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.

Sunday cooking: Gumbo

Last week, I asked Twitter for a gumbo recipe and I got a bunch of responses and several very helpful people emailing me recipes. I think it’s safe to say that I looked at well over 30 different recipes. Eventually, I ended up going with this recipe from Paula Deen, with some of my own adaptations, because it had the exact ingredients I wanted to use, and very straightforward directions. I think if you follow Paula’s recipe, you can’t go wrong, but I did make some changes to suit it to my family’s tastes, so my recipe follows

Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp Gumbo

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breast, cubed
  • Tony Chachere Creole Seasoning
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Tony Chachere Instant roux mix
  • 2 tablespoons margarine
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1-2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 10 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 bunch flat leaf parsley, stems and leaves, coarsely chopped, plus chopped leaves for garnish
  • 5 cups hot water
  • 2 Tbsp chicken base (combined with hot water, this creates chicken stock. You can substitute canned broth instead)
  • 1 (14-ounce can) petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 pound small raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions

1. Season the chicken with Tony Chachere Creole Seasoning (no set amount, be generous, about 2 Tbsp)

2. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook cubed chicken until browned. Do not cook all the way through. Remove chicken from pot w/slotted spoon and reserve in bowl to side.

3. Add the sausage to oil and cook until browned, then remove to same bowl as chicken.

4. Sprinkle the flour and Tony Chachere Roux mix over the oil, add 2 tablespoons of margarine and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until brown, about 10 minutes. Let roux cool slightly. (Important note I learned in my reading: use margarine, not butter. Butter burns more easily and when you’re cooking something that needs to be cooked awhile, like roux, it’s easier if you don’t use butter.) Don’t panic if things seem to be sticking to the bottom of your dutch oven. This is totally normal. Once you add the butter, and then the hot water, most of this will integrate back into your dish for an amazing flavor!

5. Return the Dutch oven to low heat and melt 3 tbsp butter with the roux. Add the onion, garlic and green pepper and cook for 10 minutes.

6. Add Worcestershire sauce, ground pepper and cayenne pepper, and the 1/4 bunch parsley. Cook, while stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.

7. During this 10 minute cook period, heat the 5 cups of water in a tea kettle.

8. Slowly add 5 cups hot water and chicken paste, whisking constantly as you add..

9. Add the chicken and sausage. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

10. Add tomatoes (if you want to add okra, this would be the place to add it. My family doesn’t like it so I omitted). Cover and simmer for 1 hour.

11. Add shrimp and another 1/4 bunch chopped parsley. Simmer 1/2 hour.

12. Start rice when you add shrimp. At the end of half hour, dish rice into a bowl and serve gumbo over rice. Enjoy!

Notes: Paula’s original recipe called for celery (cooked celery = blech), okra (I omitted) and beef bouillon instead of chicken paste. Most gumbo recipes I saw used chicken stock, so I went with the chicken instead. And I always use paste, in place of broth/bouillon, because it’s easy and tasty.

I also added the Tony Chachere’s seasoning, roux and red pepper, so my version adds some spice and heat that hers otherwise wouldn’t have. If you wanted it more spicy, you could add more Chachere’s seasoning or red pepper. You could also use spicy sausage but the andouille sausage is pretty yummy. I chose to go with a moderate spice this time, as a baseline, and I was pretty happy with it.

I have to say, this gumbo was delicious!

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!

 

 

Summer cooking: Spicy Fish Tacos with Corn Salsa

I love fish tacos and it’s hard to find good ones where I am. Odd, since I’m near the ocean. But I’m in Maryland, and I must say that California (and Arizona and Texas) have much better fish tacos than around me. So I went searching for a recipe, and came up with this one from AllRecipes.com. Of course, I promptly changed it, but still. Loved it! Warning: these are spicy. If you want not spicy, you’ll need to change the seasoning on the fish.

Ingredients:

    For Salsa:
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1 cup peeled, chopped jicama*
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper (I omitted.)
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • For Fish:

  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoons salt
  • 6 (4 ounce) fillets tilapia (I used about a pound and 3/4) You don’t have to use tilapia, any white fish will work, including cod and catfish.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 flour tortillas, warmed (original recipe called for corn. Blech!)
  • For sauce:

  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • leftover spices (anything you didn’t sprinkle on fish, or to taste)
  • 1/2 jalapeno
  • rest of cilantro (will probably be about 1/2 to 1 cup after you add 1 cup to salsa)
  • salt to taste
  • a dash of olive oil

*Jicama can be a bit difficult to find. Don’t look for it in Walmart, you’re going to have to go to a grocery store with a good produce section. I found mine separated from the other veggies, where they sell some of the more exotic veggies. If you’ve never had jicama, and are worried you won’t like it, or should skip it, don’t. It’s a tuber, one with a very subtle, almost sweet flavor. Once it gets in the salsa, you know it’s there, but it doesn’t have an overwhelming taste, and it adds a fantastic, and necessary, crunch. The salsa wouldn’t be the same without it.

1. Mix together cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Sneeze repeatedly like I did from pepper floating through air. Don’t sneeze on the food. Brush fish with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with seasoning mix. The heavier you coat, the spicier it will be. Set aside.

2. Mix corn (I boiled corn on the cob and then stripped it from the cobs. You could use leftover corn or corn from the can, but fresh is best!), red onion (yes, red, not white or yellow, red), cilantro, jicama and lime juice in a bowl. This is your corn salsa and it’s amazing.

3. Grill or fry the fish fillets. I fried mine, using no more olive oil than I brushed on the fillets. It was perfect!

4. While you’re grilling/frying the fish, prepare the sauce. I used my mini food processor (have we talked about my love for this thing?) but you can use a blender or regular food process. Put all of the ingredients in the mini food processor and combine until in liquid form. This should be to your taste, so test it and add ingredients as you want. It’s meant to be a combination of spicy and cooling. I felt mine had too much lime this time (I used a whole lime) so next time I’ll use only half. You could add more sour cream, if you wanted to stretch it. Put the sauce in a bowl or squeeze bottle.

5. Serve the fish tacos. Lay out flour tortillas. Let hungry folk top their tortilla with fish, then salsa and sauce. Can also serve plain sour cream alongside.

6. Drink with beer to reduce spicy effect. Enjoy!

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