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recipe

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It’s starting to snow, so today seems like the perfect time to share my Breaking Bad snowmen from Christmas. The mister saw me icing the top hats and thought they bore a striking resemblance to the pork pie hats Heisenburg wore in Breaking Bad and requested some custom cookies on the fly.

I think I have found a new form of expression – royal icing on cookies. My kind of art – edible and not too serious. I’m not usually a fan of cut out cookies. I usually find their flavor to be lacking for the amount of effort involved. Mix the dough, chill the dough, clear off a counter, roll the dough out, cut the cookies out and hope they don’t break or morph while transferring them to the sheet, re-roll and repeat until dough is gone. Hope cookies keep shape and don’t brown while baking, cool, make frosting, decorate, let dry. So much work for what isn’t much flavor other than carb and sugar. A drop cookie is usually so much more satisfying!

But a friend made cut out cookies using this recipe for Cream Cheese Cutouts from Taste of Home, and I liked them enough to endure the process of sugar cookie baking.

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I baked them and froze the baked cookies a few days before I needed them, to make the process easier on myself. I find it so much more relaxing to prep and bake stuff ahead of time and have “fun” assembling and decorating at a later date. Plus it seems like less dishes. I know it’s the same number of dishes, but it’s less at once.

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These are my sugar goth children. Black powder coloring for this. Oh, and by Royal icing, I mean I used water and powdered sugar until it was viscous, then let it dry. I also used some of the buttercream from the recipe, but the royal icing was more fun to play with and came out easier.

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Oh, shooting stars! All nice and red, white, and black. It’s a vaguely goth Christmas in my house.

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Bite sized cookies. These would be perfect for a tea party. The nice thing about these cream cheese cut outs was that they didn’t brown in the oven while still baking up firm and not soggy. Any way, I like food I can paint on. This was fun.

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The cream cheese cutouts provided a nice base layer to the tiered cookie platter. Vegan toffee on top, pumpkin gingersnaps and chocolate chip cookies in the middle, and cream cheese cutouts on the bottom. It’s not the holidays in my house without a side of possible diabetes.

Cream Cheese Cutouts
8 oz butter3 oz cream cheese
7 oz sugar
1/4 t salt
1 egg
1 t vanilla extract
10.625 oz all purpose flour (I used King Arthur)

Cream together butter, cream cheese, sugar, salt until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract & mix. Add flour.
Chill a few hours in the fridge.
Roll out, cut, and bake at 375F 7-10 minutes.

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Breadku:

This is tasty bread
What I wanted homemade bread
to be as a child

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Homemade bread was always great as a kid for the first hour or two out of the oven, until it turned into a hard, grainy and dry loaf later on. But these were the dark ages. Days without internet feedback with trial and error, and documented recipe nuances. I recently had a flashback of this when I tried some bread made in a bread machine at a demo, with that familiar toughness and dryness. The kind that leads to cotton mouth and easily gives way to crumbs.
This oatmeal toasting/sandwich bread from King Arthur Flour is what I always wanted in a homemade loaf of bread. It turned out wonderfully. It uses all bread flour, and a hearty cup of oats. The bread stays soft after you cut it. All hand kneaded and baked over here. I remain skeptical of a bread machine’s ability to put out a decent loaf of bread, even sandwich bread.

Half of this loaf went to a dear friend. The rest I sliced up for ease of consumption (while the Mr cringes at my knife skills, I still remain the only one in our household who is able to slice an even slice of bread from a loaf). It retained moisture overnight and made for both good toast and sandwich bread the next day. Even pre-cut it retained moisture and pliancy. Consider this a sandwich bread we’ll keep on rotation in our kitchen.

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I tweaked the recipe ever so slightly, using 1 T molasses and 1.5 T sugar in place of the 3 T sugar, and approximately 2.5-2.75 C of bread flour in total (2 mixed in initially, the remainder added during hand kneading).  Butter slathered on top for a nice and soft loaf overall. Seriously, that interior was nicely springy and soft.

Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie whole

Have you ever picked up a cook book and had almost all of the recipes sing out to you? Rosie Daykin’s Butter Baked Goods is like that for me. The book itself is gorgeous (and available at Albany Public Library!), beautifully laid out and the recipes inviting and easy to follow. When I borrowed it from my local library I worked my way through seemingly half of the recipes over the course of a week – and everything was delicious!

The Sour Cream Rhubarb pie was a delight that I’d never tried before, and cooked up beautifully. I mean, put a crumbly crust on anything and I’m sold.
Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie

And can I let you in on a little secret? I used store bought pie crust. After years of making my own I’m ready to realize my own limitations. I can’t make a pie crust to save my life lately and the premade kind is a huge time saver.

Any way, grab the book (it’s worth it), but the gist of the recipe is:
1 uncooked pie crust.

An 8 oz container of sour cream.
A bit of sugar to sweeten things up (but not too much)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
3 C rhubarb

Butter + Sugar + Flour for the crumb topping

Mix together the sour cream, sugar, eggs, and flour.
Cut the rhubarb into small pieces. Toss it in the pie crust.
Pour the sour cream mixture over it.

Bake at 375-400 for 20-30 minutes until the top sets just a little bit.

Mix together the butter + sugar + flour for a crumble, then sprinkle it over the set pie top.

Lower to 325F and bake until the crumble is lightly browned and delicious, about 30-ish minutes more.

It’s best the same day its made so that crust and crumble stay crisp. It’s also delicious if you have some leftover slices and freeze them. Oh my gosh it’s so good frozen. It’s like a delicious frozen ice pop. Even better than those pinky white strawberry shortcake ice cream bars.

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Holy moly these rolls were good. I found the recipe for Cheesy Herb Rolls on Oh, Sweet Basil.

I couldn’t not at least try to make them. Except I hardly ever have dairy milk in my pantry. But not to worry! They are easy to make with powdered milk! And SO freaking good. I should make more cow-milk rolls. That milk just makes things so tender.
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Follow the link above to Carrian’s recipe. I swapped out the 1/2 c half and half and 1/2 c milk for the equivalent of 1 C of milk using powdered milk. My herb mix was a little different. I used grated romano and whatever dried herbs I had – mainly oregano, thyme, dried onion (go with your nose. If it smells good it’ll be good as a mix).
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SO MUCH POOF

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This pumpkin tang zhong is so good, it’ll fool folks into thinking it’s a rich brioche! It’s also very lightly pumpkin-y, so it’s great for year-round eating.
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I think the little rolls of dough are so precious. Plus they wind up being tasty mini bread loaves if you choose to separate them from the main loaf.
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I used Christine’s Recipes Tangzhong Pumpkin Loaf bread. I have a scale, so this was easy to whip up for me. It’s also easy to change the original tangzhong quantities for 1 recipe’s worth of tangzhong (in the past I’ve wound up having a lot of excess tangzhong hanging around).

Here’s what I did, with a few tweaks:

120g tangzhong (22g flour + 3.5oz/98g water) mix this up, cook over medium-low heat until it become a bit pasty

100g pumpkin puree
1 egg
3.7 oz water
50g milk powder
pinch of salt
40g sugar
2 t active dry yeast
25g melted butter
350g bread flour (if you only have AP, you can toss in a 1-2T of vital wheat gluten to bump things up a bit)

You can mix everything all together (sweet), or do the traditional proof the yeast in some water and sugar, then add everything else in.

Mix it up, let it double in size (~45-60 minutes), then form into mini loaf rolls and proof in bread pans.

Before you bake it, brush it with a beaten egg to get that nice and glossy top.
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So poofy! I had to insist this was NOT brioche, but at least one person tried to insist it must be brioche because it was so tender, fluffy, and golden (thanks to the pumpkin, not tons of egg yolks).

Go forth and tang zhong!

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Dear Winter,

It’s you. Not me. Normally I love you, but this year, you’ve just been a bit too much. Please go back to being just below freezing, at say, 30F and having some fun snow around.

For those of you in the same boat, I recommend roasting up some beef brisket. I used about 4 lbs of beef brisket, salted the exterior generously, stuck in a roasting pan at 325 for a few hours with some water on the bottom, put the top on for a few hours, tossed in chopped carrots for the last 30-60 minutes of cooking.

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Sliced up and ready to eat. Fattylicious. So, this is what I’ve been doing with my winter besides hibernating. EATING ALL OF THE FOODS.

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December is here, and colder weather calls for rib-sticking, hearty meals. Kenji’s take on traditional cassoulet recipe is fantastic for a comforting, warm meal in cold weather. Read through his recipe – it’s really phenomenal writing and made me want to try this, despite not being much of a bean eater in my normal meals.  And now I have  a reason to add beans to my repertoire. It’s a really versatile recipe, too, so you could go traditional, or you could just go with what you have.
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The real revelation here is adding gelatin to boxed/canned broth or stock. It really beefs up the flavor and helps combine the liquid and beans into a creamy, rich dish. I should strive for homemade stock, but I go through more broth than chicken carcasses to make enough stock/broth, and it’s just never really worked out for this household like that. Ah well. One day. Either way, homemade stock or no, you’ll have delicious beany goodness after several hours.
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Great Northern beans, some mild italian sausage, chicken thighs, and lamb shoulder (there’s lamb nubbins in there, too) were a nice combo. The sausage was… eh, a little out of place, but it’s what was in the fridge, so it’s what went in the cassoulet. I tried this again with just lamb and chicken, and the flavor was a little lacking, so some sort of sausage or third meat is a good idea.
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As is, this makes a TON of food if you’re a 2-person household like mine. So be good at eating leftovers, or freezing. This was so good I happily ate it all week for lunch and a few dinners. Me. The lady who hates leftovers. Loved this and looked forward to it so much. It was that good.

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