Sunday, June 29, 2014

Copycat Mellow Mushroom pizza dough

Have you ever eaten at Mellow Mushroom? I went once while I was in college many, many years ago. From what I remember, it wasn't all that exciting. My caveat is that I went with a large group, and we probably couldn't decide on a specialty pizza so we ordered something unoriginal and boring. I thought nothing of the restaurant since.

Lo and behold, a Mellow Mushroom recently opened up in my city, and people have been flocking to it like they were giving away free ice cream or something. My husband had never been and obviously heard about the rage, so we planned to eat there one weekend. We took Addie, and she surprisingly did very well during our 30 minute wait to get inside the restaurant and additional 20 minute wait for the food to arrive.

My previous non-memories of Mellow Mushroom have long been erased. My daughter, a non-pizza-crust eater, shoveled the crust into her mouth as quickly as she could (and this was after she already ate an entire bowl full of macaroni and cheese). Addie was onto something - Mellow Mushroom's crust was dark, slightly sweet, chewy, tender, and slightly reminiscent of Steak and Ale's pumpernickel bread. Remember those?

I thought that the crust might have been made with extra sugar and whole wheat but did a Google search to be sure. Surprisingly, I found out that the secret ingredient was molasses. The molasses gave the pizza the dark color and sweetness that I had been wondering about. And how did this taste? Amazing. Since I ran out out molasses, I substituted with maple syrup and my dough did not turn out as dark as the restaurant's. Regardless, the flavors were there - the dough had a slightly sweet undertone and the crust baked up crispy on the outside yet still had a good chew on the inside. My non-crust-loving toddler ate her entire pizza (crust included), so that should tell you how good this dough is.

Copycat Mellow Mushroom pizza dough
  • 1 and 1/2 cups hot water
  • 2 and 1/2 TBSP molasses (I ran out and subbed with maple syrup)
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 packets of instant yeast (4 and 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 3 and 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • cornmeal (used for dusting your parchment paper)
  • melted garlic butter
  • parmesan cheese crumbs
Directions
In a measuring cup, combine water, olive oil and molasses. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer (or if mixing by hand), whisk together the flour, salt and yeast together on low speed. Slowly pour in the molasses mixture and turn the mixer to medium speed and continue to let the dough knead until the dough is smooth. Add more flour if needed.

If making the dough by hand, form a well in the middle of the flour mixture and slowly pour the molasses mixture into it. Using your hands, knead until the dough comes together and is smooth and elastic. You may need to add more flour if the dough is too sticky.

Transfer the dough in a well-oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a wet towel and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled (about 1-2 hours).

Preheat your oven to 500°F (or the highest temperature your oven will go). Place your pizza stone in the preheated oven and allow it to heat for at least 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into two halves and form each half into a ball by folding the "sides" of the dough towards the back (imagine you are gift wrapping a balloon). Pinch the "sides" together in the back of the dough and press down slightly.

Cover each dough ball with a wet towel and allow to rise for another 30 minutes. At this point, you can bake the dough balls or transfer to a freezer bag and refrigerate or freeze for a later use.

To bake the dough, sprinkle some corn meal onto a piece of parchment paper. Place the dough down on the parchment, and working from the center, push the dough outwards (you may rotate the dough/parchment) to form a circle. Do not make the center too thin or else it will break.

Brush the top of the dough with olive oil and add your toppings. Bake on the preheated pizza stone for 7-9 minutes or until the crust is golden. Add garlic butter immediately after removing the pizza from the oven and sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese.

Yield: Two 12-inch pizza crusts

Source: Shutter N Spice; originally adapted from Lark and Lola

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Skating Fridays

Some Axel Progress

One of the goals that I set for myself this year is to make the axel my strongest jump. I'm currently at a stage where it's either 100% there or not at all. I think part of the problem is that I have a mental block since I don't want to further injure my knee. I was skating into the axel with a lot of speed a few weeks ago, but after hurting my knee, I've slowed it down a bit. As a result, the jump has not made much progress.

Regardless, this is still an improvement from last year. I've been focusing on pulling in tighter and crossing my legs.


And a a comparison, here is what it looked like in December of last year. Note that I was a bit cautious going into the jump.



Let me know your thoughts!

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

No bake Funfetti cookie dough bars

I'm a self-proclaimed baking snob. I try to avoid boxed cake mixes and frostings unless I absolutely have to use them (note that cake pops are a perfect occasion to use a boxed cake mix and prepared frosting). Needless to say, I have very few boxed cake mixes in my pantry, but they mostly sit there unused.

I wanted to make a dessert one day but really didn't feel like turning on the oven. It was one of those days. I came across this no bake Funfetti cookie dough bar recipe on Chelsea's Messy Apron and thought it would be worth a try. It didn't require me to turn on the oven, and it also used up some of the dry cake mix that was hiding out in the pantry.

Although I'm not a big fan of boxed cake mix, these bars were great. The texture really was reminiscent of cookie dough since every bite contains a bit of the crunchiness from the sugar granules. The frosting hardened and cracked when I tried to slice into them, so if you are presenting these or want them to be picture-perfect, cut into them with a warm knife in order to allow the frosting to melt.

These bars were on the sweet side - almost to the level of traditional buttercream frosting. You may be able to cut down on the sugar since the frosting, chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and cake mix all contain sugar. Otherwise, they were a fun and welcome no-bake treat.

No bake Funfetti cookie dough bars
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature (no substitutions)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dry cake mix (I used Funfetti)
  • 1 and 1/3 cup flour
  • 2 cups (1 bag) white chocolate chips, separated
  • 1/3 cup + 4 tablespoons sprinkles, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
Directions
Line a standard 8"x8" baking pan with parchment paper. Or, use a silicone baking pan like I did. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until nice and fluffy.

Add the sweetened condensed milk until it is smooth.

Then add the salt, dry cake mix and flour and mix until no flour remains and is well incorporated. If the batter is too sticky, add more flour, about 1 TBSP at a time. Your final batter should look shiny/glossy and should not be sticky.

Stop the mixer and stir in 1 cup of the white chocolate chips and 1/3 cup of the sprinkles by hand. You should use a wooden spoon or a spatula to fold these in.

Transfer the batter into the prepared baking pan and press down with a spatula.

In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave the remaining white chocolate chips with the oil in 30 second bursts until the chocolate has melted and is spreadable. Pour the melted white chocolate on top of the cookie dough and spread it evenly with a spatula. Add the 4 TBSP of sprinkles on top if desired.

Transfer the pan to your refrigerator and allow it to cool for at least 3 hours.

Bars should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and can be kept for several days.

Yield: One 8"x8" pan (about 16 bars)

Source: Chelsea's Messy Apron

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer fruit crisp

Someone pinch me. Is it really June already? Where has the first six months of the year gone?  I'm actually happy that it's almost summer because this is actually one of my favorite times of the year. Allergy season is finally over (hooray!), and the weather is just about perfect. We rarely have to run the air conditioner, and I can choose to wear shorts or jeans during the weekends.

Another thing I look forward to in June is resuming our CSA deliveries. We had the option of participating in the winter CSA session but we chose not to do that this year. Our winter/spring was pretty chaotic and I knew that I wouldn't be able to take advantage of the winter produce this season. Thankfully, the regular CSA deliveries started up again in mid-May, so we're back to trying new recipes.

One item I always enjoy receiving in our delivery box is fresh fruit. We are lucky to receive lots of strawberries and blueberries week after week, so naturally I wanted to bake something with them.  Coincidentally, my friend Yudith of Blissfully Delicious chose "Baking with Summer Fruits/Produce" as the What's Baking theme for June. And what better way to feature fresh summer fruits than by baking a fruit crisp?

The advantages of baking a fruit crisp such as this one is that the fruits are the highlight of the dish. They aren't hiding in a cake, frosting or play second fiddle to another ingredient (although, I guess you could argue that the streusel-like topping is the best part of the dessert, but I digress...). This dish is perfect for highlighting your favorite fruits, and you can top it with whipped cream or ice cream to take it over the top.

Be sure to check out Yudith's blog to see what other What's Baking participants baked up this month!

Summer fruit crisp
  • 8 cups sliced stone fruit, pitted cherries or berries (I used peaches, cherries and blueberries)
  • 1 cup sugar (you can cut this down if your fruit is extremely ripe)
  • 2 TBSP cornstarch
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon or lime (or 2 TBSP of orange juice and zest of half an orange)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats, divided
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (cold)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Generously grease a 1.5 quart high-sided baking dish and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the sliced fruit with the 1 cup of sugar. Then add the cornstarch, citrus zest and juice and salt and toss to coat. Set aside.

In a high-speed blender or food processor, pulse together 3/4 cups of the oats, the flour, light brown sugar and salt. Add in the cold butter and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand and you get pea-sized clumps. Do not over-pulse! Transfer the mixture into a large bowl and add in the remaining 1/4 cup of oats by hand.

Transfer the fruit into your prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the top with the oat mixture. Place the baking pan on top of a baking sheet and bake in your preheated oven for 60-70 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the fruit and juices are bubbling.

Allow the fruit crisp to cool for at least an hour before serving.

Fruit crisp should be covered and stored in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: About 10-12 servings

Source: Bon Appetit, June 2014 issue; page 71

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Skating Fridays

Guest Post at The Ice Doesn't Care

Today I am doing a guest post about testing for Babbette at The Ice Doesn't Care. She's pretty hilarious, and I did my best to be as witty and clever as her. I probably didn't even come close though.

While you're there, be sure to check out Babbette's other posts.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake

Every year I ask my husband what he dessert wants me to make for his birthday. And year after year, he's been asking for this cake from Dorie Greenspan, but he manages to change his mind at the last minute. He knows I'm not a big fan of coconut, and our little family of three would have a hard time polishing off this cake on our own (it would be difficult to transport leftovers to my skating friends or his swimming friends). So every year, he changes his bakery order at the eleventh hour. Not this time. This was finally the year that Dorie's Perfect Party Cake would be made.
Happy birthday, Daddy!

Because Dorie's cake contained lemon zest and lemon juice, I decided to swap out the fruit preserves called for in the original recipe with a homemade lemon curd instead. It turned out to be a good choice since the cake was definitely very lemon-y. I also omitted the coconut flakes because I'm not a fan.

My 4-year old was a bit hesitant to try this cake because my husband said that it was a bit tart. Addie took that to mean that it wasn't very good, but she finally came to her senses when she realized that she would be the only person who wasn't eating cake. My little girl cannot resist cake, so she tried a bite of my slice. Shyly, she looked up and said that she wanted her own piece. She scarfed down her slice of cake in record time and said several times, "This cake is just a little tart, right?" Sweet girl.

I understand why Dorie named this the perfect party cake. It is a tender white cake with a light and fluffy crumb and frosted with a lemon Swiss meringue buttercream. Although I really liked the lemon curd filling, I think I'd like the cake better with a fruit jam to make the cake slightly sweeter (rather than tart). My husband adored the cake and mentioned that he wants to keep it all to himself rather than share with others. That, my friends, is the sign of a good cake.

Happy birthday to my dear husband!

Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake
Cake
  • 2 and 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 stick (8 TBSP) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
Buttercream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Lemon Curd
  • 3 lemons
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Directions
To make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease two 9-x-2-inch round cake pans. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the milk and egg whites until well combined. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, place the sugar and lemon zest together and rub them together with your hands (do not turn on the mixer yet!) until the sugar is fragrant. 

Turn the mixer on at medium speed and add in the butter. Allow the butter and sugar mixture to cream together for about 3 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add in the lemon extract, then a third of the flour mixture. Add in half of the milk/egg white mixture, half of the remaining dry ingredients and continue to beat on medium speed. Add the remaining milk/egg white mixture until the batter is well mixed. Finally, add in the remaining dry ingredients and beat for an additional 2 minutes or until the batter is mixed well and no flour streaks remain.

Evenly distribute the batter into the 2 prepared baking pans and smooth the tops with a spatula.

Bake in your preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes have risen and are springy to the touch. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. After the cakes have slightly cooled, remove the cakes from the pans and allow them to cool completely on the wire racks. Assemble the final cake only after the cake layers have completely cooled.

To make the buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large heatproof bowl, put the egg whites and sugar over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly for about 3 minutes. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, remove the bowl from the heat.

Using your stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), whisk the egg white mixture on medium-high speed until it is cool. Add the butter one stick at a time, and beat until smooth. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the cake.

To make the lemon curd: Zest lemons and place in a food processor or high speed blender. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is superfine and is thoroughly combined with the sugar.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the butter on medium speed. Add in the lemon sugar mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time until each is completely mixed in, and add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until well combined.

Transfer the mixture into a medium-sized saucepan and constantly stir over low heat until the mixture thickens up (about 10 minutes). Remove the curd from the heat, transfer to a container and cool or refrigerate.

To assemble the cake: Use a knife to slice each layer horizontally in half. Place one layer cut side up on a cake platter or cardboard cake round. Add one third of the lemon curd on top, then top the curd with about one quarter of the buttercream. Repeat with two more layers. Add the last layer (cut side down) on top of the cake and frost the tops and sides of the cake with the remaining buttercream.
Cake is best served the day it is baked. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and will keep for about 2 days.

Yield: Cake makes 12-14 servings; lemon curd makes approximately 3 cups

Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan; lemon curd from Ina Garten, via The Food Network

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Homemade (copycat) dark chocolate cherry KIND bars

I don't eat nuts. For some reason, the texture of them don't agree with me. Maybe because I have funky shaped teeth, and nuts always, always get stuck in between my teeth or maybe it's because they just don't taste that good. Well, I am happy to say that I have found a way that I will eat nuts. Enter KIND bars.

My cooking friends were raving about KIND bars, and I was the clueless girl in the corner who had never heard of them (and didn't care for them since they had nuts). They were supposed to be all kinds of amazing, despite their hefty price tag (about $1.40 per bar, on average). One of my cooking friends shared a link to a blog that had successfully created a copycat version of KIND bars. I was intrigued and decided to finally see what the fuss was all about. I bought a dark chocolate cherry KIND bar at the grocery store and ate it one day before skating. Mind = blown.

Not only did the bar taste just like dark chocolate and cherries, but I actually didn't mind the texture of the nuts. The almonds did poke my teeth occasionally, but I was able to tolerate them and not spit them out. I decided to try the homemade version and bought most of my ingredients at the bulk bin at Whole Foods. The original author claims that this entire batch of KIND bars only cost about $0.44 each. That's what I call savings!

And how did these taste? At a fraction of the cost of the retail bars, these homemade ones are hard to beat. I did get a little almond-happy so next time I think I'll dial back on those and increase the amount of dried cherries and puffed rice. My husband ate one before I added the chocolate drizzle and said that they were just OK. After the drizzle was added, he said that they were pretty fantastic. Save yourself some money and make your own KIND bars. You can customize it to your tastes and add more or less of the ingredients you like.

Homemade dark chocolate cherry KIND bars
Nut mixture
  • 2 cups whole roasted* unsalted almonds
  • 3/4 cup whole roasted* unsalted cashews, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup raisins, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup puffed millet/rice/other puffed whole grain; can substitute crispy brown rice cereal
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal (I was only able to find whole flaxseed and just pulsed it in my high speed blender to make flaxseed meal)

Syrup
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup brown rice syrup (can substitute light corn syrup)
  • 1/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate (thawed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Chocolate drizzle
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 TBSP vegetable, grapeseed, or coconut oil

*If the nuts aren't pre-roasted, lay them on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F until they are lightly toasted.

Directions
For the nut mixture: Generously grease the following: one large bowl, a 9"x13" baking sheet/pan, a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, and the bottom of drinking glass. Set aside.

In the large (greased) bowl, add the almonds, cashews, dried cherries, raisins, puffed rice/millet and flaxseed meal. Mix well with the greased spoon/spatula and set aside.

For the syrup: In a medium sized saucepan set over medium heat, whisk together the honey, brown rice syrup (or corn syrup), apple juice concentrate, salt, and vanilla. Keep stirring and continue heating until the syrup is 260 degrees F (at hard ball stage). You'll want to use a candy thermometer to check the temperature.

Once the syrup reaches 260 degrees F, quickly pour it over the bowl with the nut mixture and work fast to mix everything together. Transfer the nut/syrup mixture into your prepared 9"x13" baking pan. Spread the mixture evenly and use the bottom of your greased drinking glass to press down on the mixture.

Cool the bars completely and cut into ~20 bars.

For the drizzle: Melt the chocolate chips and oil in 30-second bursts in the microwave. Stir the chocolate mixture until it is smooth. Using a fork or pastry bag, drizzle the chocolate on top of each bar. Allow the chocolate to cool completely and harden before serving.

Bars should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for about 1 week. They can also be refrigerated or frozen. You may want to separate each layer of bars with wax paper or parchment paper to prevent them from sticking to each other. Bars can also be individually wrapped in parchment or waxed paper.

Yield: About 20 bars

Source: The Yummy Life


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Friday, June 13, 2014

Skating Fridays

Another Update on the Knee - A Mild Strain

Last week I shared that my knee doctor suspected a torn meniscus in my right knee. This was very disheartening to hear, though I had my doubts when I was presented the diagnosis. I mean, a tear sounds pretty serious, and I honestly didn't believe that this is what happened to my knee. I should know my body better than the doctor would, right?

I finally broke down and decided to go see a physical therapist so I could get some exercises to try to help heal my knee. After a thorough assessment, my therapist believes that I only have a mild strain. He checked my MCL, ligaments and tendons, and all seemed to be well except for the one area (potentially a ligament) that hurts when I squat. He was able to bend my knee and flex it in all kinds of directions without any pain or discomfort. Good news, certainly.

Although there is still a very minor possibility that my meniscus could be torn, he is doubtful because a torn meniscus usually results in the knee locking in place or producing a "popping" noise. I have none of these symptoms.

My therapist then completed some measurements on my knee, and he said that my injured knee is actually quite flexible despite the pain. He said that I have excellent range of motion and is better than an average person's knee. That was definitely good news.

I now have a set of 6 exercises that I need to do twice a day to strengthen both my knees and my hips (since weak hips often result in knee injuries). Thankfully, the exercises only take 10-15 minutes to complete and don't require much space or special equipment to execute. I have to do them on both legs so I properly balance out my muscles. I don't want to be lopsided!

I go back to the therapist twice next week and we'll reassess my knee again after that. He is optimistic that my injury should not take too long to heal; he's being pretty aggressive in the exercises I'm doing since I am not experiencing any pain except while squatting. I'm hopeful that therapy will help me recover quickly. I'd love to be back to 100% soon.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Malasadas (Portuguese donuts)

You all know that I am planning on retiring in Hawaii, right? What's not to love about a tropical paradise where the weather is always in the 70s or 80s, air conditioning is optional, and everyone is always in a good mood? Oh, and did I mention the food?

My husband and I are diligently saving up to retire in Hawaii. We dream about eating ahi tuna poke on a weekly (if not daily) basis, and being able to visit the beach and surf on a whim (don't worry, I've already located the nearest ice skating rink). One thing we'd like to eat for breakfast every day is a malasada from Leonard's Bakery. Every morning without fail, there is a line out the door. You can buy plain malasadas, ones filled with custard and various fruit jams. Oh, and in case you're not familiar with malasadas, they are Portuguese donuts.

I've been meaning to make malasadas for several years now, but I never found the time or occasion to try them. Donuts are always best the day they are made, and what on earth was my husband and I going to do with 24+ donuts? My skating friend  K and her husband recently moved to a new house and invited several of us over for their annual Memorial Day party and housewarming, so this was the perfect excuse to make malasadas (her husband had also been begging for me to make malasadas as well).

I made the mistake of dropping the dough into the oil when it was too hot, so a bunch of them came out burnt. The outsides were blackened while the inside was still raw. Make sure you get your oil nice and hot, but then allow it to cool down before you begin frying the donuts. I made chocolate and vanilla pastry cream to fill the donuts, but I wasn't able to get that part to work. My pastry tip wasn't secure enough, and I ended up with a gloppy mess. So, I brought the pastry cream separately and let the guests dip their donuts instead.

I'm happy to report that these were a huge hit at the party, and I'm looking forward to making these again. Hope you try these wonderful malasadas from the 50th state.

Malasadas
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 TBSP sugar, divided
  • 2/3 cup milk, heated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, well beaten
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Cinnamon-sugar for coating (about 1/4 cup sugar mixed with cinnamon to taste)
Directions
In a medium bowl, combine the yeast, warm water and 1 TBSP of sugar. Gently mix it and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes or until it becomes frothy. Add the heated milk (I zapped mine in the microwave for about 90 seconds), vanilla, eggs and melted butter. Mix well and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, or in a large bowl if mixing by hand, whisk together the flour, 1/3 cup of sugar, salt and nutmeg. Turn the mixer on low and slowly pour in the yeast mixture. Increase the speed until the flour is fully incorporated and you get a soft, pliable dough. Add more flour if the dough is too wet. If mixing by hand, form a well in the middle of the bowl and pour in the yeast mixture and gently knead until a soft dough forms.

Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel, and allow to rest in a warm spot until doubled in size (about 1-2 hours). My dough did not rise initially, so I stuck it in the microwave and heated it in two 30-second increments. Then I allowed the dough to rise for another hour.

After the dough has doubled, punch it down and pinch off golf-ball sized pieces. Shape into a ball (do not roll the dough - pull the sides of the dough away from the center and gather it in the back. Twist the "sides" of the dough together in the back). Cover and allow to rest for another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a heavy high-sided pot, SLOWLY heat about 1-2 inches of oil to 325 degrees. Make sure the oil doesn't get too hot or else your malasadas will be burned on the outside and raw on the inside.

Working in small batches, drop the malasads into the hot oil. Flip them over once they start to turn golden brown on the bottom. Each batch will take about 7-10 minutes to fry.

Transfer the donuts to a paper-towel-lined plate and allow the excess oil to run off.  Once the malasadas have slightly cooled, roll them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

If desired, you can add various fillings to the insides of the malasadas - vanilla or chocolate pastry cream or fruit jam/cream would all be delicious.

Serve these the day they are made. If needed, they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature but will start getting soggy.

Yield: I followed the recipe and got about 36 golf-ball sized malasadas (the original recipe said 24 servings)

Source: Chef Leonard Rigo of Leonard's Bakery, via the Food Network

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Quadruple chocolate brownies

Brownie lovers, listen up. These brownies are made with FOUR types of chocolate. Count 'em: unsweetened, milk, bittersweet and white chocolate. Seriously. Do I have your attention yet?

The original recipe below makes enough to feed a huge crowd (it makes TWO 9"x13" pans), so unless you are taking these to a party or simply have a massive chocolate craving coming on, I highly recommend either halving or quartering the recipe like I did.

And how did they taste? Outrageous, as expected. Surprisingly, they weren't too sweet or chocolate-y at all. I actually recommend adding a bit of instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules to bring out the intensity of the chocolate. The edges of the brownies were slightly crisp, and the insides were soft and fudgy, just like a brownie should be.

I brought these to skating class one evening, and they were gone within a minute. Hmm, so maybe you should bake the full recipe below.

Quadruple chocolate brownies

  • 1 and 1/4 pounds (5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 pound unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 5 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 16 large eggs
  • 2 TBSP pure vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound white chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound milk chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
Directions 
Preheat your oven to 300°F.

Line two 9"x13" baking pans with parchment paper or use a silicone baking pan like I did. Set aside.

In a large saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate. Keep stirring until the chocolate and butter have completely melted and the mixture is nice and uniform.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt. Add the melted chocolate/butter mixture and mix until the batter is smooth. Slowly add the flour and mix until just incorporated. Gently fold in 5 ounces each of the bittersweet, white and milk chocolates. Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pans.

In 3 separate small bowls, melt the remaining chopped chocolate and microwave until they are completely melted. Drop the melted chocolates on top of the brownie batter and use a knife or toothpick to drag the chocolate to make swirls.

Bake the brownies for approximately 35 minutes or until the tops are shiny and the pan is no longer jiggly. Do not overbake these. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out wet since there is melted chocolate in the batter.

Remove the brownies from the oven, allow to cool completely, and cut into squares. Brownies should be stored at room temperature in an airtight container and will keep for several days. They can also be frozen and reheated.

Yield: Two 9"x13" pans; I quartered the recipe and got one 8x8 inch pan (about 16 brownies)

Source: Michael Rechiuti, via Food and Wine

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Skating Fridays

An Update on My Knee Injury

I went to the doctor this week - a man who happens to specialize in knee injuries and treats our local ice hockey team, no less - and got some information on my knee injury. After a few x-rays, a physical exam and countless questions, the doctor believes that I tore the cartilage in my knee. He says that it can happen to anyone, but it is a common injury in athletes and non-athletes aged 45 and up. He's almost certain it's from the broken leg sit spins - I probably tweaked it. He described the tear as a "hangnail on your cartilage."

I have almost full use of my knee without pain except when I squat (to get into a sit spin position). The doctor said that I either tore the cartilage or there is some rubbing on the underside of my knee cap. It's hard to say for sure without an MRI.

If I had all the time in the world, then I should allow it heal on its own. Most of the pain should be gone within 6-8 weeks (I am on week 3). If time is of the essence, then I can schedule an MRI and finalize a treatment plan shortly afterwards. There is a local skating competition in mid-September that I'd like to participate in, but I guess that will depend on whether I am healed by then.

My plan of action is to rest the knee (no forward sit spins or anything that would cause me to have to squat or put pressure on the kneecap), evaluate whether I want to do physical therapy, and decide if I want an MRI.  He told me "no jumps," but he was fine after I told him that I jumped the other way and land on my left leg.

If my knee is still painful by the end of the month, I need to give the doctor a call back to schedule the MRI. Hopefully I won't need any type of medical intervention like surgery... I usually avoid those like the plague.

I'm really hoping that my body heals quickly and that I can be back to normal by the time the September competition rolls around. Otherwise, I'll be sitting it out.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Strawberry shortcake macarons

In my 30+ years of life, I honestly don't think I've ever eaten a strawberry shortcake. I find that a bit odd since Strawberry Shortcake was one of my favorite cartoon characters, and I even decorated my room with the Strawberry Shortcake curtains and bedspread. You think I'd be the strawberry shortcake queen by now and have 1,284,242 versions of the recipe. Nope.

When I found out that Driscoll's was having a strawberry shortcake recipe contest, I jumped at the opportunity. But rather than bake a classic strawberry shortcake (which I will hopefully make soon), I wanted to do something out of the box. Not surprisingly, I had some leftover egg whites in the refrigerator and decided to make strawberry shortcake macarons instead.

These macarons were light, crispy, and sweet. The crunchiness of the macaron shells nicely offset the plump, juiciness of the fresh strawberries. My husband really enjoyed these, and I did as well. This light dessert was definitely welcome during the hot days we've been experiencing here on the East Coast.

Thank you, Driscoll's, for giving me this opportunity, and fingers crossed that I win!

Strawberry shortcake macarons
Macaron shells
  • 1/3 cup + 4 teaspoons (50 g) powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup (30g) almond flour
  • Red powder food coloring, optional (I did not use)
  • 1 egg white (40 g)
  • 2 and 1/2 TBSP (30g) superfine (granulated) sugar
Filling
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
    • 1 TBSP sugar
    • Sliced Driscoll's strawberries
    Directions
    To make the macaron shells: Using a blender, finely blend the powdered sugar, almond flour and powdered food coloring. Use a sieve to sift out any large pieces of almond remaining and toss them out. Transfer the dry ingredients to a large bowl.

    In the bowl of a spotless stand mixer (or in a large clean bowl if using a handheld mixer), beat the egg white on high speed until it is frothy. Add in the granulated sugar and continue to beat on high speed until you reach stiff peaks. The egg white mixture should be very smooth and shiny.

    Turn off the mixer and slowly transfer the dry ingredients into the egg white mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients and use no more than 60 strokes. Your macaron shell mixture is ready once you lift your spatula and the mixture falls back onto itself like lava.

    Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a medium-sized round tip (if you don't have a piping bag, use a ziploc bag with the end snipped off).

    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Gently squeeze out some batter from the piping bag onto the lined baking sheet in a vertical motion. Pipe until the batter forms a circle about 1/2" to 1" in diameter. Pipe the remaining circles on the sheet.

    Lift the baking pan up and rap on the counter several times to get the air bubbles out. Allow the tray to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

    Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Bake the macarons for 12 minutes and allow the shells to cool before removing from the baking pan.

    To make the filling: Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or, transfer to a large bowl if using a handheld mixer). Beat the heavy cream on high speed for 2-3 minutes until the cream is no longer liquidy. Add the 1 TBSP of sugar and continue to beat on high speed until you reach stiff peaks. Turn off the mixer and gently transfer to a piping bag with a round tip (or a zip top bag with a hole cut in a corner).

    Gently pipe the whipped cream onto the center of a macaron shell. Top with sliced strawberries and add another macaron shell on top. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

    Macarons should be stored in an airtight container stored in the refrigerator and will keep for a few days. They are best consumed the day the whipped cream is made.

    #Driscollsberry
    @strawshort

    Yield: About 12 filled macarons

    Source: An Eva Bakes original; macarons are from this post

    Disclaimer: Driscoll's provided me with coupons for their products, but the opinions and thoughts are 100% my own.

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    Sunday, June 1, 2014

    Baked 2 egg white yeasted donut bars

    Donuts have been on our brain lately. Our local farmer's market opened up not too long ago, and I haven't made it down there yet. We always make time to wait in the longest line at the market - a freshly made glazed yeast donut. These things are legendary. People wait for up to 30 minutes just for a donut, and the wait is well worth it.

    Since I haven't been able to get my donut fix at the farmer's market, we got some Dunkin Donuts instead. My normal favorite, Boston Cream, has been sorely disappointing lately. Methinks that they have been cheap on the custard filling, so I may try another donut variety the next time. Between now and then, I decided to bake my own yeasted donut and use some healthier ingredients.

    This recipe used only egg whites and a tiny bit of butter. They tasted a bit like a light and fluffy bread, but I really liked them. I topped the donuts with a basic glaze on top and some cinnamon and sprinkles on top. Addie demolished hers in record time and asked for another one. Looks like my little girl has a sweet tooth like her mom.

    Baked 2 egg white yeasted donut bars
    • 2 tablespoons 105° water
    • 1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
    • 1 cup flour, plus extra for rolling
    • 3 TBSP sugar, divided
    • ½ teaspoon baking powder
    • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 2 TBSP cold unsalted butter
    • 1 large egg white
    • ¼ cup whole milk (I used 2%)
    • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
    Glaze
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 4 teaspoons milk
    • colored sprinkles (optional)
    Directions
    In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm water and allow it to rest for 5 minutes until foamy.

    In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, 2 TBSP of the sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in the cold butter with a fork or a pastry cutter. Your flour mixture should have pea-sized chunks and may resemble wet sand.

    Whisk the egg white and milk into the yeast mixture. Slowly pour this into the bowl with the flour and knead to form a soft dough.

    Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead for about 3-4 minutes. Cover the dough and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.

    Roll the dough out into an approximate 8"x8" square. Using a pizza wheel or a knife, slice the dough in half. Then slice each half into thirds so you have 6 pieces.

    Transfer the 6 pieces of dough onto a parchment paper-lined (or silicone mat-lined) baking sheet. Cover the dough tightly with oiled plastic wrap and allow it to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

    Sprinkle the donuts with the cinnamon and remaining 1 TBSP of sugar.

    Bake in your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until the donuts are a light golden color.

    Allow the donuts to cool. In the meantime, whisk together all the ingredients for the glaze. Sprinkle the cooled donuts with the glaze and top with colored sprinkles if desired.

    Donuts are best consumed the day they are eaten but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days. They should be reheated in the microwave if you are eating them later.

    Yield: 6 donut bars

    Source: Dessert for Two

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