Friday, October 7, 2011

Butterhorns from a master sweet dough recipe

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Yesterday I saw a post on the wonderful blog Life As Mom for a master sweet dough recipe with several awesome looking sweet bread results and I just KNEW I needed to make it! So, I did! I made one batch of dough yesterday and made 2 round braided loaves (placing one in the freezer for later) and 16 chocolate butterhorns (freezing 8 of those). I let one loaf and 8 crescents rise and then baked them. They were beautiful AND delicious! After that success, I knew I needed to try it with one of our favorite combinations... Nutella and toffee chips! So, check out the original bread machine recipe on 

and then see below for my changes and adaptations!

Dough ingredients
To the basic ingredients I added 1 tsp vanilla extract and also used sea salt instead of regular. I also "preheated" the milk for 30 seconds in the microwave to keep it from being too cold for the yeast...

The dough after bread machine dough cycle

Divide the dough into quarters

Roll out to a 12" round (yes, mine's more of a square...)

Cut the "circle" into 8 "triangles"

For my "Nutella" version, I used Nutella spread and Heath Bits O' Brickle toffee

Spread the Nutella onto the wedges and then sprinkle with toffee bits

Roll into crescent shapes and place on parchment paper to rise for 45 minutes.

Here is the "chocolate chip" version

Out of the oven and ready to eat!

Yum! The inside of one of the chocolate chip ones

Now that I've tried the nutella version, I think I'm gonna give them a try with some of my maple almond butter (from Justin's Nut Butters)  and drizzle with maple glaze...The possibilities are really endless!

Oh, and here is a picture of the braided loaf from yesterday!!!

Round braided cinnamon sugar bread

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sage sauce

So I recently decided to join a monthly blog challenge for food bloggers called Kitchen Bootcamp.

Each month the hostess chooses a topic for bloggers to try their hand at. She bases her challenges on The Professional Chef , but entrants are welcome to use their own recipes and resources as well. This month the challenge is Cooking Pasta and Dumplings.  Well, I've made regular egg noodles as well as plain and flavored fettuccine in the past but have always wanted to try my hand at making gnocchi, so I decided that this would be the prime opportunity to do so! 

For those unfamiliar with gnocchi, it's kind of like a pillowy pasta shape, sometimes made of ricotta but more commonly made with potato. One of my favorite dishes that a local restaurant used to make was Gnocchi with Fresh Mozzarella and Vodka sauce. It was divine! The restaurant no longer has it on the menu, so mastering gnocchi might allow me to recreate it in my own kitchen! Tuesday morning, armed with some leftover mashed potatoes and my copy of The Professional Chef I set out to make some "Gnocchi Piedmontese", a basic potato gnocchi.  What a mess! The "dough" was a sticky, gluey, heavy mess...not at all the soft pillowy bites of dough I was looking for! I think because I started with already mashed potatoes, which had milk and butter in them, there was too much moisture and then because it was so "sticky" I tried adding a bit more flour and beating a little longer which resulted in a tough, gluey mess.

Undeterred, I decided I would try again on Thursday after a run to the grocery for more potatoes.  I decided on Thursday because Tuesdays & Thursdays are the two days of the week that one of my two kiddos is in preschool, so I had half the distraction of other days. My mother brought me some potatoes Tuesday evening (after I told her about the mess in the morning) so I was all set. However, when sorting some things out in the pantry, I realized I had an extra butternut squash lying around. I decided to search my recipe database for ways to use it when I came across a recipe for Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sage Butter Sauce.

This recipe, from Lidia Bastianich's cookbook La Cucina Di Lidia: Recipes and Memories from Italy's Adriatic Coast, called for roasting the butternut squash they day before use and allowing them to drain in a colander over a bowl overnight in the refrigerator so that most of the liquid would be removed. The first problem I ran into was the length of time the recipe called for roasting the squash. My butternut squash took THREE TIMES as long to roast to "tender" as the recipe directed. Other than that small problem (which was easily overcome by continuing to cook it until done!), the recipe worked very well. Here is what the roasted squash looked like just before I put it in the refrigerator for the night.


The next morning I took the squash from the refrigerator and gathered the remaining ingredients for the pasta: 2 eggs, some salt and some flour. 

Puree the squash in the food processor until smooth. I then added the salt and eggs directly to the food processor and combined them in there. I scooped the mixture into the bowl (from which I had drained the "liquid" from the squash) and then folded in the flour. The recipe says this dough will be soft and sticky, but I think that is an understatement! This dough was more like a thick muffin or cake batter (or perhaps a "loose" cookie dough) than like a typical pasta dough. This is a "dropped" gnocchi (rather than rolled as many others are) so the looseness and stickiness of the dough didn't worry me as much.

At this point, the recipe has you bring water to a boil to "poach" the gnocchi. I salted the water and when it came to a boil began the process. The directions tell you to scoop the dough using a teaspoon and rolling it into the water with your finger. Not wanting to get the sticky dough all over my fingers, I decided to go with my smallest cookie dough scoop instead. This worked extremely well although it did make larger gnocchi than I would have preferred. One thing to keep in mind is that the gnocchi will swell and puff in the hot water so they will end up LARGER than when raw. So make your dough balls SMALLER than you want the final product to be so you don't have this problem. I did have a little bit of "breakage" from the dropped dough, but other than not being as "pretty" as I might have liked, my method worked pretty well. The suggestion is for 10-15 gnocchi in the pot at a time. I did 10 and found that pretty crowded. Once the gnocchi float to the top of the water, you poach them for 2 minutes before removing and draining.

I removed my gnocchi to a lightly greased mini sheet pan to cool and then layered them into a seal-able refrigerator container lightly spraying each layer with oil to keep them from sticking together too badly.

After about 4 hours in the refrigerator (from the time I finished poaching until "dinner" time), I removed the chilled gnocchi and gathered the ingredients for the rest of the dish. Namely butter, fresh sage leaves and Parmesan cheese.

Now, the directions do not call for browning the butter, but I prefer browned to unbrowned butter, so I allowed the butter to just start to brown before adding the sliced sage and gnocchi. I sauteed this until the gnocchi got a light browning on it.

The final step is to add shredded Parmesan and serve!

This photo shows a cross-section of the gnocchi (while cutting it up for my 1 year old). You can see some of the air pockets in the interior. These were light, fluffy and very very tasty! I will DEFINITELY be making this recipe again!

If you decide to give this recipe a try, please let me know how it works out for you! I will be trying "traditional" gnocchi this weekend (or maybe next week) and hope to also have some time to play with some standard pasta as well since I have not yet been able to try my "new-to-me" pasta maker for which I purchased some of King Arthur Flour's Perfect Pasta flour! My 3 year old has said she wants to help with that this weekend :)  Should be an adventure! In the meantime, enjoy this recipe!

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sage sauce

Servings: 4

For the gnocchi:
1 butternut squash -- about 1 1/2 pounds
2 eggs -- beaten
3 1/4 teaspoons sea salt -- divided
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
For the sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
10 sage leaves -- cut into strips
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350øF. At least 6 hours before making the gnocchi dough (up to 1 day in advance), halve the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and strings. Loosely wrap in aluminum foil. Bake for 1.5 hours or until flesh is tender when pierced with a fork.  Allow to cool until able to handle and then scoop the pulp from the skin into a colander set over over a bowl.  Cover, set in the refrigerator and allow the squash to drain at least 5 hours and up to 24 hours.

After it has drained, puree the squash in a food processor.  Add the eggs and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and pulse to combine. Pour into a large bowl and fold in the flour until well blended.  The dough will be quite sticky and soft.

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add 2 teaspoons salt to the boiling water.  Using a teaspoon, scoop up some of the dough (about a walnut size piece) and slide it into the water with your finger.  The gnocchi will drop to the bottom of the pot.  Repeat until you have 10-15 gnocchi in the water (don't crowd).  Poach them for 2 minutes after they rise to the surface.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain.  Repeat until all the dough is used.  At this point, you can store the gnocchi in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before continuing with the rest of the recipe.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a large skillet. Allow to just begin to brown before adding the gnocchi and sage.  Stir gently until the sauce coats the gnocchi and it starts to lightly brown.  Sprinkle with the cheese and serve hot.  

Source:  adapted from La Cucina Di Lidia: Recipes and Memories from Italy's Adriatic Coastby  Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Jay Jacobs

Pink Peppermint Princess Meringues

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Over the weekend we had family in town so I did a lot of cooking, and one of the things I made was a banana cream pie. Well, it takes 4 eggs yolks but no whites, so not wanting to waste the whites, I saved them, not sure what I was going to make. Then it came to me! Meringues! But not just ANY meringues will do in a house with two small princesses! These had to be PINK meringues. And not just PINK meringues, but PINK PEPPERMINT meringues! So, without further ado, here is my recipe for Pink Peppermint Princess Meringues


Pink Peppermint Princess Meringues

4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
red food coloring, optional

Preheat your oven to 225F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, or with foil sprayed with non-stick spray. In the bowl of a stand mixer, begin to whip the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar and whip until soft peaks form (should form  peak that curls down when lifted with a spatula). Add the powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time until all incorporated. Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form.  This will take several (10 or so) minutes but don't give up! When stiff peaks form, add extract and food color and whip until just incorporated. If you want "fancy" cookies, get out a piping bag with a star tip and pipe cookies onto cookie sheets, leaving about 1.5" between each (I got about 20 on a sheet). Or, you can do what I did and put the mixture into a disposable plastic bag, snip off one corner and squeeze it from there. Less mess but not as "fancy". Place both sheets (racks at 1/3  from top and 1/3 from bottom) into the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Then, turn off the oven and allow cookies to stay in and cool for about an hour or until completely cool. Store in an airtight container separated with wax (or parchment) paper. If you want to get REALLY fancy, you can dip the bottoms of these cookies into melted chocolate or dip the tops in and sprinkle with crushed peppermints!


Monday, October 3, 2011

Holy Experience Dare

This past weekend, Ann Voscamp from A Holy Experience DARED her readers "to tag a little something with this free printable and give it to someone". Well, being the cooking blog this is, I thought I'd make a little something sweet for my daughter's sweet preschool teacher to take on her dare... So this morning I made a batch of Amish Friendship Bread but altered it to include some of my homemade pumpkin butter! Because the recipe makes two loaves we were able to have some for breakfast this morning and I then wrapped up the second loaf for my daughter to take to preschool tomorrow morning. I hope Ms. Kelly likes it! :) Here is both the recipe and the results for you to check out!

Pumpkin Butter Amish Friendship Bread

1 cup Amish Friendship Bread starter
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 cup pumpkin butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
1 small box vanilla instant pudding
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease 2 large loaf pans. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon in a small bowl. "Flour" pans with this sugar/cinnamon mixture, reserving any extra for the end. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients in order listed mixing well to combine. Divide mixture between the two pans and sprinkle with remaining sugar/cinnamon mixture. Bake for 1 hr or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pans before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. When completely cool, store in a sealed container or ziplock bag. 

Pick up a copy of this "Give Thanks" tag at the link above...


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Little People Sugar Cookies

I've joined the blog hop at Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms! Come join the fun!

So last week my 3 year old daughter was the "Special Helper" of the week in her preschool class and needed to take a snack and drinks for her classmates. Their theme was Friends and the letter C so I came up with the idea for "Friend Cookies" using both the them and the letter... Then I had to figure out how best to do this.  I remembered the wonderful sugar cookie recipe from The Decorated Cookie blog.  So I made a double batch of the cookie dough and a single batch of the royal icing from my adaptation of her great recipe and then rolled out white fondant to 1/8" thick and "painted" it with "paint". Two special items I used which you can find online are the "princess" flavoring from King Arthur Flour and the Pettinice Fondant from This is, by far, the BEST fondant I've ever worked with. It rolled so smoothly and worked so well as a "canvas" for painting the people that I will definitely be using it again!

For anyone not familiar with painting on fondant, it's best to let it dry for an hour or two after cutting but before painting. This allows it to "harden" a bit and makes it easier to handle while painting. For the "paint", I used a medicine dropper to put about 3 drops of clear vanilla into a small bowl and then used a toothpick to put a "blob" of gel food coloring (available wherever cake making supplies are sold) into the vanilla. Stir this until the color is dissolved and you have a wonderful "watercolor" paint that works perfectly on the fondant.  Not being any sort of painter, I was pretty proud of the results of this project. I used a food marker to put the kids names on their cookies after painting. They were a big hit I understand :)

All ready for school! 14 cute kids and 3 super teachers!
Basic Sugar Cookies

Adapted from The Decorated Cookie

2 sticks unsalted butter -- softened
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 egg
2 drops "Princess" flavoring
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar in mixer for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add egg and blend well. Add extract/flavoring and blend. Mix flour and salt together in a separate bowl and gradually add to creamed mixture. Put dough into a gallon size Ziploc bag and chill for about 2 hours. Working with about 1/3 of the dough at a time, briefly knead and roll about 1/8-1/4" thick. Cut out shapes. Bake cut out cookies on parchment lined baking trays at 375 for 12-14 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before removing to cooling rack to completely cool.

Note: You can also freeze this dough. After mixing, put dough in a gallon size Freezer ziploc bag and freeze. Thaw overnight or for at least a few hours in the refrigerator in the ziploc bag. If too chilled to handle, let sit at room temperature for 30 min-1 hour until workable. Chilled is good so don't let it get too mushy before rolling. If dough is sticky, put back in fridge until re-chilled before trying to roll again.

Cookies cooled and ready for decorating, fondant "toppers" painted

Royal Icing

Adapted from The Decorated Cookie

4 tablespoons meringue powder
1/2 cup water
7 cups confectioner's sugar -- (7 to 8)
2 drops Princess flavoring
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Combine meringue powder and water in a stand mixer using whisk attachment. Whisk for 2-3 minutes or until foamy on low speed, then increase speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form. Add princess flavoring and corn syrup, then gradually add confectioner's sugar. Store at room temperature in a sealed container for up to a month.