Friday, December 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises: Popovers

If there is one thing I am not good at, it's timing. I tend to give anything a few extra minutes – it's okay if I show up early, or if I have to keep dinner warm before everyone is ready. For that reason, I never baked popovers before. They tend to collapse if they are not served immediately. But with Sourdough Surprises picking them for the December challenge, I had to try.

I didn't get too creative with this challenge. I simply made the suggested recipe:

Served with chili, they were wonderful despite this being my first attempt. Crispy on the outside, soft and almost custardy on the inside. Made in a muffin tin, it actually made 8 popovers. So I did save one for breakfast the next day with my yogurt. There was definitely a difference warm and cold, but the texture remained.

For that reason, I'm not scared of popovers anymore. In fact, while I was planning on baking peanut butter biscuits for Christmas breakfast, the taste and texture got me thinking...a little sugar, a little nutmeg...warm them up and you have an eggnog popover for breakfast!

Check out our other awesome popovers:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises: Mocha Hazelnut Cream Cheese Kolaches

Somehow, I've developed a talent for getting free stuff from the internet. This time it wasn't just a sample – it was a whole jar of Jif Mocha Cappuccino Hazelnut Spread and a $2 off coupon for another jar. It's especially funny as I had an unopened jar in the pantry. So, it was time to find a recipe to use it. Sourdough Surprises picked kolaches – a filled Czech pastry – as their challenge for November. I needed a filling and I needed to use the spread. Hopefully it was a match made in heaven.

I did, unfortunately, pick a day to bake when a front was coming through (meaning extra humidity, the need for extra flour and not always the best results with yeast doughs) but I had to give it an old college try. I adapted the Homesick Texan recipe for sourdough, and used a cream cheese and mocha hazelnut mixture for the filling. (I also forgot to melt any butter for when they came out of the oven, so they didn't have a glossy finish).

The recipe:
Kolaches (adapted from TheHomesick Texan)
1 cup sourdough starter
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups of all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/4 cup of melted butter
1 teaspoon of salt

In a large bowl, combine yeast, warm milk, sugar and one cup of flour. Cover and let it rise until doubled in size.
Beat together eggs, melted butter and salt.
Add egg mixture to yeast mixture and blend.
Stir in about two more cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time. The dough should be soft and moist.
Knead dough for about 10 minutes on floured surface. Don't worry, it’s a joy to knead as the dough is smooth and highly malleable.
Put dough in a greased bowl and let rise covered until doubled in size—about an hour.
After dough has risen, punch it down and pull off egg-sized pieces. In your hands, roll pieces into balls and then flatten to about three inches in diameter. Brush with melted butter.
Place flattened pieces on a greased cookie sheet, cover and let rise again for another half-hour.
After second rising, with your finger gently make an indention in the center of the dough (be careful not to flatten it too much) and fill with one tablespoon of filling.
Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes and enjoy!

Kolache filling
1/2 cup Jif Mocha Hazelnut spread
2 oz Neufachetel cheese, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Beat all three ingredients until fairly smooth.

The only negative I have to say is that they tasted a little chewy and dry...but so goes it (typically) when I bake on a humid day. The pastry was lightly sweet and the filling just rich enough.

I'll keep these in mind for a less humid day (if I get the time to bake on a less humid day.) Now to finish off that jar of Mocha Hazelnut spread...

Check out our other awesome Kolaches!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises: Chocolate Chip Walnut Muffins

I'll admit, it's been tough enough for me to stay in the kitchen lately with work. It's even tougher to keep blogging. I found this recipe a long time ago. I'd already tried the pie crusts a few times from the same site. But knowing someday, Sourdough Surprises was going to do muffins, I held on to it – because I haven't been making repeat recipes much either.

Of course, in my style, I didn't do it as written. I'm a hopeless chocoholic, and when I'm not baking much, I include it as much as possible. Plus, with a recipe that calls for exactly half a cup of oil, it was a good recipe to replace the oil with applesauce (fact: single serve applesauce cups are exactly half a cup)

The recipe:
Sourdough Chocolate Chip Walnut Muffins
Adapted from Sourdough Recipes
Makes 12-18 muffins (I got 16)

1 cup white all-purpose flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dry milk powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
1 cup fresh sourdough starter

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry, mixing until dry ingredients are just combined.

Spray muffin tins with flour spray. Fill tins to 2/3 full. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, until done.

Now, the original recipe calls for 30-35 minutes. My oven tends to bake cool, so even though oil free baked goods don't tend to take as long as those baked with fat, I put them in for 30 minutes. I thought they did come out slightly overdone.

Still, they were pretty good. Just enough chocolate, just enough crunch, and a pretty filling accompaniment to my breakfast yogurt. So lesson learned (check at 25 minutes), and if I ever get around to repeat recipes, this one is staying in the cookbook.

Check out our other awesome muffins and quick breads!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises: Brown Sugar Spice Pancakes

Pancakes and waffles. Easy to make the batter and then...I'm a notoriously bad pancake flipper, and the last time I went to make waffles, with the batter prepared, the waffle maker wouldn't heat up. So, neither are things I have great luck with. Still, I knew there would come a day when Sourdough Surprises picked that for their monthly challenge.  It came as no surprise when that was picked for September.

Since the waffle incident, I have replaced the waffle maker, but having just made them (from a mix), I opted for pancakes...with my new toy:

I know As Seen on TV products normally aren't all they're made out to be, but my aunt has one and likes it, so for $18 (in free gift cards!) I decided it was worth a try.

I used my favorite pancake base, substituting brown sugar and adding a tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice.

The pan has a little bit of a learning curve (you can't watch for bubbles, so you have to know your timing). A few got a little burnt on one side, and one that I flipped and opened the pan before it was cooked through got a little mushed. Still, I was quite happy with the results, and the pancakes were delicious.

With the right tools, I suppose I can fix even my biggest kitchen weaknesses. I just got another round of new who knows what's next!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shine Supper Club: Spiced Peanut Butter and Melted Banana Sandwich Spread

Even though I can't eat much in the way of bread anymore, with my nutty work schedule, I can certainly appreciate the simple convenience of a sandwich. So when, two days before I'm supposed to leave for vacation, I got a call from work asking me to come in early the next day, I knew what my lunch would be. And it just so happened that the Shine Supper Club is doing Sandwiches this month.

So I had a major challenge: Come up with something I could eat on the way, would hold up in the heat, and all in a matter of about 6 hours. Oh, and my mother happened to have just used up all but the last heel of the bread.

I've been somewhat obsessed recently with a couple of things. One is a blog called Chocolate CoveredKatie, full of healthy dessert ideas. Another is PB2, a powdered peanut butter that, while not convenient to mix and use as a peanut butter replacement, is wonderful for mixing into smoothies, yogurt, pancakes...or sandwich spread.

So I combined two things. I used CCK's Melted Banana trick, and mixed the caramelized banana with PB2 and cinnamon with just a little water to thin it out.

The “recipe”:
Spiced Peanut Butter and Melted Banana Sandwich Spread

Enough for one sandwich

1/2 large banana
2 tblsp PB2
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Water, enough to thin to desired consistency.
1-2 slices of bread (I don't folding over for a half sandwich, but it does make for a thick sandwich)

  1. In a covered bowl, microwave banana in 20 second intervals, mashing with a fork between intervals, until banana is completely mushy. (About 3 sessions in my microwave).
  2. Mix in PB2 and cinnamon, adding water to achieve desired consistency.
  3. Spread over bread slice and enjoy!

They say necessity is the mother of invention. While I may go back to my old standbys, though, this is one to keep in the aresenal. It held up until I got to work without making an absolute mess, and still tasted good when I got there.

Sometimes I bring a cold cut sandwich, sometimes peanut butter and jelly, sometimes it's cream cheese and olive and other times I grab something from the drive thru on the way. When I'm in the mood for something different, though, I know what I will turn to.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises: Buffalo Flatbread Crackers

I almost missed this month's SourdoughSurprises challenge. It seems a little crazy that one long weekend in Western New York can throw off my whole month. I'd been struggling with inspiration and figured I'd bake when I got back, but before I knew was the 18th and I still hadn't made my crackers.

However, one benefit to my trip was inspiration. Other than the traditional Polish fare that I was expecting at my family reunion, I had three treats I wanted more than anything and can't get in Florida: A Tim Horton's S'mores donut (which they apparently don't have anymore), orange chocolate sponge candy, and traditional chicken wings.

I finally got my wings at the Anchor Bar at the Buffalo Airport just before I left, but I was still wanting more. (Then again, I can always go for good chicken wings). So what better way to flavor my sourdough crackers than Buffalo-style hot sauce?

Before I ramble on too much, the modifications I made to the recipe (summer humidity is making baking a challenge):

Buffalo-Style Sourdough Flatbread Crackers
Adapted from C Mom Cook
1 cup Sourdough Starter
1 1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons prepared Buffalo wing sauce (or 1 1/2 tablespoons each melted butter and hot sauce of choice)

Combine flour, starter, and butter.  Add enough flour to form a stiff ball.  Cover and let sit aside for at least 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes has passed roll dough out very thin. Cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter and repeat until all dough is used. Prick with a fork and brush with Buffalo wing sauce.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven. Begin checking at 10 minutes (I did not roll mine out thin enough, so they took 16 minutes to become crispy). Let cool on cookie sheet before transferring to a storage container.

So a little pressed for time, I didn't make them perfectly. My original intention was also to top them with some Ranch and chicken, so I made them a little too big. Mistakes aside, they tasted pretty good. While I can't say they were a complete success, they certainly weren't a failure.

Now I just have to fix that donut craving...

Check out our other awesome flatbreads!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Pineapple Bread

I don't know exactly why I wanted to save this recipe when I saw it. It was just a peanut butter quick bread that happened to be filled with jelly. Maybe it was gut instinct that some other ideas would come together so I could create a version of my own.

On another note, there was the PeanutButter and Co. peanut butter. I'd heard about them and definitely knew I would like to try them, but no way was I going to pay that much...under normal circumstances. Then my mother saw it. I don't know if she was hungry or what, but she wanted to try it. And if she thinks its okay to spend money on something, chances are it is – even better when I can get it buy one, get one free.

So I bought a jar each of Dark Chocolate Dreams and White Chocolate Wonderful. Now I have flavored peanut butter, an amount of crushed pineapple right about equivalent to the amount of jelly...

I talked about serendipity when I made the hummingbird cake. But I'd say that this is equally serendipitous.

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Pineapple Bread
Adapted from Mr. Food
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup Peanut Butter & Co. White Chocolate Wonderful
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4oz crushed pineapple, drained
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9- x 5-inch loaf pan with baker's spray.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in peanut butter with an electric beater on medium speed, until well combined.

Add egg and milk; stir until well blended. Spread half the batter into prepared loaf pan and spoon preserves down center of batter.

Top with remaining batter, covering preserves completely. Bake 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Slice and serve.

I was a little nervous about some residual pineapple juice that had drained, but it baked off and came out...White Chocolate Wonderful-ly! Seriously, this was one of the most addictive and (unfortunately for the calorie counter) high calorie recipes I've made in a while.

But finally, I'm out of bananas, and I'm out of pineapple. So I can get back to baking and forgetting to write about it. Now I just need to get myself more of some Peanut Butter & Co. Peanut butter...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises: Pineapple Coconut Cinnamon Rolls

Ah, cinnamon rolls. Way back when I first started baking with sourdough, they were one of my first successes. So naturally, despite dealing with the July heat and humidity, I was excited that Sourdough Surprises picked them for this month's challenge.

I decided to stick with my old recipe (even though it's so old, the website it's from seems to have been taken down), but halved it. Then I had to deal with the leftover pineapple from the hummingbird cake. While totally not traditional, something about a pineapple cinnamon roll sounded really good. Besides, also having a bag of shredded coconut in the freezer, it would make a perfect summery tropical treat.

I did have the humidity related issues with the dough (I ended up using a whole 2 cups of flour)

The recipe:
Pineapple Coconut Cinnamon Rolls
3/4 cup sourdough starter
1/3 cup milk
1 tblsp sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tblsp melted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 cup flour
1/4 tsp soda

8oz crushed pineapple
2tblsp sugar
2 tblsp flour
1 tblsp cinnamon

2 tblsp melted butter
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Mix together first 5 ingredients of the dough in a large bowl.  Stir in salt and enough flour to make a soft dough just stiff enough to handle. Turn onto a well-floured board and sprinkle with 1/4 cup flour which has been mixed with soda.  Work flour in and knead for 5 minutes or more, adding more flour as necessary.

Place in a buttered bowl and turn once to butter top.  Cover and let rise until double, about 3 hours.

Punch down, turn onto a floured board and roll into 9" square.  Mix filling ingredients and spread over dough.  Roll and cut into 1 inch slices.  Arrange with sides touching in a 9" cake pan.  Cover and let rise until doubled, 2-3 hours.

Toss topping ingredients and sprinkle over rolls.  Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes.

Overfilled, much? But it made them that much better. Although I can't say I'll be making these often – I hope I plan better and not buy a 20oz can of pineapple when the recipe calls for an 8oz again in the near future – they were definitely worth making. And worth eating.

The only trouble? I've still got 4oz of crushed pineapple left. But...that's been taken care of. Watch for my next post!

Check out our other awesome cinnamon rolls!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Shine Supper Club: Hummingbird Cake

Serendipity at it's finest!

I've already mentioned my stockpile of frozen bananas before. My mother suggested I make a hummingbird cake, so I already had planned on making one. Then the Shine Supper Club announced that this month would be summer desserts. Hummingbird cake is a lightly spiced cake with bananas and pineapple. What could be more summer than that?

My mother's recipe is from-scratch, but calls for a ridiculous amount of oil and sugar. I decided to find a lighter recipe, one that calls for yellow cake mix. I decided to get a little creative and use Betty Crocker Butter Pecan. That way I could also omit the nuts.

The recipe, as follows:
Hummingbird Cake
Adapted from CDKitchen
1 package Betty Crocker Butter Pecan Cake Mix
8 ounces crushed pineapple packed in juice, undrained
1 cup mashed bananas
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Spray a 9”x13” baking pan with flour spray

2. Place the cake mix, pineapple with it's juice, mashed bananas, water, oil, eggs, vanilla extract and cinnamon in a large bowl.

3. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed. The batter should look thick and the fruit well blended.

4. Pour batter into pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Let cool completely before icing.

Being a traditional southern cake, the original recipe calls for cream cheese icing. Hummingbird cake is already sweet enough, in my opinion. So I opted for just a half cup of vanilla icing, thinned out with 2 tablespoons of milk and microwaved to form a glaze.

It was as sweet as my mother's recipe, while also not being nearly as dense. The butter pecan mix provided an excellent – though addictive – flavor.

Finally, my freezer is once again devoid of bananas. The thing is, I accidentally bought a 20oz can of pineapple...

Stay tuned later in the week for what I did with the rest of it!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises: “Oh, Crap” Crepe Cake

I had a gut feeling about the the challenge for this month's Sourdough Surprises. I was thinking pancakes. Maybe because I haven't done them in a while, and I have my tried and true recipe. It turned out to be crepes – so I wasn't too far off. And my first thought was “Oh, crap.” I have a hard enough time with pancakes. Crepes?

But a challenge is a challenge, and then I remembered a Crepe Cake I had seen on Delish. I had a plan.

I tweaked the suggested recipe just a tad for my tastes and my roughly 100% hydration starter:

“Oh Crap” Sourdough Crepe Cake
Serves 4

1 cup sourdough starter
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup of milk
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 box prepared chocolate fudge pudding

Whisk all ingredients in a bowl. Add milk until it reaches a very smooth, thin batter consistency, I normally use about 1/3 cup of milk but depending on the consistency of your starter, you might use a bit less or a bit more.
In a not too big, but not too small frying pan (about 8″ – 10″ is perfect) heat the frying pan over medium high heat. Once hot, add a teaspoon or so of butter, allow it to melt quickly and then immediately pour in 1/4 cup of crepe batter, tilting the pan with a circular motion to allow the batter to coat the  bottom of the pan and create a circle of crepe.
Cook the crepe for about two minutes, until the bottom has splotches of light brown.  With a spatula, very carefully loosen the crepe and flip over. Cook for about 30 seconds and decant onto a plate.
Allow crepes to cool. Stack on plate, topping each with about 2 tablespoons of pudding and spreading to cover

As you can see, I got a little egregious. For one thing, the ladle I always thought was 1/4 cup is actually only about 2 1/2 tablespoons, so they turned out too small and therefore the cake ended up too tall. For two, I was assembling it while hungry. So hungry I cut into it before I remembered to snap a picture! So the “Oh Crap” thought that came to mind when I saw the challenge is now the official name of this cake.

The good news: In my nonstick skillet, they required very little extra butter. Plus, I actually found them easier than pancakes. And the cake was especially delicious with the almond extract.

You never know what you're capable of until you try. I'm definitely putting this recipe in the keeper file. And next time, hopefully it turns out even better.

Now on to the next challenge...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises: Graham-Crusted Brownies

There is one thing I absolutely don't like about May anymore: All I do is eat. Somehow I managed to have my birthday right about the same time as Mother's Day – and who created this “Eat What You Want” day that my friends have to remind me of, on May 11th, right when I'm trying to behave myself?

Instead, once the local bakery Red Velvet Cupcakes were gone from my birthday, I used this month's Sourdough Surprises challenge to do my Mother's Day baking in one swoop.

I found a different recipe this month, as I didn't want a 13”x9” pan of brownies lying around this time of year. I looked around for how I could jazz it up, and found a nearly empty box of graham cracker crumbs in the pantry. Reminded of a few variations of s'mores brownies that I've read about, I decided to top my brownies with the crumbs. I did realize (right after coming home from the store) that the recipe called for cake flour, so I had to make another adjustment.

My version of the recipe:
Graham-Crusted Brownies
Adapted from

  • 2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup ripe sourdough starter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

  • Preheat oven to 375F, and grease a 9" pan.
  • Microwave chocolate and oil in 10 second increments, stirring in between, until melted.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • Beat together brown sugar, egg, sourdough starter and vanilla, then stir in cooled chocolate mixture.
  • Stir in flour mixture until just blended.
  • Spread in prepared pan. Top with graham cracker crumbs
  • Bake 25-30 minutes, or until edge begins to pull away from pan.
  • Cool completely before cutting and serving.

They didn't need quite the 30-35 minutes in the oven that the recipe called for. My only complaint is that they turned out a bit more like cake than brownies:

Still, by using unsweetened chocolate, they had a very rich and satisfying chocolate taste. I do plan on making more of a graham streusel if I do this again, and probably omitting the baking soda so that they don't come out so cakey.
Yes, I will be saving this recipe. They're pretty darn good. And all things considered, they're not that bad for you – 1/12 of the recipe is only about 160 calories.
So even though it's May, I can still have my cake and my brownies too. And then I can go back to my regularly scheduled baking.

Check out our other delicious brownies!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Shine Supper Club: Cooked Carrots

When I was little, my mother would always ask what vegetable I wanted with dinner. Like she needed to ask - “cooked carrots” was always my response. Plain cooked carrots. Not that I minded glazed carrots (although, to this day, I'm not fond of raw carrots), but just boiled carrots with a little bit of salt. It's the simple things in life that keeps kids happy.

I'm all grown up now, and although I do still live at home, I do most of the cooking now (when I'm not working much, at least). When I found out the Shine Supper Club was doing childhood dishes for the month of May (my birthday month even!), I knew I had to do a grown up version of my favorite side dish growing up.

Lemon Pepper Boiled Carrots
Serves 4

1lb baby carrots
1tsp salt
Enough water to cover carrots
2 tblsp butter
2 tsp lemon pepper seasoning or to taste (or lemon zest and black pepper to taste)

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add carrots and boil 10-15 minutes, to desired doneness. Drain and return pot to heat.
  2. Melt butter in pot with lemon pepper seasoning. Toss to coat and serve.

I served this with some white rice and Spicy Maple Mustard glazed chicken (so good I had to scrape off a little of the extra!). The glaze, if interested...

Spicy Maple Mustard Sauce
Adapted from
Makes 1/4 cup

1 tblsp Maple Syrup
3 tblsp Horseradish Mustard
1/2 tsp paprika

Simply mix in a small bowl. Makes a great dip as well as a sauce for all kinds of meat!

Of course, this wasn't how I ate my carrots growing up – as I've said before, my mom is a lazy cook, and only after telling her what I'd added to the carrots did she find out about the lemon pepper seasoning I had in the pantry. Still, it was a tasty reminder of the way things were back then – and Mom even loved them too.

The simple things in life keep adults happy too.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Chocolate Cinnamon Brownie Cookies

Let's be honest folks: I watch what I eat carefully. I log everything, even if I'm going crazy overboard (Yes, I ate 4 donuts yesterday. They tasted good). But I have the world's biggest sweet tooth. Combine that with the fact that I live with two people who could care less what they eat, it makes staying on track tough.

An online friend mentioned a blog called Chocolate Covered Katie a while back. It's a healthy desert blog. I don't necessarily even have easy access to some of her ingredients unless I order online or go to a certain grocery store that I always end up buying way more than I came in for (and unlike the blogger, I am not vegan), but they are still lower in sugar and she provides all kinds of substitution options. My first recipe was her Sweet Potato Chili, which I would have blogged about – except my mother and I finished it before I could think to snap pictures (I've already been told that I have to make it every time my father is out of town now). Having the house to myself today, I decided to try one of her wonderful sounding desert recipes – with my own spin.

While I know the dangers of experimenting with recipes I've never made before, I have been craving spiced chocolate lately. So I ended up playing with these Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies a little more. My version of the recipe:

Chocolate Cinnamon Brownie Cookies
Makes 1-1/2-2 dozen

1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
Scant 1/4 tsp salt
Rounded1/4 baking soda
1/4 cup plus 1 tblsp sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup oil
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp cinnamon

1. In a mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients and stir very well. In a separate bowl, mix all liquid ingredients. Now pour wet into dry and mix, kneading by hand until fully combined.
2. Roll into roughly 3/4” balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Refrigerate for at least half an hour.
3. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes. Let cool on pan for at least 10 minutes before moving. Store in an airtight container.

Now, perhaps it was the extra oil and the sugar, but the nutrition info she gives is a little off from my recipe calculator. For the 21 cookies it made, they are 87 calories a piece – on par with most other cookies. Still, I definitely like the fact it only makes 21 cookies. It makes it much easier to finish them off and move on to the next recipe.

Being eggless, they are a tad bit crumbly, and they are a little small (I think I made them slightly smaller than the original recipe intended). But for two bites, you get a rich chocolate taste with a hint of cinnamon. It's kind of hard to not plow through several...or the whole recipe worth.

So...healthy or not, I call these little cookies a two-thumbs up success.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises: Rustic Fettucini

When I accidentally came across Sourdough Surprises looking for recipes, I was intrigued by the sourdough pasta that started it all. Intrigued enough, in fact, I found myself actually looking at a pasta maker that happened to be on the clearance table, and wondering if I'd make sourdough pasta often enough to justify spending $50 on it.

Of course, for its first anniversary, the girls of Sourdough Surprises have chosen to make sourdough pasta again. Of course, I also didn't buy that pasta maker. So my choices were either sit out this month, or hand roll it. Because I love a challenge, I decided to hand roll it.

There's not a lot in the way of pasta recipes – fortunately, the basic recipe doesn't vary much, so I went ahead and used the suggested recipe – although now that we are finally getting hot and humid weather, I did have to add another quarter cup of flour. I also used the dough hooks on my hand mixer, lacking a stand mixer. I rolled them out and used a pizza roller to cut into fettucini:

Trying to highlight the pasta, and having just made spaghetti with marinara last week, I chose another tried and true (though admittedly, highly processed) sauce: Philadelphia Creamy Pesto Cooking Cream. Some cubed chicken, a tomato, and a green pepper...

Yum. And I mean that, and not just my beloved cooking cream. I was having a hard time not eating multiple noodles to “test” them – no butter, no sauce, just plain noodles. They remind me of the noodles in a good bowl of chicken noodle soup crossed with the dough part of a perogi.

Was it worth the effort? While I enjoyed it, I'm not sure I can make a regular habit of it. But for a special occasion (we do have lasagna as our “traditional” Christmas dinner), I probably will make it again.

Or maybe I'll just end up buying that pasta maker.

Check out our other delicious pastas!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mocha Cappuccino Hazelnut Biscuits

To my mother, holidays are all day eating events. She doesn't normally eat breakfast or a proper lunch, but for any holiday, it seems she ends up buying a tube of cinnamon rolls.

Cinnamon rolls are okay – but quite frankly, I like my chocolate better. And sure, they even have prepared chocolate glazed cinnamon rolls now, but I decided that for this Easter, I would break tradition. I've been itching to do more with the Jif Mocha Cappuccino Hazelnut spread. I've already used it in place of Nutella once. I had saved FabioViviani's Nutella Biscuits recipe a while back. It seemed like a good fit.

It's an incredibly simple recipe:

Mocha Cappuccino Hazelnut Biscuits

Adapted from Fabio Viviani
Makes about 8-3” biscuits
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 Tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 3 Tsp butter at room temperature
  • 4 Tbsp Jif Mocha Cappuccino Hazelnut spread
  • ¾ cup milk
Start by combining all the dry ingredients. Cut in butter and spread. Then add milk.
Mix and place the dough on top of a floured board and knead few times. Pat to 1-inch thickness and cut with biscuit cutter. Place them in a oven tray. Bake at 450 for about 15 minutes.

They were easier to mix than my lastattempt at making biscuits, but the small quanity did make them a little difficult to cut. Still, how food tastes is just as important to me as how it looks. I had two for breakfast this morning – one plain (to judge taste) and one with some caramel sauce.

The mocha flavor is subtle, at best. They are also not that sweet, if you're looking for more of a shortcake. Still, they were soft, chewy and otherwise perfect. Plus, they're not cinnamon rolls.

Have I started a new holiday tradition? Maybe, maybe not. But right now, I'm more looking forward to what's next. I have a brand new jar waiting...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises: Red Velvet Cake

If there's one thing I like baking more than anything, it's cake.

Cake is such an integral part of my family's food habits that it was one of my niece's first words. When I made my first foray in sourdough baking outside Amish Friendship Bread, it was the Sourdough Mocha Cake. Now I've made a coffee cake and a couple of mini sourdough chocolate cakes in the microwave.

One thing that has eluded me was Red Velvet Cake. Anyone who knows me well knows I can always make an exception to my attempt-to-eat-healthier habits for a taste of rich red chocolatey goodness with cream cheese frosting. It's been my birthday cake for as long as I can remember. It's made with buttermilk, so I figured I could make a sourdough version. My only attempt at it was using my grandmother's Red Waldorf Cake recipe, in my early days of sourdough baking. But while it tasted good, the texture wasn't red velvet, and with recipes catching my eye left and right, another attempt was on the back burner. Then SourdoughSurprises came out with the cake challenge for March – and I knew it was time.

Back when I made my first attempt, I looked up all the possible solutions for the coarser crumb problem. I came up with using cake flour instead, or baking it at a lower temperature for a longer time. Then I found this recipe, which in the accompanying post mentions the use of acid creating a too-coarse crumb. My grandmother's recipe used vinegar, so I decided for my next attempt I would use this recipe, as it was (only swapping out the buttermilk for the sourdough starter).

The recipe:
Sourdough Red Velvet Cake
Adapted from Veronica's Cornucopia

3 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 (1 lb) box light brown sugar (about 2 ¼ cups)
3 tablespoons red food coloring
2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 ¾ cups ripe sourdough starter

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray 2 9” cake pans with baking spray and set aside. Sift flour with the cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.
  2. Cream butter, brown sugar, food coloring and vanilla together. Beat until well aerated and pale. Alternately add dry ingredients and sourdough starter, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing until combined after each addition.
  3. Scoop into prepared cake pans and spread as evenly as possible. Bake for 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

The first thing I noticed was just how high these babies rose:

I keep meaning to get into cake decorating – it's a natural progression for a cake baker – but slightly pressed for time, I opted for packaged cream cheese frosting and the more traditional crumb decoration. I didn't have quite enough frosting to finish the sides and at least swipe my decorator come. Plus, they baked up so high that I had way, way too many crumbs after trimming to use them as a cake to top them with. (I ended up making a kind of “cake pop pudding” with them, mixing them with vanilla yogurt. It was quite yummy that way).

As soon as I cut into the cake, I didn't even have to taste it. I knew I had it. It was slightly overbaked, but the texture was fine and velvety. And it still had that familiar red velvet flavor.

It eluded me for a long time. Now I not only have my red velvet cake, but a homemade sourdough version. It's probably my proudest baking success yet.

Now if I can just work on my decorating skills...

Check out our other awesome cakes!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Shine Supper Club: Microwave Peanut Butter Egg Pancake

Welcome to my world over the winter.

Working for a sports team means I usually work at night, when I don't get as many opportunities to cook for my family. When I do, I stick to old standbys like Baked Chicken. For dinner, I'm either scrounging leftovers, preparing some overly processed food from the freezer, or making something simple.

But simple doesn't always mean not creative. Someone recently posted her recipe for Nut Butter pancakes in a healthy living chat room. It couldn't have been more simple – a tablespoon of any nut or seed butter, one egg, and an eighth of a teaspoon of baking powder. A simple, egg-based pancake. It was the perfect meal for me – easy enough that I could whip it up when I get home at 11:30pm or after a workout when I'm exhausted and need food fast. Of course, being me, I played with the recipe. I got lazy and started cooking it in the microwave, like I might scramble my eggs. And with the Shine Supper Club doing egg dishes this month, I saw a perfect opportunity to share my even-easier – and in my opinion, tastier – version.
Microwave Peanut Butter Egg Pancake
(My apologies, as I forget which of my friends posted the recipe its adapted from!)

For each pancake, you will need:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Cooking spray
Topping of choice (in this case, spreadable honey, but maple syrup, bananas, yogurt, and applesauce would all also be tasty ideas).

In a small bowl, whip egg with honey, baking powder and cinnamon until well combined. Add peanut butter and mix well.

Spray a dinner-sized plate with cooking spray. Pour batter onto plate. Microwave for about 1 minute, until it appears just moist.

[Blogger's note: I do apologize for my photography. The reason I don't do too many step by step photos is that you are typically seeing pictures minutes after the food is made and often minutes before I am about to devour it. This is especially true with lunch meals, like this or my Mocha Oatmeal. I love to cook and eat and it's tough when things get between the two!]

Of course, this can be done in a skillet (the original was). You can sub any nut or seed butter you wish. Or whatever sweetener you wish. That's why I love recipes like this: They're easy to tweak and make your own, or so you don't get bored with the “same ole, same ole.”

It's also perfect for many other occasions. Family doesn't all get up at once? It only takes a few minutes to whip up a single serving as they come down for breakfast. Since it's only one serving, it's also good for single cooks like me. Or perhaps for modifying it for an individual family member's tastes. It's quick, it's high-protein, reasonably healthy, and delicious.

Now what's next? Perhaps an Asian Savory Egg Pancake? Fluffernutter?

With me, one never knows...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises: Sourdough Tortillas

It's hard for my family to resist a Mexican dinner. It wasn't uncommon when I was younger for my family to eat at Mexican restaurants two or three days a week. So, when Sourdough Surprises picked flatbreads for the month of February, there was no doubt in my mind that I had to make tortillas.

Of course, this ended up being a many-days process. First and foremost, I had to finally take the time to re-season my grandmother's cast iron pan (sadly, I know its benefits – but it sat in the back of the cupboard for I don't know how long). Then the two day process of making tortillas, and finally, a Mexican dinner for my family.

Well, this one wasn't an easy one. For starters, I could barely get the whole 3 cups of flour mixed into the dough when I made it. A day later, and the dough was so wet I could hardly handle it. Perhaps because I used regular all-purpose flour (unfortunately, I'm the only one who watches what I eat in my house, and at least one of my taste testers dislikes whole wheat products). I managed, though. It made nearly twice what the recipe indicated, so that was another plus. And then I had to wait until I had another day off to make dinner and try them! It was tough – I was looking forward to a homemade Mexican meal.

The recipe:
Sourdough Tortillas
Adapted very slightly from Grain Mill Wagon
- 3 cups flour
- 3/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup sourdough starter
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Pinch salt
Step One:  Combine the water, flour, salt, and sourdough starter in your mixer or food processor.  Keep adding flour, slowly, until the dough forms a nice ball without sticking too much to the sides of the mixer.  Once you get the dough to a soft ball form, allow the mixer to knead the dough for 2-3 minutes (if you don’t have a mixer, just do this by hand!)  Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let this hang out on your counter for 12-24 hours.
Step Two:  When you’re ready to cook up your tortillas, heat up a griddle, cast iron skillet, or cooking pan of choice to medium-high heat.  I don’t bother with greasing or spraying my griddle.  I like to use my large griddle so that I can have multiple tortillas going at the same time – it helps to speed up the process.
Step Two:  Remove the dough from the bowl and transfer onto a greased surface.  Gently divide the dough into walnut sized balls (this recipe will yield a dozen or so, depending on size).
Step Four:  Grease your hands with a little olive oil and working with one ball of dough at a time, use your fingers to smoosh the dough out into a tortilla.  I suppose you could use a greased rolling pin, but I find that using my fingers alone works fine.  Sure, the shape isn’t a perfect circle – but that’s okay!  It’s homemade, remember?
Step Five:  After rolling out the tortilla, gently and carefully move it to the hot skillet.  Cook it for about 30 seconds per side, until a little golden and bubbly.
Step Six:  You can either eat these immediately, or cool them off and store them in the fridge or freezer for later use.  I have found that they reheat very easily and even stay soft.  Yay!

So then comes dinner:
A little chicken breast, a lot of seasoning, some cheese and salsa...they ended up being tough for tacos – just a tad too small, but they were certainly delicious.

(I did also have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on one, but at 11:30 at night...I forgot to snap a picture.)

I can't say I'm going to make homemade tortillas again anytime soon – my family still eats at Mexican restaurants enough that it doesn't make sense to make a Mexican dinner at home. But I'm glad I did.

And now I just need another day off to spend in the kitchen!

Check out our other awesome flatbreads!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Shine Supper Club: Breakfast-in-Bed-Worthy Mocha Oatmeal

When I first saw that the Shine SupperClub was doing “Sexy Dishes” for February, I was at a loss. I'm a single girl, just cooking for family and friends. Romantic dinners for two hasn't been in my repertoire.

Then, after a hard workout, I was exhausted and looking for some carbohydrates. I turned to one of my quick and easy favorites: oatmeal. When I'm as tired as I was, I sometimes just make an instant oatmeal packet with hot brewed coffee. When it's plain, one of my favorite sweeteners is a packet of hot cocoa mix. At this point, I was so tired I wanted someone to just bring it to me.

And then it hit me: it's the perfect breakfast-in-bed food. And what's sexier than breakfast-in-bed and chocolate?

Of course, instant oatmeal and hot cocoa are easy enough to throw together. So for my next post-workout oatmeal dish, I set out to make a more from-scratch version.

So, a little coffee, a little sugar, a lot of cocoa powder (I like it dark!) and a coffee creamer and voilia!

Breakfast-in-Bed Mocha Oatmeal
Serves 1...but easily doubled

1/2 cup quick cooking oats
2/3 cup cold coffee (oatmeal will be on the thick side, use more or less to taste)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon sugar (use more or less to taste)
1 half-and-half coffee creamer, or flavor of choice
Splash of vanilla extract

Mix oats, cocoa, and sugar in a bowl, stir to prevent clumping when wet ingredients are added. Add coffee and vanilla, stir.

Microwave 1 1/2 minutes, or amount of time specified on oatmeal container.

Add coffee creamer, stir until well mixed.

I think this on a tray, maybe with a side of strawberries, would make anybody's sexy meal list. It's also a perfect breakfast food – get your caffeine fix in your morning oatmeal!

I'm not making any promises if you serve this to your sweetie. But I think it ups your chances. Now if someone would just make it for me...

Friday, February 8, 2013

Light Orange Soda Cupcakes

It seems like whenever I most need sweets, I don't have time to bake.

In case you haven't heard, the NHL lockout is officially and utterly over – and that means this wannabe baker has regular work again. It also means that I don't have nearly as much time in the kitchen, much less time to blog about it.

Diet soda cake is nothing new to me. I was introduced in the early 2000's when I was on Weight Watchers for my sister's wedding. A box of cake mix and a can of diet soda is all it takes. It comes out super moist, although it falls apart easily.

Generally, people use lemon-lime soda for yellow cakes and diet cola (or the variations) for chocolate cakes. A while back, I got the idea to try and recreate the flavor of one of my favorite from-up-north treats: Orange Chocolate. Why not use orange soda and chocolate cake?

Unfortunately, whenever I bought orange soda, it kept disappearing. So I took a permanent marker, wrote “NEEDED FOR BAKING” on it and then...procrastinated. Until now. With a couple of days off, into the kitchen I went.

Like I said, without any eggs or oil in the cake, it does fall apart easily. Therefore, I prefer them made as cupcakes with paper liners – even though I despise cupcake wrappers almost as much as I despise trying to make sure my cupcakes/muffins are of equal size. The recipe also only makes about three quarters of what the box says. I wound up with 19 cupcakes.

The benefit of the crumbly, moist texture is that you can go with a much lighter frosting. With a package of whipped topping in the pantry, I opted to use that and added a packet of hot chocolate mix to it.

Need an official recipe?

Diet Orange Soda Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes about 1 1/2 dozen

1 box Chocolate Fudge Cake mix
1 can (12oz or 1 1/2 cup) diet orange soda

1 packet whipped topping mix
Milk and vanilla as called for on box
1 packet of hot cocoa mix

Mix cake mix and soda in a large mixing bowl. Scoop batter into paper-lined muffin tin, filling about 2/3 full

Bake as according to instructions on box. Cupcakes will be done on the lower end of the time range given. Cool on a wire rack.

Prepare whipped topping as directed. Mix in hot cocoa mix until well combined.

Spread topping on completely cooled cupcakes and enjoy!

As far as chocolate cupcakes are concerned, these were good. However, while there was definitely something different about them, you couldn't really taste the orange flavor. Perhaps if I'd used a regular chocolate cake mix, the orange might have shone through a little more.

Best yet, each iced cupcake works out to a whole 130 calories. Sure, health nuts will probably go off on me about the trans fats in the whipped topping and the artificial sweeteners in the soda, but I firmly believe that eventually they'll discover that everything has something bad for you in it. I say enjoy, like everything else, in moderation.

Now I just need to get back to baking!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises: Babka Almost like Ciotka Polly's Paska

If there is one thing I can appreciate Sourdough Surprises for more than getting me to try new things, it's all the things I end up learning.

This month's challenge was “a sweet, swirly, enriched bread with roots in Eastern Europe” known as babka. As I clicked through all of the suggested links, I came across this one. And my first thought was that it sounded like my great aunt's paska.

No, Jessica, that would be more like exactly like your great aunt's paska. It's just another name. (“Babka” is actually Polish for “grandmother,” whereas “paska” is the Ukranian spelling of pascha, meaning Easter - when it is traditionally served.)

My great aunt sends home paska much more often than she sends home pizzelles. Doing my research, I'm not sure how traditionally Polish hers is or not. It's a kind-of-sweetened bread with raisins mixed in, until you get to the streusel topping. I'm not totally fond of it, save for the streusel. But it's a challenge, and I had an additional challenge this month: Make my family proud.

The regional and cultural variations on babka/paska seem to vary from the brioche rolled out and filled with a filling, as Sourdough Surprises suggests, to a coffee cake that is traditionally made in a bundt-style pan flavored with raisins and orange peel. (So my great aunt's is more of a cross between the two.) After some searching, I found King Arthur Flour's recipe, which seemed pretty similar to Aunt Polly's. I played with it some to make it as close to the familiar recipe as possible.

My gut said that this might not work, owing to the small amount of liquid and the relatively large amount of yeast. My first attempt didn't rise, so I added a half teaspoon of baking soda.

And what do you know, it worked! It's cakier in texture than Aunt Polly's, and I used a different streusel. Otherwise, it's pretty spot on.

The recipe I settled on:
Sourdough Paska
Inspired by Ciotka Polly & adapted from King Arthur Flour
Makes 1 loaf


  • 1/2 cup fresh sourdough starter
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs and mix well
  2. Add all other ingredients except for raisins. Mix until combined. Dough will be very wet.
  3. Gently fold in raisins. Cover and allow to rest for 1 hour.
  4. Spread dough in a loaf pan sprayed with baker's spray. Cover and allow to rest 1/2 hour, while oven is preheating to 350 degrees.
  5. Prepare the streusel. Melt butter in microwave. Mix in other ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Spread over dough.
  6. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting.

Like I said, I've never been all that fond of paska/babka. But something about having made such an accurate analog to the family recipe was exciting. It happily became my breakfast:

Ciotka Polly (“Ciotka” is Polish for “aunt”) is well into her 80s now. I know that we won't be bringing home her paska for too much longer. Now, I have a sense of pride knowing that I've remade a family recipe, that I can now hand down.

And perhaps I can send one up to her next time...

Check out our other great babkas/paskas!