Saturday, September 27, 2014

September Daring Bakers' Challenge - Kolache

The September Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Lucie from ChezLucie. She challenged us to make a true Czech treat –Kolaches!

I was super excited for this month's challenge. I'm not sure if you remember, but I've actually made kolache before. It was a Sourdough Surprises challenge a few months back (okay, more like almost a year ago!) and, in case you don't remember that post, it's here, and they were amazingly delicious.

So when I saw that I'd have the opportunity to make them again (read: the kick in the pants that I needed!), I was super excited.

Our hostess Lucie was awesome, and provided us with several different recipes for several different styles of kolache. Which, I'm going to be honest with you, was all new to me! I didn't know there were so many varieties!  I wanted to make ones similar to the sourdough ones I'd made, so I chose to make Moravian Kolache. The main difference between these and the sourdough version that I made (other than, you know, the sourdough...) is that these Moravian kolache have two fillings rather than just one.

But first, we need dough! The dough comes together really easily.

In one bowl, some yeast is prepared - mixed with sugar and milk, some flour sprinkled on top...

...and whoa does it take off!

Then, in the bowl to the stand mixer, all of the rest of the ingredients are combined! This includes flour, confectioners' sugar, egg yolks, a bit more milk (I used coconut milk) and some butter (I used coconut oil).

Add the yeast mixture, knead for ten minutes and the result is a beautiful, silky, smooth dough.

And that yeast continues to work its magic, as an hour later...

And then we're ready to roll!

I don't have a biscuit cutter, so to make my circles, I use my favorite cutter:

A drinking glass.

Then came the hard part. The filling. Or... fillings. The fillings that Lucie shared with us for the challenge recipe are a quark (cheese) filling for the inside and a plum jam filling for the top. I wanted to keep these dairy free for little man, so I decided to play around with different things that I had at home.

I first tried a s'mores inspiration.

That's a marshmallow that I put on the dough round, then wrapped it up, then put some chocolate chips on the top.

Then I tried to go somewhat similar to the traditional version in the challenge.

That's a small spoon of non-dairy Greek-style coconut milk yogurt for the inside, then a drizzle of homemade peach jam on the top.

And just for fun I made one more version.

There's Biscoff in that one.

I had to bake them in shifts, seeing as I had so many pans going, but the results?

Totally worth waiting for.

And we each had our favorite. Little man went with Biscoff. Little miss, s'mores.

Daddy and I? We couldn't get enough of the yogurt and peach ones.

Seriously, you can't go wrong with these. The dough is amazing and the possibilities are endless for flavors, fillings and combinations. I definitely think I'll be making these a lot more often.

Lucie, thank you so much for this delicious challenge and for the amazing inspiration!

To see the challenge as Lucie presented it to us, which I highly recommend, because there are lots of other amazing recipes to try, check it out here.

Moravian Kolache
(slightly adapted from September Daring Bakers' Challenge)

for the dough:
4 teaspoons active day yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup milk, warm, divided (I used coconut milk)
3-2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter, melted (I used coconut oil)
2 egg yolks

Filling or fillings of your choice

In a small bowl, mix together the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar. Add 1/4 cup of the warm milk, mix well and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 – 15 minutes.
In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl) mix flour, sugar, salt, egg yolks, butter (coconut oil), remaining 3/4 cup milk and leavened yeast. Knead with dough hook (or with wooden spoon) on low speed for about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about one hour until doubled in volume.
Meanwhile prepare your fillings and set them aside.
Prepare streussel topping -  In a medium bowl, mix together 1/4 cup sugar and 1/3 cup flour. Add 1/4 cup cold, diced butter, and, with your fingers, mix all ingredients until crumbly.
When the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 340 degrees.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it with rolling pin to a thickness of about 3/4 inch. Cut into rounds of approximately 4 inches around.. Press each piece flat with your hands and fill with filling of your choice. Wrap the dough around the filling into a “purse” shape. Put each kolach onto a prepared baking sheet with seam down. Press each kolach in the middle to create a little dent in the middle. Brush it with egg wash and fill holes with your second filling. Sprinkle it with streusel topping.
Bake for about 20 minutes to golden brown.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pan-Fried Cinnamon Sugar Bananas

Seems like all I ever post these days are challenges, doesn't it?

I suppose that's because that's... umm... most of what I've been posting.

And for that, I do apologize. Things have been super crazy - still settling into the new house, getting used to the new kitchen. little miss still settling into her new school, and even little man has started school now! I'm also doing a little bit of part-time work, volunteer coaching at little miss's school... basically keeping super busy!

But, whether I'm posting or not, we're still eating, of course, and it's still fun to experiment with new recipes!

So I was recently looking around for something new and fun to try and came across something that looked too easy and delicious not to try - pan fried bananas.

And it's really just as easy as it sounds.

Start with some ripe bananas and slice them up.

You don't want to go too thin on your slices, because they'll disintegrate as they cook, and yo don't to make them so thick that they won't cook through...

Then pop them on a sautee pan, sprayed with cooking spray, over medium  heat.

Once they start smelling good, sprinkle the tops with some cinnamon sugar. I didn't measure, just did a light sprinkle - probably about a teaspoon or so.

Continue cooking for another couple minutes, then carefully flip them over and sprinkle the other side with more cinnamon sugar while you're at it.

Still with me?

Now here comes the hard part. Take them off the pan and try not to eat them all at once.

I know they don't look all that impressive, and, yeah, I know I overcooked a few of them (silly me looked away from the pan to pour some orange juice for the kids...), but oh. my. gosh.

Caramalized, cinnamon-y banana-y deliciousness. In just a few minutes.

And, seriously, you can do anything with these. Add them to yogurt. Or cereal. Serve them on ice cream. Or, ahem, just dig in and gobble them all right up.

I bet you have some bananas sitting in your fruit bowl or on your counter right now. I dare you to try these. And I can't wait to hear what you think!

Pan-Fried Cinnamon Sugar Bananas
(based on Dizzy, Busy & Hungry!)

2 slightly overripe bananas (I used 3)
Cinnamon sugar to taste (anywhere from 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons)
non-stick cooking spray

Slice the bananas into rounds, approximately 1/3 inch thick.
Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Warm over medium heat.
Add the banana rounds and cook for about 2-3 minutes.
During the last minute of cooking on the first side, sprinkle about half of the cinnamon sugar over the banana rounds.
Flip the rounds, sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon mixture, and cook about 2-3 more minutes, until the bananas are soft and warmed through.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

September Sourdough Surprises - Cornbread

I love cornbread.

With chili. With butter or jam for breakfast or snack. As a quick treat. It's just delicious.

So when Sourdough Surprises chose cornbread as the September challenge, I was super excited.

I first thought I'd make a somewhat traditional cornbread, since, well, it's so delicious.

But then I saw a really fun looking alternative called a Johnnycake.  Johnnycakes are kind of like cornmeal pancakes, cooked on a griddle, and they look like a super fun treat.  I decided to take it one step further and turn my Johnnycakes into... Johnny-waffles.

The batter comes together super easily.  And, of course, it all starts with the sourdough starter.

The starter is quickly refreshed with flour... and, in this case, cornmeal! I used more cornmeal than flour, to really kick up the cornbread inspiration.

I was a bit worried that the cornmeal would inhibit or slow the starter's ability to do its job, but it didn't seem to at all!

The rest of the ingredients are mixed in, and then, just to really ramp up the corn flavor, I added... corn kernels!

Then onto the pre-heated waffle iron... produce golden delicious corn-filled goodness!

We actually made these for dinner, and I couldn't resist adding a bit of Mexican flare to these, so I sprinkled mine with shredded cheddar, then added a healthy scoop of sour cream, salsa and a some fresh avocado on top.

The results were colorful, fun, and, best of all, delicious!

So how was your sourdough cornbread experience this month?? Link up and share!

Sourdough Johnnycake Waffles
(inspired by King Arthur Flour's Corn and Scallion Sourdough Pancakes)

1/2 cup sourdough starter, fed or unfed
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup fresh/cooked or frozen/thawed corn kernels

Combine starter, flour, cornmeal and milk. Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
To the starter mixture, add the oil, baking soda, salt and egg, stirring to combine.
Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions.
Fold in corn kernels.
Cook the batter in your waffle iron according to manufacturer's suggestions (regarding amount of batter and time).
You can keep these warm on a baking sheet in a low oven if you would like to serve them all at once. The batter can hold in the fridge for a day or two, as well.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

September Daring Cooks' Challenge - Dairy-Free Bechamel

This month, the Daring Cooks got a little saucy! Jenni from the Gingered Whisk taught us the basics of how to make the five mother-sauces and encouraged us to get creative with them, creating a wide variety of delicious, fresh sauces in our very own kitchens.

There are several "basics" which every cook hoping to increase their skills really should learn.

One of those skills is how to make a correct, good sauce.

Well, this month's Daring Cooks' Challenge helped us learn exactly that.

There are five basic "mother" sauces from which you can create hundreds upon hundreds of amazing, delicious and impressive variations to use in almost any dish you can think of. Knowing the differences between these sauces and the basic tricks for perfecting them can increase your kitchen prowess (and confidence!) greatly.

The question for me this month was which sauce to try! Granted, I want to try them all over time. The trick, though, was finding one that we could fit into our schedule this month, and that had the greatest likelihood of most of the family eating. And enjoying.

Most of the sauces involve dairy of some sort - butter, milk or cream, specifically, all of which little man can't have.  So I decided to be creative.

I chose to make a simple, basic bechamel - a white sauce made from a roux (generally butter and flour) and milk, then seasoned.  But I challenged myself to make a dairy free bechamel.  Using little-man friendly ingredients.

Coconut oil in place of butter, coconut milk in place of milk. And flour. Because it's nice to not have to substitute all three major ingredients...

The basic process is simple.  Melt the butter (coconut oil for me), then whisk in the flour.

The recipe called for two tablespoons of flour. I could tell right from the first tablespoon, though, that the oil wasn't behaving the same as butter does, and that this sauce would need a little bit more flour in order to thicken up properly. So I went with three tablespoons.

Once the flour is fully incorporated and cooked, slowly add the milk (coconut milk).

And then you whisk.

And whisk.

And whisk some more. Eventually, the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens up beautifully. The whole process is supposed to take about half an hour.  I don't know whether it was the coconut oil, the coconut milk or the combination, but mine took a lot longer to simmer and thicken, but finally (after about 45 minutes) it did, as you can tell by how it coated the back of my spoon.

(I ran my finger through it to see if it would hold the line - it did!).

When it came time to add the seasonings, I had to think about what I actually wanted to do with this dairy free bechamel.  And then I remembered a chicken tikka masala spice mix given to me by a friend recently.

Coconut sauce... tasty spice mix... Aha! I added half of a can of diced tomatoes, a nice scoop of the spice mix and some diced leftover roasted chicken to my bechamel, let it simmer, and voila!

Served with cauliflower and a pan-toasted tortilla (I didn't have time to make naan - next time!) and there we had it! A dairy free, simple chicken tikka masala curry!

So maybe it's funny that a French sauce led to an Indian dinner, but either way, I'm super glad to have made this. Jenni, I never would have tried it without this challenge, so I thank you. And I look forward to trying other delicious sauces, too!!

Dairy Free Bechamel
(my own variation, based on the Daring Cooks' Challenge)

1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 coconut milk (I used Silk coconut milk beverage)

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the coconut oil.
When the coconut oil is fully melted and heated through, stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until a paste forms. It might not form a real paste, but stir until it is well incorporated and feels a bit thick. Continue stirring and heating this mixture for about four or five minutes.
Whisk in the milk about ½ cup at a time, making sure that the addition is fully incorporated before adding the next addition of milk. Continue to whisk the mixture over the heat until it simmers and thickens slightly.  This took me about 30 minutes once all of the milk was added, so be patient. I promise - it will work!
At this point, add in your seasonings. Salt, pepper and nutmeg are the standard for a basic bechamel, but let your creativity guide you as to how you'd like to use your sauce!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins

Today is a big day in our house.

Today, little man has his orientation/meet the teacher day for preschool.

This might not seem like a big deal, but it is to me. 

For the last three and a half years, he's been my baby. But now he is starting school. Like a big kid. Once he starts, there's no stopping it. And that's scary. 

Yes, I went through this with little miss, too.

And now she's in third grade.  See? There is no stopping this.


Back to school means one fun thing for a mommy-food-blogger.

It means after-school snacks!

(You were wondering how I was going to link this in, weren't you??)

My Secret Recipe Club assignment this month was Secrets From The Cookie Princess. I knew I'd love the blog just from the title. Cookies? Sign me up! And let me tell you, there are cookies galore - if you can dream it, Colleen can cookie it.  But there's also a great variety of recipes on the blog, too, from main dishes to appetizers and everything before, during and after.  Seriously, it's amazing.

When I started perusing the blog, I was actually looking for dinner ideas.  I was seriously tempted by her Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili. And by the Acorn Squash Soup. And I totally plan on making both of those this fall, when those squashes are more readily available. 

But then I saw her recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins and knew I just had to try them. 

The muffins come together very easily. As you can see from the photos, little man helped me out, too. A lot.

I guess that is the silver lining of his getting older, right?

And the results?


Super yummy.

And, seriously, they're really not that bad for you. So much so that I had no guilt at all giving them as an after school snack. Or as a treat breakfast the next morning. Oh yes, I did. 

Colleen, thank you so much for your awesome blog full of delicious inspiration. I can't wait to try your S'mores Banana Bread, all of your snickerdoodle variatioins, and many, many of your cookies!! You are amazing!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins
(slightly adapted from Secrets From The Cookie Princess)

1 cup rolled oats (old fashioned)
1 cup milk, divided (I used unsweetened coconut milk beverage)
1 egg
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled (I used coconut oil, just above room temperature)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I used regular whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 12-well muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine oats and 1/2 cup milk.  Let soak for 5-10 minutes.
While the oats are soaking, whisk together the egg and brown sugar in a large bowl until smooth and caramel colored.  Gradually add the butter (coconut oil), constantly whisking to temper (I didn't have to temper, but I had to get teh consistency nice and smooth), then whisk in vanilla.
Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and stir to combine.  Add in oat mixture and stir in the rest of the milk, then fold in chocolate chips.
Divide batter evenly into the prepared muffin pan.
Bake at for 18 minutes or until tops are golden and a tester inserted in center comes out clean. I had to bake for three extra minutes, but I think that's just my oven.
Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely or serve warm.

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