Baking Bagels for the First Time

Cooking

I decided to try making homemade bagels. I opted for a recipe I found for Montreal Style bagels. https://anitalianinmykitchen.com/homemade-bagels/ The recipe looked simple enough, and it was.

The bagels were put together quickly using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. After that, they were set to rest for half an hour, shaped into bagels, and set to rest for another half hour. They were then tossed into a pot of boiling honey water, flipped to boil the other side, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and popped into the oven for fifteen minutes.

My taste testers agreed that they were good enough to make again. I was quite pleased as to how fool-proof they were to make. I think I shall be trying other versions of bagels soon. My son has requested his favorite cinnamon raisin bagel. I am sure the options are endless…

Boiling the bagels.
Out of the pot and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Ready to eat!

As always, Happy Baking!

Recipe Review: Streusel-Topped Plum Muffins

Cooking

I purchased some plums at the store with the intent of making a plum cake. I decided on a breakfast treat instead. A Streusel-Topped Plum Muffin recipe caught my eye. Oh yum!

The drawback in the recipe for me was that it called for heavy cream, which we try to avoid. But wait! I just found a list of dairy-based heavy cream substitues. This list had more options than I dreamed possible. So onto the muffins…

Of course, knowing me, I changed a few things in the recipe. First off, I felt that a whole cup of sugar seemed a bit more than enough for me. I dropped that down to 3/4 cup. Next off, instead of the half cup of heavy cream, I mixed together 1/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt with 1/4 cup lactose free milk (or any milk would do). My plums were pale yellow, not purple. For the topping, I left out the walnuts and the coarse sugar.

Instead of 15 muffins, this batter made 18 muffins for me. Bonus! I LOVED these muffins! They had a wonderful, cake-like, soft, delicate, moist texture. They have stayed perfectly fresh a couple of days now after baking. No need to rush scarfing these down. They are great served with coffee or tea.

Would I have changed anything else? Well, next time I might add a bit more fruit. Although they are perfectly lovely as they are, I would probably use three plums next time instead of the two that I used. The recipe could also be quite nice with other fruit as well.

Check-out the recipe at: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/streusel-topped-plum-muffins/print/

As always, Happy Baking!

Recipe Review: Zucchini Snack Cake with Orange Glaze

Cooking, gardening

Yesterday, I wrote about my crazy baking day in the kitchen in order to use a zucchini. I made three different recipes. I decided to put the Zucchini Muffins and the Zucchini Brownies in the freezer. We would have the Zucchini Snack Cake with Orange Glaze for dessert.

There were two reasons for this decision. One being this was a new recipe and I wanted to taste it while it was at its peak. I have made the other two recipes before and already knew how they tasted. The second being that I was not craving chocolate, or desiring a muffin for dessert (more of a breakfast thing). So cake it would be!

I picked the snack cake recipe mainly because it did not contain chocolate. It seems as though all the recipes for zucchini cake throw in a bit of chocolate. But I did not want chocolate. Love chocolate, just not all the time. This recipe also contained orange. Bingo! I was sold. We have an orange tree out back and I not only need to use the zucchini but the oranges as well. Then I saw that the recipe came from a familiar blog (Barefeet in the Kitchen) that I have made recipes from before and they were always delicious.

So here is the recipe:

Did I make any changes? Yes, two very minor changes. The baker said that she prefered to use store bought orange juice as it had more flavor in the cake. Well, I know that the flavor is not in the juice but in the zest. So instead of just using my freshly squeezed orange from our orchard, I also added the zest of the orange to boot. The only other change I made was in the amount of glaze I used on the cake. I wanted to cut down on the sugar content so I reduced the glaze by half and it was plenty. The glaze covered the top of the cake completely. If wanting to cover the sides as well, then use the whole recipe for the glaze.

The cake was easy to make and tasted good. The aroma of oranges flooded my kitchen as this baked. Wonderful! So, if wanting to use up some zucchini and oranges, why not give this recipe a try.

As always, Happy Baking!

Another Day with the Crazy Baker

Cooking, gardening

One zucchini can go a long way! I still had one plump zucchini from the garden. Since everyone around my house seems a bit done with sauted zucchini as a side for dinner, I turned into a crazy baker lady today.

I think I shredded five or 6 cups of zucchini. So, with the oven set to 350 degrees, I just kept turning out the recipes until the zucchini was all gone. I ended up making a total of three recipes. I started with Zucchini Brownies, then Zucchini Muffins, and to finish, Zucchini Cake with Orange Glaze. My kitchen looks like a bakery.

I plan on popping most of this in the freezer. Some day when I’m feeling lazy, I can take out a treat for the family. I just hope there is room in the freezer, come to think of it… The last time I opened the door a bag of green peppers (also from the garden) fell into my hands.

As always, Happy Baking!

Making Fried Donuts

Cooking

My son wanted to bake some ‘Donut Shop’ donuts. Since the croissants from the cookbook Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery and Cafe by JoAnne Chang turned out so well, we decided to use a recipe in the same cookbook to make the donuts. We were not disappointed.

As with the croissants, the donuts did take a bit of time. The time was mostly spent waiting for the dough to rise. The actual making of the donuts was simple enough. We made the dough using our stand mixer and popped it in the fridge overnight to do it’s thing. Before going to bed we set the alarm for 5 am. Oh yah…that went over well. So up I popped and down the hall I went to get my son out of bed. It took a few attempts. In the kitchen, we rolled out the dough and stamped out the doughnuts with a large biscuit cutter. It is important to note that the dough should be rolled on the thicker side of half an inch. Better to make these a bit thicker than thinner as they need to be nice and puffy in order to fill them easily. After stamping out the doughnuts, they were left to rise on a floured cookie sheet covered with plastic wrap for two hours. It is important to flour the cookie sheet well or the doughnuts will stick. Then it was back to bed for a couple of hours while the doughnuts were rising.

After another knock or two on my son’s door, we were back in the kitchen and ready to fry our donuts. But wait! Frying takes more oil than I realized! I was off to the store for more oil while my son made the custard filling. We chose to make the same custard filling from my blog post on Polish donuts instead of the vanilla filling the recipe called for. When I returned, we got to work on frying the donuts, two at a time. When they were cool we rolled them in confectioners sugar and not the regular sugar that the recipe called for. Then my son poked holes in the donuts with a skewer and filled them with the custard he made earlier. Voila!

My family sat down for fresh donuts with much anticipation. We all enjoyed them very much. The remaining donuts were for dessert. Hee Hee!

Recipe can be found in the cookbook: Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery and Cafe by JoAnne Chang

Note: To “refresh” the donuts, I popped them into the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Only do this for un-filled donuts. We filled the donuts as we were going to eating them.

As always, Happy Baking!

My Take on…Dinner Chez Moi

Book Reviews, Cooking

After having read both of Elizabeth Bard’s memoirs, I decided to give her cookbook a try. Mixed in with the recipes are little paragraphs of tips or “secrets” as the author calls them. I found those fun to read and read them straight away, as I was skimming the recipes. I decided to make a full meal including desert from Dinner Chez Moi.

I enlisted my daughter to help me prepare the meal. We made the Lentil and Sausage Stew (Lentilles aux saucisses fumees), even though it is summer here in California and rather warm. The author assured us that, ” This is a favorite dish in our house year-round-warm and comforting as a big bear hug. Friends and family request it each time they visit, even if it’s 100 degrees in the shade!”. Well, ok. If it is recommened in any temperature then let’s go for it! And go for it we did. Next on the menu were the Ham and Rosemary Cheese Puffs (Gougeres au fromage, romarin, et jambon cru). To top off the meal, we made the Butter Cookies with Orange-Flower Essence (Sables aux fleur d-oranger).

We made the butter cookies first. They take an hour in the fridge to chill and then fifteen minutes to bake. They were light and very flavorful. The orange rind and orange-flower water gave the perfect amount of flavor. Sometimes, flavors are not so distinct. Also, I found this to be a nice treat with very few carbohydrates per cookie. The sugar was a mere 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon. Nice!

Next, we made the stew. I have a go-to lentil soup recipe, however, this one might have surpassed it. It was easy to make and loaded with fresh vegetables. It took an hour to simmer, which is normal for recipes with lentils. I really liked the added touch of wine and sausage. Yum!

While the stew was simmering, we made the Cheese Puffs. I did not find the ham at the store, so we left it out. I figured since there was already sausage in the stew we did not really need more meat with the meal anyway. I used fresh rosemary from our garden. They smelled delicious. Again, this was an easy recipe to whip together. I found that they did not need the full time in cooking. As with all new recipes, be sure to watch the bake time so as not to over bake these puffs. As with the cookies, I found this recipe low in carbohydrates. Nice!

My take on Dinner Chez Moi by Elizabeth Bard is that I think it is a keeper. Three out of three recipes tried were winners. The bonus “50 French Secrets” are interesting and worth the read. The only question is, “What will I make next?”. As always, Happy Cooking!

My Take on… Picnic in Provence

Book Reviews

In a recent post, I gave my take on Lunch in Paris, a memoir with recipes by Elizabeth Bard. Having enjoyed her first book, I decided to follow her journey to the French countryside of Provence. Picnic in Provence is full of more of Bard’s recipes, this time with a flair for the French countryside.

In Picnic in Provence, the now pregnant Elizabeth and her husband set off on an adventure to Provence to visit the home town of Rene Char, a poet that her husband finds of interest. To their surprise and great luck, the home that Char used to inhabit is now available for purchase. Falling in love with Provence, the couple decide to leave Paris for the countryside. They learn to live at a slower pace and decide to become entrepreneurs as well. What town could not use an ice cream shop?

After reading Picnic in Provence, I am ready to pack a bag for France. After all, I am fond of lavender, French cooking, and ice cream. Picnic in Provence did not dissapoint. It was a perfect follow-up to Lunch in Paris. I highly recommend making some croissants and sitting down with a copy of Bard’s latest memoir. Au Revoir!

Summer Calls for Strawberry Shortcake

Book Reviews, Cooking

I like eating fresh fruit in the summer. Wanting dessert last night, I decided to make strawberry shortcake. A great way to top off a summer meal.

I again turned to the cookbook, Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery and Cafe by JoAnne Chang to get my recipe. Chang’s strawberry shortcake recipe was easily whipped-up in the stand mixer. The biscuits were made and topped with the no-fuss, no-cook strawberry sauce that included balsamic vinegar in the list of ingredients. I chose to top the shortcakes with a chickpea based whipped topping (see previous blog post for recipe) instead of Chang’s whipped cream, so I can not comment on the topping.

So what did I think of Chang’s Strawberry Shortcake recipe? Yum! Another success story from the cookbook Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery and Cafe. The biscuits were crisp on the outside, light on the inside, and packed with flavor. The strawberry topping was easy to make and tasty as well. Put together, a delicious summer dessert that I will be making again. This recipe, unlike her fabulous croissant recipe, does not take all that long to make.

Chang’s cookbook is easily becoming one of my favorite cookbooks for baking. It seems as though everything made from this cookbook turns out delicious. As always, Happy Baking!

Biscuit waiting to be topped.
Strawberry topping
Chickpea Whipped Topping

Making Croissants

Book Reviews, Cooking

As I have said before, my kids and I are cooking together this summer. So my teenage son made a couple of requests of foods he would like to try to make with me. One being croissants. Ambitious! I was in.

I found a recipe for croissants in the cookbook: Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery and Cafe by Joanne Chang. Chang said that after visiting France with her husband, she wanted to perfect the bakery’s croissant recipe even more. The recipe in her cookbook reflects her efforts at doing so. There are no pictures, just descriptions of the steps, which can seem complicated, but are well written and tested by Chang. She warns that one needs to start making the croissants two days in advance. Really? Yes, really. It is a time consuming process, however, most of that time is spent waiting for the dough to proof, so one can go about their day while the dough does it’s work.

The picture of the finished croissant in the cookbook looked mouth-wateringly good. This is what we were striving for, not the soft, American grocery store version. We wanted the crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, French version. After spending two days in the kitchen, my son and I were nervous when the time came to pop them in the oven. We did not want to burn them. We knew they had the potential for being grand. They had puffed-up into the most amazing looking croissants. We both had moments of joy making these croissants. I remember the ah ha moment when after making a slit in the top of our first croissant and spreading it into a y form, it rolled into a perfectly shaped croissant. A high-five was given as we excitedly formed the rest of our croissants. So, this was not something to risk in the baking. We stayed close to the oven, watching and waiting.

Ready to go into the oven.

I was nervous that the croissants seemed to be browning a bit sooner than expected given the time left on the timer. As the recipe said to bake them a total of 30 min plus or until golden. They were golden but what about the insides? This was our dilemma. We decided to tent them with foil for the remainder of the cook time. All turned out well. The croissants were delicious and got rave reviews from the family. They were crispy and flakey on the outside. On the inside, the tender and chewy layers could be seen as well as tasted. Oh yum! Am I in Paris!?!

Perfection!
The inside with a bit of jam.

If wanting a good French croissant, I highly recommend picking-up a copy of Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery and Cafe by Joanne Chang. While this recipe does seem like quite a task, it is actually very easy to make, just time consuming. The dough can be made in a stand mixer. The steps of folding the dough with the butter (I bought European butter for this recipe.) were easy and the dough rolled-out nicely (I used my pastry cloth.). Most importantly, the were DELICIOUS! As always, Bon Appetit!

Lemon and Fleur de Sel Butter Cookies Review

Cooking

Thanks to fellow blogger Stephen, I was introduced to the blog Chocolate and Zucchini, the site of Clotilde Dusoulier. How funny that I actually own her cookbook, Tasting Paris, but did not know of her blog site. Anyway, I was looking through recipes on her site and came across the recipe for Lemon and Fleur de Sel Butter Cookies. As we have plenty of lemons on the trees and were gifted some Fleur de Sel when my daughter went to France last summer, I thought this would be a nice summer cookie to try.

I thought that the cookies were very simple to make. They were whipped up in a food processor in no time at all. They did, however, need to chill for an hour. So if making this cookie, be sure to give time to chill the dough. These cookies really do need that chill time or they would be very hard to work with, as the dough softens quickly. After rolling out the dough and stamping out the cookies, they baked for the minimum time of 12 minutes. The cookies were then iced as per Clotildes instructions, using a pastry brush. Genious! I have always iced cookies with a knife and what a mess that can be. I really loved the pastry brush method. I will be using this on my other recipes in the future.

The Lemon and Fleur de Sel Butter Cookies had a very mild lemon flavor. Just a hint really. The cookies were soft yet according to my daughter, “looked hard”. They were very light and flakey. A perfect texture really. Yum! They make a perfect cookie to serve with tea or as a light summer desert on a hot evening. As always, Happy Baking!

The recipe can be found at: https://cnz.to/recipes/cookies-small-cakes/lemon-and-fleur-de-sel-butter-cookies-recipe/