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Resolution Recipe 6: Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels


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I am not going to lie…this recipe killed me in so many ways. I earn my novice status with many recipes but my badge should be gold after making these. I know they may look like pretzels and they may even look good to the untrained eye, but I had so many issues with this recipe, I just want to spill my guts and get it over with…and pray they turn out better if I ever dare to try again…ugh.20140308_135337

Ingredients are minimal and you probably have everything you need in the pantry unless you’re like me and don’t keep chocolate ships in your pantry because that isn’t a healthy decision!

As grumpy as I am even typing this up, I do have some thoughts on what might have gone wrong for me….

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YEAST: I hate working with yeast sometimes. It’s so temperamental. It always feels like such an amazing victory to see your bread rise after you’ve been standing in the kitchen  biting your fingernails watching the dough like a worried mother. I guess these guys rose better then they could have but the consistency of the dough was like clay or even Play Dough and not at all soft like I would have expected to see for pretzel dough. So, while it’s possible I killed the yeast or that it was too old to be nice to me, I actually wonder if it wasn’t something else…

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MIXING: Guys this was a total disaster! The recipe says to mix it for like 10 min (I might be exaggerating, but I don’t have the recipe in front of me while I type this…) and within 2 min it was so tough that the mixer was literally skipping and hopping on the counter top. *sigh*. 20140308_141753

 

This is a picture of me holding the top down because it was not wanting to stay put. The dough hook had a terrible time working the dough and I was 100% sure I was going to have to apologize to my room mate for breaking her very expensive mixer and then some how replace it with the money I don’t even have to buy my own. Nightmare. I have no idea how I would have been able to mix it for the amount of time they suggest. But things got worse when I added…

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BUTTER: Oh geez. Imagine putting clay in your Kitchen Aid and then adding butter. Imagine with me for a second what that mess would look like. A greasy mess! That’s what it looks like. The dough was not able to absorb the butter (as you can see above) but it did start to soften it a bit out of the hard rocky ball that it had been previously. I continued to run the mixer, hoping it would improve and while it did show some signs of  improvement, but I was really discouraged by what I was seeing.

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Things seemed to shape up a bit after I added the chocolate chips. You can see below that it’s looking more like cookie dough and less like a wet buttery mess. Score!

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Back to the bad news…the dough totally didn’t rise. It looked like this after the set amount of time for raising. It was not yeasty and squishy like other doughs are. It should have been fluffy and doubled. It was not. I decided that this situation might end up a little bit like those experiences you have at the hair dresser getting a cut or style….you know that moment….about 10 min in to your new quaff you  inwardly start groaning thinking the person doesn’t know what they are doing and they didn’t listen and you’re going to look terrible!!!….and then…you just let them finish…haha. The relief ! All is right in the world. They get to keep their jobs and you’re happy….I was hoping these hopeless guys would turn out the same way with a little time and patience…soooo…ONWARD!

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Because I let my dough raise in the oven (dumb choice) the chocolate chips got nice and melted which turned the dough the chocolate color you see. These should be more like a chocolate brioche pretzels since you can’t see the chips in there but we’re going to keep the name the same for consistency sake. 20140308_181811

 

I started to work out the dough by rolling it out into long snake like strips before I started twisting it. Twisting it got easier once I figured out you need to twist the two ends together a few times before pressing them into the curve of the base and that you’ll have more twisting space in the dough the longer you make them.

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I decided to have gravity help me out since the dough was pretty thick and kind of hard to work with.  That seemed to do the trick to get them the length I needed. I believe I divided the dough into rounds based on the serving size so I know what I had to work with for each pretzel. That helped them all be about the same size and shape when all was said and done. 20140308_184001

The egg was you put on them makes them look a little more exciting then the chocolaty marbled dough. This is what they looked like before a trip into the oven…moment of truth folks! Wasn’t sure what I was about to get….


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Well I guess you kind of already saw them at the beginning of the post (sorry for the spoiler after this dramatic interpretation of my experience!) but here they are in all their pretzely glory! I am really happy to say that they actually had a bready (…making up words here, friends…) consistency and tasted very much of chocolate which seems like a good place to be at the end of making this recipe. They are far from as lovely looking as Deb’s are and are not even sort of the best pretzels I’ve ever had…but…they are mine and I am happy with them. They were pretty sweet so they make a good after dinner treat.

I would love to try these again and see what I can do about fixing that rubbery dough. Deb has not blogged this recipe but I’ve found another happy Perelmanite fan like me who has the recipe posted on her blog as well as her review of the cookbook. Check out Think Well. Love well. Dine Well.

If you have tried something like this before or know what I might have wrong, would you be kind enough to tell me! I get a little nervous at the thought of doing this again, but I know there has to be redemption out there for me to find for these pretzels. It will happen :)

Coming up next…Almond Date Breakfast Bars and hopefully restaurant or dish reviews. As I type, I am on the way to Delaware to visit my best friend! I hope to do some fun food reviews of my travels around Delaware and Pennsylvania. I had some majorly good eats last time I was here and can’t wait to see what other goodies I get to try!

Weight Watchers Update: Ladies and gentleman I am 1 lb away from having lost 10% of my original body weight. I have been circling the 10% mark for the past 3 weeks and while I was hoping to hit it sometime in August, I’ve decided that with this trip, my upcoming birthday and school starting that I need to let my routine settle a bit before I beat myself too much. I’m still doing all I can to eat right and plan to keep it up but this plateau might just need a jump start with routine change to get me back in the loss. What a way to spend the summer :) I’m happy with the progress I’ve made. I’ll made these before I started weight watchers so I don’t know the points, but if I remember I’ll come back and post it.

Blessings, friends!

 

 

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Resolution Recipe 5: Whole-Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones



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Back to the blogging! Feels like it’s been awhile, but oddly enough I’ve been in the kitchen more then usual so I have a few posts coming your way. Let’s start with this one!

I made these scones back on February 1st. I think I made more mistakes with these then I would have liked, but let’s learn a few things from my failures, shall we? You can find the recipe on Deb’s Website along with her notes on how she came about the idea.

 

RECIPE: Whole Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones 

Ingredients 2

 

Ingredient Notes

Baking Powder:

Deb has a note about Baking Powder in her book. When shopping for baking powder make sure to find one that is Aluminum Free. You can see in the picture above the Argo brand I chose. Deb’s note on the aluminum free suggests that, “Some bakers feel that aluminum contributes to a ‘metallic’ or ‘tinny’ taste in baked goods that use large volumes of baking powder, such as biscuits, scones, and muffins. She has also found that baking powders with aluminum in them are more likely to discolor or give a blue-green tint to baked goods with fruit in them, such as these scones (pg xiii).” I assuming the acid in the fruit is what’s going to cause that discoloration but you would have to ask someone who actually knows a thing or two about. How about a French pastry chef? Yeah, that works…check out David Lebovitz’s post on Baking Powder and read up on the benefits.

For those of you who might have a hard time finding it, Deb also offers a recipe for aluminum free baking soda in her “Notes and Tips” section of the book….mix 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp cream of tarter, and 1/4 tsp corn starch to make 1 tsp of baking powder (can find that on xiii in her introduction).

I didn’t have a difficult time finding it but if you want to make it go for it. I never have Cream of Tarter in my ingredients so I couldn’t make it if I wanted to!

 

Mixing 2

 

Raspberries:

Caution with the Raspberries! I don’t know how she was so careful with her raspberries because my dough was pretty pink while hers seems to have flecks of pink. I believe I used the Kitchen Aid to mix them in but it would have been better to to fold them in with a spatula or spoon. You do want the berries to break up a bit but try not to over stir where the berries are breaking and coloring your dough.

dough 2

Flour:

I definitely over floured the dough. Definitely. I put them on the pan with more then a little too much flour and mostly because the dough is very moist. Moisture in dough is fantastic, especially scone dough, because it can be on the dry side which makes scones dense. This recipe boast the opposite as you’ll read in Deb’s post on her site and it’s surely the ricotta cheese that helps with that. She mentions being generous with the flour, but don’t do what I did and over use it for fear of the dough being to wet.

Because I put so much flour on the scones as I was rolling them and cutting them, they ended up very floury when they went in the oven. The end result is a burnt flour funkiness on the bottoms of the scones (sorry, I forgot to take a picture) and the tops need to be brushed off a bit. Instead you might try to find the balance of allowing the scone to be both moist and yet controlled a bit with the flour. If I get it right and find a magic trick to this, then I’ll make sure to update! Next time, I would really try to brush the flour off the bottom before putting them in the oven. I imagine that would make an improvement. Squares

 

Review of Recipe:

These are good, but I don’t think I did them very well. I really want a redo on them. I am not the biggest scone eater either so I was hoping for my mind to be changed. I would be very interested to hear a bit from those who do like scones and have tried this recipe. What do you think??? For my WW friends, you can enjoy these scones for 6 Points a piece at the normal yield of 9, two-inch square scones. If you make the scones a bit smaller you can cut those points in half for 3 a piece. Not bad for a pastry.

I am also learning that I’m not a fan of baking with whole-wheat flour. I use King Arthur brand since that seems to be the only one I find when I shop for it. Not sure if it’s the brand, the recipe, or the cook :) but I am not a big fan. I would be up for trying this with a 2nd cup of AP flour and pulling out the whole wheat flour to see if I like it better. I know that baking is a science so I would hate to alter it too much but it’s worth a try.

Hope you give these a try and please post a review if you have one yourself!

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COMING UP NEXT:

Home made Salsa, Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels, and Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies…sounds good doesn’t it?!

 

 

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Resolution Recipe 3: Plum Poppy Seed Muffins



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Plum Poppy Seed Muffins

Okay, we’re back in business! Happy to be blogging once again. Thanks for your patience loyal readers. I hope this is worth it!

I actually just made these muffins yesterday because even though this recipe was next in the book (back in January),  it wasn’t plum season. I figured I would postpone this recipe and come back to it in the summer…well…summer is here. What a coincidence! Small advantages for not having time to blog!

These muffins were pretty easy and delicious. They yield about 12 muffins according to the recipe, but in honor of making things more Weight Watchers friendly, I decided to make mini muffins instead. Using a Tablespoon I was able to make 37 muffins.

 

TIPS: 20140613_1902241. CHOOSING PLUMS: I would make sure to use plums that are not tart or sour. She says you can use any kind of plum ( I guess I didn’t realize there were other kinds then the reddish ones I see in the store, but there are….even Italian plums! Wanna see some pictures?? Click here) I mistakenly used the first ones I bought at Wal-mart and didn’t really make sure to buy those which were sweeter and riper. How does one do that you ask…well let me tell you. According to the helpful blog entitled “Just Plums” you do not look for plums with your eyes, but with your nose. They indicate that plums that are ripe and un-ripe are the same color. They say that a ripe plum will smell sweet and fruity where an unripened plum is not going to have a smell to it at all. Other sites mention that the plum will have a give to it if you press on it and the opposite is true for an unripened plum. If you have unripened plums that you want to use for this recipe, refer to the post from WikiHow about “How to Ripen a Plum.” I found this very helpful….AFTER doing this recipe. Yes, I’m proving very much to be the novice I claim to be when I do stuff like research the ingredients after I work with them.

2. MINI MUFFINS: Yes, mini muffins are just mini versions of muffins. 20140613_195557It’s not magic at all. However, if you are wanting to watch your waistline or you’re a WW point counter, then mini muffins are the way to go. This recipe went from 5 points a muffin to about 2 points a muffin if you yield 37 muffins when you only use a tablespoon of batter. I highly recommend this as an alternative because as WW people know, 2 point snacks are the best things to have on hand. You can still use the same recipe and enjoy, but in moderation that works for you.20140613_193049

3. MAKING BROWN BUTTER: I love that Deb Perelman simplifies what sounds like a potentially scary process of browning…not burning…butter. In her cookbook she takes you to a dessert recipe to learn how to make the brown butter. Her suggestions are as follows on page 202 of her cookbook:

  1. Using a pot, heat the pan to medium low heat
  2. Drop in your butter
  3. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden, and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty.
  4. Stir frequently, scrapping up any bits from the bottom as you do.
  5. Don’t take your eyes off the pot. You may be impatient for it to start browning, but the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is often less than a min.

She has a lot of other tips and tricks but I have to leave something for you to read when you buy her cookbook!

REVIEW: I think you’ll love this recipe any time of the year. I love how it’s summer but with the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg I felt transported to fall with one waft of amazing from the oven. I would love to see how these turn out with other kinds of fruit. I happen to find the most sour/tart plums on the earth that were most definitely under ripe…now that I know what to be looking for…ugh. The great thing about this recipe is that the sweetness of the muffin batter helps balance out the sourness of the plums so be encouraged if you too end up making these with a few bad plums. You might actually like the way they turn out! Hope you give these a try this summer. You won’t be disappointed and they are fun change to the muffins we all know and love.

Happy baking, friends!

 

PLUM POPPY SEED MUFFIN RECIPE

Ingredients

YIELDS 12 MUFFINS (5 WW Points) , 37 MINI MUFFINS ( 2 WW Points)

6 T. unsalted butter, melted and browned and cooled, plus butter for muffins cups

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 c. granulated sugar

1/4 c packed dark or light brown sugar

1/4 c. sour cream or a rich, full-fat plan yogurt (WW: use light/low fat sour cream to keep muffins low points)

1/2 c. whole-wheat flour

1 c. all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp table salt

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

2 T. poppy seeds

2 cups pitted and diced plums from about 3/4 pound of Italian prune plums (though any plum variety will do). (NOTE: If doing mini muffins, consider doing 1 1/2 cups instead).

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Butter muffin tins
  3. Whisk egg and sugars in bowl
  4. Stir in brown butter than sour cream
  5. In separate bowl, mix flours, bp, bs, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and poppy seeds
  6. Stir dry  mixture gradually into wet mixture “until it is just combined and still a bit lumpy.”
  7. Fold in plums
  8. Divide batter into cups.
  9. Bake for 10 -12 min (mini muffins) 15-18 (regular size muffins)
  10. Allow to cool in pan for a few min before removing to cool on rack

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Resolution Recipe 2: Cinnamon Toast French Toast



Final Plating 2

Recipe 2 is complete and I’m excited to say how easy this resolution has been so far. It’s always a major drag to start a New Year’s Resolution and within the first week you know just how hard it is going to be to keep it up.

However, before I get too excited, let’s consider that I’m still on vacation, school hasn’t started back up yet, and I am not back to my regularly scheduled program. Who cares…I’m going to continue to be optimistic about this one!

On the brighter side, I’ve had more viewers, visitors, and new subscribers  to my blog generated off my last post then I’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong…we’re not talking bunches and bunches (more like 3 or 4) but everyone has to start somewhere. Thank you new subscribers for making my week exciting! To those of you who decided that I might have something interesting to say about food…I warn you…I probably do not. But if you like a little comedic relief in your life, I do believe this blog may meet your needs with my questionable writing, overly detailed anecdotes, and dumb cooking mistakes. I’ll take any audience. But seriously…thank you. It is fun to do this whether people are reading it or not, but it makes it a ton more fun to share the experience with others.

Recipe Number 2: Cinnamon Toast French Toast

(from Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook [smittenkitchen.com])

You can read Deb’s original post about this recipe by clicking here. You’ll get to see just how fun she is with her easy to read instructions and beautiful photography. I’ll let you check that out for her exact recipe and instructions.

For this post, I just wanted to show-and-tell about my adaptations to her recipe that went well and…not so well.
Tray of cin toastFirst of all, I decided to half Deb’s recipe since I was just cooking for myself. I’m glad I did this because it produced enough breakfast for me to enjoy for the next few days but not the next few weeks! We’ll see how it heats up tomorrow to see whether it’s left over worthy.

Instead of the suggested 16 slices of toast I only did 8 and used parchment paper to lay it out. I have never done toast in bulk like this, but it was so easy that I do believe it will be my new method for toasting (…the art of toast making of course…) if I’m ever cooking breakfast for an army. I just need to remember 450 degrees for 7-10 min. 7 min was perfect in my oven.

Toast with Custard 2

Deb has a very long explanation of how you should cut your toast and place it in the pan. I was reading it through with a scowl  on my face because I thought…”Why in the world is she telling me how to cut and place the toast in the pan like it’s a Jenga column?? It’s french toast for goodness sake…you just put it in the pan and call it a day!” (If you read her directions you’ll know what I mean) Well, she’s not being a pest by telling you to cut and place your toast like that in your pan. You’ll see in my picture that I just cut all the pieces in half and filled my pan. What you’ll notice about hers that is different from mine is that you can see all the pieces of toast in her pan from the middle to the top. More on what I think that was all about towards the end…

Flipped and soaked toast with custard 2

Final plating 1I was a little concerned that the “custard” to toast ratio was going to be way off.  Splitting the recipe in half was not a big deal but when she says the toast needs to sit 15 min to soak up the custard, I was not totally sold that it was actually going to happen. Be encouraged! It does indeed happen. If you notice in the picture, the custard reaches about 3/4 the way up the cut toast in the pan. You’ll see the next picture was taken after 15 min or so when the custard had saturated the toast. To help it along, I did flip the toast from crust side up to cut side up. That seemed to help soak up the last of the custard so the bottom of the pan was nearly dry. 

Something that Deb says in her recipe is to butter your pan well. I thought I had buttered my pan just fine, but I ended up having quite a bit the toast sticking to the bottom and a ton of fun scrubbing that pan afterwards. Since I had crust side down, many of the pieces I pulled out were less then attractive so do yourself a favor and do as she asks. Butter liberally…even if there are chunks of butter on the side. Who cares anyways…it’s butter!

Okay back to the crazy instructions on cutting and placing your toast in the pan…I think Deb suggests you cut and lay your toast in such a way so that you don’t end up with soggy bread. I think mine was a little softer then I would have liked it for french toast, and I’m thinking that if the pieces had been more exposed, they would have firmed up better. My trouble was in having a pan big/small enough to allow me to set up my toast to look pretty like hers. The 9×13 was way too big for half the recipe so I settled for a square casserole dish which held all the pieces just fine (if you sandwiched them against each other like I did!) but was not a good set up for her method. It might be worth making the whole recipe if you don’t have a small enough pan…or halving the recipe again to fit the small pan. I’ll have to let you know how it works as left overs to help you decide what the best idea is for you.

Overall, I REALLY liked this way of making french toast. Her recipe is delicious and it came out to be the best french toast I’ve ever made since the flavors were so much better set into the dish then I’m use to. If you want an easy do-ahead breakfast then Deb has some tips for you about how to go about doing that this dish.

I hope you give her recipe a try. You won’t be disappointed!

COMING UP NEXT….I’ll be attempting Deb’s next recipe which is a Gingerbread Spice Dutch Baby….wow, right? That just sounds super impressive. I think we are wandering quickly out of…”I’ve got this” territory to….”uh-oh…do I even have all the kitchen items required to make this/what the heck is a Dutch Baby??”. Looks like I’m going to have to invest in both a blender and an iron skillet before I make this recipe next weekend. I may be calling my sister to tell her I’m coming to her house to make breakfast Saturday morning since it may not be in my budget to buy new supplies just yet. I’ll let you know how that turns out…haha.

Happy cooking readers! If you haven’t already done so, please take the poll about this New Years Resolution adventure!

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Resolution Recipe 1: Peachy Sour Cream Pancakes!


Final ProductHappy New Year! Hope you had a wonderful time celebrating with family and friends!

It’s time to get started with resolutions and I’m happy to say that I’ve made it into day two and been mostly successful….I’ll take it :o) As you know (since you’re a faithful follower of this blog…), one of my New Year’s resolutions is to do something I’ve always wanted to do and that is cook through a cookbook, cover to cover. Refer to my last post for details of this fun adventure and get excited that you’re reading blog post numero uno, folks! The journey begins now….

I think I haven’t actually cooked anything since August so this post is long in coming! I’m a little rusty in the kitchen but I’m ready to get start working on this NYR, so let’s do this!

Peach and Sour Cream Pancakes PagesRecipe Number 1: Peach and Sour Cream Pancakes (inspired by Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook) Read more from her blog at : http://smittenkitchen.com/

Peaches! Delicious right? Well, leave it to me to pick a cookbook for my resolution that starts with a recipe that has fruit out of season. Well done, Jessica. This novice cook decided to rise to the challenge and give it a whirl. I’m happy to say that my modifications still equaled delicious pancakes! Especially since I’ve never even made pancakes from scratch before.

Being a moderate fan of pancakes myself, I like the challenge of using a recipe that is non-traditional since, to me,  pancakes are a little on the bland side and not the most appealing breakfast food. This recipe had a few unique ingredients (sour cream, cinnamon, and nutmeg), that made me change my thoughts about what a good pancake should taste like. The flavors and smells reminded me more of a yummy peach cobbler then a breakfast dish which was quick to sell me on this recipe!

Okay…here’s the quick run down of the ingredients:Ingredients

1 large egg

1 c. sour cream

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

2 T sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground nutmeg

3/4 c all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 baking soda

Butter for pan (and the top of course)

1 peach, halved, pitted, and very thinly sliced (about 1/8-inch slices)

(modification) 1/2  to 3/4 cup canned peaches sliced thinly (great substitute for real peaches)

(modification) syrup from canned peaches (used to thin out the batter to desired consistency)

HOW I MADE IT:

Whisk together some of the dry ingredients (salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, baking powder & soda) then in a separate bowl combine the remaining ingredients (sugar, egg, sour cream, vanilla). Fold dry ingredients into wet.

Funny looking p-cake 1 because of thicker batter

Funny looking p-cake 1 because of thicker batter

(Recommendation) I didn’t realize until after I started to scoop and pour the batter for my first pancake that the batter was too thick. I decided to add a little of the syrup from the peaches to thin it out. I probably only added 1/4  to a 1/2 a cup, but it helped and the pancake batter did not lose its consistency. I think it actually helped enhance the peach flavor in the cakes. So, if you have to go with canned peaches like I did because you’re making them out of season, might as well use the syrup.

Heat pan to medium low heat and melt a pat of butter.  (Deb recommends a heavy bottomed pan or iron skillet) Use 1/4 cup of the batter to make your pancake. I recommend spraying your measuring cup before scooping to make the batter come out quick and easy.

Place sliced peaches on the top of your pancake and wait for the signs to flip (bubbly center and dry edges). Flip and let it cook through for a few minutes.

Pancake 3Deb recommends heating your oven to 250 degrees so you can keep your pancakes warm until ready to serve.

I was able to make about 7 pancakes with the recipe but she suggests there is enough batter for 8. If you’re anything like me when you’re getting to the end of your batter, the final pancake is enormous. That means I have a huge peach pancake in my fridge for breakfast tomorrow! Which also means, yes, you should be able to get 8 pancakes out of the batter.

WHAT WOULD I DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME?:

Pancake non peach side 31. I would like to have an audience to cook for! It’s so much more fun to cook breakfast for others then just for yourself! My BF David volunteered to be the victim of my next pancake making adventure so I’m sure that will be much more enjoyable as long as I don’t mess it up…which could definitely happen. You’ve been warned ;o) 

2. I would use real peaches! I think the canned peaches were really tasty but cutting them was really hard to do which is why you’ll notice they are all different shapes and sizes in my pictures. Again, no regrets with the canned peaches, but they will look so much prettier with real peaches. The beautiful thing is I have a peach tree in the backyard of the house I’m living in so I’ll know when to try this recipe again!

3. I would try this with other fruits like apples! I love apple cinnamon Pancake done 2anything so it would be fun to play around with the recipes and apples. It might be good to bake the apples to soften them up a bit so maybe that can be done in a pan on the side with butter and cinnamon before they are put in with the pancake batter. I imagine bananas would be good too, but since I refuse to eat bananas (…Lord spare me if there is a recipe in this cookbook with bananas that I have to eat…gah!), I won’t be trying that any time soon.

Final on plate 24. I would drink milk with these p-cakes! They were not as sweet as I was expecting but a tall cold glass of milk would have cut the sweet that was there. I felt jittery for a few hours after but I’m a weakling when it comes to caffeine and sugar. It doesn’t take much and I get the shakes.

5. Though this didn’t make an obvious difference, I would get my measurements correct for the baking powder and baking soda. Almost positive I got them switched around. haha…makes me very happy that I named my blog what I did. I’m not trying to hid behind any fancy title here. Nope! This blog is all about my epic failures and successes in the kitchen so let’s just add this one to the list of failures and learn from my mistakes…haha.

That’s it! I hope you give these pancakes a try. Deb’s recipe won’t disappoint. I don’t think you can mess these up too much but if you do make any changes, let me (the one reader I have :o) know about it so I can give it a try too!

Happy cooking all!

Final with bite

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The best Apple Crisp…ever…



It’s been a long time since I’ve posted because life has been so busy, but this recipe is going to allow me to come back with a bang. This recipe is awesome!

You can find this recipe at AllRecipes.com and something you should know about this site is that user reviews is what is going to make these recipes go from good to great. I’ve taken a few recipes from here over the years and learned  that if someone is going to give their input about a recipe, it’s a good idea to listen up. Especially for a novice cook like me. Let others go before me and make the mistakes that I would have made because I didn’t know any better. If you like input on recipes, this is an awesome site to help you out.

This recipe drew my attention because it meant, I didn’t have to go to the store to pick up any special pantry supplies. Low on money right now so I love that. Also, I had just been apple picking a few days before which means the fruit was taken care too. Success!

The recipe is simple and basic but some users gave some helpful tips that I took into account when I was putting mine together:

1. Replace the water with apple juice

2. Replace the full amount of white granulated sugar with half white sugar and half brown sugar

3. Don’t cream together butter and sugars, but use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter. This will allow there to be a crunchy topping without the oatmeal

4. Cook the crisp for 50 mins instead of 30-40 minutes.

Here are a few things I would recommend as well…

JA Tip 1: BUY AN APPLE CORER. I splurged and bought one for this project with a gift card from Jamie for my birthday. It’s exactly what made this whole recipe easy.

JA Tip 2: Peel your apples and rub the outsides with lemon juice so they don’t get brown before you cut them up. If you do use the corer make sure to put some lemon juice down in the core of the apple too. I didn’t think about that till I cut my apples and found the cores browning already. Some apples are better then others so you may not notice as much but since I used a variety of apples I used the lemon juice on all of them.

This recipe is set for 6 servings but I made mine for 8. The website will help you alter your ingredients for the larger serving size.

Here’s the recipe without the adjustment I indicated above:

2-2/3 cups sliced apples
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8×8 inch baking dish.
2. Place apples in prepared dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Pour water over all. In a bowl, cream together sugar and butter. Blend in flour. Sprinkle mixture evenly over apples.
3. Bake in preheated oven 30 to 40 minutes, until apples are tender and crust is golden.

I hope you try this recipe! It’s one of the easiest and tastiest desserts I have made in awhile and will definitely make again soon since it is apple season!!!

UPDATE AS OF 10.22.12: I just made this recipe again but didn’t measure my apples and I also cooked it in my mom’s smaller toaster oven. These two changes made for a less crunchy top. I’m not sure if any extra apples caused more moisture or if the toaster oven just didn’t get the topping firm enough, but I would suggest that you actually measure your apples and if you’re cooking in a smaller oven, to maybe put it down 10-25 degrees for the same amount of time or longer if needed. I had to pull mine out before the 50 mins were up because things were going from caramelized to burnt. The lower temp for longer time, might have done the trick. Let me know if you have any suggestions or if one of these causes you the same problem. Would love to get some wisdom on the soggy crust dilemma.

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Canning Attempt 1: Peach Jam



It is peach season and our tree is overflowing with peaches. Last year I wanted to cook and bake with them, but I didn’t make the time for it. These peaches on this tree are amazing and my favorite version of them is right off the tree when they are juicy and warm from the sun! De-lic-ious!

I’ve never really done a lot of baking with fresh fruit. If I’ve made any kind of fruity desserts in the past I’ve cheated and used canned fruit or mixes with the fruit in them.  So, this was a new challenge for me to undertake. I’ve also never canned anything. I had watched my mom make her own apple sauce growing up and I’ve chatted with her about the canning essentials so there was a little knowledge going into this recipe. I learned a lot through this process, so if you’ve never done any work with peaches or canned anything before, you may find my new found wisdom helpful.

I bought all my canning supplies from Fresh and Easy. I’ve seen these kits with the jars, jar tongs, funnel, measuring stick, and magnetic wand and other stores too. Fresh and Easy’s always seemed to be the most reasonable so I ended up with them. I bough two flats of jars (half pint and pint size jars). The half pint jars are a great size  for jam.

Step one is cleaning the jars and lids and screw tops. I needed to wash my stock pot so I decided to use that as a way to start heating up my jars and wash them as well. The instructions for any canning recipe will say to make sure jars are clean and that you have a canning pot. I, of course, did not have one of those, so I used the tallest pot we had and it worked just fine thought I was limited to how many I was able to put in at a time.

I used smaller sauce pans for the lids and rings and for helping seal and keep warm some of the jars warm while I worked on the peaches. You’ll need a pot for the peaches blanching process too if you’re using fresh peaches. The skins need to come off before you work with them so blanching is the easiest way to save as much of the peach as you can. Needless to say, you’ll be using a lot of pots for this process so borrow if you need to.

Throughout this process I learned a lot about blanching peaches.  The biggest lesson I learned is that unripe peaches do not like to loose their skins. I would make sure that all your peaches are softer before you start working with them. They only really need to go into the boiling water for 60 seconds for the skin to slip off without the peaches getting pulpy. I had better luck when making my peach cobbler (post to follow) when the peaches were nice and soft. This recipe required that I leave the peaches in the water for longer but some of them got pulpy. The preserves and salsa ended up doing just fine but it just seems like I could have done better…and I did on the 2nd attempt at blanching peaches.

You’ll need to have your bowl of ice ready for the peaches when they come out of the boiling water. My food network knowledge tells me that this ice bath (sorry, my ice had melted before taking this picture) is what will shock the fruit and keep if from cooking any further. When blanching veggies, it helps keep their color looking bright. I had a bowl for the completed peaches and then you can see I used my measuring cup for the skins as they came off. Some slipped off beautifully and others needed some help with a paring knife. That only happened for those which were not yet soft, so don’t be afraid to pull those firmer peaches out before you try blanching them. They are going to cause you a lot of extra work if you try to peel the firm peaches before they are ripe. I suggest putting a baking sheet underneath your work space to for an easier clean up. If you have one with sides, that’s ideal. I did that for my cobbler and was so glad I did. Peaches can make a sticky mess and moving peaches from water to bowls is not a dry process either. Save yourself some clean up since you’re already using enough pans that will need to be cleaned!

They look pretty don’t they! You can see the different textures and can probably tell which ones were easier then the others to peel…whoops!

Depending on how many pints you want to make will determine your lemon juice. I bought two large lemons and it gave me 1/2 a cup. I believe I set mine for 6 pints so I only needed 4 tablespoons. The web site where I found this jam recipe allows you to alter the serving. So you can determine how much lemon juice you need after you change that serving size. I was only able to get about 8 cups of peaches so I altered the recipe until it just called for 8 cups of peaches! That’s one way to do it.

I diced up my peaches so they were about 1/2 thick  and this ended up being a good size. The peaches settle at the top of the jam anyways so depending on how big of chunks you want is how small you can cut them up.

So the recipe calls for crystallized ginger, gingerroot, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ground allspice. I have never bought ginger or allspice in my life so I was beyond frustrated when I decided to switch my recipe to this one and realized I was a few ingredients short. The story of my life. I looked around and decided that pumpkin pie spice DID have allspice and ginger in it so it would have to make due. I think you can just do cinnamon and it would be pretty delicious but the additional spices gives it a savory depth of flavor. I used the recommended measurements for cinnamon and ground cloves and then did 1/2 tsp of the pumpkin pie spices.

You will add all your peaches, sugar, lemon juice, spices and then fruit pectin to the sauce pan. I was not happy with how runny my jam was even after adding the pectin and letting it sit on the heat. I followed directions, but I think I may have let it sit on the heat a little too long. I ended up adding more pectin and praying it would turn out okay.  I did a little internet research about runny jam and most sites said to put your jam back in a pot, and add a bunch of ingredients to it. Since I feared the runny jam before I had canned it, I decided to just add more pectin. Easy enough and the consistency ended up being just fine. So, I’m not entirely sure what I did right. My hint would be to not keep it on the heat too long after adding the pectin (per the recipe instructions). Get it mixed in, pull it off the heat and get it canned quickly. Before you start the canning process, make sure you have all your jars heated and lids/seals ready to go. I didn’t have all my jars heated up and ready to go so that was part of the reason why my jam stayed on the stove for longer then it should have. So…be a boyscout and always be prepared!

The funnel in your canning kit is your friend. It’s awesome and makes the pouring part go very smoothly. I used a measuring cup to get it from the pot to the jar which worked very well. No spoons necessary.

When your jars are filled make sure to add water to your pot to cover the jars. My large pot took 5 half pint jars but only four of the pint size jars fit. I used another pot that was not large enough to put water into cover the jars and I put the water to boiling which kept them warm until this larger pot was ready for them. The jars should sit there in the water for 15-20 minutes. Longer doesn’t hurt anything.

One site said 45 min, so honestly I say keep them in for 20 to 30 min. You’ll use your jar grabber (my term for it…can’t remember what it’s called) and get your jars out. You’ll know that they are hot enough and sealed when you hear them pop once they are out of the water bath and starting to cool. This recipe and other say that they need to be checked for sealing in 24 hours, but I wanted to make sure they sealed within 5 min of me taking them out. You’ll test the lids by pressing them down. If they don’t budge like a sealed jar from the grocery stores, it’s sealed. If it pops at all, then it’s not sealed. That doesn’t mean it won’t seal eventually, but I had a couple jars that didn’t seal so I put them in the hot water again while they were still warm and made them go for another 20 min or so. They did eventually seal so I’m glad I did that.

I believe I got about 8 jars out of my batch. I used the 1/2 pint jars for the jam since it was a nicer size then the bigger jars. I let it set up for 24 hours before trying to open a jar and give it a try. It set up really nicely with the extra pectin in it. I’m so proud of it!

You can find the recipe at the following site: http://www.food.com/recipe/grand-champion-peach-jam-169363. As a side note, I’m a big fan of this site! It help you alter the recipe if you want to go bigger or smaller. Not that a little math wouldn’t do my brain good. I just know that doubling or halving a recipe isn’t always as easy as multiplying or dividing by two. Some ingredients are not that easy. This site does it for you, so take a look and see if you can find some fun recipes to try. http://www.food.com.

I’m pretty happy with how my first canning experience turned out. I’m going to do another post on a peach salsa recipe I made the same day and canned as well. I hope to make pickles next! Just shopping around for the best recipe.

Happy canning everyone!