homemade hamburger buns

I know a lot of you think I’m crazy for making my own hamburger buns (because you’ve told me.  Daren included.).  A lot of times I do things like this for the fun of seeing if I can.  I also still find yeasted breads somewhat difficult, so trying new things helps me figure out the process of working with yeast and what different types of doughs feel like.  This time, though, the result was 100% worth it.  These buns taste so much better than the type that comes in a plastic bag from the grocery store.  They are light in texture yet rich tasting, with a just slightly sweet flavor.  The dough was really sticky, which made them somewhat hard to work with, but they seemed to be pretty forgiving in terms of holding up to reshaping.  After the 2nd rise, they seemed to have spread out too much, so I just kind of pushed them back into a ball shape and popped them into the oven, which worked out perfectly.  They hold up to freezing well, so you can easily make a batch and save them for later.  When thawing, a couple hours out on the counter and a quick stint in the toaster oven (or better yet, on the grill) did the trick.  I have a feeling I’ll be stocking our freezer with these again soon!

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp. warm milk
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2½ tbsp. sugar
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2½ tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

For topping:

  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water, for egg wash
  • Sesame seeds

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the milk, water, yeast, sugar, salt and egg.  Mix briefly to combine.  Add the flours to the bowl, and mix until incorporated.  Add in the butter and mix until combined.  Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed for about 6-8 minutes.  The dough will be somewhat sticky, but you want to avoid adding too much extra flour which will create tough buns.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into 8 equal parts.  With floured hands, gently shape each portion of dough into a ball and place on the baking sheet, 2-3 inches apart.  Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise again, 1-2 hours, until puffed up and nearly doubled.  If the dough spreads too much during the second rise, simply reshape gently before placing in the oven.

Set a large metal pan of water on the lowest rack of the oven.  The steam created by the water will help create a nice crust on the buns.  Preheat the oven to 400˚ F with a rack in the center.  Brush the tops of the buns lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake the buns about 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, or until the tops are golden brown.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Yield: 8 hamburger buns

Source: Annie’s Eats, adapted from the New York Times via Smitten Kitchen

 

Breads

chocolate cranberry almond granola bars

Weekday breakfasts tend to be pretty boring around here.  Typically, I’m just barely making it out the door on time, and Daren’s often worse than I am.  On the weekends, I’m always waking up earlier than I’d like, and then during the week I can’t drag myself out of bed.  Frustrating! Anyway, breakfast needs to be something I can grab as I’m running out the door, or better yet, keep at my desk at work.  As such, we end up eating a lot of instant oatmeal and cereal bars, which gets old after a while.  These granola bars should take care of that – for this week at least!  They are anything but boring, took less than 30 minutes to throw together, and yield enough for the 2 of us to eat for an entire work week.  You can really taste all the different flavors, and they can easily be tweaked to your personal preferences.  That’s my kind of breakfast!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate
  • 1/2 cup craisins, coarsely chopped
  • 2 oz. chocolate, melted, for drizzling (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with parchment or waxed paper, leaving an small overhang to help remove the bars from the pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, almonds, and coconuts.  Spread out onto a large rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until the mixture is fragrant and the oats and coconut are golden brown.  Let cool slightly then return to the bowl.

In a small saucepan, combine the honey, butter, and brown sugar.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter and sugar are fully melted.  Remove from the heat and stir in almond extract.

Pour the honey mixture over the oat mixture and stir to combine.  Add in the chocolate and craisins and continue stirring until thoroughly moistened and fully combined.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking sheet, spread to the edges and press down firmly.

Refrigerate the granola bars for at least 2 hours before removing from the pan and cutting into 12 bars.  Drizzle with melted chocolate if desired.  Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 12 bars

Source: Adapted from Love & Olive Oil

 

 

Breakfast

chocolate biscoff crunch cupcakes

Yesterday was a big day for me.  As many of you know, the 1st annual Kennett Chocolate Lovers Festival was yesterday afternoon.  I submitted 2 entries to the festival, including these cupcakes and a triple chocolate cookie.  I was thrilled with how the cupcakes had turned out, but that didn’t stop me from being nervous/anxious all day! In typical fashion, I woke up ridiculously early, my mind going a mile a minute thinking about getting the cupcakes boxed up and what time we should leave to get there on time.  All of the baking was done, but I had stored the cupcakes in my cupcake carrier overnight to help keep them fresh.  I still needed to snap some pictures (I wanted to wait until the morning to get some natural daylight) and to transfer the cupcakes and the cookies to bakery boxes.  Daren also let me know early in the morning that we’d need to swing by his work on our way to Kennett.  That almost lead to a minor freak-out, but I did my best to keep it contained (Daren might disagree…)  Of course, the anxiety over getting there on time was all for nothing – we had a 2 hour window to drop the entries off, and we made it in plenty of time.

After dropping everything off, we had 2 hours to kill before we could go back for the actual festival (cue more anxiety).  Things had to be dropped off by 11, then judging would go on from 11-12:30 and the festival would open to the public at 1.  Luckily, we found an awesome breakfast place nearby, and then killed some time at a few local stores.  We had no idea how the actual judging and results were going to work – I was under the assumption that we would go back at 1, do some tastings, hang out for a while, and then the winners would be announced toward the end of the day – maybe around 3 or 4.  Imagine our surprise when we got back to the festival to find this (sorry for the horrible iPhone pic – I totally forgot I had my camera in my bag!):

I could not have been more excited.  It’s amazing to think that 2 years ago, baking was something I was really just starting to get into, and now it’s such a huge part of my life.  A lot of that is the result of the support and encouragement I’ve gotten from friends and family.  From people telling me I should sell my cupcakes to others suggesting I start a food blog, a lot of what I have accomplished has been completely because of you guys.  I never would have thought I could write a food blog, much less get good enough at baking that people would actually want to buy my products.  I feel like I’m continuing to improve all the time and enjoying it more and more.  I’m also finally getting to the point where I can take an idea and run with it, rather than sticking to a recipe as written.  That really shone through for me with these cupcakes, which were inspired by a recipe from Bakers Royale.  I loved the idea of the chocolate/biscoff/ganache/toffee pairing, but didn’t really want to go with any of the actual recipes.  There certainly wasn’t anything wrong with the recipes; I just had my own ideas about it.  I used my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe – the moistness from the sour cream really shone through here.  I also completely changed the frosting.  The recipe Naomi created called for a Swiss meringue buttercream.  As much as Daren and I LOVE Swiss meringue, I’ve found that not everyone has the taste for it.  Most people seem to prefer the sweeter flavor of American buttercreams.  If I were making these cupcakes just for us, I totally would have gone the Swiss meringue route – for a crowd (and a competition!) American buttercream seemed to be the way to go.  Then, the drizzle of ganache and sprinkling of toffee bits really put these over the edge!

By the way – I realize many of you may not know what Biscoff is.  Biscoff is one of those things that is all over the food-blog world, but no one I know in real life seems to have heard of it.  It’s a spread similar to peanut butter in consistency, but made from spiced cookies called speculoos.  Daren thinks it almost has a graham cracker-y taste.  Regardless, it’s delicious.  A few grocery stores are starting to get it in (supposedly Target carries it, but I’ve never seen it there) but one place you can always find it is Trader Joe’s.  They carry it under the name “Cookie Butter.”  Even better, just this week I noticed a new product at TJ’s – Crunchy Cookie Butter!  Anyway, if you’ve never had Biscoff (or cookie butter), you need to go buy some.  Seriously.  Good luck trying to stop yourself from just eating it with a spoon.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

  • ½ cup plus 1 tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • ½ cup plus 1 tbsp. hot water
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup sour cream

For the frosting:

  • 3 sticks plus 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 cup Biscoff spread

For the ganache:

  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. light corn syrup

For topping:

  • Heath toffee bits (or chopped up Health/Skor bars)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the cocoa powder and hot water and stir until fully combined.  In another bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Blend in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture until fully combined.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated (so flour, sour cream, flour, sour cream, flour).

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners, filling each about 2/3 full.  In my experience these cupcakes tend to rise a LOT, so err on the side of under-filling the liners.  Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Cream on medium-high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Add in the confectioner’s sugar and beat on low until combined.  Add in the Biscoff spread.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed, about 5 minutes.

To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until very hot (just under simmering).  Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate and allow to sit for 1 minute.  Stir until the chocolate has melted.  Add in the light corn syrup and stir until smooth.

To assemble, pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes as desired (I used an open star tip).  Using a piping bag fitted with a small round tip (or a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off), drizzle the ganache over the piped frosting.  Sprinkle immediately with toffee bits.

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Source: Inspired by Bakers Royale

Thank you again everyone for all the support!!

 

Cupcakes, Desserts