Archive for August, 2012

Bake 52 Week 35: Crunchy Granola Bars

August 29, 2012

Granola bars are something I never really thought about ever being homemade, so I was curious how this recipe would turn out.  But…

1 1/2 cups of nuts!  Yikes!  I wasn’t very excited when I saw that on the ingredient list.  I can usually just leave the nuts out of a recipe, but 1 1/2 cups is a pretty significant exemption, so I opted to chop them up really good to hopefully disguise them.  I went with almonds because if I had to eat a nut, that’s the one I would choose.

This was a pretty darn easy recipe to put together.  I decided to try the cranberry variation, minus the crystallized ginger because I didn’t have any.  My bars turned very crunchy…in spite of the name of the recipe, I’m not sure if they were supposed to be as crunchy as they were, or if it was due to the fact that I was in the middle of feeding a baby when my timer went off and I had to bake them 5 minutes longer (which still put it within the 35-40 minute cooking time).  Either way, I hope nobody breaks a tooth on them!

Owen and Emmy were both big fans.  Ryan, not so much.  Joseph liked them, but did comment on how hard they were.  I might try these again sometime, maybe with some chocolate chips to entice Ryan a little more….I think they’d make a great snack to put in lunchboxes!

Emily was this week’s host.  Check out her blog for the recipe.

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Bake 52 Week 34: Glazed Lemon Cookies

August 22, 2012

I love tart things.  However, when it comes to lemon-flavored baked goods, I think it’s hard to find the perfect balance between perfect and overwhelming.  I was really unsure where these cookies would fall on the scale.

It was another easy recipe week (I’m loving these simpler, less time-consuming recipes lately!).  Again, no off-the-wall ingredients (unless you count cream cheese 😉 ).  There is a 2 hour chilling time, but these were easy to whip up first thing in the morning, and then let chill while we had breakfast and got ready for the day.

They baked up nicely, though the recipe said to let them bake for 13-16 minutes, or until the edges started turning brown.  After 20 minutes in the oven and no sign of brown edges, I just took them out, hoping that they’d be OK.  Thankfully, they were!

In the past, I’ve opted for alternate recipes when frosting or glaze calls for cream cheese.  Since this one called for only 1 TB of cream cheese, I decided to stay true to the recipe.  I’m glad I did because the lemon and sugar pretty much drown out the cream cheese flavor for me, so it wasn’t a problem.

As for whether these cookies were too overwhelming for me…NO!  They were SOOOO yummy!  The cookie itself had a nice lemon flavor to it, but more subtle.  The glaze is where the flavor really stood out, but just enough to give you the full lemony impact without going over the edge.  The only problem for me?  Heartburn.  At T-minus I-can’t-believe-this-baby-still-isn’t-here, pretty much everything I eat gives me serious heartburn.  Now that baby is here (and since I’m writing this prior to baby day, it’s kind of weird to know that she WILL be here by the time this recipe is posted!), I’m going to have to make these again so I can enjoy them just a little bit more.

And to top it off, I think the presentation of these cookies, while very simple, is quite pleasing.  The glaze spread perfectly and they just looked pretty!  This was a great pick by Michelle….check out her blog for the recipe!

Bake 52 Week 33: Raspberry Streusal Bars

August 15, 2012

I LOVE raspberries….but I don’t always love them in the form of ice cream or baked goods, so I was a little unsure how I’d like this recipe.  It was a pretty easy and quick one to make, with no crazy ingredients or instructions.  I decided to leave out the pecans on the topping.  I had planned to put them over half of the bars and leave the other half untainted, until I went to the store and saw that a little bag cost over $5….I’m a cheapskate, what can I say?

Once they came out of the oven, it occured to me that they actually looked and smelled quite a bit like Nutri-Grain Bars, which I quite like.  I had high hopes that they would taste like them too.  They didn’t quite live up to that expectation, but they were yummy.  Joseph LOVED them!  Couldn’t get enough of them…ate most of the pan himself.  Emmy was also a big fan.

One thing I like about this recipe is that these bars can be frozen for up to a month.  I think I’ll definitely be making some to freeze and use for school lunches.  I’m excited to try the strawberry and blueberry variations as well!

Jen O. was this week’s host, so check out her blog for a fun and easy recipe!

Bake 52 Week 32 1/2: The Ultimate Recipe

August 13, 2012

I wrapped up last week by baking up something extra special!

My babies are usually born quite doughy in the middle, so we were thrilled to get this bun out of the oven fully cooked!  No NICU time for us…woohoo!  Quincy Beth came after a quick 2 1/2 hour labor with a head FULL of dark hair.  She weighed in at a whopping 7 lbs. 5 oz. (yeah, I know…totally average…but considering my biggest baby up to this point was only 4 lbs. 15 oz. it feels whopping to us).  She has the most delicious cheeks and smells pretty yummy most of the time 😉  We’ve loved every minute of the last 3 days and can’t wait to watch her grow and change!


*I’ve baked a couple of recipes ahead for Bake 52, so I should still have regular posts coming, assuming my recovery goes well enough to get back into the kitchen in a couple of weeks.

Bake 52 Week 32: Cheddar Cheese Bread

August 8, 2012

As far as recipes go, this was a really easy one to put together.  No off-the-wall ingredients (though not all things that I typically keep in my fridge either…but at least knew where to find them in the store), and no time consuming directions.  Since this isn’t a yeast bread, there’s no rising involved, so the bulk of the prep is the 45 minute baking time.

Unfortunately, that’s about as far as the praise goes in my house.  Nobody was really a fan.  I could tell while it was baking that it was going to put my taste buds into overdrive….I love parmesan, but extra sharp cheddar is a little lot strong for me.  Just the smell of that extra sharp cheddar combined with the parmesan nearly knocked me over.

The bread had cooled enough for us to eat with dinner.  The top crust didn’t hold together very well when I cut into it…it all just kind of crumbled off.  The bread itself wasn’t terribly flavorful, and was even a bit dry, so it was the cheese chunks that really packed the punch of flavor.  Although I cut the cubes of cheddar the size specified in the recipe, I wish I’d done them smaller so that they were better distributed throughout the bread.  The parmesan baked into the crust (especially the bottom) was probably the most enjoyable part for me, but it wasn’t enough to make me want to try this recipe again.

Betsy was this week’s host….head on over to her blog if this recipe sounds like one you want to try.

Bake 52 Week 31: Monkey Bread

August 1, 2012

To start off, I have to apologize for the near-repeat recipe this week. When the current round of recipe dates were posted, and I saw that my date fell right within the time range that I was expecting to have a baby, I picked my recipe early and got it made so that my post would be ready to go regardless of whether I was still pregnant or not (still here, btw…any day now!). Then, a couple of weeks later, Valerie chose cinnamon rolls for her recipe, which fell two weeks before me….and happened to use the same basic sweet dough recipe that the monkey bread does. Under normal circumstances, I would have just nixed the monkey bread and chosen something different. But, since my baking and post-writing was already done–and because I was busy trying to bake ahead as many recipes as I could in anticipation of my maternity leave–I decided that we’d just have to roll with it and perfect that basic sweet dough recipe!

I chose monkey bread mainly because it’s something that I’ve heard people talk about, but I’ve never had it before and really didn’t know exactly what it was….and it uses a Bundt pan, which is something I’ve wanted to own, but never had a good enough reason to buy.  Monkey bread was the perfect excuse for me to go out and buy one!

The base recipe for this monkey bread is the basic sweet dough.  It had a slightly different texture–heavier, I guess–than the dough I’m used to working with, but I was really impressed with the end result.  It’s easy to whip up and work with and baked up nice and light and fluffy.  You start with a buttermilk/butter/egg mixture that is slowly added to the dry ingredients as they mix.  I failed to read that the buttermilk should be warm, and I worried that maybe my dough wouldn’t rise well since I added it cold.  It did take a bit longer to rise, but I didn’t ruin the entire thing, thankfully!

After rising for a couple of hours, it’s time to assemble the cinnamon balls. My balls were pretty scary looking and the sizes were anything but uniform!

The recipe suggested covering the balls with plastic wrap and just pulling out a few pieces at a time to work with.  I thought that would be a waste of plastic wrap, so I just worked fast.  I left my cinnamon mixture in the bowl I mixed it in, rather than spreading it on a baking sheet….it worked just fine and saved a dish needing to be washed.

After everything is covered in butter and cinnamon/sugar, it’s left to rise again.  Easy as pie!

Once the balls have doubled in size, it’s time to bake.  After baking, you leave it to cool in the pan for just a few minutes and then dump it out.  I was a little worried that maybe I had messed something up and the balls would all fall apart when I pulled the pan off, but they had baked together nicely and looked really pretty.  I drizzled the glaze and let them sit for just a bit before digging in….and boy was that first bite heavenly!  Monkey bread should definitely be eaten warm!  The balls pulled apart easily and were the perfect size to be satisfying….for a few minutes at least, and then you needed another!

We really enjoyed this recipe.  I’m glad that the basic sweet dough is so easy to make….I’ll definitely use it again, and monkey bread will be on the list of make-again recipes for our family.

Monkey Bread

Make sure to use light brown sugar here; dark brown sugar has a stronger molasses flavor that can be overwhelming. After baking don’t let the bread cool in the pan for more than 5 minutes or it will stock to the pan and come out in pieces.


1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 recipe Basic Sweet Dough (see below)
8 TB unsalted butter, melted


1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 TB milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. FOR THE BREAD: Grease a 12-cup nonstick Bundt pan. Toss the brown sugar with the cinnamon, and then spread out over a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter, divide it into 36 even pieces, and cover with greased plastic wrap. Working with several pieces of dough at a time (keeping the other pieces covered), round the dough into tight balls. Following the photo, roll the balls in the melted butter, followed by the cinnamon sugar, and arrange evenly in the prepared pan.

Sprinkle any remaining butter and cinnamon sugar over the top. Wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

4. Adjust an over rack tot he middle position and heat the over to 350°. Bake the monkey bread until the top is deep brown and the caramel begins to bubble around the edges, 30-40 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.

5. FOR THE GLAZE: Col. the monkey bread in the pan for 5 minutes, then gently turn out onto the platter and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla together in a small bowl until smooth, then drizzle it over the bread and serve warm.

In step 3, do no let the monkey bread rise, but refrigerate it overnight or up to 16 hours. Let the bread sit at room temperature until it has nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour, then bake as directed.

Basic Sweet Dough

This versatile dough is used to make Monkey Bread, Cinnamon Rolls, and Sticky Buns.

3/4 cup buttermilk, warm (110°)
6 TB unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt

1. Whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, and eggs together in a large liquid measuring cup. Combine 4 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt together in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes.

2. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If after 5 minutes more flour is needed, add the remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 TB at a time, until the dough clears the side of the bowl but sticks to the bottom.

3. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.