Posts Tagged With: Dough

Winter Recipes: Cream Cheese Gingerbread Tarts

And who can forget the traditional, gingerbread stegosaurus?

And who can forget the traditional, gingerbread stegosaurus?

Ginger ale, ginger snaps, gingerbread people, gingerbread houses. Around the winter holiday season, it’s difficult to make it to January without sampling at least one of these tempting, gingery treats. And with ginger quickly becoming one of my favorite warming spices (you can check out the history of the ginger rhizome here), I’m just as inextricably drawn towards these spicy confections as the average baker. However, this year I wanted to try a ginger recipe that breaks away from the traditional. You see, I’ve always taken slight issue with the gingerbread cookie’s tendency to, well, snap. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older (and the cost of dental work is a terrifying new reality), or it’s because I’m tired of losing parts of my gingerbread men to cups of ginger peach tea, but I decided to adapt my classic gingerbread  recipe to a form that is less suited for candy architecture, but much safer to sink your teeth into!

Now, if you’re looking for a classic recipe for gingerbread men, women, or siding, the recipe below is, in fact, perfect for that purpose as well. Simply roll the dough, cut into shapes, and bake as directed to enjoy the classic crunch of gingerbread cookies!

Cream Cheese Gingerbread Tarts

Yields approximately 3 dozen tarts

Soft, spicy, and sweet: classic gingerbread without the crunch!

Soft, spicy, and sweet: classic gingerbread without the crunch!

Ingredients for Gingerbread

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups all-purpose (or white whole wheat) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh grated ginger (or 1 teaspoon dried ginger)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Filling

  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Mix in the molasses and egg yolk.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
  3. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and blend until smooth. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for one hour.
  4. While your dough is cooling, beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until they reach a smooth consistency. Place mixture in a piping bag and refrigerate until needed.
  5. When your dough has chilled, roll  1 Tablespoon sized balls of dough, and place in a mini-muffin tin that has been prepared with muffin liners.
  6. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C
  7. Using the back of a teaspoon or your thumb (I found that a floured, wooden muddler works perfectly), press each ball of dough to form a well.
  8. Fill each tart with the cream cheese filling, and bake for 10 minutes, or until an inserted cake tester comes out fairly clean.
  9. Let cool completely in the tins, and then enjoy a few tiny gingerbread tarts!

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Keep Digging!
~Nate

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Categories: Baking, Odds and Ends, Winter Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Autumn Recipes: Apple Cinnamon Rolls

Frozen winter rain has finally downed the last bastions of autumn color.

Frozen winter rain has finally downed the last bastions of autumn color.

With Thanksgiving but two days away, and tomorrow marking one of the busiest travel days of the year, it seems as though the most pressing news story is the winter storm that’s currently blanketing the eastern United States. So for those of you in the audience that are gearing up to visit friends and family this holiday season, I wish you truly safe travel! For everyone else who, like me, are either staying home for the holidays, or are the destination for your own traveling friends and family, a warm kitchen and a hearty autumn breakfast recipe might be just what you need to keep the winter weather out of sight and mind!

So, as the freezing rain’s plastic hiss washes autumn from the tree line, I thought it was only fitting to use some of the last fresh fruits of autumn for this week’s breakfast recipe. Cinnamon rolls, while wonderful on their own, can be autumnally augmented with just a few ripe apples, which lend their sweet, homey flavor and aroma to this classic dish. And, if you are hosting Thanksgiving this year, this recipe is a fantastic way to greet road- and snow-weary loved ones with a warm taste of autumn!

Apple Cinnamon Rolls

 

Banish winter (at least for a moment) with these warm, gooey, autumnal cinnamon rolls!

Banish winter (if only for a moment) with these warm, gooey, autumnal cinnamon rolls!

Ingredients for Dough

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (or one packet)
  • 2 cups milk (soy, as always, works wonderfully!)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose or white whole wheat)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)

Ingredients for Cinnamon Filling

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (I had two Jonagolds on hand, but any baking apple will work!)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Ingredients for Glaze (Optional)

  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons milk

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, mix together 1/3 cup granulated sugar and yeast.
  2. Heat milk in a saucepan until it reaches 100 – 110 F / 37 – 43 C. Stir warm milk into sugar and yeast mixture until dissolved.
  3. Add salt and two cups of flour to the bowl and beat with a stand or hand mixer for two minutes.
  4. Beat in eggs and butter.
  5. Add in remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, and beat well after each addition. When all flour has been added, knead for five minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in a medium sized bowl that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Roll dough to coat in oil, cover bowl with a clean dish towel, and place in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  6. While the dough is rising, mix together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and apples to prepare the filling.
  7. When your dough has risen, roll out the dough on a floured countertop to form a large rectangle that’s approximately 1/4 inch thick. Brush the top of the dough with about half of the melted butter and coat evenly with the filling mixture. Leave 1 inch of empty space around the edges of the dough.
  8. Tightly roll the rectangle from one of the long sides until it forms a log. Cut off the ends of the log which do not have any filling, and then cut the log into even increments.
  9. Place each piece into the cups of a greased muffin tin (Because my pieces were larger, I had to use a large muffin tin, but smaller slices should fit into a regular muffin tin). Let dough rise once more for thirty minutes.
  10. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C. Brush the tops of the apple cinnamon rolls with remaining melted butter. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  11. (Optional) Mix powdered sugar and milk together to form a classic white glaze. Drizzle glaze over warm rolls and enjoy a sweet reminder of the autumn harvest!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for some of this year’s final autumn recipes! Be sure to check back throughout the week for a few more Thanksgiving dinner ideas!

Stay warm, safe, and keep digging!
~Nate

Categories: Autumn Recipes, Baking, Breakfast, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Breaking Ground and Breaking Bread: A Tradition 30,000 Years in the Making

As this is our first expedition into the excavation of food and cooking, I thought it best to build our foundation on what might be considered the cornerstone of true baking as we know it. Often cited as the most frequently eaten food item in nearly every culture (both modern and ancient), bread has long established itself as a true necessity in every kitchen. But for all the credit we give to this versatile, delicious, and (when prepared well) soul-satisfying food-staple, I believe most of us (myself included) take bread’s journey for granted. For when we look deeper at bread’s history, the lovable loaf becomes far more interesting than the sum of its ingredients.

The Lore of the Loaf

While it may seem as though bread simply appears on our grocery store shelves every week, our modern method of seemingly instant and reliable bread production belies the accidental and unpredictable origins that faced the pre-historic loaf.
Bread’s beginnings, while difficult to solidly determine, seem to reside in the middle of the Upper

An artist's depiction of the Red Lady of Paviland being coated in red ochre.

An artist’s depiction of the Red Lady of Paviland being coated in red ochre.

Paleolithic age in Europe, roughly 30,000 years ago. While culture and civilization as we know it had not been fully derived by this time, people groups were beginning to develop unique identities. Ceramics adorned with artwork, cave paintings, and the use of dyes (notably used in the creation of the Red Lady of Paviland, a near-complete human skeleton ceremoniously dyed with red ochre) all seem to stem from this time period; and, most important for the inception of bread, cooking on heated stones finally came into vogue during this era. No longer did Paleolithic men and women have to subsist on raw grain and water gruel, but, with the application of their revolutionary cooking technology, they were able to enjoy the first steaming morsels of unleavened flatbread. With portable bread in hand, this discovery exploded across the ancient world, giving rise to many of our modern flatbreads (tortillas, pitas, and naan, just to name a few).

Bread’s Rise

But how did bread grow from flat discs into the fluffy, rounded loaves we know today? The answer to this question baffled pre-modern man for over 20,000 years, as the means to attaining yeast, the microbial agent that “puffs up” our modern bread, would require not just a mastery over fire, but the control of the winds themselves.

Pictorial account of ancient Egyptian breadmaking

Pictorial account of ancient Egyptian bread making

Although you might not be aware of it, you’re currently surrounded by the very yeast particles needed to create a satisfyingly airy loaf of bread. The trick to creating that loaf, however, is in capturing and controlling that yeast (a wildly unpredictable process that I hope to showcase in a future excavation). Historians suggest that yeast could have been used in the ancient world, if only by accident. While yeast may have wandered into the bread dough being prepared for the fire, the true, intentional use of yeast falls to the Egyptians. Because the ancient Egyptians (around 5,000 years ago) left behind preserved food stores, scientists have been able to inspect the air-bubbles left in ancient Egyptian bread: air bubbles that indicate the direct handiwork of tiny yeast organisms. From here, yeast became an integral component in not only the nutrition of modernizing cultures, but also in the sordid side of cultural advancement as well (most notably in the beer and wine making industries). While bread continued to evolve on a small scale as it encountered new cultures and time periods, leavened bread has remained relatively unchanged from antiquity to the present.

So, to celebrate such a time-worn, and ancient practice, my first recipe for today will introduce a simple, yet fulfilling and delicious bread recipe that can form the basis for your own experimentation and advancement of the bread making tradition! I chose to pair flax seeds with this week’s bread, as the use of flax also dates to the Upper Paleolithic: again, roughly 30,000 years ago. Feel free to substitute the flax with the seeds, nuts, or fruits of your choice!

Melding Ancient Practice with Modern Technology: Whole Wheat and Flax Bread Recipe

Complete recipe will make two loaves of bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees F / around 45 C)
  • 2 packs of active dry yeast (roughly 2 Tablespoons)
  • 2/3 cup honey (divided equally into two parts)
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • (Optional) 3 Tablespoons flax seeds
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 2 – 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • (Optional) 2 Tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

  1. Mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup of honey in a large bowl. Add the bread flour and flax seeds and stir until combined. Place in a warm place for 30 minutes, until the dough has risen (see Before and After #1 at the end of this post)
  2. When the dough has risen, mix in 3 Tablespoons melted butter, the rest of the honey, and the salt. Stir in two cups of wheat flour.
  3. Cover a flat surface with flour and kneed the dough until it’s not real sticky. The dough will pull away from the counter, but still be sticky to the touch. You may have to add additional wheat flour – I usually add an extra 1 to 1 1/2 cups, but this amount varies each time.
  4. Place the dough into a large, greased bowl, and turn the dough until it is covered in oil. Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place until doubled – this typically takes around 1 hour (see Before and After #2).
  5. When the dough has doubled, punch it down and divide it into two loaves. Place loaves into two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Let the dough rise another 10 – 20 minutes until the dough is at least one inch above the edge of the pan (see Before and After #3).
  6. Bake the loaves at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes.
  7. Optional (but highly recommended): Brush the additional 2 Tablespoons of melted butter onto the tops of the loaves to prevent them from hardening.
  8. Let cool completely before slicing.
  9. Enjoy a taste of modern history!

    The Finished Loaf!

    The Finished Loaf!

I truly hope that you’ve enjoyed this first excavation into ancient baking! Stay tuned for the second half of our ground-breaking introduction, which will be a bit more GrecoRoman!

Keep digging!
~Nate


Before and After #1

Before and After #2

Before and After #3

Categories: Baking, Bread, History, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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