Monday, January 8, 2018

Meyer Lemon Danish Braid

A friend recently brought in to my office a big box of Meyer lemons from one of her trees. We divided them up and I've been using them ever since. Oh, they are so good! My granddaughter loves scones with lemon curd and strawberry jam.  We recently had a two-person tea party and I made lemon curd for us. With leftover lemon curd in the fridge, I went searching for recipes and ran across this Danish braid on Instagram, of all places! (On a side note, I love the internet for the ability of finding new things but it has to cut down on cookbook sales.  I've not bought a new book in ages!) In addition to lemon curd, the braid has a cream cheese filling. What's not to like about that?


My favorite way to make breakfast yeast breads is to make the dough the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight. This bread was easy to put together, my stand mixer did most of the work while I concentrated on making dinner. The hardest part was the braiding.  I need practice as my braiding kinda fell apart!  Oh, well, it still tasted great even though it could have looked prettier!


This was an easy and delicious breakfast treat.  My Hubbers had three pieces, which is unusual for him. My next-door neighbors loved it, too. Any kind of jam would work as a substitute for the lemon curd. This bread will be made again and again!

Meyer Lemon Danish Bread

Sponge:
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon sugar
1 package yeast
2 tablespoons flour

Dough:
1/4 cup sugar
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups flour, divided

Filling:
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon Meyer lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup lemon curd (see recipe here)

Glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Meyer lemon juice

For the sponge, heat milk in a microwave-safe measuring cup for 45 seconds to 1 minute, until very warm (120-130°F). Whisk together warm milk, sugar, yeast, and flour in a medium bowl; cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand 15 minutes.
 
For the dough, combine sugar, cream cheese, butter, salt, vanilla, egg, and sponge in a large mixer bowl; beat at medium speed for 1 minute until combined. Add 2 cups  flour and mix in at low speed until a soft dough forms, about 2 to 3 minutes. Switch out the flat beater for a dough hook, and knead dough for 4 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding remaining 1/4 cup of flour 1 tablespoon at a time to prevent dough from sticking. The dough is ready when it feels tacky but doesn't stick to your fingers.
 
Place dough in a large bowl coated with nonstick spray and cover with plastic. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 50 to 60 minutes. To check if dough has doubled, lightly flour two fingers and press them down into center of dough. If indentations remain, dough has risen enough.
 
While the dough rises, prepare the filling. Combine cream cheese, sugar, salt, Meyer lemon juice, and vanilla in a food processor and process until smooth.
 
Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and dust lightly with flour. Gently punch down dough and roll out into a 12 x 15-inch rectangle on prepared baking sheet. Use an offset spatula to spread cream cheese mixture down the center of the dough, leaving a 4-inch border on each side and a 1-inch border at the top and bottom. Spread Meyer lemon curd over the cream cheese filling. Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut 15 1-inch strips on both sides of dough (be careful not to cut parchment paper).
 
Remove the four corner strips and fold top border down over filling. Work from top to bottom and fold strips over filling, alternating strips diagonally (begin by folding over the top left strip, then fold the top right strip, then a left strip, and so on). When all the strips are folded over filling, fold up the bottom border and press to seal. Cover braid loosely with plastic and let rise 25 minutes. (Prepare ahead: After braid rests, cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before baking).
 
Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake braid until golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before glazing. For the glaze, whisk together powdered sugar, Meyer lemon zest, and juice in a small bowl. Drizzle glaze over braid and let set before serving.
 
Recipe adapted from:  www.tutti-dolci.com

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Raspberry Orange Rolls

My son and daughter-in-love got me a new baking pan for Christmas. (If my son is anything like his father, he probably didn't know what he gifted me until I opened the package!) We all know I love cute baking pans and this pan is just adorable.  It came with a small spatula that says "bake it off". 


Well, of course getting this pan meant I had to  make some rolls! I had just made cinnamon rolls a few days earlier so wanted to do something different. I love, love, love any kind of berry so knew I had to try these raspberry rolls.  The addition of orange zest in the raspberry filling was just the right flavor combination.  I shared a pan of these rolls with my next-door neighbors and they got rave reviews.


I used frozen raspberries for two reasons.  One, it's not berry season and the ones in the produce section just didn't appeal to me.  Secondly, the frozen raspberries seem to hold their shape a little better, they don't get as mushy when baked. Either will work fine!


As with most breakfast yeast dough that I make, I assembled these rolls the night before and baked them the next morning. I prepared the dough and placed the sliced rolls in the pans. I wrapped them tightly with plastic wrap and placed in the refrigerator overnight.  In the morning I set out the dough to warm and rise until doubled in size, about 30-45 minutes before baking. This method works so well for me, I don't have to get up at the crack of dawn to have fresh homemade rolls!

I make most of my yeast dough in my Kitchenaid mixer, taking advantage of letting the dough hook do all the kneading for me.  If you don't have a big mixer, these rolls are very easy to make by hand.  Just knead them until you have a smooth dough that springs back when touched.


Raspberry Orange Rolls

Dough
1 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup  butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 large egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Raspberry Filling
Zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
10 ounces frozen raspberries

Glaze
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice (or more to get good consistency)

For the dough, place lukewarm milk, melted butter, yeast, egg, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk until combined. Attach the dough hook, add the flour, and knead on low speed about 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. (Alternatively, add flour and stir until the mixture begins to form a dough. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes).

Form the dough into a ball and place into a lightly greased bowl. Cover and allow the dough to rise in a warm environment until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12 x 15-inch rectangle. Spread 2 tablespoons softened butter over dough.

For the filling, mix together the sugar and orange zest until fragrant ( I squish it together with my fingers). Mix in the cornstarch. Gently stir in the frozen raspberries.  Sprinkle raspberry mixture uniformly on the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Starting lengthwise, roll the dough into a log shape. Trim off the ends and slice the roll into 12 evenly sized pieces. Place rolls into a buttered 9 x 13-inch pan. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30-45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake rolls for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

To make the glaze, whisk together confectioners sugar and orange juice in a small bowl.  Add more orange juice, if necessary, to get a glaze consistency. Spread baked rolls with glaze using an off-set spatula while they are still warm.

 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 in Review

In my 2016 review post I mentioned that I hoped 2017 would be a better year for us as our families had health issues and deaths to get past.  2017 was slightly better, but there were still bumps in the road. Our parents have a multitude of health issues, which involves more and more of our time. My Hubbers had a stroke on July 1, which really knocked us for a loop.  He's had a great recovery and we've found that our life's priorities have changed.  Work isn't as important as it was, we are valuing our leisure time even more than before. Spending time at home, and with our family and friends, has become even more precious.

Reviewing my year's blog posts reinforces that, even with our setbacks, we still have a full and blessed life.  We did a lot of entertaining, I baked a lot of new things (I get bored baking the same things!), I made a lot of sugar cookies and I am progressing with my novice  quilting skills.  Family traditions, such as our annual tea and my granddaughters' gingerbread decorating day, continue on. I keep striving to learn and grow in many areas. I'm looking forward to 2018 and all it will bring.

Here is a little recap of some of my favorite domestic moments during 2017:

January:

We don't go out on New Year's Eve, preferring to avoid the crowds.  Instead, we stay in and I make a nice dinner for us.  This year we ate in front of the fire.  I learned to make patterned plates with mod podge and material.  It was an easy and rewarding craft, I've since made plates for other occasions.


February:

As I did in 2016, I joined an online quilt sew-along.  It was to be a tax season diversion for me. This year's sew-along went at a much faster pace and involved a lot of appliquing.  Due to  my crazy tax season schedule I couldn't keep up the pace and didn't finish the quilt until mid-summer. The quilt is beautiful and I learned a lot in the process.  I have a much simpler project in line for tax season 2018!


March: 

My kitchen is pretty much in a dormant state during March.  We are in the thick of tax season; deadlines and pressure are the norm.  But I miss being in the kitchen.  One day I made an old family favorite recipe, Texas Sheet Cake.  So easy, so good, and my office staff was quite happy with me!




April:

With the end of tax season looming, my appointments getting lighter, I got in the kitchen a little more often.  Bon Appetit said this cake recipe was one of their most popular.  I can see why, it was very light and tender.  I've since made it with other berries and it was just as good!



May:

By the time tax season ends, I have a list of projects I want to complete and I often don't know which one to start on first.  I had started these embroidered napkins at the beginning of the year, then they sat for a few months.  Once I got back to them they were easy to finish.  A simple embroidery pattern made for a beautiful set of napkins.




June:

My favorite fruit stand is up and running and boysenberries are in season!  I lost count of how many boysenberry pies and crisps I made.  Boysenberry pie is one of my favorites and this simple recipe can't be beat. I still have some frozen boysenberries in the freezer, I think I need to make a pie!



July:

I did no posting in July.  My Hubbers had a stroke July 1 and the month was spent in the hospital or in and out of doctor's offices. I missed my kitchen a lot during this time period, hospital food is as bad as you hear about!

August:

Most birthday dinners in my family revolve around tacos.  Guacamole is a must-have on taco nights!


September:

September found me hosting several parties; a baby shower for my niece and a 7th birthday party for my granddaughter.  Though tiring, I enjoy the decorating, making cookies and treats for the parties.  I also like when everything is over and I can kick up my feet and relax!





October:

My three granddaughters and I met up one afternoon for our annual Halloween gingerbread house day. This year I played with fondant and made various accessories for the houses.  The girls are getting very good at decorating, have their  own ideas of what they want to do,  and can use a piping bag quite well.  I enjoy this time with them, our giggles and laughter.



November:

I have a cake pan obsession and bought a few this year.  This fall-themed pan is one of my favorites.  This jalapeno cornbread is quite good even if you don't have a fun pan!



December:

We had our 11th annual Christmas Tea the first part of December.  This year we ranged in age from 4 weeks to 93 years old. It's become a cherished tradition.  This year's theme was Peppermint and Roses. 



Thank you for following my domestic pursuits on my little blog this year.  I enjoy your comments and questions. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas for the Birds!

Our youngest granddaughter spends almost every Friday evening with us. I pick her up from school and try to make our time together as special as possible.  During the summer months, we do a lot of swimming and bike riding.  In the winter we spend more time in the kitchen or my craft room (which she refers to as "her" arts & craft room!)  I know that time is fleeting and, much too soon, she will be spending Friday nights doing things other than being with her Nana & Papa! 

Ever since she was a toddler she has enjoyed helping me with the garden chores.  We've planted flowers, painted rocks, made birdhouses, she helps to water the plants (at times she got more wet than the flowers!)  She especially likes to feed the birds.  I keep a galvanized container on the back porch, filled with bird seed.  On Saturday mornings she makes it her mission to fill up the various containers in the back yard where the birds feed. I thought she would enjoy making some Christmas bird seed wreaths for the birds so this project occupied our time one recent afternoon.



These wreaths were easy to make and was something that a 7-year old could do with little assistance from an adult. We made them one afternoon and the next morning unmolded them and attached some tulle for hanging. She was thrilled when she spotted the first finch pecking away at one of them! We have a few neighbors that are bird feeders, too, so we bagged up some wreaths and distributed them as gifts. The expression on her face, as the neighbors exclaimed over her gift, was priceless. It truly is better to give than receive!

The bird seed mixture is sticky so we found using waxed paper helped when pressing the mixture into the pan.

Besides being a fun granddaughter-Nana project, these wreaths serve a useful purpose. During the winter months natural food supplies for birds are least available.  Providing a food source for the backyard birds gives them a greater chance of surviving the winter. Well-fed birds in the winter equal happy, chirping birds in the spring!

Bird Seed Wreaths

4 cups bird seed
1/2 cup warm water
1 envelope Knox gelatin
3/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons light corn syrup

Combine the water and gelatin in a large bowl, then whisk in the flour and corn syrup.  Mix in the bird seed.  Press firmly into a lightly greased bundt pan ( used a mini bundt pan).  Let dry for a few hours in the bundt pan then pop them out of the mold so they can dry out completely, approximately 24 hours. Add a length of wide ribbon for hanging (narrow ribbon or twine will tear through the wreath).

Note:  These to not hold up to rain, so place in a covered spot or take down if rain is coming. In dry California that's not a big concern!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Homemade Marshmallows

Homemade marshmallows are easy to make and taste fantastic. I was first introduced to homemade marshmallows about 15 years ago when I saw Martha Stewart making them on one of her shows.  I remember thinking “well, that looks easy!” and got busy making some. They have a much lighter texture than store-bought marshmallows, there is really no comparison. They truly are easy to make, your stand mixer does most of the work. (Though they can be made with a hand mixer, they really aren’t powerful enough and you will be mixing forever!)

I like to dip the marshmallows in chocolate to make them a little more special.  On this day I made a simple chocolate ganache.  After dipping the marshmallows in the ganache, I topped them with some chopped peppermint bark. Some became our dessert, some were bagged up for gifts, and some were used for hot mochas (I do confess that my mocha had the addition of some peppermint schnapps. So yummy!)
 

 
If you need a last minute Christmas or hostess gift, you should try making these marshmallows!  Instead of cutting them into squares, you can use cookie cutters to make shapes such as snowflakes to make them more festive.

 Homemade Marshmallows

3 packages unflavored gelatin (such as Knox)
1 cup water, divided
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Combine the gelatin and ½ cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the syrup.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt and the remaining ½ cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Remove from the heat.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.

With a sieve, generously dust an 8 by 12-inch nonmetal baking dish with confectioners’ sugar.  Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, smooth the top, and dust with more confectioners’ sugar. Allow to stand uncovered overnight until it dries out.
 
A candy thermometer is a must, the sugar water mixture needs to cook until it's up to 240 degrees.

Once the mixture is thick, pour the marshmallow mixture into a pan dusted with confectioners' sugar.
 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Christmas Stovetop Simmer

I’ve been making this stovetop simmer (or stovetop potpourri) for over 20 years now. I got the recipe from a Southern Living cookbook. It’s a spice mixture that simmers on the stove, filling the house with the wonderful spices of Christmas, such as cloves, cinnamon and citrus. It always smells like something heavenly is baking in our home when this mixture is bubbling away on our stovetop!


Recently I found a blog article where the simmer mix was bagged up for gifts. Why that never occurred to me is a mystery as I love making homemade gifts! I ordered bags and labels and bought some bulk spices at a local discount store. My 7-year old granddaughter assisted with the assembly of the gift bags, she really enjoyed that. She took home bags for her mommy, grandma and teacher. My bags got passed out to my Pilates classmates, some neighbors and friends. It’s an easy gift, I think this will become an annual tradition! If you make them for gifts, don't forget to attach instructions.  I had a label made that I put on the front of the bag.



Christmas Scent Stovetop Simmer

For one pot:
3 cinnamon sticks
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup whole cloves
1 lemon, halved *
1 large orange, halved or 1 mandarin orange *
1 quart water
Optional: handful fresh cranberries, evergreen or rosemary sprig

Combine all ingredients in a teakettle or saucepan and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer as long as desired. Check often, adding additional water, if needed. Mixture may be stored in refrigerator for several days and reused.

* If packaging for gifts, leave citrus whole.

My bags and labels were purchased from Evermine.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Gingerbread Cupcakes

What is it about the Christmas holidays that make us want to bake and bake? I think the lights on the Christmas tree must send out signals to our brain putting us in the baking mode. I'm seeing lots of social media posts where my friends are baking away so I know I'm not the only one under the spell!
 
It was a gingerbread weekend for me. I spent one evening with my granddaughter decorating gingerbread cookies. I sent her home with most of our masterpieces and found myself craving some by Sunday. So I made some more cookies and these cupcakes. I took most of them over to my parents, my dad has a real sweet tooth.  In fact he said, "you sure know how to make a man happy". Well, I try, dad!

 
 These are full of all the great ingredients that make up gingerbread and are especially spicy with a little extra ginger. I topped them with a basic cream cheese frosting and a small gingerbread cookie cutout.


 I think this weekend satisfied my gingerbread craving.  Now I have peppermint on the brain! This little one and I have a peppermint bark project planned!


 
Gingerbread Cupcakes
 
2 ¾ C flour
3 T ground ginger
2 t baking soda
1 ½ t ground cinnamon
½ t ground cloves
½ t ground nutmeg
¼ t salt
10 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 C packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ¼ C molasses
1 C hot water
 
Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard cupcake tins with 24 paper baking cups.
 
Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt; set aside.
 
Cream together the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand-held mixer) on high speed, about 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating slowly after each addition.  Add the molasses, mixing until well incorporated.
 
Add one third of the dry ingredients and one third of the water and mix thoroughly.  Repeat, stopping to scrape down bowl, as needed.  Add the last third of the dry ingredients and the water and mix thoroughly.
 
Scoop the batter into the cupcake liners (I use an ice cream scoop), filling about 2/3 full.
 
Bake for 16-18 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
 
To make the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. After it has been incorporated turn the mixer onto the highest setting for about 10 seconds to lighten the frosting.  Add more powdered sugar, if needed, to get a thick consistency. Add in the vanilla and beat until well-blended, light and fluffy.