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Time for an original recipe.  I based this off another recipe I developed for an oatmeal raisin cookie contest several years back.  That recipe was a spiced rum raisin oatmeal cookie.  This recipe is pretty much the same except I use dried cranberries and brandy…because that’s what I had on hand.  Plus the cranberries look a bit more festive and will hopefully avoid being mistaken for a chocolate chip cookie.  I like oatmeal raisin, but there is something very wrong about thinking you are biting into a chocolate chip cookie only to discover what you thought was chocolaty-goodness is a raisin.

Brandied Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cup brandy

Instructions:

  1. Soak cranberries in brandy, preferably overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Mix together the dry ingredients.
  4. Beat together the butter and sugars.  Add the vanilla and eggs one at a time.
  5. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture.
  6. Drain the cranberries and add to the batter.
  7. Drop cookies onto sheet with a spoon.  Bake 10 – 12 minutes.
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I love molasses cookies and this is actually the first time I’ve made them (instead of getting my Archway fix) and I certainly don’t think it will be my last because they weren’t difficult at all and I could probably eat my weight in these cookies.

The original recipe comes from http://shortordermom.wordpress.com.

Soft Molasses Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2/3 cup turbinado sugar (for coating the cookies)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the vanilla and molasses.  Add the eggs one at a time.
  4. Gradually add in flour mixture.
  5. Chill dough for 1 hour.
  6. Form dough into walnut-sized balls and roll in turbinado sugar.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes.

Edited 12/22/13: Added flour amount to recipe above (Ooops!)

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I wanted to try something different, and I saw this recipe and thought it sounded interesting.  How can you go wrong with apples and caramel?

On a side note, if you are unwrapping the caramels or cutting them into smaller pieces before hand, coat them in powdered sugar or cornstarch or something.  Otherwise you will relive my experience yelling and cursing at a bowl of caramels that had glued themselves to each other and the bowl.  It also resulted in some caramels flying across the room as little sweet projectiles as I tried to lever them out of the bowl with a butter knife.  So, take my advice and either unwrap as you are forming the cookies or coat each piece to keep them from sticking.

The original recipe comes from http://www.sixsistersstuff.com.

Apple Cider Caramel Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 8 individual packets of Spiced Apple Cider Drink Mix
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 14-oz bag caramels (the soft, chewy kind, not the hard candies)

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together dry ingredients.
  3. In another bowl, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add vanilla and eggs one at a time.
  4. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture.
  5. Form dough into walnut sized balls and place a piece of caramel inside (I cut my caramels in half).
  6. Bake 12 – 14 minutes.  Use parchment paper lined baking sheets to help the cookies come off cleanly.

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A couple holidays ago I did a similar recipe for Double Chocolate Mint Cookies.  I actually think I like this recipe better.  Both are quite tasty.  I pretty much stuck to the original recipe from bakedperfection.com for this one except I added a few more chips (I had a few extra in the cupboard) and I think the chocolate pudding mix size is not correct as I could not find a 1.4 oz package of instant pudding mix, I just used the small box which is 3.4 oz (so I think that was a typo on the original recipe).

Mint Chocolate Delight Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 3.4oz package of chocolate instant pudding mix
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter (softened)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 10-oz package Dark Chocolate & Mint Morsels

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Combine dry ingredients.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together flour and sugars until fluffy.  Add vanilla and eggs one at a time.
  4. Gradually add in flour mixture.  Add in chips.
  5. This creates a very thick dough.  I just scooped a bit out and created dough balls and placed about 1-2″ apart on a cookie sheet.  They don’t spread much so you don’t have to leave a lot of room between cookies.
  6. Bake 11-13 minutes.   Some of the cookies will looked a bit cracked on the top.  That is how I could tell they were done since they end up looking similar to how they went in the oven.

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Dinner Rolls

I love baking bread.  I haven’t done it for a while and it was nice to get back into the habit with this fairly easy recipe for dinner rolls.  This recipe creates about 40 rolls and as much as I love bread, I certainly did not need to be eating 40 rolls in a couple of evenings.  So, I created the rolls and froze half of the dough balls.  The other half I baked but I then took half of the baked rolls and froze those as well.  So, I should have enough rolls stocked for the holidays in baked and non-baked forms.  I pretty much followed the original recipe, but if one wanted you could mix in some whole-grain flours to make a slightly more nutritious dinner roll.

Dinner Rolls (see original recipe here)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups luke-warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp yeast
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 6-7 cups bread flour

Instructions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and warm water.  Make sure the water is luke-warm, not hot.  Let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the oil and stir/knead in the 6 – 7 cups of flour.  It took me about 4-5 minutes to knead in 6.5 cups of flour.
  3. Let rise 1-2 hours in a warm place until doubled in size.  My favorite method (especially if your house is on the cooler side) is to put the bowl of dough in a (cold) oven with the oven light on and fill a container with hot water and put in the oven as well.  This creates a nice humid and warm environment for the dough to rise.
  4. Punch down dough and form into golf-ball sized balls (about 40).  At this point, you can freeze this dough.  I put mine on a tray lined with freezer paper and put in the freezer for about 2 hours to let the balls freeze individually and then put them in a freezer bag.  If baking now, place on a greased baking sheet 2″ apart and let rise another hour.
  5. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-18 minutes.

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This week I am trying to stay away from overly processed/pre-packaged foods (or at least if I have to, that it’s real food not preservatives, artificial colors/flavors, no HFCS, nothing that I have no idea what it is or cannot pronounce).

So, as part of that I decided to bake my own whole grain bread.  I had been wanting to try out the recipe in the March-April 2011 Cooks Illustrated anyway.

My recipe is a little bit different from the published recipe but the procedure is basically the same.  The Cooks Illustrated recipe uses whole wheat flour and wheat germ.  I use two different kinds of whole wheat flour (both hard & soft) and whole oat flour.  I get my flour from The Grain Mill of Wake Forest who grinds it for me so I get freshly ground whole flours.  They’re some pretty spiffy folks, so I recommend them.

This bread has a lot more whole grain that I am normally able to put into a sandwich bread and it not be as dense as a hockey puck.  Now, don’t go expecting Wonder Bread consistency, but it had a much lighter texture considering it is over 60% whole grain.

I think a large part of this is because of the soaker, which soaks the whole grain overnight to help soften it.

And, unless you are a bread nerd like me, you might be wondering what the heck a biga is.  It is a type of pre-ferment used a lot in Italian baking.  But, it helps develop the yeast and the flavor.  So, now you know and can impress all your friends.  🙂

Whole Grain Bread

Ingredients:

Biga –

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp instant yeast

Soaker –

Dough –

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp butter (unsalted)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions:

  1. The night before, prep the biga and the soaker.  Mix the biga ingredients together, cover and let sit at room temperature overnight.  In a separate bowl, mix the soaker ingredients, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next day add the biga and the soaker to mixer with dough hook. Add the remaining dough ingredients. Mix on low for 2 minutes until combined. Increase to medium speed to knead the dough for 8 – 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from mixer and hand knead for 2 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl and let rise for 45 minutes.
  4. Punch down and fold dough over itself 8 times. Let rise 45 minutes.
  5. Separate dough into 2 portions forming each into a rectangle and rolling into a loaf shape to fit into a lightly greased loaf pan.
  6. Let rise in pans 60 – 90 minutes.
  7. Heat oven to 400. In the lower rack, place a pan and put a couple cups of boiling water to make a humid baking atmosphere. When oven comes up to temp, lower the heat to 350 and bake loaves for 40 – 50 minutes (internal temp of 200) rotating pans half way through.
  8. Remove from oven and let rest in pan for 5 minutes.  Remove bread from pans and let come to room temp on a rack.

Notes: I make my oven into a proofer for the dough to rise, which is especially good during the winter or if you have drafts, etc.  With the oven OFF – place a pan (I use a cake pan) on the bottom rack of the oven and fill it with boiling water.  I then place the bowl with the dough in the oven.  Just make sure you don’t turn the oven on.  Bad things happen.  This creates a nice warm, moist atmosphere in the oven that bread dough likes to rise in.

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Good Sunday Morning to you all!  I figured a lovely breakfast was in order this morning.

My plan was to make Raspberry & Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast from justapinch.com.  However, upon finding that my grocery store did not have raspberries (frozen or fresh) and no challah or hawaiian bread, I decided to embark on my own version with what I could scrape up from my grocery store (since I wasn’t interested in running all around town just to find breakfast ingredients).

So, here is my take on a stuffed french toast.  And, if I do say so myself I thought it was pretty good.  Although very filling!

Cheesy-Blackberry Stuffed French Toast

Ingredients:

  • 8oz cream cheese, softened (I used the low-fat version)
  • 8 large slices bread (I used a Sweet Buttermilk bread – Pepperidge Farms, I think)
  • 1 cup frozen blackberries, defrosted (you can use fresh or you can use other kinds of berries)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Dash salt

Instructions:

  1. Mix honey & cinnamon into the softened cream cheese.  Spread cream cheese mixture on one side of each of the slices of bread.
  2. Place some of the blackberries on top of the cream cheese side of a slice of bread.  Cover with a second slice (cream cheese side down).  To make a cream cheese & blackberry sandwich.
  3. Mix the beaten eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt in a shallow dish (I prefer using a pie plate).  Place the “sandwiches” in the egg mixture and let it soak up.  Flipping so both sides will soak up the egg mixture.
  4. Place in a greased baking pan.  Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.  Flip the french toast and bake for another 10 minutes.  The egg & bread mixture should be set and no longer runny.
  5. I had mine with blackberry syrup (recipe below) but you could certainly use regular maple syrup or warmed honey.

Blackberry Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen blackberries
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions:

  1. Bring everything to a boil in a saucepan.  Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Mash the blackberries in the pan as they are cooking to help them release their juices.
  3. Strain syrup to remove seeds.

Enjoy your breakfast! 

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