Gingerbread Waffles


Do you remember me telling you about my son, the little waffle monster?  Yeah, that title still stands.  This kid just plain loves waffles.  Since it is now officially the holiday season I’ve been craving gingerbread something fierce, and these seemed like a great way to please both mom and kiddo.  The recipe is not so different from a regular waffle batter, but the addition of fall spices and molasses lends that warm, spicy gingerbread flavor.  The smell of these cooking and the sound of The Nutcracker was a lovely way to welcome in the holiday season.


Not surprisingly, these were a big hit all around.  The full recipe made about 10 waffles in our waffle maker.  Normally I would halve such a recipe for our family, but lately whenever we make a batch of pancakes or waffles we go ahead and make the entire recipe and then freeze the leftovers.  It’s nice to be able to pull a single frozen waffle or pancake from the freezer whenever you want a quick breakfast a little more exciting than cereal, or when the child who already had a plate of scrambled eggs and fruit declares that he is still “horngry”.

Gingerbread Waffles
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Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
4 large eggs
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup milk
½ cup sour cream
3 tbsp. unsulfured molasses

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Whisk to blend.  In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, butter, milk, sour cream and molasses and whisk to blend well.  Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk to combine until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Preheat a waffle iron.  Fill waffle wells and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Cook until crisp and golden.  Serve immediately.

Source
: Martha Stewart

Spiced Apple Cream Cheese Danish Braid

Danish has long been a favorite breakfast treat of mine, though I rarely indulge in it.  In fact, when presented with an assortment of doughnuts and Danish, I’m bound to choose the danish nearly every time as long as it has a yummy filling.  But I’m also of the school of thought that if you’re going to eat something with that many calories it had better taste amazing, which is why I often find myself disappointed by the Danish served at some coffee houses, etc.  They may look appealing but if the filling is the only good thing about it, why bother?

Thankfully Baking Illustrated brings us this recipe and it is spot on – flaky, buttery pastry, rich filling, and a glaze that helps keep the whole thing moist when all is said and done.  The spiced apples were my own addition and so perfect for fall.  After the dough is made and all the turns are complete, it can be stored in the refrigerator overnight (or maybe longer, but that’s as long as I tried.)  So, this could make for a really impressive breakfast treat if you have company visiting.  Once the dough is made, and fillings can be made in advance too, all that remains is to assemble and bake.  I am looking forward to trying this as individual Danish and with all sorts of fillings.  This was my first time working with a butter square and it was much easier than I would have expected.  I’m glad to have tried this because I’m sure croissants aren’t far off now 🙂

Spiced Apple Cream Cheese Danish Braid
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Ingredients:
For the Danish dough:
1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1½ tsp. instant yeast*
¼ cup sugar
¾ tsp. salt
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the butter square:
12 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

For the cream cheese filling:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 tbsp. sugar

For the apple filling:
1 tbsp. butter
2 medium apples, peeled and sliced thin (I used Granny Smith)
2 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

For the glaze:
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 tsp. milk, plus more as needed

For the drizzle:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tbsp. milk, plus more as needed

*Instant yeast = rapid rise yeast = bread machine yeast

Directions:
To make the dough, combine 1¼ cups of the flour in a bowl with the yeast, sugar, and salt.  Place the milk and egg in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and knead until a smooth ball of dough forms, about 7-8 minutes.  (The dough should be sticky but if more dough sticks to the bowl than the dough hook, add the remaining ¼ cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed.)  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.


To make the butter square, toss together the butter pieces and flour on a clean work surface.


Smear the butter back and forth using a bench scraper against the work surface…


until they have combined into a smooth homogenous mixture.


Wrap the butter mixture in plastic wrap and use the edges of the plastic to form it into a 5-inch square.  Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.


Lightly dust a work surface with flour.  Lay the chilled dough on the work surface and roll into a 9-inch square.


Place the butter square diagonally on top the dough and remove the plastic wrap.


Fold the corners of dough over the butter so that they meet in the middle of the butter square.  Pinch the ends of the dough together to seal.


Using a rolling pin , tap the dough from the center outward until the butter begins to soften and become malleable.


Gently roll the dough into an 11-inch square, re-flouring the work surface as necessary to prevent sticking.


Fold the outside edges of the dough in toward the center in thirds, one overlapping the other, like a business letter.


Repeat this process folding the other direction to make a square.  (This completes two turns.)


Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.


Roll the dough into an 11-inch square once more and repeat the two turns as before (business letter, then square).


Wrap in plastic wrap again and chill once more for at least 4 hours.  (At this point the dough can be refrigerated overnight).

To make the cream cheese filling, combine the cream cheese, lemon zest and sugar in a small bowl.  Mix well until smooth and blended.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the apple filling, melt the butter in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat.  Combine the apple slices, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and toss well to combine.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the apples are tender, about 15-18 minutes.  Let cool before using.

When you are ready to shape and bake the danish, preheat the oven to 400˚ F.


On a large, very well floured sheet of parchment paper roll the chilled dough into a 14-inch square.  (I’m very serious about flouring the work surface.  Trust me on this – you can brush off excess flour but if you don’t use enough, you’ll experience a lot of difficulty.  I speak from experience.)


Spread the cream cheese filling evenly down the middle third of the dough.


Lay the apples over the top of the cream cheese mixture.


Using a pizza cutter or a paring knife, cut the outer thirds of dough into ¾-inch strips so that the cuts are diagonal to the filling.


Alternating sides, fold the strips of dough over the filling, crisscrossing the strips over the center, until the entire Danish is braided.  (This is where you will be cursing everything if you didn’t use enough flour.  See the sticky dough?  It got even worse.  Good news though – you won’t even notice this after baking, so don’t throw in the towel just because of sticky dough.)


Transfer the braid, still on the parchment, to a baking sheet.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and rise at room temperature until slightly puffy (it will not double), about 30 minutes.

Bake until the braid is golden brown, 22-26 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.


To make the glaze, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add more milk 1 teaspoon at a time as needed to thin the glaze.  Transfer to a cooking rack and brush with the glaze while still hot.  Cool to room temperature.


To make the drizzle, combine the confectioners’ sugar and milk in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add more milk 1 teaspoon at a time as needed to make it a drizzle-able consistency.  Drizzle over the finished braid.  Slice crosswise and serve.


Yummy flaky goodness.

Source: Baking Illustrated

Cranberry Scones


This recipe is not new to the blog, but since it is one of my favorite breakfast treats I decided it deserved a reintroduction.  This seems the perfect time of year to be reminded of it, with cranberries in the stores again and turkey day on its way.  These have the kind of texture I love in a scone – light and buttery inside with a slightly crisp crust on the outside.  The tart cranberries and the addition of citrus zest gives these scones an ideal flavor for fall.  I tend to prefer lemon zest in my scones but orange zest would also be wonderful choice here, since it pairs so well with cranberries.

I’ve mentioned it many times before but scones can be frozen after shaping and then baked straight from the freezer simply by adding a few extra minutes onto the baking time.  In case you will be having overnight guests for Thanksgiving, I highly recommend stocking your freezer with some of these scones now.  I certainly don’t feel like getting back in the kitchen and making a mess the morning after such a big meal, so freezer scones with yogurt, homemade granola (premade, of course) and fresh fruit make a really nice breakfast for guests that requires next to no effort.


Cranberry Scones
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Yield:
8-10 scones

Ingredients:
1½ tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup plus 3 tbsp. sugar, divided
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1¼ cups fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk1 cup heavy cream
Additional sugar for sprinkling

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In a food processor*, combine the lemon zest, flour, ½ cup of sugar, baking powder and salt.  Pulse briefly to blend.  Add in the cold butter pieces and pulse again briefly until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the butter pieces are no larger than peas.  Transfer to a medium mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, toss together the chopped cranberries and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar.  Stir this into the flour-butter mixture.

In another small bowl or a liquid measuring cup, combine the egg, egg yolk and heavy cream; whisk to blend.  Add the liquid ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir gently with a spatula or wooden spoon just until all the dry ingredients are moistened.  Knead gently to be sure the dough is evenly mixed, being careful not to overwork the dough.

Place a 2½- or 3-inch round biscuit cutter on the lined baking sheet.  Scoop some of the dough inside the cutter and pat down gently to form a 1-inch thick round.  Repeat with the remaining dough, placing the rounds 2-3 inches apart on the baking sheet.**  Sprinkle lightly with additional sugar.

(To freeze before baking, flash freeze at this point.  Place the baking sheet with the shaped scones into the freezer and chill until frozen.  Transfer to a freezer-safe plastic bag and store until ready to bake.)

Bake in the preheated oven until light golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.  (If baking from the freezer, add approximately 5 minutes to the original baking time.)

*Note: A food processor is not required for this recipe.  You can achieve the same result using a stand mixer, a pastry blender, or even just two knives.  I like the food processor because it is quick and easy, but all methods work equally well.

**Note: There are many different ways to shape scones.  You can pat the dough into one large disc and slice into triangular wedges, roll it out and cut with a biscuit cutter, use a dough scoop and simply make drop scones, etc.  Do whatever you prefer.  I like this method for this particular scone dough because the dough is sticky and this prevents overworking.

Source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins


If you haven’t noticed, I make a lot of breakfast treats.  Muffins, scones, bagels, etc.  I bake lots and love ’em all.  But these – these are my favorite of all.  The reigning champ of breakfast treats.  These are definitely one of the main food-related reasons I look forward to fall.  Sure, I can make them anytime but they seem to taste best on a crisp fall morning when the sun rises a little later than the days before.


I believe originally these were meant to be a knock-off of a Starbucks bakery item.  I’ve never had the original so I have no basis for comparison, but it’s hard to imagine them being better than the homemade version.  The streusel topping is not as chunky as some, and instead sort of melts during baking to create a crackly cinnamon-sugar topping that gives these an extra little something.  Be sure to mix and freeze the filling in advance so that it is ready to go when you want to make the muffins.  They may take a bit more time than your average muffin, but are totally worth it in the end.  This is not a new recipe to the blog, but one that needed a little updating with better pics and a printer-friendly version.  I hope you’ll enjoy rediscovering this recipe, a true favorite of mine.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
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Yield: 24 muffins
Ingredients:
For the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

For the muffins:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1¼ cups vegetable oil

For the topping:
½ cup sugar
5 tbsp. flour
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Directions:
To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth.  Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1½-inches in diameter.  Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil.  Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.

To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line muffin pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil.  Mix on medium-low speed until blended.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend.  Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.  Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons).  Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces.  Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well.  Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely.  Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.  (It may be hard to resist immediate consumption, but the cream cheese filling gets very hot!)

Source: adapted from BakeSpace

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls


Oh yes, I went there.  After playing around with the idea of blueberry cinnamon rolls, I realized that regular cinnamon rolls are a bit like a blank canvas.  Sure, they are wonderful all on their own but they also lend themselves well to showcasing other flavors.  The idea of caramel apple cinnamon rolls popped into my head and it wasn’t long before I just had to make them.

I added a touch of fall spices to a basic cinnamon roll dough, rolled them with caramelized apples and cinnamon sugar filling the swirls, and drizzled with a caramel cream cheese glaze.  The result was exactly what I was hoping for.  A tender lightly spiced dough with big chunks of apple, and the glaze was positively to die for.  Ben doesn’t normally get overly effusive about the things I bake, but he called these his other true love.  They are definitely sweet enough to be a dessert, but I’m sure they would be the hit of any fall brunch.  After adding the filling, rolling and slicing the dough log, the filling may seem to be overwhelming the dough but don’t worry.  After the rolls proof the dough and filling will be nicely proportioned.

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls
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Yield: 8-12 large cinnamon rolls or 12-16 smaller rolls
Ingredients:
For the cinnamon rolls:
6½ tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
5½ tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. lemon zest
3½ cups bread flour
2 tsp. instant (rapid rise) yeast
1 cup plus 2-4 tbsp. whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature

For the filling:
1½ tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch slices
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. cornstarch
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sugar
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon

For the glaze:
4 oz. cream cheese
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 tbsp. caramel sauce
1 tbsp. milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter on medium-high speed until smooth.  Mix in the egg and lemon zest until incorporated.  Mix in the flour, yeast and milk until a dough forms.  Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed, about 8 minutes until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky.  (You may need to add a little extra flour or liquid to achieve this texture.)  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, make the filling.  To make the caramelized apples, melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the apple slices, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Mix until the apples are evenly coated.  Cook about 18 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Set aside to cool.  In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon to blend; set aside.

Mist a work surface with spray oil.  Roll it out into a rectangle with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the dough with flour if needed to keep it from sticking (about 12 x 14 inches for larger rolls or 9 x 18 inches for smaller rolls).  Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and mix to blend.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the surface of the dough.  Evenly distribute the caramelized apples over the top of the dough.  Starting with the wide edge, roll up the dough into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon sugar spiral as you roll.  Pinch the seam shut, and with the seam side down, slice the log into your desired number of rolls.  Transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, placing the rolls about ½-1 inch apart.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature 75-90 minutes, until the rolls have grown into each other and have nearly doubled in size.  At this point, the rolls can also be covered and retarded in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.  Pull the pan out of the refrigerator 3-4 hours before baking to let the dough proof.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let cool in the baking about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

To make the glaze, combine the cream cheese and butter in a small heatproof bowl and microwave in 15-20 second intervals until it is warm enough to whisk together.  Whisk in the caramel sauce, milk and vanilla extract until smooth.  Whisk in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.   Swirl the glaze over the top of the cinnamon rolls.  Let cool at least 15-20 minutes before serving.

Source: adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

Waffles of Insane Greatness

How’s that for a recipe name?  These are also apparently known around the blogosphere as WIG for short.  Whatever you decide to call them, I like to think of them as my favorite basic go-to morning-of waffle recipe.  These yeasted waffles still hold my place as number one because of the amazing flavor the yeast provides, but these are a very close second.  Perfect when my little guy is shouting, “Waffles!  Waffles!” and I did not prep the yeasted batter the night before.  This recipe does call for a short 30 minute wait time to let the batter sit before using, but that’s nothing a little distraction with books and toys can’t fix.

The flavor is just what you would want in a plain waffle and the texture is dreamy – slightly crisp on the outside, tender and airy on the inside.  My only beef with this recipe is that, at least in my waffle maker, it only yields five waffles – enough for feeding our little family certainly, but not enough extra to feed guests or freeze leftovers.  If you are feeding more than two adults and a hungry child, definitely double it!

Waffles of Insane Greatness
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Ingredients:
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1½ tsp. sugar
½ cup whole milk
½ cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¾ tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.  Whisk together to blend.  In another mixing bowl, beat together the whole milk, buttermilk, oil, egg and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the wet ingredients and whisk just until incorporated and few lumps remain.  Set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat a waffle iron.  Fill waffle wells and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Cook until crisp and golden.  Serve immediately.

Yield: depends on the size/shape of your waffle iron

Source: Food Network via Orangette

Banana Bread


Everyone needs a great recipe for banana bread, right?  Most people have one they turn to and mostly, they are good.  But I have to say, Cook’s Illustrated has worked their magic once again and taken this classic quick bread up a few notches.  Of course, as I joked to Ben, they also took the “quick” out of quick bread, but spending the few extra minutes and completing a few extra steps was well worth it in the end.

The unique step here that you won’t find in most banana bread recipes is removing the excess liquid from the bananas.  As I have found in the past with making tzatziki sauce, shredded zucchini, and eggplant parmesan, I find removing excess liquid from produce strangely gratifying.  This instance was no exception.  Bananas have a lot of juice!  I also think it was exactly the thing needed to take this classic from good to perfect.  Most quick breads with fruit, such as banana bread, may have a nice moist texture initially but seem to get almost soggy after a day or two.  This method ensures a perfect texture straight from the oven and every day after – tender, fluffy and moist but not stick-to-your-fingers wet.  For breakfast or an afternoon snack, this banana bread is a winner with us.

Banana Bread
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Ingredients:
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
6 large, very ripe bananas (about 2¼ lbs.), peeled
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. granulated sugar

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Lightly spray a loaf pan (about 9 x 5 inches) with cooking spray.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt; whisk together and set aside.

Place 5 bananas in a microwave safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and make several slits in the wrap to act as steam vents.  Microwave on high until the bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the bananas to a fine mesh strainer set over a medium bowl and let drain, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes (you should have ½-¾ cup liquid).

Transfer the reserved banana liquid to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook until reduced to about ¼ cup, 5-10 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat.  In a large bowl, combine the bananas and the reduced banana liquid.  Mash with a potato masher or whisk until fairly smooth.  Whisk in the melted butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the banana mixture.  Fold together gently, just until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula.

Slice the remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch thick slices.  Layer the banana slices along both sides of the top of the batter, leaving a couple of inches in the center to allow an even rise.  Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the assembled loaf.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55-75 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool at least 15 minutes in the pan before removing.  Continue to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated, July & August 2010