture and mix until incorporated. Add 6 1/2 cups flour, Dijon, and 1 Tablespoon salt; mix until the dough forms a ball, 2 to 3 minutes, adding up to 1/2 cup more flour if dough is too sticky.
3. Let it rise: Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and let it rise in a warm place, 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until doubled in volume.
4. Shape the dough: If you are baking the buns now, preheat the oven to 375. Spray a muffin tin or line it with parchment squares (cut into 4" pieces). Dust a clean flat surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Flour your hands; gently press the dough into a 16-by-8-inch rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.
5. Cut the dough: With the short side in front of you, cut the dough in half lengthwise with a floured knife, then slice crosswise into 12 strips. Sprinkle the cut pieces of dough with chopped ham and shredded cheese.
6. Shape the dough: One at a time, fold each strip of dough away from you, then pull the bottom over the top toward you, creating a roll. Tuck it into your muffin tins. At this point, you can freeze or refrigerate the dough if you are making it later.
7. Bake the rolls: Bake until golden brown, 18-20 minutes. If frozen, bake 25 minutes at 325, then 10 minutes at 375. When you remove them from the oven, immediately brush with softened butter and sprinkle with salt.
 *** Omit the Dijon, ham, and cheese and pop these babies in the freezer for the next time you have company and you will find yourself with delicious homemade yeast rolls to serve your guests.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

German Chocolate Cake

Whew! Christmas is just one of those seasons that, while I love even the very thought of it, I often find myself eagerly awaiting the new year so I can get back into the swing of things. Christmas parties galore, church programs, students' recitals, shopping, cooking, cleaning, extra practices, handmade gifts, mailing Christmas cards, ordering presents, and coordinating dates that work with every body's busy schedules usually leave me in a frantic frenzy by Christmas Day.
Just writing that sentence made me tired. Needless to say, with all the ways I have, once again, over-extended myself, I have not had the time necessary to keep up with my writing. I have so many recipes it is seriously ridiculous. I have two recipes I really want to share, one being German Chocolate Cake, because I absolutely love it and I use a collection of recipes from different books to get the exact cake I want, and number two is a recipe for Ham and Cheese buns. I honestly believe these babies are going to be AMAZING with day-after-Christmas ham and pepper jack cheese. But hopefully that post will make the scene sometime next week.
This German Chocolate Cake is something that I wanted to put where I could find it, so the one or two times a year that I make it I don't have to search through a stack of pages I ripped out of magazines, search through cookbooks and scour the Internet.
The cake I made from this book, the Devil's food recipe. I actually made two so it would be extra tall, because that's the way it should be, right? The frosting I used came from a Bon Appetit Magazine from last February, I believe, and I absolutely loved its rich, chocolaty flavor and dark, glossy appearance (thanks to the heavy cream and butter) that really looks amazing. For the filling, I used this recipe, that I had found online. Again, it is amazing.
Oh, and P.S. There were three holly berries until my three-year-old walked up to the counter where they were drying and popped one into his mouth as I was screaming "Nooooooo!!!!!" Just thought you would like to know.

If you, like me, want a giant, drool-inducing chocolate cake, you must double the filling and cake. There is plenty of frosting with just one recipe because you aren't putting any inside.

For the Cake:
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 plus 1 cup water
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Filling:

7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
4 ounces coarsely chopped pecans (1 cup)
14-ounces can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
1 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Make the Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 and position oven racks in upper and lower thirds. Line 2 9-inch round cake pans with parchment and lightly coat with butter or cooking spray.
Place cocoa powder in a small bow. Heat 1/2 cup of the water until very warm. Mix with cocoa until smooth. Add remaining 1 cup water and stir until smooth. Set aside until room temperature.
Place the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until very light in color, 4 to 5 minutes.
Beat the eggs and vanilla in the other small bowl to blend. With the mixer on medium, add the eggs to the butter mixture about 1 Tablespoon at a time. Scrape down the bowl.
Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add the flour mixture and the cocoa mixture alternately, beginning with 1/3 of the flour mixture and half the cocoa water. Finish with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl and finish blending the batter by hand to be sure you have incorporated all the ingredients.
Divide the batter evenly and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on cooling racks and turn out onto rack.

Make filling:
Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
Spread coconut in a large shallow baking pan and pecans in another. Bake pecans in upper third of oven and coconut in lower third, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 18 minutes. Remove pans from oven.
Increase oven temperature to 425°F.
Pour condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover tightly with foil. Bake milk in a water bath in middle of oven 45 minutes. Refill baking pan with water to reach halfway up pie plate and bake milk until thick and brown, about 45 minutes more. Remove pie plate from water bath.
Stir in coconut, pecans, and vanilla and keep warm, covered with foil.

While the filling is cooking, make the frosting.

For frosting: Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, and 1/2 teaspoon (scant) salt. Gradually stir in cream. Stir until mixture is very hot and just begins to simmer at edges. Reduce heat to low; stir 1 minute to let flavors blend. Transfer to medium bowl; stir in vanilla (frosting will resemble chocolate sauce). Chill until just thickened, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours. Let stand at room temperature.

Monday, December 12, 2011

White Chocolate, Gingersnap, and Pumpkin Parfait

So, if you are like me, and tend to get a little over-zealous about your baking this time of year, there is a big possibility that you, like me, have an extra can or two of pumpkin hanging around your pantry. Or perhaps you just have part of a can lingering in your fridge, waiting for him to grow a beard so you can justify throwing him out.
If that's the case, this recipe is perfect for you. In light of the absurd amount of holiday parties you are forced to show your face at for political, family, religious, and business purposes, and the endless gift exchanges and potlucks, this will take one load off your mind. It is a cinch to prepare, and it is assembly only. No cooking required, which means there is no cooling period. It is a parfait, so you can serve it right out of the dish you prepare it in by simply adding a spoon.
It is a crowd pleasure, and a pleasant deviation from the usual party fare. It is light, you can stash any leftovers in the fridge and divvy them out over the next few days.
I adapted this from a recipe from the Food Network Magazine and I have been quite happy with it. I doubled it and prepared it in a 9x13 instead of individual parfait glasses and increased the cookie crust bottom. I decreased the sugar just a bit because it is a very sweet dessert.

If you are pressed for time or don't want to spend the extra time or money on freshly whipped cream, I supposed you could substitute and equal amount of prepared whipped topping, but I would reduce the sugar by half and add more to taste.

White Chocolate, Gingersnap, and Pumpkin Parfait

35 gingersnaps
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups plus 2 Tablespoons confectioners' (powdered) sugar
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
5 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup white chocolate chips
4 cups cold heavy cream

Put 28 cookies in a resealable plastic bag and crush into crumbs with a rolling pin (or just put them in the food processor and pulse). Pour melted butter and most of the cookie crumbs (reserve about 1/4 cup to sprinkle on the top later) into the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Combine and press into the bottom and sides to make a crust. Place in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
In a large bowl combine 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, the pumpkin, 3 teaspoons of vanilla, and the nutmeg and whisk until smooth.
Place the white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave for 10 second increments, stirring each time until the white chocolate has melted. Whisk into the pumpkin mixture until combined.
In a medium bowl, beat 1 1/2 cups heavy cream with a mixer until soft peaks form, fold into the pumpkin mixture and pour into chilled pan and return to the refrigerator. In the same bowl, beat the remaining 1 cup of cream, 2 Tablespoons confectioners' sugar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla until soft peaks form. Top the pumpkin cream with the whipped cream and sprinkle on the reserved gingersnap crumbs. Break the remaining 7 gingersnap cookies in half and decorate the top. Enjoy!
(you could also substitute chocolate grahams for the gingersnaps for a different take on this dessert)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cranberry Bliss (Bars)

There is a definite nostalgia about holiday foods. They usually represent our ethnic heritage, cultural surroundings, and just plain old tradition. We have many such traditions. My family always has this ham on Christmas. We always have au gratin potatoes. Whether they come from a box, or they are these ones, or these ones, they are always there. We have croissants (not homemade) and corn. We used to eat popcorn and hot chocolate while we opened presents, but now the adults want something more substantial.
A breakfast casserole that my mom discovered has been present the last few years, but I think we are moving away from that and on to something that takes less effort. Nobody wants to be stuck in the kitchen on Christmas morning. Well, maybe I do. But nobody wants to wait for it. This year I think I am going to make a Christmas punch (if I can convince someone to buy me a vintage punch bowl).
This recipe is for a new favorite, one that I hope will find its way to your list of seasonal favorite.

For the bar:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
6 ounces white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 1/2 a cup)

For the frosting:

6 oz cream cheese, softened
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick of butter), softened
grated zest of one orange, finely chopped
2 cups powdered sugar
3 oz (about 1/4 cup) white chocolate, melted (see below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13x9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
Prepare the blondie layer: In a medium bowl, melt butter for one minute in the microwave; stir in brown sugar. Scrape the butter & sugar into a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Use an electric mixer to beat in the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; gradually add the dry mixture to the butter mixture. Stir in the cranberries and chopped chocolate (the batter will be thick).
Spread the blondie batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (do not overbake). Cool completely on a wire rack.
Prepare the frosting: In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until well-blended. Gradually add half of the melted white chocolate; beat until blended. Frost brownies. Sprinkle with cranberries. Drizzle with remaining melted white chocolate. Cut into bars- square or triangle-shaped. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

To melt white chocolate in the microwave: place white chocolate chunks into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave in 10 second increments, stirring thoroughly each time until the chocolate is smooth.

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