Barest basics of baking

I consider myself to be an above average home baker.  Actually, no, I consider myself to be a fair home baker, but from the feedback others give me, I guess I’m above average.  At least ‘modern’ average.  Compared to our grandmothers I’m just fooling around, probably.

What continually strikes me the most, and if you bake from scratch yourself you’ve probably experienced the same, is whenever I share something with friends, coworkers, etc. they’re usually blown away.  People now are so used to blah supermarket baked goods, brownies from boxes, and mass produced cakes from Costco or BJs, that something baked from scratch is amazing to them.  Heck, I made Rice Krispie Treats, RICE KRISPIE TREATS for crying out loud, and people were telling me they were the best they’d ever had!  That’s crazy to me.  Just pay attention and make them well, people!  I know, I know, half the battle is just making the time and paying attention to your craft.  With a barking dog and three screaming kids, it’s not that easy, I guess.

I think many people are just afraid to try baking from scratch.  Yeast is frightening.  Maybe they tried and failed in the past, producing something unevenly cooked and disappointing after spending a lot of time on it, plus the cost of the ingredients.  Compared to a box of Ghirardelli brownie mix that’s simple and ‘pretty good’, why bother?  Well, if you’re ready to bother, maybe you’d like some of the simplest, ‘entry level’ tips that might help.  It’s just some of the things I try to do based on a lot of reading, mistakes I hear other people make, and trial and error.  (Note: I’ve only ever used an electric oven, I can’t comment on whether gas would be much different.) Continue reading

You got your Butterfingers in my Reese’s cookies recipe

Despite all the Christmas baking I had a little ‘click’ in my brain when I realized I hadn’t made any Peanut Butter Blossoms this year and simultaneously thought about those Butterfinger mini cups.

cookies!

cookies!

Yeah, I went there.  Combined mortal enemies (or so I’ve decided to pretend) into one cookie.  Instead of making straight peanut butter cookies and topping with a Hershey’s kiss, I made cookies with Reese’s peanut butter chocolate spread and topped them with Butterfinger mini cups.  Want the recipe?  OK, but note that the final result is a little crumbly.  I literally just made this for the first time and remember that this isn’t one of those recipe blogs with painstakingly tested recipes presented on cute little plates with sparkly tablecloths (Yeah, I read those blogs…).  Feel free to monkey with this and see if you can get a little better result.  This is a pretty generic peanut butter cookie recipe with just the one switch.

You Got Your Butterfingers In My Reese’s Cookies Recipe

I got 29 cookies from this.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 C unsalted butter
  • 3/4 C Reese’s peanut butter chocolate spread
  • 1/3 C sugar, plus more for rolling
  • 1/3 C light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1-1/2 C all purpose flour
  • Butterfinger peanut butter mini cups
  1. Preheat oven to 375 deg.
  2. In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter and Reese’s spread until blended.
  3. Add sugars and beat until fluffy.
  4. Add egg, baking soda, salt, and vanilla and mix well.  I don’t need to be telling you about things like scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, etc., do I?  Good.
  5. Add in flour in 3 increments, mixing in between.
  6. My guess is that you’re going to have VERY sticky, thin dough at this point and this might be where you’ll want to fool with the recipe, maybe a little more flour.  Or do what I did and refrigerate the dough until it firms up a bit.
  7. Pour some sugar on a plate for rolling.  You want about 1″ balls of dough here, I used my go-to cookie scoop, a #40 ~tablespoon scoop.  Scoop, roll into a ball, roll to coat in sugar, place on cookie sheet lined with a silpat or parchment.  These won’t spread much, so just leave a couple inches between them.  You don’t need generic cookie-ing tips like to scoop out a whole tray of tbsp portions then roll and coat them instead of scooping/rolling, scooping/rolling, right?  Great!
  8. I baked these for 9 minutes, which seemed about right.  Maybe try a minute less?
  9. Immediately top each with a mini Butterfinger peanut butter cup, give it a quick press down into the hot cookie.  Let them sit untouched about 5 minutes then carefully transfer to a cookie sheet for a LONG cool down.  Those Butterfinger cups stay loose and melty for quite some time.

Good luck!

Nice buns!

buns 61313

Hey, now those are some nice looking buns!  It’s burger season (and fish sandwiches for tonight) – so I had to make up a batch of buns.  I like the whole wheat bun recipe from my favorite bread cookbook – Bread Machine Magic.  I twisted it just a little, the recipe is at the end.  This is the first time I tried topping them, it looks to have bonded pretty good, there was almost no seed loss with the two eaten tonight.  Six of them just have sesame seeds, for the other two I tried some of King Arthur Flour’s Everything Bread & Bagel Topping – poppy and sesame seeds, dried onion, garlic, and salt.  My wife is a big fan of the everything bagel and sandwich bread, so we’ll see how these go over.

This is about the 4th or 5th time I’ve made these and, as the picture shows, I’ve just about got it down.  They always poof a little more than I expect so they end up a little…poofy.  I need to let them rise after shaping just a touch less (these probably went 20 minutes instead of the 10-15 recommended by the book – I used 15 in the recipe below).   Only 1 is a little misshapen, I was rushing a little to get this done after work (getting out the bread machine to ready-to-bag is almost a 4 hour process) so that one didn’t get shaped well.  It also got the least covering of sesame seeds, but I just didn’t want to get the bag out again and add more to the plate, so it just got whatever was left.  No harm, no foul.  As you can see, the everythings also stuck together just a hair, I should have separated them a bit more.  But still, don’t those look fantastic?  They’re only 1/3 wheat flour and could probably be bumped up a little if you want without other changes (going all wheat should be fine yeastwise, but they may need a bit longer on the second rise and would benefit from a TBSP or two of vital gluten).  For the fat, I’m a recent convert to coconut oil, trying it in a lot of things with a lot of success.  I use Trader Joe’s organic virgin.

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

(1-1/2 lb bread machine setting)

  • 1 C tepid water
  • 1 egg
  • 2 C (8-1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 C (5 oz) whole wheat flour
  •  1/2 – 3/4 tsp salt (depending on taste)
  • 3 TBSP coconut oil
  • 1/3 – 1/4 C sugar (depending on taste)
  • 3 TSP active dry yeast
  • Seeds for topping (optional)
  1. Add ingredients, minus seeds, in the order called for by your bread machine manufacturer and set for dough.
  2. Remove dough to a lightly oiled cutting board and divide into 8 roughly equal pieces – ideally use a kitchen scale.
  3. Prepare 2 baking sheets/cookie sheets with silpats or parchment paper.  Pour your seeds out on a small plate.
  4. Take each piece and form into a ball with your hands, roll it around while pressing your hands together with light pressure until the seams largely disappear and you are left with a nice round ball.  You might want to lightly oil your hands with some olive or veggie oil.  I found it wasn’t necessary with the slight sheen picked up from rubbing a dab of olive oil over the cutting board.
  5. Using your palms, give the ball a bit of a flattening until they’re about palm sized (if you have extremely abnormally sized palms, take your best guess 😀 ).
  6. Rub just a tiny bit of water on top of the flattened ball and then give the wet side a good dip in the seeds.  Turn it back over and do some more pressing, making sure the dough keeps a nice round shape.  If it’s not happening and the dough keeps springing back to ball form, let the dough rest for a few minutes.  Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet and then carefully flatten it more until it’s about 3/4 as wide as you want it, keeping it round.  Repeat with the remaining 7 pieces.  Put 4 on each sheet.
  7. Let the rolls rise for 10-15 minutes, until they’re about doubled, but really until they’re just a little flatter than you think you want them ultimately to be, in a warm place, covered with a lint-free towel.  I turn on the oven for about 45-60 seconds, then turn it off and let bread proof in there.
  8. Take the trays out and preheat the over to 400 degrees.  Pop in your trays (you removed the towels, right?) and let bake for 5  minutes.  Rotate the trays and let bake another 5 minutes.  Your time may vary, but that works for me.  Ideally check one with an instant read thermometer for about 190-195 degrees (put the thermometer in from the side to avoid putting a hole in the top).
  9. Let them cool on cooling racks, then carefully cut in half and enjoy!