Wednesday, February 22, 2012

King Cake

My love affair with king cake started about seven years ago. My husband and I had picked one up from a Giant Eagle bakery and we loved it! Sadly, that was also the last year we ever saw one there.

Every year around Mardi Gras, I kept my eyes opened for just the right cake. We've tried several, but none were that good or very memorable. Last year, I went a step further in my search. I contacted several Giant Eagle stores around town hoping to surprise my husband with the real deal. I was so excited when I found one store had the materials to make us one! We were so excited to have our beloved original cake get in our bellies. Only it wasn't our beloved cake. It was completely sub par: dry, bland, mediocre.

This year, I decided enough was enough. It was time to take matters into my own hands. Armed with a delicious sounding (and looking!) recipe from Bunkycooks, I set to work. I had the dough made and rising in about 30 minutes. While the dough rose, I assembled my filling, cleaned up the kitchen, and perused Pinterest, not necessarily in that order.

The dough took about an hour and a half to rise, and was a dream to roll out,  needing very little flour. The entire assembly process for two cakes only took about 15 minutes. After a 45 minute rise, they were ready for the oven. 25 minutes later, they were out of the oven and ready to get fancy. Yea Mardi Gras!

The results were sublime. King cake is a bit of a misnomer as this is definitely a sweet bread, but what a delicious sweet bread it is. The filling which includes brown sugar, raisins, and pecans is so good; the hint of nutmeg in the pastry was just perfect; and the incredibly simple powdered sugar/water icing brought it all together beautifully. I daresay, it was even better than the original king cake we had spent so many years looking for. My good friend Jo declared that making this should become a new tradition and I couldn't agree more.

Even though Mardi Gras is over for this year, do yourself a favor and don't put off making this until next year. Through it together, top it with some pretty pastel icing and call it "Easter Cake." People will thank you. Or throw some green sprinkles on there and it's "Shamrock Cake." Halloween? You know what to do.  

King Cake
Yield: 2 cakes
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water (110° F)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup melted butter 
  • 2 cup confectioners' sugar, divided
  • 2- 2½ Tbsp. water, divided
For pastry:
Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar and salt. Combine the flour and the nutmeg. Beat the flour/nutmeg mixture into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, if using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix at medium speed for 6-7 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1.5-2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

For filling:
Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.

To assemble:
Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10x16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors or a very sharp knife, make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Push the doll or large pecan, if using, into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the confectioners' sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.
Note: My cakes took about 25 minutes to bake. I covered them with aluminum foil at about 15 minutes to avoid excessive browning, and rotated the pans top to bottom/left to right halfway through baking.

Note: When you are ready to ice the cakes, you will want to make the icing separate (1 c. powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp. water) for each cake, especially if you are going to sprinkle them with colored sugars. The icing hardens pretty quickly.

Source: Bunkycooks

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls

These are not the kind of cinnamon rolls that you labor over, waiting in eager anticipation while they rise, only to find that the temperature of the milk was too hot and killed the yeast. Not even close.
These are easy. No dough making required. Perfect for those mornings that your kiddos ask for cute heart-shaped cinnamon rolls. Guess who was the super mom this morning? This girl. A little pre-made store-bought pizza dough, butter, cinnamon, and sugar, plus about the 10 minutes I spent in assembly was all that was needed. Did I mention they are an IKEA cinnamon roll knock-off? You heard me.
The cute heart shape was courtesy of Gourmet Mom on the Go. The perfect breakfast for someone you love.

Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls
Yield: 6 Rolls
  • 1 package Trader Joe's plain pizza dough*
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375° degrees. Combine cinnamon and sugar. On a lightly-floured surface, roll pizza dough into a 9-inch square. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, leaving 1/2 inch border of plain dough around edges.

Roll dough to form a tight log, pinching to seal the seam shut. With the seam side down, cut evenly into six pieces with a serrated knife. Place in buttered pan, and brush tops with any remaining butter.

Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for a few minutes before icing.

*Note from The Kitchn: You can substitute 2 packages of Pillsbury's French Loaf dough for the Trader Joe's pizza dough. The Pillsbury dough also made tasty rolls, but did they not rise as much in the oven.

Icing **
1 tablespoon whipped cream cheese
1 tablespoon buttermilk
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

Whisk cream cheese and buttermilk in large bowl until thick and smooth. Sift in confectioners' sugar; whisk until smooth glaze forms, about 30 seconds.

Drizzle glaze over buns with a spoon. Or, if you want to get fancy, fill a plastic Ziploc bag with the glaze, cut off the tip of one corner, and drizzle in a professional-looking zigzag. Serve warm.

 **I have not tried this icing, as a quick mix of a little milk, powdered sugar, and a dash of vanilla is the quickest and easiest icing, and my preferred recipe when in a hurry. I included the original icing recipe because I wanted you to have the full Ikea-knock-off experience, if your looking for that sort of thing.

Source: The Kitchn. Heart shape design from Gourmet Mom on the Go.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Blood Orange Sugared Scones

I have a new love of scones (probably the result of an occupational hazard - thank you very much Sassafras Bakery), but had yet to make them myself at home. Enter Jessica's rave reviews of these blood orange scones and I knew I could put it off no longer.
The secret to making any sort of scone or biscuit is this: Use cold butter and don't overwork the dough. Pretty simple, right? And topping it with an orange-peel-infused sugar doesn't hurt, either.
Did I mention the glaze? Blood orange juice + powdered sugar = tasty and perfect for Valentine's Day. ♥
If you don't want to have a bunch of yummy, tender, baked scones sitting on your counter, you're in luck! These can easily be shaped and individually frozen after the dough has been made, allowing you to have something on hand if company drops by, or you find yourself needing a little something sweet. They don't seem to rise quite as high as the unfrozen variety, but I could taste any difference.
Don't have blood oranges? Regular oranges are a perfect substitute. The only thing missing is that lovely pink in the glaze.
Blood Orange Sugared Scones
Yield: 16 scones
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 blood oranges, zested
  • melted butter
Preheat oven to 425° degrees. In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup sugar with about 1/2 of the grated orange zest. Rub together with your fingers until combined and fragrant.

In large bowl combine flour, orange sugar, salt, baking soda and powder. Using your fingers, a fork or a pastry blender, cut in butter until it forms coarse crumbs (the butter chunks should be a pea-sized, or a little smaller). Stir in buttermilk and vanilla, and add half of the remaining orange zest. Add the juice from 1/2 of one blood orange. Stir with a spoon until a dough forms, using your hands to bring it together. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently. (I kneaded mine in the bowl.)

Divide in half and pat into 7 inch round circles. Alternately, use a large scoop and place on baking sheet. Combine the remaining sugar and orange zest. Brush each scone with melted butter and sprinkle with orange sugar. Cut into 6 or 8 wedges, or use a biscuit cutter to make rounds.
Bake for 12-14 minutes (wedges) or 9-11 minutes (rounds/scoops). Top with blood orange glaze while still warm.

Note: If you can’t find blood oranges, any type of orange can be used for these scones!

To freeze: Shape and cut dough. Top with melted butter and sprinkle on orange sugar. Place in freezer on baking sheet. When completely frozen, the scones can be placed together in a freezer bag or container. Bake on stoneware to prevent bottoms from overbrowning, and increase bake time to 18-21 minutes.

Blood Orange Glaze
  • Juice of one blood orange
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
Stir ingredients together until a smooth glaze forms. Depending on how juicy your orange is, you made need more juice or more sugar. If glaze seems too thin, add in sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. If it seems too thick, add more juice 1/2 teaspoon at a time. Pour over warm scones.

Source: Ever so slightly adapted from How Sweet Eats

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pizza Dip

The Superbowl is right around the corner, and nothing pairs with the Superbowl quite like a cold beer and a plethora of dips and dippers. While watching the Superbowl isn't really my thing, it combines snacking, friends, and funny commercials, all of which I can heartily get behind.

I can also get behind any dip that tastes like pizza. While the picture is not the best, the pizza dip was actually quite tasty. The bottom layer is a combination of cream cheese, sour cream, mayo, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese, and that is topped with pizza sauce, more cheese, and whatever toppings you enjoy on your pizza. We served ours with breadsticks the girls shaped from store-bought refrigerated pizza dough (not pictured) and some crusty bread. 

While quite yummy, next time I will use less of the cream cheese mixture on the bottom or add more sauce. I'm a sauce girl, and there just wasn't enough for me. Alternatively, use a 9"x13" pan instead of a pie plate. Complete recipe below!

Some other delicious snack ideas include (click on the name, not the picture):
Mini Sliders
Jalapeno Popper Dip
Baked Fontina
Pizza Bites
Simple Restaurant Salsa
Triple Chocolate Brownies

Buffalo Chicken Pasta
Caramel Corn
Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Mini Meatball Sliders

Mini Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Pizza Dip
Serves: 6-8

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella, grated
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
  • *1 cup pizza sauce
  • *1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded/grated
  • *1/4 (1/2) cup parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
  • Pizza toppings: pepperoni, cooked sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers, etc.
  • Breadsticks and/or crusty bread for dipping
Mix the cream cheese, sour cream mayonnaise, mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano and spread it across the bottom of a pie plate or a 9"x13" pan. *Spread the pizza sauce on top and sprinkle on the cheese, and pizza toppings of choice. (*If using a 9"x13" pan, double the ingredients indicated with the asterisk*.)

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven until the cheese has melted, bubbling and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Source: Adapted slightly from Closet Cooking