Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Waffle Weekend: Almond Waffles with Pears

I know, I know... it isn't the weekend any longer.  This past weekend was a busy one, filled with preparations for me to travel back to Charleston.  I'm very excited to be spending the next couple weeks assisting with Helene DujardinClare Barboza & Tami Hardeman with two upcoming photo workshops. In the craziness of packing, I forgot to share our latest "Waffle Weekend" adventure with you!

These waffles are actually gluten (and dairy) free. I don't want that fact to scare you, especially if you aren't used to making gluten free things.   I promise, they aren't scary at all!  Nor are they difficult.  

Sometimes gluten free baked goods taste, well, like they are gluten free. These waffles don't taste like "healthier" waffles. They are totally delicious!.  There aren't any "weird" ingredients to take the place of wheat flour, just lots of almond flour.  My husband and I agreed that the toasted flavor that comes from the cooked almond flour tastes more like whole wheat than overwhelmingly like almond.   As a bonus, they're sweetened naturally with honey, and I used dairy-free almond milk instead of regular milk (but you could always make them with regular milk if you prefer).  

I have always loved the flavors of pears and almond together.  Since pears are in season & we had a whole bag of them, I made a honey pear topping.  The honey pear topping & my favorite honey butter syrup, adapted from the recipe I created for the National Honey Board contest I won in 2010,  were an excellent paring with the almond waffles.

After shooting a couple pictures, we gobbled up all but a few of the waffles.  Those leftover waffles went into the freezer.  Now my husband can have his own "waffle weekend" while I'm gone :)

Honey Pear Topping 
The pears take a little longer to cook, so I like to start them cooking before I begin preparing the waffle batter.  

5 small pears 
4 Tbl Unsalted Butter
4 Tbl Honey 
pinch Sea Salt

1.  Peel, core & slice the pears into thin pieces.  
2.  Melt the butter and honey together in a large skillet over medium heat.  
3.  Once everything has melted, add the pears & a sprinkle of sea salt.  Cook over medium heat until the pears have softened & become slightly translucent.  Stir occasionally.  
4.  Keep the pears warm until ready to serve.  

Honey Butter Syrup 
adapted from the recipe I created for the National Honey Board contest I won in 2010

4 oz (1 stick) Unsalted Butter
4 oz Honey 
pinch Sea Salt 

1.  In a sauce pan, melt the honey & butter together with a sprinkle of sea salt.  Whisk to combine. 
2.  Bring to a boil & remove from heat.  
3.  Serve hot. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.   

Almond Flour Waffles
adapted from Zen Belly 
makes approximately 4 to 5 large waffles.  

These waffles cook really fast!  And they don't get quite as crisp as some.  So I cooked mine in the waffle iron, then transferred them to the toaster oven to crisp a little before I served them.  And be careful when removing them from the waffle iron... they can be a bit fragile! 

1 1/2 c Almond Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
4 eggs, separated, room temperature 
1/4 c Almond Milk (or other milk) 
3 Tbl Vegetable Oil, plus additional for waffle iron
2 Tbl Honey
1 tsp Vanilla

1.  Measure out all ingredients.  
2.  In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the almond flour, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside. 
3.  In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks (NOT whites), milk, oil, honey & vanilla.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Set aside.
4.  Preheat waffle iron to medium heat.  
5.  In a very clean, stainless steel bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form medium peaks.  Use a hand mixer if needed. {I like to hold my bowl over the sautéing pears to help warm the egg whites just slightly.  Warmed egg whites will whip a bit easier than cold ones.} 
6.  Fold the egg whites into the waffle batter.  
7.  Oil the preheated waffle iron & portion the batter onto the greased waffle iron.  Cook until done.  (caution, they cook quickly!).  Transfer to a warm toaster oven while the remaining batter is cooked. 
8.  Serve with the honeyed pear topping & the honey butter syrup.  Freeze any leftover waffles.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Candy Corn

Quickly!  There’s still time to make a batch of this delicious candy corn to share with your friends and family (or eat yourself) before halloween next week!  “Homemade candy corn?!?” you may think. “Why would I make that at home? Can’t I just buy it instead?” 

There are several reasons why one may choose to make candy corn at home, instead of simply buying it.  One reason might be that you’re curious about the process.  Or that you just don’t feel like braving the crowds (and the mess) of Walmart to buy it yourself.  Or that you don’t really like store bought candy corn and want to know if the homemade version is tastes better.  Or that you love doing semi-tedious, but artistic pastry items.  Or the reason could be all of the above.

Homemade candy corn is a bit of a labor of love.  In fact, I had to make this recipe twice before it turned out (and it’s not often I have to repeat recipes).  Once the candy base was made (second time was the charm), it took quite a long time to assemble, cut, and hand shape every single individual candy corn piece & pumpkin.  But there is no comparison in how much more flavor this homemade version has, as opposed to the store bought.  I can’t stop eating it!  I had to send the remaining pieces with my husband to work, just to stop me from consuming any more.

So break out your candy thermometer, your food coloring, your sharp knife, and your patience.  Get all of your ingredients and equipment ready, thoroughly read through the entire recipe once before beginning, and get to work on your own candy corn!  And let the sugar coma commence.  I may even begin to make candy corn in other colors and flavors for other holidays.

Homemade Candy Corn
adapted from Alton Brown

Most of the time, I find Alton Brown’s recipes to be fool proof, but this time, I had to do a bit of tweeking....  Please, make sure you have everything ready (all equipment out, all ingredients pre-measured) before you begin!  I used the weighted measurements, which are always more exact, but he includes volumetric measurements as well.  Use the volumetric measurements at your own risk!  And I wouldn't recommend making candy on a rainy day.  The humidity can make everything too sticky  

Equipment needed

  • 2 qt sauce pan (3qt is too big!) 
  • Candy Thermometer
  • Mesh Strainer for sifting 
  • Whisk
  • Silicone Spatula
  • Silpat Silicone mat (if you have it, or else use parchment paper) 
  • Paste food coloring
  • cutting board
  • sharp knife 

4 1/2 ounces powdered sugar, approximately 1 1/4 cups
1/2-ounce nonfat dry milk, approximately 6 1/2 teaspoons

3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1/2 cup
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 3/4 ounces light corn syrup, approximately 1/3 cup
2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Paste Food Coloring {I currently own Wilton brand & used a little “Lemon Yellow” to make the yellow color, and a little of the “Lemon Yellow” plus “No-Taste Red” to make the orange} 

In a 2qt pan, combine the sugar, salt, corn syrup and water.  Heat over medium heat, covered, for 4 minutes.  Do not stir.

Remove the lid, add the Butter and clip on a candy thermometer.  Bring the mixture to just above 230 degrees F, which should take 1 to 2 minutes.  Do not stir.

When the mixture reaches the correct temperature, immediately remove from heat, add the vanilla extract & stir gently to combine.

Sift the Powdered Sugar and nonfat dry milk over the mixture & stir with a whisk to combine.  Switch to stirring with a silicone spatula once it becomes too difficult to use the whisk.

Pour onto a half sheet pan lined with a Silpat (silicone baking mat) or lined with parchment.  Cool the mixture until it is no longer too hot to handle with your hands (about 10 minutes).

Divide the dough into three pieces. Make one piece a bit larger and keep the two remaining pieces a bit smaller.  Keep one of the small pieces white.  Color the remaining small piece yellow by using a toothpick to add a small bit of the yellow paste to the sugar dough.  Knead until the paste color is consistant throughout.  Color the remaining larger piece orange, using a bit of red with yellow.

For the assembly process, I found that it was easier to work with smaller pieces of dough.  Divide the orange dough into at least 4 pieces.  Roll into a log shape, set aside.  Repeat with the yellow and the white dough, only make sure those pieces are smaller & more narrow than the orange.  Remember, the orange portion in commercial candy corn is the largest portion.

Once the three logs are done, gently press them together (white, orange, yellow).  Stretch slightly, if necessary.  Use a sharp knife to begin cutting the long piece into triangles.  Yes, some of the candy corns will be backwards, but they’ll still taste good (and probably no one will notice!). Hand shape each piece so that the angles are not as harsh and each piece is a bit more rounded.  Place the finished candy corn back onto the silicone mat to dry.  I like to let mine dry 24 hours.

Repeat until all the dough is used.  Or, if you run out of time, wrap each piece of white, orange, and yellow individually in plastic wrap and continue the assembly process later.

After the drying time, store the candy in an airtight container with parchment paper between each layer

Pumpkin Variation
Form some of the orange dough into small balls (I made mine about 10g each).  Allow them to harden over night.

Take a little of the yellow dough and add a touch of green paste food coloring to it.  Use the green to make the stem pieces.  Allow them to harden over night.

Assembly by making a small divot in the top of the pumpkin and placing the green stems into the divot.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Monkey Bread

I’m a little bit homesick.  Homesick for Charleston.  Homesick for teaching. Homesick for working with dough on an almost daily basis. Homesick for the amazing monkey bread we made out of leftover croissant and danish dough in my Laminated Doughs class.

Although I’m headed to Charleston in a short time to work for the always amazing Helene Dujardin & Clare Barboza while they teach two fabulous workshops, I still needed some monkey bread now!  This has been a week filled with Murphy’s Law moments and sometimes the only remedy is baking.  Eating those baked items doesn’t hurt either.   

I seriously considered making & laminated a batch of croissant dough, just to make it into monkey bread, but my lack of butter & a perpetually hot apartment stopped me.  That, and remembering how much Murphy’s Law loves me lately....  Instead, I turned to one of my favorite baking textbooks for a sweet yeast dough recipe. I made enough dough to fill 1 regular bunt pan & 4 mini bundts with monkey bread.

Yeast dough (or biscuit dough, if you’re short on time), cinnamon sugar & butter are really all you need to make monkey bread, but like I said, I’ve been spoiled on monkey bread made with croissant dough....  I upped the wow factor on my version by pouring a brown sugar/butter syrup over the dough before it had it’s final proof and baking time.  And I didn’t feel like the mini monkey breads received quite enough of the syrup, so I added a brown sugar glaze as well.

Even though this baking adventure required me to wash all the dishes in the bathtub because my sink has unexpectedly started leaking water everywhere, the process and finished product have helped squelch that Charleston homesickness. For the time being :)

Sweet Dough
(adapted from Advanced Bread & Pastry)
7.5 oz Water
0.7g oz Dry Active Yeast
0.95 oz Powdered Milk
15 oz Bread Flour, plus additional for dusting
3 oz Cake Flour
3.75 oz Granulated Sugar
0.3 oz Fine Grain Sea Salt
2 ea Eggs
5.65 oz Unsalted butter, softened 

 Heat the water to 115 F.  Pour the yeast into the warm water.  Stir to combine and completely dissolve the yeast  Let sit for a few minutes while you scale your remaining ingredients.

Add the yeast/water to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.  Lightly stir the powdered milk into the liquid.  Add the remaining ingredients, in the order they are listed, to the mixing bowl.

Turn the mixer on to low speed (speed 2, if you’re using a KitchenAid mixer) and mix for 3 minutes.  Scrape the sides well.  Turn the mixer up to medium speed (speed 4, if you’re using a KitchenAid mixer) and mix for 2 additional minutes.  Scrape again.  The dough will be quite sticky.

Liberally dust your work surface with bread flour.  Transfer the dough from the mixer bowl to the floured work surface.  Knead slightly & round into a tight, wrinkle-free, ball.

Place the rounded dough into a large bowl that has been greased with non-stick spray.  Cover the bowl with plastic and allow to sit in a warm place for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, re-flour your workspace.  Gently pat the dough out into a rectangular shape.  Give the dough a “stretch and fold,” meaning fold the dough in thirds horizontally, then rotate it & fold it in thirds again.  If you’ve never done a stretch and fold, this video is a great resources for the technique!
Place the dough back into the bowl, re-cover it & allow it to rise for 45 more minutes.
After the second 45 minute time, repeat the stretch and fold technique.  Place the dough back into the bowl, cover it & place it into the refrigerator to chill for 2 hours.

7 oz Granulated Sugar
1 to 2 Tbl Ground cinnamon
1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice (optional) 
4 oz Butter
1/4 c Brown Sugar 

When the dough is nearly finished chilling, prepare the cinnamon sugar by whisking, in a medium sized bowl, the granulated sugar with the cinnamon and the optional pumpkin pie spice.

Lightly flour your workspace again, just enough to barely keep the dough from sticking. Pat out the dough into a rectangular shape.  Use a bench cutter/knife/pizza wheel/kitchen sheers to cut the dough into long strips. Cut the strips into small pieces, about the size of marbles.  Toss the small pieces of dough in the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Once the pieces are well coated, add them to a sprayed, non-stick pan(s).  Fill the pan only about 3/4 of the way.  Remember, things with yeast in them grow!  I used a regular bundt pan (filled with approximately 25 oz of dough), as well as 4 mini bundt pans (filled with 4.25 oz of dough in each cavity).

In a heavy duty sauce pan, heat the butter and brown sugar until the butter has melted & the sugar dissolves. spoon 2 tablespoons of the syrup over the mini budts & pour the remaining syrup over the larger bundt pan.

Cover the pans & allow to rise for 45 minutes, or until the monkey bread has nearly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Place the pans on a larger sheet pan (just in case there are any drips) and bake in the preheated oven until the bread is done.  The small ones took approximately 20 minutes and the larger one took 30 to 35 minutes.  To tell when the monkey bread is done, gently tap the top surface.  If it stays firm and the tapping sound is hollow, the bread is done.

Cool slightly and remove from the pans.  Glaze, if desired, while the monkey bread is still a little warm.

Optional Glaze 
Adapted from Food52

2 oz Butter
1/2 c  Packed Light Brown Sugar
1/3 c  Almond Milk (or substitute heavy cream.... I just was out at the time!)
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
3/4 c  Confectioners Sugar, sifted

In a heavy sauce pan, combine the butter, brown sugar, almond milk.  Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture boils.  Boil for 1 minute & remove from the heat.

Whisk in the sifted confectioners sugar.

Pour the warm glaze over the warm monkey bread.  Let the glaze set slightly before serving.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall Granola and Yogurt Parfaits

I have a slight bone to pick.  I have been planning a granola post for a while (since before I was unexpectedly away for 3 weeks).  While I was gone, I didn't read a single blog, due to lack of internet access.  I returned home.  I made granola.  I began to catch up on my Google Reader.

It turns out that granola has been a very popular topic: I found at least 8 granola posts waiting in my Google Reader. Is it something with the time of year?  Did some sort of food blogger memo go out that I missed?  Regardless of the great multitude of granola recipes, I made mine anyway.

Why granola?  It's not exactly a ground breaking topic and normally if I had discovered something I planned to make had become so popular, I may have saved the idea for another time....

But I wrote this recipe & made the granola for my wonderful husband, partially to thank him for holding down the fort while I was gone, partially because I was brainstorming new breakfast ideas, partially because I just really love him.  And he happens to love granola :)

I, too, love granola!  But it doesn't love me back (sniff, sniff).  See, I seem to have an aversion to oats.  This aversion is such a bummer because I LOVE oats.  Hot oatmeal for breakfast, oatmeal cookies, many cereals, granola: all things I really enjoy and would never voluntarily give up, were it not for the unfortunate symptoms I experience whenever I eat oatmeal.

I tried to resist, but I still had to have a small spoonful taste of the granola as it was cooling: it just smelled too delicious, the scent of the spices, maple, and toasted oats & nuts (I also have a weakness for pumpkin seeds).  I do hope to develop an oat-free granola in the future, like this raw, sprouted granola I became addicted to in Charleston after I worked with one of the company owners.  But for the time being, I'll try to be content with knowing this batch is going to a great cause: my husband :)

While he would happily dig into a giant bowl of granola flooded with milk, I looked for a way to stretch the granola a little longer & turn it into a heartier breakfast.  I took some protein-filled plain greek yogurt & flavored it with a little maple syrup.  I layered the yogurt with a little leftover pumpkin butter, some tart crisp apple pieces, and the spicy granola.

What a perfectly delicious (and good for you) breakfast or snack!

Fall Granola
You can totally customize this granola to your preferences.  We happen to really like pecans, pepitas (the green pumpkin seeds), dried cranberries & raisins.  But you could substitute any nuts and dried fruit you like (or have on hand).  This granola isn't super sugary, so if you prefer a sweeter granola, you may want to slightly increase the brown sugar and/or maple syrup.  

3 cups Oats
1 cup Raw Pecans, chopped
1/2 cup Raw Pepitas
1/2 cup shredded Coconut
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp Ginger
1/4 c Vegetable Oil
1 Tbl Molasses
1/4 c Real Maple Syrup (not pancake syrup)

1/2 cup Dried Cranberries
1/2 cup Raisins

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the oats with the nuts, coconut, sugar, salt & spices. 
  2. In a liquid measuring cup combine the oil, molasses & maple syrup.  {I like to measure the oil in the cup first, then pour the maple syrup & molasses on top, just so nothing is too sticky} Pour the wet into the dry and mix well.  
  3. Spread out on a sheet (ir just grease the baking sheet if you don’t have a silpat) & bake for 10 minutes.  
  4. Stir on the pan & bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Stir again.  Continue baking until golden brown {mine took 5 more minutes}, watching carefully to make sure the granola does not burn.  
  5. Remove from the oven & allow to cool.  Add the dried fruit & cool completely. 
  6. Store in an airtight container.  

Yogurt Parfaits with Apple, Pumpkin Butter & Granola
Plain Yogurt (I used greek for a higher protein content & also because I prefer the texture)
Real Maple syrup
Pumpkin Butter
Apple, diced

  1. Mix the yogurt with a little of the maple syrup, both to flavor & sweeten the yogurt.  
  2. In a glass or bowl, layer the flavored yogurt with a little of the pumpkin butter, diced apple, and granola.  
  3. Enjoy immediately.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Autumn & Pumpkin Butter

Experiencing autumn was one of the unexpected blessings of my nearly 3 week trip to the the Midwest in September.  I hadn't had a "proper" fall since I moved out of ND over 3 years ago.

Yes, there is some "fall" weather in SC, though the jury's still out on TX (highs in the upper 90s in October), but that cooler weather comes much closer to Thanksgiving.  I have already lamented the lack of autumn in a previous post (where I painted my own fall on sugar cookies).  The tree varieties are so much different in SC and TX than they are in ND & MN.

I enjoyed many walks with my Mom and Mollie-dog while we spent time with Grandpa in Hillsboro.  It was refreshing not just to feel the cooler temperatures and breezes, but to watch the foliage change color, and to hear the crunch of fallen leaves under foot.

Right before I flew back, we took a fast trip to the family lake cabin in the middle of the White Earth State Forest in Minnesota.

The experts had predicted that weekend to be the height of the fall colors.  The colors were spectacular!  Like so many other places, Minnesota is in desperate need of rain & the dry conditions (I think?) have made for especially deep, rich colors this autumn.

Daylight was fast waning by the time we finally arrived at Tulaby Lake.  Due to my early flight the following morning, I knew this time was my only chance to take in as much fall as possible.

The colors. The sounds. The cooler temperatures.  I took a fast walk, chasing the light & savoring the season.

It is most definitely not fall in Southwest Texas.  Though yesterday and today there's a bit of a colder spell, we are still forecasted to have temperatures in the 90s later this week.  I guess that 90s is an improvement over temperatures in the 100s.  And due to some rain, our once-dried-up pond is full & the limited plants & leaves have perked up green colors.

I know that, for the most part, if I want to experience some semblance of the autumn feelings I felt while up North, I will need to create them for myself.  Bringing the magical ingredients of pumpkin, apples, warm spices, pears & caramel into my cooking & baking help me imagine fall has reached me here.

Easing back into my "regular" life hasn't been easy.  I haven't done tons of cooking or baking yet, but tasks like roasting a chicken with potatoes, carrots, garlic & onions, and cooking a simple batch of pumpkin butter do make me feel a little more normal again.  And eating a piece of toast slathered with pumpkin butter for breakfast doesn't hurt either.

Pumpkin Butter
adapted from The Smitten Kitchen 

1 large can (29 oz) Pumpkin Puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 c Apple Juice (I used "Simply Apple")
1 1/3 c Brown sugar, packed
1 Tbl Cinnamon
2 tsp Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp Nutmeg, freshly grated

  1. In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients.  
  2. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce the heat to low & simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring frequently.  Taste and add additional brown sugar and/or spices according to your preferences.  
  3. Keep cooking until the mixture has thickened & the flavor has concentrated.
  4. Remove from heat & allow to cool.  
  5. Place butter into an airtight container & store in the refrigerator. 
Note: unfortunately, pumpkin butter is one of the things that is not safe to can :(  So either refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.  Read more here.  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

We all have expiration dates

We all are printed with an expiration date.  
But it’s printed in invisible ink & only God knows the date.  

photo by Helene Dujardin, May 18, 2012

September 11, 2012, was my dear Grandma Jones’s date & God called her to her eternal home. 

Everything happened so very suddenly.  She had been in fairly good health, but she suffered a massive brain bleed & less than 18 hours later, she was gone....  

Ironically, she collapsed into the arms of a dear friend at the very end of a choir practice.  Since she never regained consciousness or any responsiveness, it comforts me to think that she actually left this world at the end of one of her favorite activities: singing.

For the visitation, prayer service and funeral, I was able (with tremendous help from my sisters & parents) to create four 24"x36" photo collages as a tribute to her memory.  They show just a fraction of her well-lived life, but I could not NOT make them.  While they aren't perfect, they are a labor of love, finished in record time, with minimal amounts of sleep, and with many tears.  I was too overcome with emotion to speak at her prayer service or funeral, but I could show my love for her & how much she meant to me through these images.

This loss has been unbelievably difficult on me.  I have cried more tears than I knew possible.  She was not just my grandma, but like a friend too.  We had so many adventures & I already her tremendously. I take comfort in this: she had a deep faith in Christ and I am 100% confident I will see her again in heaven one day.  

I wish that perhaps she would not have gone quite so quickly...  so that I could have said goodbye.  I wish I had called more often. I wish that we been able to spend more time together in recent years, but alas, my living so far away made that impossible.  I wish I had asked her more questions about her life, more questions about the stories behind all these pictures we found.

Following the funeral, I was fortunate to spend a couple weeks in North Dakota (hence my unexpected absence from blogging), helping my mom and grandpa with things like: organizing the house (trying to unearth & organize as many old pictures as possible!), making freezer meals for my grandpa to have on hand, writing some of the thank-you notes to the unbelievable number of friends & family who showered us with cards, memorials, food, and flowers.  I am grateful for the time we spent together (and thankful to my amazing husband who was willing to have me away for so long).  

I am now back in TX, trying to figure out what “normal” life means....  Bear with me as I work through this grieving process.  I need to take some time for me.  Please keep my family in your prayers as we go through this difficult time.

My challenge to you, my dear readers (if you’re out there), is to tell your loved ones how much you love them.  Call them (often).  Write them (email, text, old-fashioned letter writing). Visit them, whether in person or via a webcam.  Tell them how much you love them & how much they mean to you. Look through old photos. Find out their stories. Write down the stories.

We never know our expiration dates.