well THAT didn’t work …

I woke up in the middle of the night (some of my best ideas happen either in the shower or with a startled wake up): “Ooooh! I’ll make some cinnamon rolls in the morning!”

I’ve never made cinnamon rolls before. My mom used to all the time. And I know it took her a long time. And there was a lot of waiting involved. But I was prepared.

So I tackled it: I lined up all the ingredients and started snapping pictures… and by the time I got to the mixing stage I knew something was wrong. The flour and the wet mixture didn’t really come together. The dough was just dry… and then I had to add more water to get the dough to look like what I thought it should look like.

But at a certain moment in time I knew these weren’t going to come out like I had hoped. But I kept at it…

I followed all the rest of the steps: allow the dough to rest, divide in half, roll out, layer with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon/brown sugar (and half of them with raisins, for me)… placed them in a baking container and set them aside to rest some more.

Below is a picture of the rolls BEFORE rising.

However, as you’ll see below, 2 1/2 hours later they still hadn’t hardly risen at all.

They weren’t possibly going to rise anymore after that amount of time… so I took my chances and baked them.

And then I started bargaining with myself: “Maybe I could suggest they are ‘mini-cinnamon rolls’?” But when I pulled them out of the oven I noticed the outsides of the rolls were all flaky and cracking and looked dried out…

I drizzled them with frosting… and took a bite…

And then I changed my mind: “Maybe I should face reality and just call them petrified cinnamon rolls’?”

Sad, sad day …

And to top it off, my hubby walked into the living room a few minutes later and sheepishly confessed: “Sorry honey. Don’t take it personally, but I only ate two of them. My teeth hurt.”

No matter the failure, I will try it again. I will start by buying some new yeast. And I’ll take it from there…

Anyone else have any failed kitchen projects that you won’t let get the better of you?! I want to hear about them!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…


RECIPE: the BEST French Toast EVER, thank you to Alton Brown

First off, I apologize about a few blurry moments in this post… so now that you know, well you can forgive me whole-heartedly… and just keep reading.

Alton Brown swears this is the only way to make french toast correctly. And my hero-of-a-hubby would completely agree… somehow Alton Brown found the perfect combination of ingredients and cooking techniques to make an outstanding french toast. You want to make this… soon!

Following Alton’s recommendation, I started by letting the bread sit out over night. It’s amazing what a little bit of oxygen will do to some white bread. The bread dries out and it then becomes the perfect canvas for some amazingness.

What else you’ll need: eggs, honey and half + half.

Whisk it all together until it looks pretty and custard-like…

Transfer the custard to a casserole pan and set aside…

Then you can start the process of soaking the bread in the custard, about 30 seconds on each side…

Transfer the soaked bread to cooling rack, with a cookie sheet underneath it (to catch any drips). Continue on in batches, two pieces of bread at a time. Soak and drip, soak and drip.

In the meantime you can cook two pieces of bread in a saute pan with a little bit of butter, 2-3 minutes on each side (until lightly browned).

And while you’re cooking go ahead and soak up the next couple pieces of bread…

Once the first step of the cooking process is complete, transfer the french toast to another baking sheet or place directly on an oven rack. At this point they need to cook for another 5 minutes or so…

The second part of this cooking process ensures crisp edges, but tender centers. And the french toast is rich, but not heavy.

Confession time: each of these slices of french toast are layered with butter and maple syrup. Don’t judge me… just do me a favor: splurge on this! (You know you want to.)

And be prepared for your loved ones to hug and kiss you and beg for you to make more.

Serve up with your favorite brunch or breakfast items …

But most importantly a huge shout out to Alton Brown … thank you for making me look good!

French Toast
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown

1 cup half and half
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons honey, warmed in microwave for 20 seconds
¼ teaspoon salt
8 (1/2 inch) slices day-old bread or stale country loaf, brioche or challah bread
4 tablespoons butter

In medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the half and half, eggs, honey and salt. You may do this the night before. When ready to cook, pour custard mixture into a pie pan and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Dip bread into mixture, allow to soak for 30 seconds on each side, and then remove to a cooling rack that is sitting in sheet pan, and allow to sit for 1 to 2 minutes.

Over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 10-inch nonstick sauté pan. Place 2 slices of bread at a time into the pan and cook until golden brown, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and place on rack in oven for 5 minutes. Repeat with all 8 slices. Serve immediately with maple syrup, whipped cream or fruit.

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

RECIPE: Boysenberry Linzer Torte

So sooo soooooo good… and as with most desserts it can also serve as breakfast, right?!  (Thank you to my cousin Amy for introducing me to this glorious delight!)

In fact, that’s how I feel about MOST desserts … don’t judge me.

It takes just 3 ingredients. Yes, that’s all. Here’s where I started… sugar cookie dough, boysenberry jam and almond slices.

Once you get over the guilt of not making your own dough, break open the packages. I used 1 1/2 tubes of cookie dough to make the crust on the bottom.

Press it into the pan firmly. And then top it with some boysenberry jam…

When layering the jam I left an edge of crust around the edge… this isn’t a requirement. It’s just my creative touch…

Then I tossed some sliced almonds on top… and started some not-so-fancy lattice work on top (made of dough).

I slid it into the oven for about 25 minutes… but I wish I would have left it in there a little longer. I would recommend more like 30 minutes. But each oven is a little different.

Allow it to cool a tad and then cut into 1″ squares. But I would advise to enjoy this while it’s still a little warm… just trust me on this one.

And when you do enjoy it you might want to have a cup of coffee handy… it’s a perfect match.

And of course you can switch out the boysenberry for raspberry or strawberry or blackberry or whatever it is you like. Be creative… there’s no rules with this one. Except for this: ENJOY!

Boysenberry Linzer Torte
Recipe courtesy http://www.epicurious.com

2 tubes of sugar cookie dough
6 tablespoons boysenberry jam
2 tablespoons almond slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 9” x 13” casserole pan with cooking spray. Spread approximately 1 ¼ tubes of cookie dough over bottom of casserole pan, pressing firmly until dough creates a crust. Spread jam over surface of dough, leaving 1/2 inch border around the edge.

Using the remaining dough, create lattice work across the top of the jam (criss-crossing dough over the top in both directions).

Bake for 20-30 minutes until dough is golden brown. Bottom crust will bubble a bit. Allow to cool completely and cut into 1” squares.

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

Perfect for Saturday brunch…

Thank you Pillsbury for making my Saturday morning! A girlfriend was coming over for brunch in about an hour and I opened the refrigerator to pull out the ingredients to make a frittata… and I realized I had forgotten to purchase more eggs when I was at the grocery store. As you may or may not know, you can’t make much of a frittata with only 2 eggs… hmm… NOW WHAT?!

Pillsbury to the rescue!!! I went searching online and found the perfect recipe: Hashbrown Egg Cups.

Brunch ended up being a complete success … we got to choose from fresh fruit, fresh baked banana muffins and my personal favorite… oh yeah, and the piping hot hasbrown egg cups.

So, in this post I’ll show you how I made the hashbrown egg cups… it’s so easy! And my friend can vouch for how yummy they were… and comforting and filling and cute … all at the same time!

I started by combining prepared hashbrowns, grated cheese, green onions and salt/pepper.

Then I greased the oven-safe bowl and added the hashbrown/cheese mixture by shaping it and pressing it aganst the walls, to create a cup shape.

I placed the bowls on a baking sheet and slid them into a preheated oven…

Following Pillsbury’s instructions, the hashbrowns baked for a while. In the meantime I scrambled the eggs and counted the minutes…

When the time was right I added the scrambled egg and topped it with a tad more grated cheese.

You want to make these… I promise!

And yes, I do believe we’ll be having some for dinner this week too… ‘cuz we’re “breakfast for dinner” kind of people.

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

RECIPE: Lemon Curd

There is NOTHING quite like a little lemon curd spread on a cookie, or IN BETWEEN two cookies)… or slathered on shortbread, or on a scone, or … oh, so many ways to enjoy this!

It’s quick and rather easy… and so, so worth it!

Zest a lemon…

Juice a few lemons…

In a double-broiler, whisk together the eggs, sugar and lemon juice… cook into a thick “sauce”.

Strain the lemon mixture…

Remove the lemon mixture from the heat and melt the butter by whisking it into the lemon mixture.

At the very end, mix in the lemon zest and allow to cool.

And when you can’t stand it anymore… spread it on top of SOMETHING, just about ANYTHING.

Lemon Curd

3 large eggs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons) (do not use the bottled lemon juice)
1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon zest
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or a hollandaise sauce). This will take approximately 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest and let cool. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately (so a skin doesn’t form) and refrigerate. Can stay in the refrigerator for up to a week.

If it will last that long…

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

RECIPE: Because-It-Makes-My-Hubby-Happy Hash

My hero-of-a-hubby woke up and informed me he’s taking today off of work… WHAT?! We could’ve gone out last night and danced until the sun came up?! And you didn’t tell me?! (HA!!! YEAH RIGHT!!!)

So, I guess we should do breakfast together… hmmm, what to make?! What to make?! Wait – what’s in the pantry?!

Between the fridge, freezer and pantry we had the items for this hash… so it all came together quickly. What a nice surprise!!!

And once again, I’m the hero of the household…

My pantry shortcuts for this? They are the farthest from fancy/culinary cuisine… but I still believe in keeping “ready-serve” bacon and freeze-dried hash browns in the pantry. They always seem to come in handy in a pinch… especially this morning! Yay for pantry power!!!

Now he’s jamming on his guitar and I’m in day-off heaven! life is good…

Because-It-Makes-My-Hubby-Happy Hash
Recipe courtesy Lori Tisdale

1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, diced
5 slices bacon, diced
1/4 pound breakfast sausage, cooked/crumbled
5 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup cheddar cheese
½ cup Monterey Jack cheese
1 ½ – 2 cups shredded hash brown potatoes
1 cup cottage cheese
Pinch kosher salt/red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Warm large cast iron skillet over medium heat.

In cast iron skillet, cook bacon and onion in butter. Add pinch of salt to help draw out onion juices. If using already cooked/crumbled sausage, add to mix at end of cooking. Mix well.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs. Add cheddar, Monterey jack and cottage cheeses. Stir in hash browns. Add onion/bacon/sausage mixture; mix well. Transfer ingredients back to skillet and place in oven. Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool/stand for 10 minutes before serving.

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

Beignets with Maple Glaze

It’s Day 2 of Beignet Week… today we top with a beautiful maple glaze.

For the original post, click here: Beignets

Here’s where I started…

I took a 1/2 cup powdered sugar and slowly added about 1/2 teaspoon milk and whisked.

Then I added about 1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup… and whisked…

And a very small amount of pure vanilla extract… and whisked…

Then I tasted it and it needed more… so I added more syrup…

And more vanilla extract… but I also added a little bit of regular pancake syrup (not pictured here and I’m pretty sure it’s currently unrated by the Maple Syrup Institute)… but that was the extra kick it needed.

(Confession: next time I might just use the unrated pancake syrup instead of the pure maple syrup from Canada. Don’t take offense Canada… it’s not personal. I think it’s just a little more of that typical maple I was looking for here…)

Plate your freshly fried beignet and drizzle some of this light and easy glaze over the top of it.

This is not a place for maple frosting, like you’d find at the corner donut shop (although you would find my hero-of-a-hubby and I fighting over the last maple bar if that’s what it came to).

For this light and fluffy beignet you want a light glaze. It’s just perfect…

Did I say it was perfect?

And speaking of my hero-of-a-hubby, I guess I should set it aside and save some for him. Hmph…

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

RECIPE: Beignets

Beignets… they truly are a beautiful thing. Pronounced “ben-yay”… they are the state donut of Louisiana. Does your state have a designated “state donut”?! Mine doesn’t…

They are light and fluffy, sweet and satisfying… and come with a disclaimer: they are not doctor approved. :::Thinking to self: thank goodness January 1’s resolutions don’t come into play until next week:::

Here’s what I started with…

Flour, vegetable shortening, sugar, active dry yeart, kosher salt, powdered sugar, eggs and evaporated milk.

Start with blooming the yeast in some warm water…

And here’s a tip from Lori: while using active dry yeast that has been stored in the refrigerator or freezer it will help to bloom the yeast by adding a pinch of sugar to the water mixture. Sugar increases the yeast’s activity, which will speed up the blooming process. (Some bakers might argue with this… and say that sugar isn’t required. And it’s not. It’s just what I like to do… )

Using your stand mixer, transfer the yeast/water mixture to the proper mixing bowl and set the mixer on low speed. Then add the eggs, sugar, kosher salt and evaporated milk.

Add 4 cups of flour… and then the vegetable shortening. Mix until smooth.

Then you will want to switch attachments… remove the whisk and replace with the dough hook. Because you’re getting ready to add 3 more cups of flour…

You may find that the dough gets to be too big of a ball for the mixer. So, then I turned it all out onto a floured/flat surface and kneaded in the rest of the flour. This just took a few minutes.

The dough then went back into the mixing bowl, was covered with plastic wrap and allowed to chill for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator.

Once you’re ready to fry these little beauties, do two things:

1) Heat up your oil…
2) Divide the dough into 4 smaller pieces. With a floured rolling pin roll out the dough until it’s 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 2-3″ pieces… you will have both squares and triangles, depending on how you roll out the dough. (No need to trim your dough pieces into perfect shapes – when they fry they will change shapes.)

Find your strainer/skimmer (also known as a “spider” – not sure why), or some sort of kitchen gadget that will allow you to flip the dough in the oil and strain the oil off before you move it to the plate to cool.

Once the oil has hit the 360 degrees F mark try frying 1 dough piece. The oil will slightly sizzle/bubble. The dough will sink, but will begin to float within about 5 seconds. Within a minute the dough will start to brown around the edges. With your spider, flip the dough over – you are looking for a golden brown color. Allow to cook for about another minute and flip again to check doneness.

Once you have determined it is done, transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and generously sprinkle with powdered sugar (while hot). Allow to cool for several minutes before enjoying…

After you’ve stopped drooling, move on to another batch of 2 or 3 or 4 dough pieces at a time.

As they finish, remove the cooked beignets and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

And for my little addition (not sure if this would be acceptable or not in New Orleans), sprinkle the plate with a pinch of kosher salt … and enjoy thoroughly.

Recipe courtesy Lori Tisdale

1 ½ cups warm water (110-110 degrees F)
1 envelope active dry yeast (or 2 ¼ teaspoon)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces evaporated milk
7-8 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup vegetable shortening
2-3 cups canola oil
Powdered sugar/kosher salt for sprinkling

Remove bowl from stand mixer and add 1 ½ cups of warm water. Sprinkle one envelope of active dry yeast over the top of the water, add one pinch of sugar and stir until the yeast is dissolved. Allow the mixture to stand for 5 minutes. Place bowl back into stand mixer with whisk attachment.

Add whisked eggs to the water and yeast mixture. Turning the mixer onto low, add ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 8 ounces of evaporated milk. Mix thoroughly.

With the mixer on low speed, add 4 cups flour to the wet ingredients. Whisk until smooth. Add ¼ cup of vegetable shortening and beat until smooth. Switch to dough hook and gradually add in 3 more cups flour until a smooth, thick dough is achieved. Towards the end you may need to turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface to knead in the rest of the dough.

Make large ball out of dough, place back into the bottom of the mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours. (You can make the dough ahead of time –however use the dough within a week.)

When ready to finish the beignets, start by heating the canola oil in a heavy bottom pan, ideally a dutch oven. You will want approximately 4 inches of oil in the bottom of your pan. The oil is ready to use once it has reached 360 degrees F.

For ease of handling, divide beignet dough into 4 portions. Transfer one portion of beignet dough out onto a floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut into 2-3 inches, you will most likely have squares and triangles.

Start by testing one piece of dough. The oil should sizzle, slightly bubble. The dough will sink, but will begin to float within about 5 seconds. Within a minute the dough will start to brown around the edges. With your spider, flip the dough over – you are looking for a golden brown color. Allow to cook for about another minute and flip again to check doneness. With spider, remove to plate lined with paper towels. Immediately sprinkle powdered sugar on top. Allow to cool several minutes before testing. When you bite into it you will see the inside is hollow. If the first one has turned out ok – then continue on with the rest of the dough pieces. Right before serving, sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt over the top. Serve hot. Yield: 40-50 beignets.

Optional toppings/fillings: instead top with a chocolate glaze, or fill/serve with a fruit preserve, etc. There are also savory versions of beignets… have fun!!!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

A favorite: Trader Joe’s Chocolate Croissants

I owe my friend Jan a HUGE THANK YOU! Now, to answer the question on why it took me so long to pick these up at Trader Joe’s and try them for myself…

WHY, oh why, did I wait so long?!

You can find them in the frozen food section… they are packaged in a box of 4. Trust me on this one… buy more than just 1 box.

Follow the instructions on the back of the box: lay them out on a buttered/lined cookie sheet, seam side down. And allow them to thaw, raise overnight…

Approximately 10 hours later this is what they look like.

To give the tops of the croissants, brush them each with a little bit of egg wash. And then place them in the oven.

About 20-25 mins later this is what you have…

If you can stand it, allow them to cool for about 10 mins and then eat ONLY one… I dare you!

But don’t take my word for it… try them for yourself!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

RECIPE: Berry Good Blueberry Muffins

I love blueberry season! They just beg to be eaten by the handful…

But today they’re being used for some amazing muffins… some muffins you need to make soon, ASAP!

As usual when baking, I start with the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt)…

To that we add the ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg…

But first let’s take a closer look at the whole nutmeg… freshly ground nutmeg is by far WAY better than nutmeg that is already ground. And the smell … wow!

You can grind a whole nutmeg with a microplane. 3 seconds later… you’re happy you did!

Next… on to the wet ingredients. Measure out the butter and sugar… and cream it up.

Get your hands on two eggs…

Beat them up a little…

Add the eggs to the creamed sugar/butter mixture…

And keep creaming… this creates such a beautiful satin-like batter.

The gentle look of the creamed mixture makes me want to use a good old-fashioned wooden spoon for the rest of this project. It’s just begging for a wooden spoon… so I add the milk.

And with the wooden spoon, gently mix in the milk.

And now it’s time to introduce the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture…

Starting with a small portion, fold in the dry ingredients…

Add another small portion… and keep folding…

And for the crowned glory of the morning… the beautiful and berry good blueberries!

But for one more twist on this blueberry muffin… we’re going to top these with a little lemon zest. You won’t really know it’s there. But the flavor it leaves … is just, um… perfect!!!

We’re doing double duty with the microplane today… but just barely pulling that outer layer of the lemon off. It doesn’t take much effort.

When zesting the lemon, you want to stop before you get any of the white part of the pith. That just tastes bitter. And we don’t want bitter.

We just want the slight flavor from that outer layer of the skin.

After spooning the batter into the greased muffin pans, top with a light sprinkle of sugar and a teeny-tiny pinch of lemon zest.

I decided to make some muffins with only sugar and some with both sugar and lemon zest (you know, to compare).

And the ones WITH lemon zest easily top the charts as my fav!

You KNOW you have to make these for yourself! So, ‘cuz I’m feeling generous today… here’s the recipe! But only share these with the people you love the most!

Berry Good Blueberry Muffins
Recipe courtesy Lori Tisdale

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup milk
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups fresh blueberries, (frozen ok too)
2 tablespoons sugar, for topping
Zest from one lemon, for topping

Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and mix well, stir in milk. Add dry ingredients (in small batches) to creamed mixture; stir to combine. Fold in blueberries, gently.

Grease muffin cups and fill approximately ¾ full. Sprinkle tops with a little sugar and a pinch of lemon zest. Bake for about 20-22 minutes, or until the tops start to lightly brown.

Remove to cooling rack. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes for removing each muffin to continue to cool. Yield: 12-16 muffins.

enjoy your time in the kitchen…