For your holiday cooking: An awesome dinner roll recipe

A few weeks ago I was looking for a bread recipe to make in my bread machine. I turned, as I so often do, to Twitter, and as a result, ended up with this completely awesome dinner roll recipe, compliments of Bree, one half of the Moira Rogers writing duo. Normally, when I make rolls or bread, my family doesn’t eat more than once piece or roll. So I made this full recipe and then followed the directions in the comments for freezing a portion. I baked only 6 rolls. Umm, big mistake. These rolls were a huge hit with my family. So much so that I’ve made them two batches, and the second batch I made, I doubled, so I could freeze even more.

I didn’t adapt the actual recipe itself from the recipe on AllRecipes, but I did make smaller rolls, and I also didn’t bake them all at once, but froze some for easy baking on weeknights. So I’m including all of those directions.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry milk powder
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast

Directions

  1. Place the bread flour, sugar, salt, milk powder, water, butter, and yeast in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer (this is generally liquid first, and then the dry ingredients, with the yeast coming in last, to keep the liquids and yeast apart until the machine starts mixing). Set on Dough cycle; press Start.
  2. Remove risen dough from the machine, deflate, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into eighteen equal pieces (original recipe calls for 12 but I like reasonable sized dinner rolls), and form into rounds. Place the rounds on lightly greased baking sheets. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes to an hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) during final stages of rising.Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown.
  4. Take 1/4 stick of butter and rub over the top of fresh-out-of-oven rolls to make them shiny (and taste good!)
Some tips I picked up from the reviews:
Don’t scoop the flour out of your flour bag with your measuring cup. Spoon the flour into your measuring cup (keeps you from getting too much flour because scooping compacts into the measuring cup)
You can add dried herbs or well chopped fresh herbs to the rolls to make them a bit different. I like rosemary, oregano and basil.
If you don’t want to back the whole batch of rolls, separate what you want (I do 6-8 rolls at a time) and let only that amount rise for 40 minutes. Take the other 12 or so rolls and place them on a cookie sheet and into freezer, covered w/plastic wrap. Don’t let them rise first! Once they’re frozen, you can throw them in a freezer bag and take out the portions you want when you’re ready. Thaw them in the microwave for about 30 seconds (more if they’re still frozen after 30 seconds. The time depends on your microwave wattage). Then let them rise for 40 minutes to an hour.

Easy Christmas “Cookie”–Cracker Candy (w/gluten free option!)

2012 update: Thanks to the power of Twitter and a recommendation from Mary Ann Vadnais, this recipe now has a gluten-free option. To make gluten free, substitute the saltine crackers with Yehuda Matzo Style Squares. I’ve been told since from several people who tried this, that it worked very, very well!

2011 note: I originally posted this recipe nearly 2 years ago in 2009. It’s probably the single most popular post on this website, and I still get people asking me about this recipe, sharing the link and talking about making the cracker candy. It’s just that easy to make and just that good. So I decided to pull it back to the top for all of you who never saw it the first time. In the comments are discussions for variations, and I’ve tried them all, including the club crackers, adding crushed candy canes, etc. Honestly, my favorite cracker candy is still the kind that’s just the saltines and chocolate, not even any nuts on top. But this is a forgiving recipe, so experiment and find your own favorite way!

I think most of you are going “uh…what?”. I had never heard of cracker candy until about 3 or 4 years ago, when we did our first cookie exchange for our playgroup. My friend Jennifer did this for the exchange and I fell so madly in love with it. It’s probably just about the easiest Christmas cookie you can make (it took me twice as long to write this post as it did to make the actual candy) and super tasty.I have, in the past, made these and sent them to people who think I’m crazy when I talk about them. But the combination of the salty cracker and the butter/sugar that turns into a toffee, with the sweetness of the chocolate is so addictive! Here’s how to do it, complete with (bad) photos.

Spread out your crackers in on a jelly roll/cookie sheet pan. One with edges that you’ve lined completely with foil. Trust me on this, line the pan with foil. I decided to do a mix of soda crackers and club crackers, because I thought the buttery taste of the club crackers might be divine in this recipe.

Melt the butter, add the sugar and bring to a boil for at least three minutes. It may take a bit longer, but you’ll see it thicken and get a bit more gooey. I think there’s an official candy-making term for this. Soft ball stage? I don’t know, I’m totally making crap up now.

Warning!! Do NOT walk away from your pot. You must stand and stir the entire time or you’ll end up with a huge mess on your stove and probably burnt butter and sugar.

Pour the butter mixture over the crackers. All over the crackers. You won’t be able to get them all coated just by pouring, you’re going to have to pour it as evenly as you can (I didn’t do that and made it a little harder on myself) and then go back and spread it out with a spoon.

It should look like this, all cracker surfaces covered with butter goo. Now put the crackers in the oven on 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Set a timer. You’ll be ticked if you leave them in too long and burn them. And that can happen.

While your crackers are in the oven, grab your commercial-size can of cashews–what do you mean you don’t have one? Everyone has one, right? Well, anyway, at this stage, if you’re going to use nuts like pecans, walnuts or cashews, even peanuts, you’re going to want to chop them up.

Like this. I used my handy countertop Black and Decker chopper. You’ll see this featured a lot in my cooking posts. I just chopped the cashews until they were appropriate for topping. I use cashews because I like them best, but you can use whatever you want. A cup of cashews unchopped resulted in enough chopped cashews for the entire pan of cracker candy.

Here’s a shot of the crackers in the oven. This was longer than five minutes because I had to run upstairs and tuck Brianna in.

I pulled them out of the oven, see how they look kind of brown? That’s not bad, but you don’t really want them to get any darker than that. Don’t try to go for any particular color. Just bake them for five minutes and pull them out.

Now sprinkle the chocolate chips over as soon as you pull them from the oven. I also had an industrial size bag of dark chocolate chips (hey, I shop at Sam’s Club) so I had to guess at how many to put on, but it’s hard to have too much chocolate. I use dark because it’s my favorite. The chips will begin to melt immediately, but get them sprinkled on and then worry about spreading. You have lots of time. I spread one side out, the other side looks like they’re still formed but really they’re melted too. Spread the chocolate evenly. I had to move some around because I had a bare spot after I was done.

Look to see if anyone is around.

Lick the spatula. You’re done with it, it’s okay. Now put it in the sink and wipe the chocolate off the corner of your mouth. Be glad no one saw you.

At this point, you can just leave your cracker candy naked. You don’t have to do anything more to it if you don’t want. You can be done now.

I added cashews to only half, because I do like naked cracker candy too. Instead of adding nuts, this year Jennifer added Christmas color candy sprinkles to hers. I almost put some fancy sea salt on one corner of this, because dark chocolate and sea salt? Yum. But I didn’t want to get the salt out (I’m lazy).

Now the hard part. Waiting. Let it cool in the fridge or freezer. Possibly overnight on the counter if it’s cool in your house, but you might need to stash it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up. You don’t want the chocolate to be soft at all. You want it totally set. Now break it apart. You can be anal and break it into the cracker squares, or you can just break it into random pieces. It really doesn’t matter. It all tastes the same. Addictive. Oh, and next time? I’m making them all with club crackers. The extra buttery taste made them insane!

Cracker Candy

35-40 Saltines
2 sticks of salted butter -do NOT use margarine
1/4 cup sugar (I use white but some people use brown. Your call!)
1 bag of milk (or semi or dark) chocolate morsels
Sliced almonds or any other nuts

Line cookie sheet with foil (sides too). Lay saltines side by side in one layer, sides touching. Melt butter, add sugar and boil 3 minutes. Drizzle over crackers, (keep crackers together). Bake 5 minutes @ 400°. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate over baked crackers. They will start to melt – spread over crackers. Sprinkle top with nuts. Refrigerate until cold, even overnight. Break into pieces.

Summer cooking: Deviled Eggs

So deviled eggs are actually a year-round side dish in our house, because it’s one thing that everyone will eat, amazingly enough. There’s something just so…yum about deviled eggs. What is it? I rarely follow a recipe when I make them, although I sometimes use this recipe as a starting point. But I don’t measure (anything) and I go simply by taste. Honestly, I think this is the best way!

Ingredients:

12 hard boiled eggs (I use this method of hard boiling), peeled and rinsed.

prepared horseradish

sweet relish

brown mustard

mayonnaise

celery salt

pepper

paprika

Directions:

1. Cut eggs in half lengthwise, scoop out yolk into a bowl and put whites on a platter.

2. Using a fork, smoosh egg yolks until reasonably smooth. If you want really, really smooth deviled eggs, you could use a hand mixer, but really, who has that time and who cares about a few lumps?

3. Add in approximately 1/4 cup mayo to start, plus about a Tbsp of sweet relish and brown mustard each. Mix. Add more of each to your personal taste.You may want more mayo or mustard especially.

4. Toss in about a tsp of horseradish, mix and taste. Depending on how much heat you like, and how hot your horseradish is, you may want more.

5. Salt (celery salt) and pepper to taste. At this stage you may also want to add a squeeze of lemon juice, for something different.

6. Scrape mixture into a sandwich bag. Cut corner of sandwich bag off and pipe into egg whites (confession, when I’m in a hurry I just scoop it in with a spoon, rather than using a sandwich bag. Might not be pretty, but it tastes the same!)

7. Sprinkle lightly with smoky paprika and either chill or serve immediately.

There are a TON of variations of the deviled egg recipe out there. Really, it’s all about trial and error and getting it to your taste. There’s no right or wrong way.

And now I wish I had some deviled eggs. Writing this made me hungry!

 

 

Cooking the Books: @BookEndsJessica’s Pink Vodka Sauce

A tried and true recipe from Jessica Faust of BookEnds Lit Agency. She said she had a lot of recipes to choose from, but this one is such an old favorite that she had to share it.

Pink Sauce
–typically called Vodka Sauce, but when you have kids everything comes down to color.
Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter
1 medium onion diced
1 medium carrot, grated finely
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 cup vodka
2 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes, diced.
2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream
Directions:

1. Heat butter in a large heavy pan. When bubbles have ceased add onion and carrot and saute until soft, about 10 minutes.

2. Add garlic. The more you mince the garlic the stronger the garlic flavor. I like using a garlic press. Add thyme and red pepper. Cook for about 1 minute.

3. Add vodka and cook down until almost dry. About 10 minutes.

4. Add diced tomatoes with their juices. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes.

5. Add cream. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes.

6. Salt and pepper to taste.

We typically serve over a pasta like ziti or penne and I love to serve roasted eggplant on the side.

Jessica Faust is a literary agent and owner of BookEnds Literary Agency where she represents a number of award-winning and bestselling authors in the areas of romance, mystery, women’s fiction, young adult, fantasy and nonfiction.

Jessica has been a regular columnist with Romantic Times magazine and taught at New York University’s Continuing Education Program, been recognized as Agent of the Year by the NYC Romance Writers of America chapter, and maintains daily blog posts on the BookEnds Lit Agency blog where she regularly dispenses advice on publishing.

You can contact Jessica directly through the BookEnds web site at www.bookends-inc.com  or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BookEndsJessica.

Cooking App review (and giveaway): Paprika!

Weeks ago, I was reading a review of a list of cooking apps and two iPad apps that I hadn’t heard of drew my eye. One was Pepperplate and the other Paprika. After reading the iTunes store reviews, I decided to try Paprika (side note: I hate that you can’t sample apps, especially when we get over the $5 price range. I might still like Pepperplate but now that I have Paprika, it gets even more expensive to try Pepperplate).

I must admit, I’m a sucker for cooking apps. I guess maybe it’s my love of cookbooks transferring itself to my love of gadgets and the iPad? I did thin out my cookbooks recently, for the first time in years, because I’ve found myself relying more and more on recipes found on the internet, where I can get reviews and suggested revisions. And this is where Paprika is full of awesome and comes into play.

The Paprika developer page describes Paprika as a recipe management app that “lets you manage *your* recipes”.

And it does do that, and does it quite well (with two quibbles on my end that I’ll discuss later). I’m going to walk you through some of my favorite features, with tons of screenshots.

First, the initial beauty of this app, as you compile your recipes, is tied into having wifi access, so it’s not an app that you would use immediately offline. You need to first start importing your recipes from various websites and browsers. For me, this meant opening the browser within the app and then navigating to my favorite recipe sites (of which I have many).The browser comes pre-populated with some cooking sites pre-bookmarked. You can then add your own bookmarks. I added my own site (since I have a separate recipe page I often access for my own use), Allrecipes.com, Pioneer Woman, Serious Eats, King Arthur’s Flour, Fine Cooking and a few other blogs and foodie sites I like to grab recipes from. Once I had these bookmarked, I knew I could download a bunch of recipes I use often immediately into Paprika.

So there are two options for importing your recipes (and the missing third is one of my quibbles). First, you can navigate to the website and hit the “Save Recipe” button in the upper right corner. If the website you’re on is one of the sites recognized by Paprika, it will automatically save and import the recipe, complete with ingredients, directions, picture and details into your Paprika library.

And it will end up looking like this:

The other option, if the site is not one recognized by Paprika (you can email to request a site be added. They make it easy to do) is to help Paprika define the parts and create the recipe. This is lovely because it’s all just highlighting and tapping a button. No typing required. For example, Paprika doesn’t recognize my site as one of its main sites (of course) so to import my own recipes, I simply highlight first the name, then the ingredients, then the directions and last a picture, after I highlight each section, I tap “Copy Name/Ingredient/Directions” (see below) and it saves that part

If you want to save an image to go with the recipe, you simply click on that image and it gives you the option of copying it (for insertion into the recipe) or saving it to your photo library. Once you have all of the parts copied, as you can see in the bottom area the arrows are pointing to in the photo below, you hit “Create Recipe”

Once you’ve done that, it shows up in your recipe file looking like this (plus an image if you’ve saved one. I didn’t because I didn’t have a photo of it on my site)

One of the things I like about creating a recipe within Paprika is that it saves the URL of where you got the recipe and once you’re in the recipe, you actually have the option of viewing it online again, in case you want to read the comments/reviews.

Once you have your recipe(s) saved into Paprika manager, there’s a lot you can do to organize, sort, categorize and use them. First, you can add as many custom categories as you want, and add each recipe to as many of those as you’d like, so when you’re browsing your recipes, you can browse by a specific category.Or by browsing your favorites.

In addition, you can easily edit every recipe once it’s imported, to change the recipe, ingredients, directions or to update the prep time, cook time, servings and additional information. You can also add notes to your recipes that you don’t want to appear within the recipe itself, but rather as side notes:

Not only that, but you can create a daily or weekly menu, and from that menu create a grocery list. Or, alternately, if you don’t want to create a menu, but want to add a recipe’s ingredients to a grocery list, you can do that as well. Or email yourself a meal plan. The grocery list also has some options, so you can manage that list, email it, print it, etc.

If you look at every recipe, both in a list and individually, you see they all have symbols under them. From left to right those symbols allow you to: add to menu, add a note, favorite, add to grocery list, email and delete. Tapping add to menu, favorite, add to grocery list again will remove them from those lists. And as you can see below, you can also search your recipes not just by name, but also by ingredient.

In addition to emailing yourself the meal plan, you can also email recipes from within the app. So maybe your friend Sarah is asking for your Sausage and Lentil Soup, you can email it to her!

Last, one very cool feature that I can’t screenshot, but can only tell you about, is that Paprika overrides your iPad’s normal screen lock settings. So if you’re in the middle of cutting up raw meat and have messy hands, your iPad won’t suddenly go dark because the screen lock settings have kicked in. As long as you’re viewing a recipe in Paprika, your iPad stays on. Love. This. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to swipe my screen with the back of my knuckles while cooking, because screen lock had kicked in.

There are some other random settings you can utilize, including the font size of the recipes (up to EXTRA LARGE) and doing a manual backup.

I mentioned there’s two quibbles I have with Paprika. One is a method of saving that I think is missing from Paprika, and that’s importing recipes that you’ve saved off the websites. I have a large collection of recipes I’ve saved to my computer that I’d love to import into Paprika. This missing feature is what makes Paprika a four star instead of five star app for me, because recipe management is dependent on my recipes either being on the web, to import, or me typing them in by hand (blech).

The second quibble is their cloud syncing option. In order to sync to the cloud, you have to spend another $10/year for this feature, and you don’t even get to sync to the cloud of your choice (like Dropbox or SugarSync) but their own Paprika cloud. I’d like to be able to sync to my own account on Dropbox, please, and not have to pay to do so since I already paid $10 for the app.

Regardless, despite these two quibbles, I do give Paprika 4 of 5 stars, and would change that to 5 stars in a heartbeat if I could more easily import recipes from offline. And if you’re someone who finds themselves hoarding recipes from online (as I do) I heartily recommend this iPad-only app even at the current price tag of $9.99. For interest’s sake, I’ll point out that this app gets an average 4 1/2 star rating so I’m not the only one who loves it.

Thanks to the developers of Paprika, Hindsight Labs LLC, I have a code to give away for a free download of Paprika, a $9.99 value. All you have to do to enter is tell me your favorite online recipe or foodie blog/source/forum/site. I’ll draw the winner via random.org on Friday, February 25th. Please be sure to use a valid email address when leaving your comment, because I’ll use that to notify you that you’ve won. Giveaway is open to everyone, even if you’ve won something here before. And if you don’t win, I hope you’ll consider buying because this is one awesome recipe manager app.

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