Posts Tagged 'Freezer Friendly Recipes'

Ice Cream Truffles

Here’s another easy, make-ahead dessert for Valentine’s Day (or any day, really). Combine your sweetie’s favorite ice cream with their favorite candy bar and serve up some customized ice cream truffles.

Ice Cream Truffles
Adapted from Real Simple

Ingredients:
1 1/2 quarts ice cream (I used Breyers Smooth and Dreamy Chocolate Chocolate Chip)
8 – 12 ounces candy bars, chopped or processed in the food processor (smaller ice cream shapes will have more surface area and will require more candy; I used 4 ounces each of Butterfinger and Take 5)

For round truffles:
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or foil.  Freeze for 10 minutes.  Remove one sheet.

Using a melon baller or ice cream scoop, scoop the ice cream and place individual balls on baking sheet.  Return sheet to freezer.  Repeat this process with second sheet.  Freeze the balls for 30 minutes, or until firm.

Place the chopped candy on a small plate.  (Use multiple plates for multiple candies.) Working with 1 baking sheet at a time, roll the ice cream balls in the toppings, using your hands to gently press in the toppings.  Freeze for 30 minutes before serving. For longer storage, place in a freezer bag or airtight container and freeze.

For heart-shaped truffles:
Allow ice cream to soften on the countertop until it has a spreadable consistency (or microwave on low until spreadable).  Line an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with parchment or foil.  Place ice cream in baking pan, smooth top, and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for 6o minutes, or until firm.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or foil.  Freeze for 10 minutes.  Remove one sheet.

Remove ice cream from freezer.  Remove plastic wrap.  Invert over a cutting board and peel away parchment or foil.  Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter (mine was 2 1/2 inches wide at its widest point), cut heart shapes and place hearts on baking sheet.  Return sheet to freezer.  Repeat process with second baking sheet.  If desired, scoop ice cream scraps into balls and place on baking sheet as well.  Freeze for 30 minutes, or until firm.

Place the chopped candy on a small plate.  (Use multiple plates for multiple candies.) Working with 1 baking sheet at a time, gently roll the hearts (and balls, if you scooped the scraps) in the toppings, using your hands to gently press in the toppings.  Freeze for 30 minutes before serving.  For longer storage, place in a freezer bag or airtight container and freeze.

Ice Cream Truffles

The easy way...

Individual Ice Cream Truffle

Take 5... Yum!

Heart-Shaped Ice Cream Truffles

The hard(er) way...

This is one of those recipes (though it’s barely a recipe, I’ll admit!) that really can’t go wrong as long as you start with delicious ingredients.  Plus, I love that the work is already done and these truffles will taste just as good after dinner on Tuesday as they did the day I made them.  Happy (early) Valentine’s Day, everyone!

TIPS:  I suspect that drier candy bars (like the ones I used, or Heath, Toblerone, etc.) work best with this recipe because they won’t bond into lumps due to an excess of caramel, peanut butter, or other delicious ooey-gooey elements.  If you try a gooey candy bar with these, though, let me know how it goes.  Also, I initially intended to make mini heart truffles, but my mini heart cutter was too shallow to cut through the ice cream in the 8 x 8-inch block.  If you want to make minis, put the ice cream in a 9 x 13-inch pan instead.

Recipe link: Ice Cream Truffles

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: From Phyllo to Baklava

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Bakers’ June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make baklava.
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Whew!  Talk about a project.  I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon making the phyllo and baklava (and a HUGE mess to go with it!) and then had to wait anxiously until this morning (after all the baklava syrup had been absorbed) to even see if it was all worth it.  Thankfully, the results are pretty delicious, even if I can’t say I’d go to all that trouble all over again.  Here are my notes:

  • I doubled the dough recipe (as recommended) and let it rest for 2 hours before rolling it.
  • The wrap-the-dough-around-the-dowel technique didn’t work for me, perhaps because my rolling pin is thicker and is silicone (not wood).  My dough just fused together into a tube instead of growing larger.  I just kept moving and flipping my dough, rolling it from every direction, until it was as thin as I could get it.  Then, as recommended, I stretched it even more with my hands.  I was pleasantly surprised by how well the dough held up for handling despite being rolled so thin.
  • Even though I definitely got my dough sheets to the point of transparency, I only ended up with 11 or 12 sheets.  Since they weren’t huge and I didn’t end up with quite as many of them as I hoped I would, I decided to use a 9-inch round cake pan instead of a 9 x 9-inch square pan for my baklava.
  • I thought I floured well between each sheet, but I apparently didn’t do it well enough; my sheets stuck together pretty badly when I was trying to pull them off to assemble the baklava.  I did my best to make sure I separated all the sheets, but one or two layers might have been doubled.  I had set one perfect sheet aside on the counter under some plastic wrap for the top, though, so I don’t think anyone would really be able to tell that I struggled.
  • I used the recommended nut combination for my filling (almonds, walnuts, and pistachios) and the recommended spices (cinnamon and allspice).  I think I overdid the clove a bit in my syrup.
  • I used an entire stick of butter for buttering between the phyllo layers.
  • The recommended baking time was 60 minutes at 350°F, but mine was a deep golden brown at 45, so I took my pan out of the oven at that point.
  • Since I used a 9-inch round cake pan (6-cup capacity) instead of a 9 x 9-inch square pan (8-cup capacity), I made 3/4 recipes of the filling and the syrup. The filling was just right, but I think there was a bit too much syrup; I should have followed my instinct and left a bit out.  Even after resting for 16 hours, my baklava was still oozing a bit, though the majority of the syrup did get absorbed.
  • In my opinion, the syrup is a bit too sweet.  If I ever make it again (with store-bought phyllo, sorry!), I’ll cut the sugar to 1/2 cup (for a full recipe) instead of 2/3 cup.
  • After the initial cuts (before baking, in the middle of baking, and post-syrup), I continued to cut through my baklava periodically as it cooled.  It came out of the pan very easily this morning.

Assembled, Unbaked Baklava

Baked Baklava

Cut Baklava

The end result was a tasty treat, but it was a LOT of work.  This challenge certainly relieved me of any pride that might get in the way of me buying frozen phyllo dough at the grocery store. 🙂

Thanks for a great challenge, Erica!

Recipe link: Phyllo and Baklava

Peanut Butter Waffles

How do I love thee, peanut butter?  Next to apple slices, tucked inside a chocolate cup, sandwiched with homemade jam, and now, in waffles.  As someone who consumes peanut butter almost daily, I saw this recipe in the May 2011 issue of Everyday Food and couldn’t resist.

The recipe isn’t on Martha Stewart’s site yet, so I’ve posted it for you.  I was able to get 20 small heart-shaped waffles out of the batter.  Two waffles (before you add bananas and syrup) are 6 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points.

Peanut Butter Waffles
Yield varies with waffle maker

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing waffle iron
6 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 bananas, sliced, for serving
3/4 cup pure maple syrup, for serving

Method:
Heat waffle iron and preheat oven to 275°F; set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a blender, blend butter and peanut butter until smooth, 1 minute.  Add buttermilk and eggs and blend until combined, 1 minute. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir just until batter is combined.

Brush waffle iron with butter and pour in 1/2 to 3/4 cup batter, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides.  Close iron and cook until waffles are golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes.  Transfer waffles to rack in oven to keep warm; repeat with remaining batter.  Serve with bananas and maple syrup.

Note: Waffles can be frozen in zip-top bags, up to 1 month; reheat in the toaster or a 325°F oven.

Source: Everyday Food, May 2011

Peanut Butter Waffles

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a bad waffle, but these are tastier than most.  They have a subtle peanut butter flavor when eaten plain; I think the bananas and syrup bring out the peanut butter a bit more.  In terms of texture, they’re pretty light and fluffy. The oven time crisps the outside edge a bit (a plus in my book!).  Since I am always looking for good make-ahead recipes to take the stress out of entertaining (or even just getting Dr. O out the door in the morning), I love that I can make a whole batch and either hold them in the oven or freeze them for later.

These aren’t going to dethrone my favorite classic waffle recipe, but they are certainly delicious and a nice change of pace.  Give them a try!

Heart Cookie Pops

For as much as I love making decorated sugar cookies, I often wish the process could be shorter.  It takes several hours (not all hands-on time, thankfully!) to even get to the point where you have cookies to ice.  Icing then takes a minute or so per cookie and they have to rest for at least four hours (!!!) before you can pipe anything on top.  I get exhausted just thinking about it.

So when I saw this recent cookie pop project in a Fancy Flours e-mail, I knew I had to give it a try.  The cookies were so cute, but they didn’t have any icing.  I am completely in love with my regular cookie recipe (No-Fail Sugar Cookies), so I decided to use my usual recipe with their technique.

I have made hundreds and hundreds of sugar cookies over the last five years, but I had never colored the dough before.  Talk about an easy way to dress things up!  I used Wilton’s gel paste food coloring in rose, and I added it after the butter and sugar were creamed but before the egg, vanilla, and flour mixture.  Once the dough was chilled and firm, I rolled it as usual and cut it with a 2-inch heart cookie cutter. I put each heart on top of a popsicle stick (my stash of white candy sticks is MIA, so I used what I had) and pressed the dough gently so it would adhere.  Fancy Flours suggested silver dragées in the corner of each heart but I had pearl ones; again, I used what I had.

My perfect baking time for 2-inch cookies was 8 minutes at 350°F.  I cooled the cookies for five minutes on the baking sheets before carefully transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

Heart Cookie Pops

Pretty cute, huh?  And I loved that they were done once they were cool…  No additional decorating necessary!  Here are a few notes for any of you who want to give this one a whirl:

  • Based on the scale of dragée to cookie, I’d say Fancy Flours used a 1 1/4-inch cookie cutter.  I used a 2-inch cutter.
  • I think the white candy sticks look nicer, but the popsicle sticks will provide better support for a larger cookie.
  • I experimented with dragées around the entire perimeter of the cookie, but the results weren’t good.  Some of them dissolved a bit and shrunk during the baking process, which was really obvious when there were 10 or so per cookie.  One is perfect (and less time-consuming to place).
  • You could make a really cute Valentine’s Day “bouquet” with these if you stuck the bottom of the sticks into craft foam (maybe shaped like a heart and painted red or pink?).  They’d make great gifts individually wrapped and tied with a bow as well.

Update 2/15/11: I baked some mini (1 1/2-inch) heart cookies yesterday afternoon and the dragées held up beautifully.  I think the shorter baking time (5 1/2 – 6/1/2 minutes for the minis) made all the difference.  Heart-shaped Red Hots worked well as decorations for both the mini and larger cookies.

Recipe link: No-Fail Sugar Cookies

Barrington Mints

Who says cream cheese mints are only for weddings?

I came across the recipe for Barrington Mints as I was paging through my copy of The Rocky Mountain Sweet Shoppe Cookbook a few weeks ago.  I’ve only ever sampled cream cheese mints on Midwestern wedding dessert tables, but they seemed easy and festive enough to fit the Christmas bill.  Despite a mild misadventure (I’ll tell you after the recipe!) and an extreme piping strength requirement, I was pretty pleased with the results.

Barrington Mints
Makes 150 mints

Ingredients:
8 ounces soft cream cheese (I used Philadelphia regular)
6 tablespoons soft butter (I used unsalted)
3/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (NOT mint extract)
2 pounds sifted powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 drops red food coloring (Mine is pretty strong, so I used only one)

Method:
Melt the cream cheese with the butter in a heavy 3-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Turn off the heat, leaving the pan on the burner, and stir in about 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, food coloring, and vanilla. (My note: Add peppermint here as well.)  Stir in the rest of the sugar until well blended.

Line a large baking sheet with wax paper.  Push mint mixture into a pastry bag, icing syringe or squeeze bottle with a decorative tip.  Create desired shapes for mints.  Let set 1 hour.

Store between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month, or in the freezer up to 4 months.  Do not store at room temperature.

Barrington Mints

Aren’t they pretty?  They taste just like other cream cheese mints I’ve tried: sweet, minty, and melt-in-your-mouth creamy.  Despite Dr. O’s raging sweet tooth, we are never going to get through this many mints; thankfully, we have a few dinner guests coming later this month who might be willing to help.

As for the misadventure, I had piped 20 or 30 mints when I realized that I hadn’t added the peppermint extract.  I just realized (as I was typing this post), that what seemed like a spacey mistake was probably actually the result of the fact that they don’t specifically mention adding the peppermint in the recipe instructions. Whoops.  Anyway, I just tossed my mixture back in the pot, turned the heat on medium-low, added the peppermint extract, and then stirred the mixture for a minute or two until I was confident that it was pretty evenly incorporated.  Problem solved.

It’s also worth noting that I had to let these set in the refrigerator (not on the counter) so they would firm up enough to hold their shape when I pulled them off of the wax paper.  Since they get softer the longer they sit at room temperature, I would probably put a plate of these out when I serve dessert rather than have them sit on a buffet for hours.

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

I get so incredibly excited each time I find a recipe that is so fantastic I know I’ll make it, quite literally, for life.  Today’s recipe – Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins from the November 2010 issue of Everyday Food – is one of those recipes.

The recipe isn’t on the Everyday Food site yet, so here it is:

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins
Makes 12
Active time: 20 min. | Total time: 1 hr.

Batter Ingredients:
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups pure pumpkin puree (from a 15-ounce can)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs

Sugar Coating Ingredients:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Method:
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour 12 standard muffin cups.  Make batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and allspice.  In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and pumpkin purée. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed.  With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions pumpkin mixture, and beat to combine.

Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon.  Let muffins cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack.  Working with one at a time, brush all over with butter, then toss to coat in sugar mixture.  Let muffins cool completely on wire rack.  (Store in an airtight container, up to 1 day.)

Note: Freeze muffins up to 3 months.  Reheat in a 350°F oven, then coat in butter and sugar.

High-altitude adjustments: I’m not sure I actually needed to make these changes since this was the first time I made this recipe, but I went with my high-altitude baker’s intuition.  I’m so pleased with the results that I will make these changes again next time.

  • I added 1 tablespoon of flour to the batter (3 cups plus 1 tablespoon total).
  • I cut the baking powder by 1/4 teaspoon (2 1/4 teaspoons total).
  • I used a scant 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda instead of a full 1/4 teaspoon.

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins Interior

The interior of the muffin had a mild pumpkin flavor and wasn’t overly sweet.  The texture was light, airy, and moist with a beautiful crumb.  They were a bit more cake-like than a traditional muffin, I think.  The cinnamon-sugar coating was absolutely divine, and the amount of sugar and spice on the outside was a perfect complement to the inside of the muffin.  In short, they were amazing.  I have visions of feeding these to houseguests, lounging with them on Sunday mornings, and bringing them to brunches year after year.

I swear, these are the best muffins I’ve ever made.  In support of this theory, another doctor at my husband’s office lightheartedly suggested he might marry me after sampling them.  They’re THAT good.  Give them a try!

TIPS:  When I need to bring an amount of butter to room temperature quickly and I don’t want to risk overdoing it in the microwave, I thinly slice the butter and let it sit on a cutting board.  In five minutes or so, it’s ready to go.  Also, I always use room-temperature eggs when I bake.  To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, I put them in a container of lukewarm water for three to five minutes.

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Brown Butter Baked Alaska

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.
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Baked Alaska is a dessert that has been on my “must try” list for some time now, so I had to go in that direction with this challenge.

Here’s a rundown of my experiences with the recipe components:

Brown Butter Pound Cake: There is nothing like the smell of brown butter!  Good heavens.  I don’t think I’ve worked with it since my very first Daring Bakers’ challenge back in November 2008 (Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting), and now I want to put it in everything.

When I was browning the butter, my splatter screen sure came in handy because the mixture spurted quite a bit.  Also, I really did need to keep an eye on it because my milk solids were the desired chocolate brown when the foam on top started turning a golden brown.  I couldn’t see the solids beneath the foam, though, so I’m glad I pushed it aside to check before the butter burned.

I didn’t modify the cake recipe for altitude (I usually try things as is on the first attempt), so I knew I probably wouldn’t get perfect results.  My cake needed 28 minutes (instead of 25) and it ended up with a sunken center, but I just used my cake leveler to take off the top so I would have nice, even bases for the Baked Alaska.  In terms of flavor and texture, the cake was outstanding.  It was moist, very buttery, slightly nutty, and not overly sweet.  The crumb was perfect.  I enjoyed it so much that it would be worth the work of tweaking it for altitude.

Vanilla Ice Cream: I know, I know, this is the part of the recipe that practically begs for a creative injection.  I like vanilla ice cream, though.  And I really like this recipe, so I’m awfully glad I tried it in its purest form.  The only challenge I had in this part is that I opened my vanilla bean jar to find my last remaining vanilla bean had dried to a crisp.  Boo.  So despite my best vanilla bean intentions, I had to add the 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract indicated for those of us without vanilla beans.

Also, based on my experience with several other ice cream recipes, I only chilled the milk/egg/cream mixture in the refrigerator for an hour (not overnight) before freezing it in my ice cream maker.  Everything turned out great!  This ice cream is so amazingly creamy, vanilla-y, and delicious that I’m lucky the Baked Alaska portions even made it to the freezer.

Meringue:  Everything went according to plan here.  The only “problem” is that the recipe made over twice as much as I needed to cover the outside of my four desserts.

Assembly: I used a Wilton 3 1/2-inch cookie cutter to cut my cake bases; I was able to get 4 bases out of the cake.  I used 1/2-cup ramekins (instead of tea cups) lined with plastic wrap for the ice cream toppers.  When it was time to pipe the meringue, I tried to be somewhat original and do mine in a continuous outside swirl (like a beehive); even with my rotating cake stand, it was hopeless.  The star tip method (shown in my photos) worked so much better.  I used my kitchen torch to brown the meringue.

Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska

I absolutely loved this dessert!  The ice cream was beyond incredible and I loved the toasty, marshmallow-y flavor of the meringue.  The cake flavor didn’t come through as well once it was frozen, but I didn’t think it was dry like some of the other Daring Bakers did.  Each portion was seriously gigantic and built for sharing…  My husband has an endless appetite, and even he eyed an individual portion nervously and said it looked “filling.”  If you were going to serve these to guests (this is a perfect entertaining dessert since it’s meant to be frozen ahead), you could get away with one dessert for every two to four guests.

Thanks for an amazing challenge, Elissa!  You’ve given me my new go-to vanilla ice cream recipe and I’ll definitely try making Baked Alaska again (perhaps with chocolate cake next time?).

Recipe link: Brown Butter Baked Alaska

Update: Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins

Forgive me for another update and another breakfast post.  I’ve been entertaining so much for the past two months that I’ve been returning to my “tried and true” recipes…  It seems I learn something new each time, though.

Today’s recipe – Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins – is one I first tried back in October of 2008.  It’s written for sea level but works beautifully at high altitude, probably because the muffins are made with buttermilk.  (I’ve had a lot of success here in Denver with baked goods that incorporate buttermilk; buttermilk’s high acidity helps batters set more quickly, which can eliminate the “flat tire” phenomenon that occurs so often with high-altitude baking.)  Anyway, they were a big hit the first time around because they’re easy, delicious, and a great make-ahead option for company.

Back in 2008, I placed the batter directly in a greased muffin pan and had just enough for 12 muffins.  This time, I decided to try paper liners.  I couldn’t fit as much batter into the paper liners as I could with the bare muffin cups; each muffin was a scant 1/4 cup instead of a heaping 1/4 cup, so the baking time was reduced from 28 minutes to 22 minutes.

Since the smaller muffins resulted in leftover batter, I decided to make some mini muffins as well.  Each one was made up of 2 tablespoons of batter (one scoop using my cookie scoop) and the muffins baked for 15 minutes.

Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins

They tasted as fantastic as ever, and now I have three different “formats” for the muffins depending on how I plan to serve them.  Here’s the recipe in case you’d like to try them:

Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins
Makes 12 muffins without liners, 18 muffins with liners, or 36 mini muffins

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (use 2 1/4 teaspoons at high altitude)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (can up this to 1/2 teaspoon if you use unsalted butter)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large eggs (I bring them to room temperature)
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup thinly sliced scallions (about 1 bunch)
1 cup diced ham (6 ounces)
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper

Method:
Heat the oven to 400°F.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan or 12- or 24-cup mini muffin pan with cooking spray or line it with muffin cups.  (The mini muffins will require multiple batches.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pepper, salt, and cayenne pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and butter.  Stir in the scallions, ham, cheese, and bell pepper.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and use a rubber spatula to mix until just moistened.  Scoop the batter into the prepared pan (heaping 1/4 cup each for unlined 12-cup muffin pan, scant 1/4 cup each for lined 12-cup muffin pan, 2 tablespoons each for mini muffin pan).

Bake the muffins until the tops are browned (at high altitude, about 28 minutes for unlined 12-cup muffin pan, 22 minutes for lined 12-cup muffin pan, 15 minutes for mini muffin pan).  Let the muffins cool in the pan for 15 minutes then loosen the edges with a knife (if necessary) and transfer the muffins to a cooling rack. Serve warm.

To store, individually wrap the muffins in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to a month.  To reheat, remove the plastic wrap, cover the muffin in a paper towel, and microwave on high for 30 to 60 seconds (15 – 20 seconds for mini muffins).

Source: Jim Romanoff, The Associated Press

Cinnamon Rolls

Are you interested in a trip to food heaven?  Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls can take you there.

I’ve had some highs and lows when trying PW’s recipes, but these Cinnamon Rolls are the best of the best.  In her cookbook, she mentions that the recipe has been passed down through the family, and I can see why it’s still in use.  The rolls are sweet, gooey, and incredibly moist; it’s practically impossible to eat just one.  I brought them to my brunch-themed gourmet club meeting as the dessert course, and the recipe was branded a “keeper.”

Between dough making, rising, rolling, filling, cutting, rising again, and baking, the rolls require some effort.  I think they were delicious enough to be worth it, though, and even a half recipe will leave you with plenty of rolls to store or share.

As usual with PW’s recipes, I’ll let her show you how to make them.  Here are my notes from the experience, though:

  • I cut the recipe in half and ended up with around 23 rolls.  (My dough rolling wasn’t perfect, so I lost a few on the ends.)
  • After I scalded the milk, oil, and sugar, I let it drop to around 120°F before I proceeded with the dough making.  (This took about 45 minutes.)  I used an instant-read thermometer to measure the temperature.
  • After I added the first quantity of flour, my dough seemed a bit loose and I was worried.  Everything worked out fine with the rising and rolling.
  • I refrigerated my dough overnight before using it.  I just punched it down before I rolled it the next morning.
  • Rolling the dough (both into a rectangle and into a roll) was a bit challenging. Hopefully, I’ll improve with practice!
  • I used butter-flavored cooking spray to coat my baking pans instead of butter.
  • My rolls didn’t rise much during the 20 – 30 minute pre-baking rise period, but it didn’t seem to matter.
  • I used those 8 1/2-inch round aluminum foil cake pans that you can buy at the grocery store.  I was afraid they would be too shallow (they’re about 1 1/2 inches high), but I didn’t have any trouble.
  • I did a lot of needless worrying while trying this recipe.  Have you noticed? 🙂
  • I think the ideal number of rolls per pan is 7 or 8.  I did as few as 6 in one pan and as many as 9.  The more space you give them, the more they expand.
  • I baked two pans right away and froze one (tightly wrapped in foil).  I let the frozen one thaw on the counter for an hour and then factored in 20 minutes of rise time before baking.  I baked each pan of rolls (fresh and previously frozen) for 17 minutes at 375°F.
  • A half-recipe of icing makes approximately 1 3/4 cups.  Divide it among your pans accordingly.
  • When I say the rolls are sweet, I mean sweet.  I’m a bit of a sugar addict and I definitely enjoyed them, but they may be too sweet for some.  I think you could successfully cut the amount of sugar in the rolls in half; I was shocked when I had sprinkled the entire surface of the dough with sugar and still had half of it left in the measuring cup.
  • I think the rolls are best when they’re warm, but they really were delicious the entire day they were baked.  (I know because I couldn’t stop nibbling on them.)  They did start to take on a “day-old pastry” taste the next day.
Cinnamon Rolls

Baked cinnamon rolls before the icing

Cinnamon Rolls

Ooey-gooey iced deliciousness!

I can’t wait to make these again!

Recipe link: Cinnamon Rolls

Holiday Oreo Balls

Normally, I’m not a fan of foods made entirely from other processed foods.  However, for Oreo Balls, I make an exception.  I first tasted them last year when my friend Christopher made them.  Since Oreo cookies are one of my vices, I deemed them nothing short of heavenly.

I wanted to make my own this year, but I decided to use the classic recipe with only three ingredients: Oreos, cream cheese, and bark coating.  (Christopher’s recipe had butter in it as well, which made a firmer candy.)  To put a holiday twist on my Oreo Balls, I decided to use Oreos with mint creme filling and to sprinkle the candies with peppermint powder.  Here’s how I made them.

First, I piled an entire package of mint creme Oreos (17 ounces) and an 8-ounce package of softened cream cheese into the largest bowl of my food processor.  I pulsed the cookies and the cream cheese until they were completely blended.  (The mixture resembled a thick brownie batter.)  On a baking sheet lined with wax paper, I spooned out 1/2-tablespoon scoops of the mixture, repeating the process with an additional baking sheet to accommodate all of the candies.  I transferred the baking sheets to the refrigerator and chilled the candies for 1 hour.

While the candies chilled, I put Dr. O to work on the peppermint powder.  He put four candy canes inside a freezer bag and then put that bag inside another freezer bag.  He placed the bag of candy canes on a cutting board (to absorb the impact) and then pounded them with the flat side of our meat mallet.  When he had them pretty well pulverized, he placed a fine-mesh sieve over a small bowl, dumped the crushed candies into the sieve, and then sifted out the powder.

Once the candies had chilled for an hour, I took them out of the refrigerator, used my clean hands to roll them into balls, and then tucked them back into the refrigerator.  Next, I melted a package of white bark coating (24 ounces) in the microwave according to package instructions.  I took the candies back out of the refrigerator, dipped one in the melted bark, spooned the bark over the top, and then lifted the coated candy out with a fork.  I let the excess bark run through the fork tines for a few seconds and then transferred the candy to a sheet of wax paper.  I immediately sprinkled the candy with a bit of the peppermint dust and then repeated the process for the remaining candies.  Once the bark had set (about 15 minutes), I trimmed any excess bark from the base of the candies with a paring knife.  (Feel free to skip this step – I’m a lunatic!)  I should have counted them before we started eating them, but the recipe yields around 5 dozen with 1/2-tablespoon scoops.

Holiday Oreo Balls

If you like Oreos, you’ll find these irresistible.  The chocolate center is soft like a truffle (even when chilled) and it most definitely tastes like Oreos.  One thing it doesn’t taste like is cream cheese…  I was surprised, but you can hardly taste the cream cheese at all.  I think it functions more as a textural element to create the creamy center than it does to flavor the candy.  Besides the creamy center, you get a bit of a crisp snap from the bark, and the peppermint dust on top is crunchy like sanding sugar.  So. So. Yummy.

TIPS:  I chose to use peppermint powder instead of peppermint candy bits because the Oreo Balls need to be stored in the refrigerator.  When you put hard candy in the refrigerator, the moisture from the refrigerator causes it to soften, ruining its texture.  (It’s fine to leave the Oreo Balls out for a few hours, of course, but I think the cream cheese necessitates refrigerator storage for longer periods.  You can freeze them as well.)

Also, and this is kind of a biggie, I would strongly recommend putting the uncoated candy in the freezer for 15 minutes or so after you roll them into balls.  That way, it’s less likely that you’ll have many cookie crumbs end up in your bark and the candy will be less likely to stick to your dipping fork.  These problems weren’t major, but I’ll definitely incorporate freezer time for best results the next time I make this candy.

Recipe link: Oreo Balls




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