Monthly Archives: December 2012

Shaker Chicken and Noodle Soup with Biscuits

Chicken noodle soup.

If those words immediately paint a mental picture of Mom opening a red and white can, and settling in at the lunch table after a morning spent building a snow fort in the backyard with the neighborhood gang, then you’re a Campbell’s Kid.

When we were growing up, soup came out of cans – period. And almost always, those cans were plain red and white, script on top, gold label in the middle, block letters down below.

Never mind the fancy pictures, callouts to Facebook, or offers of recipes or coupons inside the label. Campbell’s told you all you needed to know: there’s chicken noodle soup in this can.

Like this. Heat and eat.

But notice the can also says “condensed” – woe betide the eager youngster who dumped the soup into a pot on the stove (no microwave back then), heated it, and took a big mouthful, WITHOUT first adding water.

EWWWWW….

I’ve pretty much grown beyond Campbell’s soup these days. Nothing wrong with it; my husband, who will ALWAYS choose store-bought over homemade, still loves it.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to love homemade soup. I appreciate the absence of that faint eau de tin can offered by supermarket soups; and I like being able to adjust flavor and consistency to taste.

Still, chicken noodle soup holds a special place in my heart, wrapped up as it is in memories of snowball fights, sodden woollen mittens, and black galoshes that did absolutely nothing to keep your feet warm.

Clomping onto the porch, using numb fingers to unfasten the icy metal clips on your boots, shrugging out of a wet jacket, and seeing a kitchen table set with buttered bread and steaming bowls of soup – just writing these words, I can still feel the pure comfort of hot food, a warm kitchen, and a simple agenda of school, play, family meals, bedtime stories, and 8 hours of peaceful sleep.

You can’t go home again; and really, who wants to? But you can certainly re-create one of childhood’s favorite soups: chicken noodle. This version is a rich, creamy/brothy soup with big wide noodles and fat chunks of chicken. Add oven-hot biscuits, and you’re talking comfort food at its best.

Are you a Campbell’s Kid?

Come along with me.

The first thing we’re going to do is make a flavorful base for the soup.

In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup chicken stock with 2 tablespoons dry vermouth and 2 tablespoons butter. Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid to about 1/4 cup.

The mixture will be syrupy.

Stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream, and set the mixture aside.

Prefer not to use vermouth? Alcohol is a flavor carrier, so you’ll definitely lose a bit of flavor; but substitute extra broth or water for the vermouth, if desired.

In a larger saucepan, bring 6 cups (48 ounces) chicken stock to a boil.

Add 2 cups egg noodles, and cook until the noodles are tender, 7 to 8 minutes (or whatever the noodle package says).

While the soup is simmering, start preheating your oven to 425°F; you’re going to be baking biscuits shortly.

Whisk together 1/3 cup (1 3/8 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour and 2/3 cup water, and stir into the noodle/broth mixture.

Allow the soup to boil for 1 to 2 minutes, then stir in the cream mixture, and 1 cup (or more) diced cooked chicken.

Season to taste with salt; I lean towards saltier soups, and since I’d used a lower-sodium canned broth, I added 1 teaspoon salt. But start with less than you think you’ll need; clearly, it’s easier to add more salt than to add less.

Add black pepper if you like, too; though I usually enjoy black pepper, I don’t like the speckled appearance it gives this soup, so I’m leaving it out.

Cover the soup, turn off the burner, and let it sit at the back of the stove while you bake the biscuits.

Which is a ridiculously easy proposition, if you have self-rising flour.

Mix 1 cup (4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Self-Rising Flour with 1/2 cup heavy cream.

Stir to combine. Break off pieces of dough, and gently pat into flattened rounds. Place in a lightly greased pan.

Bake the biscuits in a preheated 425°F oven for 10 to 14 minutes, or until they’re a light golden brown. While the biscuits are baking, check the soup; if it doesn’t seem warm enough, set it over a low burner while the biscuits bake.

Are we ready to sit down at the table?

Hot soup.

Hot biscuits.

Ladle into bowls.

Enjoy!

OK, let’s talk a bit more about those biscuits – because I know you have questions.

“What if I don’t have self-rising flour?”

No problem; follow our recipe for David Lee’s Biscuits, which uses unbleached all-purpose flour.

“Can I make the biscuits ahead?”

Sure. Make anytime, and reheat for about 8 to 10 minutes in a preheated 350°F oven just before serving.

Or make the dough, shape into biscuits, and freeze. Just before serving, bake frozen biscuits for 12 to 16 minutes in a preheated 425°F oven, or until they’re golden.

“Can I make biscuits with whole wheat flour?”

Absolutely. Make our Whole Wheat-Walnut Biscuits, leaving out the walnuts, if desired; and substituting whole wheat flour OR all-purpose flour for the grape seed flour (unless you happen to have some grape seed flour kicking around).

Any other questions? Call our baker’s hotline, 802-649-3717. We’re always happy to chat.

Read, make, and review (please) our recipe for Shaker Chicken and Noodle Soup.

Print just the recipe.

Holiday Appetizers

Apps.

It’s a semi-word thrown around quite easily these days, usually referring to smart phone applications (“apps”) like Instagram, Words with Friends, or Angry Birds (which apparently is at the top of the app popularity totem pole).

But when the holidays roll around, “app” means only one thing to me: appetizer, quite possibly my favorite food group.

Chips and dip, cheese and crackers, crostini and baked artichoke spread… Anything crunchy/salty/savory paired with anything rich/creamy/spreadable is a welcome break from the holiday cookies, candy, and other sweets so ubiquitous right about now.

So, without further ado, enjoy this tasty baker’s dozen of our favorite holiday appetizers. Bet you can’t make just one!

Flaky Cheese Twists (pictured above) – These tender, assertively cheesy pastries are absolutely addictive. And even better, they’re made from puff pastry dough that’s ridiculously simple to make. See step-by-step instructions.

Herb and Garlic Puffs – Have you ever made cream puff shells? These are the same thing, only accented with  herbs and garlic, then deep fried. Enjoy these delightful little treats with plain mayonnaise – or its garlicky cousin, aioli.

Spicy Garlic Nuts – Is holiday prep making you nuts? Then GO nuts! Baking nuts brings out their wonderful flavor; and when you add garlic oil, pepper, chili powder, and other spices, you create an irresistible treat. See step-by-step instructions.

Cheesy Pepperoni Bites – Cheese, onions, and pepperoni, all wrapped up in a tiny, tender biscuit: bite-sized pizza!

Vermont Cheese Crackers – Sure, you can buy cheese crackers at the supermarket. But there’s something about making your own crisp, fresh-baked crackers that’s just SO satisfying… See step-by-step directions.

Baked Zucchini Sticks and Sweet Onion Dip – Here’s a guilt-free way to enjoy the crunchy outside (and juicy inside) of a restaurant-style zucchini stick. This is our top-ranked appetizer recipe – don’t miss it! See step-by-step instructions.

Garlic and Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms – No self-respecting appetizer roundup could fail to include baked stuffed mushrooms. Our version includes flavored olive oil, cheese, garlic, and crunchy Panko bread crumbs.

Pizza Twists – These chewy yeast bread sticks filled with cheese and herbs make wonderful appetizers. Or serve with a salad or soup for a quick and light holiday meal.

Crunchy Crackers – You know those absolutely delicious Doctor Kracker crackers you see at the store? Here’s our wonderfully tasty clone. See step-by-step instructions.

Hot Popper Dip – This dip has all the great spicy flavors of hot poppers, but without stuffing or frying. It comes together in a snap, and can be made ahead, then reheated in the oven or microwave. See step-by-step instructions.

Spicy Jalapeño-Cheddar Mini Muffins – These savory mini muffins make a quick and easy appetizer. Or serve them with a pot of chili at your post-sledding supper party – the possibilities are endless.

Taco Dip – This dip combines the cool crunch of lettuce with black beans and a creamy, spicy cheese layer. It’s perfect for scooping with homemade toasted pita chips.

Self-Rising Garlic Sticks – Easy biscuit dough is shaped into sticks, bathed in garlic butter, then baked up into soft, pull-apart biscuit sticks. If you’re a fan of garlic bread, you’ll love this appetizer version.

And there you have it – everything you need for nibbling, snacking, grazing, and noshing. Happy holidays from the app elves here at King Arthur Flour!

Prime Rib and Yorkshire Pudding

Have you ever enjoyed prime rib?

If you’re not a vegetarian, and enjoy going out to eat – I’d guess the answer is yes. Most of us have given in to the tantalizing $9.99 prime rib special at some point in our lives.

But have you ever roasted a prime rib at home? And served it, in all its tender, juicy glory, alongside a baked stuffed potato, asparagus, and wonderfully tender, pillowy soft Yorkshire pudding?

I’d guess the answer is no.

Too challenging? Not when you follow these 10 easy steps to a gala feast that’s totally attainable by the home cook.

1) Buy your roast. You want a standing rib roast or prime rib roast; same thing, different names. This cut usually won’t just be sitting around in the meat case, so ask one of the guys in white coats behind the meat counter to help you.

First you’ll be asked, “How many ribs?” Two is the smallest you want to go; most people prefer at least three ribs, to ensure even cooking.

You’ll also probably be asked, “Bone in or bone out?” I like to cook roasts – chicken, or beef – with the bone in, as I feel the bone lends flavor. (Plus, the dog is in for a real treat if I’ve cooked a bone-in beef roast.) But if you’re uneasy carving around a big bone, ask for the roast to be de-boned.

Now, this is NOT an inexpensive cut – I happened to get mine on sale for $4.99/lb.; usually they’re more than that. Be ready for some possible sticker shock.

Also, be prepared to invite friends for dinner, if you’re just a couple; even a small roast will easily feed 5 to 6 people. I chose a two-rib roast, and it fed four, with plenty of leftovers.

Click anywhere on this picture to enlarge it to full size – this will work for any of the photos you see in this blog post.

2) Rub the roast all over with your favorite herbs. I’m using rosemary, thyme, and parsley here, plus chopped garlic. Wrap loosely and refrigerate overnight, or until you’re ready to cook – though not longer than a day or two.

Next up: roasting. Put the meat in a lightly greased pan, as shown above; I’m using a 9″ x 13″ pan. Roast in a preheated 450°F oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325°F and continue to roast until it’s as done as you like.

A meat thermometer or instant-read thermometer is your best friend here, and really the only way to tell for sure when the roast is as done as you like. Measure by inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat; don’t let it touch the bone.

When the roast reaches your chosen temperature, remove it from the oven, tent it loosely with foil, and keep it cozy on the back of the stove while you make the Yorkshire pudding and prepare the rest of the meal. The roast will continue to cook a bit as it rests; and will lose less juice when you carve it.

So, what’s your desired temperature? Here are some guidelines.

120°F-125°F – rare (deep red in the middle, pink around the edges).
130°F-135°F – medium rare (very pink center, fading to tan around the edges)
140°F-145°F – medium (light pink center, brown edges)
150°F-155°F – medium well (no pink at all; tan in the center, brown edges)
over 155°F – well done (brown all the way through)

VERY broadly speaking, your two- or three-rib roast will take 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours to reach the degree of doneness you like.

While the meat is roasting, you’re not going to be sitting idly by – there’s plenty to do besides sip wine and schmooze with your friends!

3) Set the table.

I know you can do a better job than this! I love to cook, but setting a fancy table? Not up my alley.

As you can see from the reflection in the door, though, our friends’ senior-citizen Golden, Silvio, was pretty interested.

4) Ready whatever else you’re going to serve.

Baked stuffed potatoes are simple to make ahead; I always keep a stash in the freezer, ready to thaw and heat whenever the occasion presents itself. All I do is microwave whole, scrubbed potatoes; slice in half lengthwise; scoop out the flesh; mash with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and salt; and stuff back into the skins.

And asparagus is a snap – literally. Snap off the woody ends; yes, just snap them off, they’ll break where they naturally choose to, which is usually an inch or two from the end. Lay the spears on a large, microwave-safe plate; and cover with a glass cover, or plastic wrap if you don’t worry about using plastic in the microwave. Set them aside until you’re carving the roast.

5) Make the batter for Yorkshire pudding.

You’ve heard of Yorkshire pudding, right? It’s an absolute Sunday roast must-have in the UK. And it’s not complicated: flour, milk, eggs, and salt, whisked together and poured into the pan from which you’ve just removed your crusty brown roast. While the roast rests, the pudding bakes and PUFFS.

And if this sounds suspiciously like popovers, you’re absolutely right; they’re basically one and the same, though popovers are made in individual servings, and Yorkshire pudding bakes in your roasting pan.

Yorkshire Pudding: Whisk together 1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Beat 2 large eggs and 1 cup milk until well combined. Beat the liquid into the dry ingredients until it’s smooth and frothy. Let this mixture stand at room temperature while the roast cooks.

6) Take the perfectly cooked roast out of the oven. As the cook and baker, feel free to nibble on some of those crusty edges; but DO NOT cut a slice, even a small one. As the roast rests, the juices settle back into the meat, making it much juicier on your plate.

Tent the roast with foil, and set it at the back of the stove while you bake the Yorkshire pudding and cook the side dishes.

Turn the oven up to 400°F and place the pan back in the oven to heat up until the drippings are just beginning to smoke.

7) Bake the Yorkshire pudding.

Some folks like to drain most of the fat out of the roasting pan before adding the pudding batter. Do so if you wish; but I feel, in for a penny, in for a pound – this isn’t a low-calorie dinner, so I leave a good bit of fat, along with the brown drippings, in the pan.

Pour the batter into the hot pan, tilting the pan so the batter covers the bottom. I’ve used a 9″ x 13″ pan here; that’s about the right size for this amount of batter, though you could go up to about 10″ x 14″, if you like.

The fat and batter will naturally mingle; there’s no need to stir. Your goal is to pop that hot pan back into the oven ASAP.

Set your timer for 25 minutes, and turn your attention to the vegetables.

if the potatoes are at room temperature already, place them in a pan, tent with foil, and put them in the oven alongside the pudding. Alternatively, warm them in the microwave for a few minutes just before serving.

Asparagus cooks wonderfully well in the microwave. I find 2 to 4 minutes is all it needs; the stalks remain bright green, and tweaking the time just a bit yields anything from snapping crisp to nicely soft.

8 ) Carve the roast. My husband carved this nice, thick slab, then cut off a bite before I could take its picture!

Cut around the bone, if you’ve cooked a bone-in roast. Lay slices on a warm serving platter.

“Did someone mention a BONE?”

9) After 25 minutes, or when it looks like this, take the Yorkshire pudding out of the oven. Cut it into big squares.

10) Sit down. Pass the food. Pour the wine. Enjoy!

Here’s to a happy holiday dinner for one and all. To quote Tiny Tim at the end of A Christmas Carol, “God bless us, every one.”

Behind the scenes

[Ed. note: This is the debut blog post for Amber Eisler, a veteran of our King Arthur Flour Bakery and currently an instructor in our Baking Education Center. Welcome, Amber!]

It’s no secret, we have gingerbread on our minds here at King Arthur Flour. From our demo kitchen to our baker’s hotline, construction gingerbread and royal icing are the buzz words. And, the Baking Education Center is no exception! So what exactly happens in a 2-day gingerbread class? Let’s look and see.

The stage is set for our guest instructor, Susan Purdy, and her daughter  Cassandra (who have been making gingerbread houses together for almost 40 years!). They traveled from Connecticut to teach in our recently renovated Baking Education Center.

The students arrive, don their aprons, and gather around the instructor’s bench as Susan demonstrates step one: mixing the gingerbread dough.

Look at that dough!

Now, it’s the students’ turn. Measure carefully. Mix. Roll. Cut. Bake!

Building a gingerbread house is a perfect family activity, and in this class we have five parent/child pairs working together. The youngest student in this class is 9. Isn’t it great to see young budding bakers!

While the gingerbread cools, let’s look at the loot and get our creative juices flowing. Everyone draws up decorating plans, and that wraps up day one.

Dream sweet dreams. We’ll see you in the morning!

Day two: A light dusting of snow overnight adds to the Christmas-y ambiance. Inside it’s warm and bright, and time to make the royal icing. Here we’re making a thick version of royal icing using meringue powder. This will be the glue that holds everything together.

Assembling the houses takes teamwork and steady hands.

Thanks to our quick-drying royal icing “mortar,” soon after construction is complete the house is sturdy enough to decorate. Now the fun really begins!

Beautiful piping! Notice the technique: squeeze with right hand, gently guide the pastry bag with the left hand. These kids are amazing!

Father and son executing their design.

This is hard work!

Ready for a break? Let’s do lunch. Everyone enjoys soup and salads prepared by the King Arthur Café, and good conversation. But, not for too long. The houses are really coming together now and everyone is anxious to finish.

Susan and Cassandra circulate the classroom assisting the students. Expert advice certainly elevates these works of art. But, what impresses me the most about this weekend was the teamwork and creativity that each family brought to the baking bench. Every house was a unique, festive masterpiece.

Thank you, Susan and Cassandra Purdy, and all of the families, for making this weekend a success. And, thanks to our BEC assistant, Karen, for doing all of the cleanup!

Oh, one last thing, I have to tell you about the de-construction tradition in the Purdy household. At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, all the children gather ’round the gingerbread house. With a hammer…  And everyone takes a bite or two, to start the new year on a sweet note! What are your family’s gingerbread traditions?

Interested in attending classes here at our Norwich, Vermont campus? From novice to pro, we have a class for you. Check out our course calendar for more information.

Gluten-Free Lava Cakes

There’s something about warm chocolate melting inside a moist, dark, rich cake that never seems to go out of style.

For years it has been a regular on dessert menus standing alongside its only relentless competitor, creme brulée. Now you can see its tempting face on the front of baking mix boxes promoted by words like decadence, indulgence, and molten.

We call it lava cake. For all the chocolate-crazed dessert lovers out there, THIS is your gig!

Timeless and simple it may be as a dessert celebrity, but it does demand careful clock-watching in the kitchen. Like a soufflé, this type of dessert ages exponentially by the minute after it’s pulled from the oven – the lava firms up, and so does the magic. :(

For the perfect balance of cake and chocolate volcanic eruption meltdown, try this fun recipe using our gluten-free chocolate cake mix.

Start by preheating your oven to 375°F. Whisk 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons gluten-free chocolate cake mix, 1/8 cup cocoa (Dutch-process or natural), 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder together in a medium-sized bowl.

Add 3 tablespoons hot water and 6 tablespoons melted butter, and stir until just combined.

The secret to lava cakes is to minimize the amount of air in the batter, so gentle stirring, please.

Whisk in the egg slowly with an efficient, non-dramatic motion until completely emulsified. The less air that sneaks into this batter, the better!

Lightly grease three silicone baking cups.

Spoon some batter into each cup, so they’re about 1/3 full. For some added chocolate joy, I dropped two lusciously smooth bittersweet disks into the batter halfway through filling each cup. Chocolate overload? No such thing!

Top each cup off with more batter so that they’re about 2/3 full.

Bake the cakes for 14 minutes. When you pull them from the oven, you’ll notice that they look underbaked – which is a good sign that the lava factor will be high! The cakes should reach an internal temperature of about 165°F and appear to have a quarter sized circle in the center that moves when shaken back and forth.

Wait 5 minutes before turning the cakes out. Dumping them out onto a plate immediately will cause the cakes to collapse and the centers to ooze out before you’re ready; and let’s face it, who wants to miss out on the satisfaction that they baked a most perfect molten cake that when cut, will release the most heavenly river of warm liquid chocolate? You’ll want to hear the chorus of ooohs and ahhs emerging from your guests as they cut into and take their first bites.

Doesn’t baking ask for so much of our patience? “Wait until cool before cutting!” “Allow to rise for 1-1/2 hours before baking.” “Chill overnight before serving.” But really, what’s 5 minutes in the grand scheme of this already simple production for such a heavenly chocolate reward?

Nothing, really. It’s all about self-control. In the meantime, you can plate up some sauces like crème anglaise or raspberry purée to accompany your delicious indulgence, or whip some fresh cream to rest on top. Honestly, what DOESN’T go with chocolate?

Please read, bake, and review our recipe for Gluten-Free Lava Cakes.

Print just the recipe.

Baked Stuffed Cinnamon French Toast

This time of year, we’re all looking for the easy way out, aren’t we?

Fast, easy, time-saving… holiday buzzwords all.

Which is too bad. The December holidays – Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa – are all about friends and family, food and fun. Why do we find ourselves rushing through them?

Because we’ve piled too much on our plates, that’s why. And I don’t mean too many cookie-swap cookies.

The last thing you want to stress over is making sure everyone’s fed on Christmas morning, right? Which is why you put this Baked Stuffed Cinnamon French Toast together a day or so ahead, then stow it in the fridge. When Christmas morning rolls around, simply stick it in the oven, and hurry back to the tree.

Looking for a way to enjoy those special Christmas moments with your (well-fed) family?

You’ve found it.

Breakfast bread puddings (a.k.a. stratas) are trending hot these days. Thankfully, this comforting combo of bread, eggs, milk, and the additions of your choice – anything from ham and asparagus to bacon and maple syrup – is coming back into vogue, just in time for what’s often the most rushed, mismanaged breakfast of the year: Christmas morning.

Mom and Dad gulp lukewarm brew from the same coffee cups they used scant hours ago, rustling all the presents together. The kids grab handfuls of Capn’ Crunch right from the box. No one has the time (or desire) to sit at the table and eat something warm and tasty and filling. It’s simply not in the Christmas cards.

But what if the wonderful aroma of cinnamon and bacon gradually started to build, just as the first crush of Christmas morning excitement is winding down? Would that give you the chance to play referee for a moment, and call a timeout for breakfast?

You bet. And when it happens, you’d best be ready with Baked Stuffed Cinnamon French Toast.

Start with a loaf of white or whole wheat bread, one whose texture is sturdy enough not to disintegrate in an overnight bath of milk and eggs.

Click anywhere on this picture to enlarge it to full size – this will work for any of the photos you see in this blog post.

I guarantee you’ll LOVE this easy recipe for English Muffin Toasting Bread. It makes the BEST toast – including cinnamon toast.

Also, it yields the perfect-size slices for our baked French toast.

Speaking of cinnamon – if you haven’t tried our Cinnamon-Sugar Plus, you’re missing a good thing. It’s the perfect marriage of aromatic Vietnamese cinnamon and superfine sugar.

Look at this cinnamon toast – it just doesn’t get any better!

Start by slicing your bread 1/2″-thick, and making 16 pieces of cinnamon toast. Toast bread, then spread it with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.

If you have a toaster oven, spread the bread with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar first, then toast; the topping will adhere better.

Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan.

Next, we’ll make a sticky-bun type glaze, for the bottom of the pan. Combine the following in a saucepan:

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey

Heat until the butter melts, stirring frequently. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook until the sugar melts.

Pour the glaze into the prepared pan, spreading it to the corners.

Lay half the toast slices into the pan atop the glaze, cinnamon side up.

Top the toast with cooked breakfast meat, if desired. I’ve used bacon here, which turned out not to be the very best choice. It tasted good, but by the time the strata had baked, the bacon had lost its crispness. I think next time I’d choose crumbled cooked breakfast sausage, or slices of ham. Or simply serve the bacon on the side.

Lay the remaining slices of toast over the meat, cinnamon side up.

Next, we’ll put together a custard “bath” for the bread.

Whisk together the following:

8 large eggs
4 3/4 cups milk or half & half
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour the custard into the pan. It should just about cover the bread, if you push the bread down into the custard. If for some reason you need more liquid, beat together 3/4 cup milk or half & half and 1 large egg, and add to the pan.

Cover the pan, and refrigerate overnight, or for up to 36 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the strata from the fridge, and uncover it.

You’ll notice that the bread will have soaked up a lot of the liquid (top photo, above); that’s fine.

Bake the strata for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Cut along the edges of the stacked bread slices, transferring each double-thick piece to a plate. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon-sugar, if desired; or drizzle with maple syrup or honey.

Or do both!

Happy holiday breakfasting, one and all.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Baked Stuffed Cinnamon French Toast.

Print just the recipe.

Chocolate Shortbread

What do Genghis Khan and Gandhi have in common? How about Danny Devito and Pablo Picasso?

Oooh, ooh, what about me, and the Marquis de Sade? I bet you are just dying to know, right? Well…

It’s all about the short. All of the folks I mentioned are 5’4″ or shorter. Did you have any idea that the leader of the Mongolian Empire was just 5′ 1″? Looks like peace is the way to go, as the Mahatma was an impressive 5’3″. Oddly enough, Ben Kingsley, who played Ghandi in the movie, is a heroic 5′ 8″.

I’m sure by now, many of you are groaning at my short attempt at a joke. Short folks, short bread, get it? *sigh*. Okay, I promise to leave the humor to Mr. Devito, all 4’11″ of him. Yes, I’ll be the bigger person. *ouch!* Hey, who threw that!

Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way making fun of those of us who are vertically challenged. I’ve struggled with this my whole life and now I accept that I will never see the top of my fridge without the aid of a step stool. Bonus points for me, I say. If I can’t see it, I don’t dust it.

OK, I hear you. Back to the Chocolate Shortbread. Shortbread doesn’t have anything to do with the height of the cookies. The “short” refers to the short texture, meaning sandy and break-apart as opposed to flaky or chewy. A pie crust uses cold butter to create flakes of dough, while shortbread uses warm, soft butter to coat the flour with fat to prevent long strands of gluten from forming. Thus, short strands = crisp, “short” texture.

Shortbread is so simple, you just need one bowl, a spatula and a little time.

Place in your mixing bowl:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt, extra fine if possible
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup Double Dutch Dark Cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Stir until you have a soft, cohesive dough. It’s rather like making brownies, just a little thicker and a lot more buttery.

Suspense master Alfred Hitchcock was 5’5″, but his movies definitely rate a “10.”

Divide the dough into two equal portions. Press each half  the dough into an 8″ square baking pan. I usually line mine with parchment but forgot this time. The buttery dough doesn’t tend to stick, but insurance is never a bad thing.

You’ll see as you go along that the dough, while quite moist, doesn’t really stick to your fingers. All that butter is a great lubricant.

There, all filled in. You can use a piece of plastic wrap over the top and roll gently with a pastry roller as well to avoid fingermarks.

Monkee Davy Jones stood 5’3″, but his smile was 1000 watts!

But wait! The picture at the top of the blog shows nuts! What about the nuts? Sure, you can add up to 1/2 cup of nuts, chips, bits, etc.

Walnut chocolate chip shortbread, perhaps?

We can call him Al, but by any name, singer Paul Simon rocks the house at 5’2″.

Bake until the shortbread begins to pull away from the edges of the pan, and the center feels firm under your fingers when lightly pressed. As test baker Frank told me, it’s hard to toothpick-test shortbread because it’s so thin, so going by feel is a great option.

Now, here’s a biggie. You MUST turn the shortbread out for cutting while it’s still warm. Crisp cooled shortbread will shatter and break, so warm it must be.

A pizza cutter makes quick work of trimming off the edges and dividing into squares…

Or little triangles. The different shapes also help tasters tell the difference between the flavors.

André René Roussimoff, beloved actor and wrestler André the Giant, stood 7’5″ tall. Pour yourself a giant glass of milk to enjoy with your fresh-baked treats.

Pure buttery goodness. As the shortbread cools, it will develop that perfect sandy crispness that keeps us coming back for bite after bite. That is, of course, if any pieces survive to cool off. This meltingly good piece certainly didn’t!

Hey, while you’re here at the end of the post, why not leave me a short comment? Har, har, har. Thanks folks, I’ll be here til Thursday! Remember to tip your waitress.

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Chocolate Shortbread.

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Christmas Upside-Down Cake

There’s Christmas fruitcake.

And then there’s Christmas fruit cake.

The difference a single space between two words can make is nowhere more evident than here.

Fruitcake, bane of many a lame joke around Christmas sweets, is typically deep-dark-dense, super moist, and packed with fruit. Sounds pretty good, right?

Right – if you’re a fan of the neon-green cherries, bitter citron, and harshly chemical-tasting dried (make that dry) fruits with which these mass-produced fruitcakes are often packed.

Or maybe you make homemade fruitcake, redolent of brandy or rum, laced with moist apricot chunks, toasted pecans, bright-red cranberries, and tangy-sweet pineapple. Now THAT’S a good fruitcake.

But it’s still not fruit cake.

No, the fruit cake we’re talking about here is a moist, light-textured golden cake crowned with a jewel-like topping of colorful dried fruits bathed in a decadently buttery spiced syrup.

Think pineapple upside down cake – but substituting your favorite fruits for the pineapple.

It’s not fruitcake. But like I said before – THAT’S a good fruit cake.

Ready to try a new fruit cake, one that won’t end up center stage at the annual Manitou Springs Fruitcake Toss?

We’ve got you covered.

In a medium-sized pot melt over low heat:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger

Cook slowly over low heat until the butter is melted, the mixture is smooth, and you don’t feel the grit of sugar on the bottom of the pan.

Divide the topping mixture evenly between two 9″ round pans that have been greased and lined with parchment paper. Tilt and twirl the pans until you have an even layer across the bottom of the pans.

Toss together 3 cups of your favorite fruitcake fruits, candied cherries, diced peel, etc. Divide and sprinkle over the topping mixture in the pans. I like to cut the candied cherries in half so they go further; more red looks more festive to me.

You can add 1/2 cup of chopped nuts too, if desired. It’s your cake, do what you like!

Prepare your favorite double-layer yellow cake recipe, or your favorite double-layer yellow cake mix. Divide and pour over the fruits and spread to level. I love our Golden Vanilla Cake Mix; it has that true upside-down cake taste and texture from my childhood.

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes are golden brown and begin to pull away from the sides of the pans.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool for 3 minutes. This will allow the cakes to set and not collapse when you turn them out.

Invert each cake over a serving plate and let sit for 30 seconds. Gravity will pull the sticky, gooey coating down over the cake. Remove the pan and scrape out any fruits that stuck.

Oh, my sweet buttery goodness…

Check out how the sided of the cake absorbed the buttery brown sugar topping.

Serve the cake warm, with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or even hard sauce.

One great thing about this recipe is that you make two cakes at once. You can bring one to a friend or neighbor, or someone who needs a holiday boost of cheer. OR you can wrap and pop one in the freezer to enjoy later on. Just warm the cake in a 300°F oven for about 10 to 15 minutes to get it sticky again before serving.

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Christmas Upside-Down Cake.

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No-Knead Chocolate-Cherry-Pecan Bread

You know those really dense, chewy rounds of bread you can buy at artisan bread bakeries?

Breads with a satiny, dark-brown crust, packed with fruit and nuts and, most of all, with incredible flavor from their long, slow rise?

Believe it or not, you – yes, YOU – can make a loaf like this at home. With no particular talent, and no special equipment.

Truth.

“How can this be possible?” you say. “I’m not even a very good baker – let alone a bread baker.”

Thankfully, you don’t have to be – so long as you’re willing to read and learn.

Follow these directions, and I’ll show you how to make a loaf of delightfully dense artisan-style bread, chock full of dried cherries, toasted pecans, and dark chocolate. Bread that’s perfect for a smear of soft cheese; some jam or preserves; or simply enjoying all on its own, no enhancements needed.

Well, maybe butter. Did I mention what awesome toast this loaf makes?

And what a lovely hostess gift, nestled in bright tissue and tied up with a pretty holiday bow?

Are you ready to bake this bread? Read all the way through the instructions first, so you can see what you knead. Er, need.

Flour, water, yeast, and salt – those are your key ingredients for bread.

And to make the best bread, don’t choose just any flour and yeast; if you do, your results will be different than what you see here. We recommend King Arthur Flour, and SAF yeast.

“Well, of course you recommend your own flour,” you say.

And for good reason. The bag of King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour you get here at our store in Vermont will be the same as the bag you get at Publix in Miami, and Wegmans in Syracuse; at Meijer in Ann Arbor, and at Vons in Pasadena.

Quality is the first thing you should consider, when choosing ingredients. But consistency is just as important as quality when you’re talking flour, the building block of most of your baking.

King Arthur Flour is not only top-quality, it’s incredibly consistent. We mill to the toughest specs in the industry, and we NEVER accept flour that doesn’t meet our exacting standards.

And as for yeast – we use SAF yeast in both our test kitchen, and in our bakery. Again, it’s the marriage of quality and consistency that makes us feel good recommending SAF.

If you use Fleischmann’s, or Red Star – both good yeasts – and want to stick with them, that’s fine. In fact, Red Star, which is owned by Lesaffre (SAF yeast’s parent company), offers a good instant yeast in single-use packets – Red Star Quick Rise yeast, good for you infrequent bread bakers out there. Just be aware that some of the rising times indicated here may be different for you.

By the way, when making yeast bread, don’t go strictly by suggested rising times, because that’s all they are: suggestions.

No one but you knows how hot or cold your kitchen is; what the weather’s like outside your door, or where and when you bought your yeast. Let the dough rise not for X hours, but until it looks like the picture, or sounds like the description in the directions, rather than adhering to a specific rising time (sorry, all you engineers out there…).

Click anywhere on this block of pictures to enlarge them to full size – this will work for any of the photos you see in this blog post.

Place the following in a medium-to-large bowl:

3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces) rye flour, any type; pumpernickel is probably the most commonly available
1/2 cup (2 ounces) King Arthur Premium Whole Wheat Flour or White Whole Wheat Flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) cool water

OK, first obstacle: you have neither rye nor whole wheat flour. Can you make this bread using 100% all-purpose flour?

We recommend using both, but yes, you can use 1 cup all-purpose in place of the rye and whole wheat. Or you can use 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, if you have it, in place of the rye.

How will the bread change? The flavor will be a bit less nuanced, it’ll look lighter in color, and you’ll be missing out on a bit of welcome fiber. But, like most recipes, it’s OK to amend to your own taste and circumstances.

Stir everything together to make a very soft dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap; a clear shower cap is a handy choice here.

Let the dough rest at room temperature overnight, or for at least 12 hours; it’ll expand.

See the difference between the two middle photos above? That’s the kind of rise I’m talking about. Not crazy, overflow-the-bowl type rising, but slow and steady – which is what develops this bread’s great flavor.

Now, add the following:

3/4 cup chopped dried cherries or cranberries
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups diced pecans, toasted
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

How do you toast pecans? Easiest way is simply to spread them in a single layer in a pan, and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 6 to 8 minutes or so, until they’re starting to brown and smell “toasty.”

Knead the fruit, nuts, chips, and yeast into the soft dough. As you do this, try to keep the “add-ins” inside the dough; any nut, chip, or cherry poking through the top once you shape the loaf is likely to burn as the bread bakes.

Next: choose your pan. I’m going to use a 9″ round cake pan here, as it’s a pan most people have. But if you have a stoneware bread crock or enameled-steel lidded Dutch oven (or a heavy, 4- to 4 1/2-quart oven-safe pot with lid), you can certainly use that. You might also try using a covered cloche.

Your goal here is to use a pan that can be covered – either with its own lid, or by another pan. The cover will trap steam as the bread bakes, giving the loaf its signature shiny, chewy crust.

One pan you don’t want to choose: a dark cast-iron skillet.

Well, why not? This loaf looks pretty good, doesn’t it?

On top, it sure does. But turn it over, and the loaf’s bottom crust is 1/4″ of pure black char.

Take a lesson from one who’s baked this bread in cast iron: don’t go there.

Form the dough into a slightly flattened ball, and place it in the pan of your choice. Leave some room around the edge of the dough (photo, bottom left), as it’ll expand sideways as it rises.

Cover the dough (again, that reusable shower cap comes in handy), and let the dough rise until it’s noticeably expanded. If you’ve used a 9″ cake pan, it’ll be close to hitting the edges of the pan.

This second rise could take only a couple of hours, or upwards of 5 hours or so, depending on the warmth of your kitchen, the weather, and the many other variables that affect yeast dough.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450°F. If you’re using a round cake pan, find a large oven-proof bowl, deep cast iron skillet, or something else that can serve as a cover for the bread. Keep in mind that it’ll rise a bit, so make sure your cover is tall enough.

Cover the bread; my 10″ x 3″-deep cast iron skillet proved a suitable cover.

Bake the bread for 35 minutes. Remove the cover, and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until the bread is golden brown.

The loaf’s interior should register 200°F to 205°F on an instant-read thermometer. If it’s not fully baked, return it to the oven – tenting it with foil or returning the cover, if necessary, to prevent over-browning.

When the bread is done, transfer it to a rack to cool.

Tempting as it may be, DO NOT slice into the bread until it’s completely cool! Doing so will make the sliced side of the loaf gummy.

OK, is it cool?

Slice away! See that nice open structure (read: lots of irregular holes)? Looks just like your favorite artisan loaf, doesn’t it?

And the flavor… the long, overnight rise, plus a long, slow rise once the loaf is shaped, gives the yeast a chance to produce organic acids and alcohol, both of which enhance the naturally nutty (though usually subtle) flavor of flour.

OK, at this point I have a confession to make: I didn’t follow our online recipe for No-Knead Chocolate-Cherry Pecan Bread to the letter. So don’t click to it and expect it to read exactly the same as the recipe I’ve provided here.

First, if you don’t have a bread crock, it didn’t offer you any alternative pan; I like to be as inclusive as possible.

Also, the dough was a bit too soft, in my judgement, so I cut back on the water. Decreased the amount of salt, and increased the amount of yeast, to reduce the rising time just a bit.

Finally, the original recipe calls for letting the shaped loaf rise in a bowl, then gingerly transferring it to a very hot pan. Well, I’ve tried it that way, and couldn’t see any gain in texture; so I decided to simply let the loaf rise in the same pan in which it’ll bake.

So, why didn’t I go ahead and make these changes to our online recipe?

Because so many of you have already baked the original version and given it 5 stars!

Just goes to show, baking is as much art as science. Whatever recipe works for you – in your kitchen – is the “right” recipe.

Enjoy – and happy holidays!

Brooklyn-Style Cheesecake

“WOW… This is the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted.” – Halley, my boss.

“This is really good. In fact, I think it’s the best cheesecake I’ve ever had.” – Jeff, my co-worker.

“Hey, this cheesecake is REALLY good…” – John, my brother-in-law.

There’s nothing like unsolicited raves from taste-testers to make my day. Especially when what they’re tasting is uncharted territory – at least for me, a New Englander with only the tiniest of connections to New York, from whence this particular type of cheesecake springs.

It’s true, I actually lived in New York for a few years – Yonkers and Mt. Vernon, to be precise – but that was pre-K. All of my growing up and adulthood has been in New England which, aside from scattered pockets, is sadly bereft of an Empire State institution: the New York deli.

A towering corned beef on rye. Hot pastrami, its burned, fatty edges melting in your mouth. Half-sours. Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray, an oddly compelling celery-flavored soda.

To say nothing of lox, bagels, and cream cheese. Whitefish and eggs. Plus liverwurst and onions, a sandwich that’ll drive away unwelcome company for hours afterwards.

And then there’s dessert: fudge layer cake. Rugelach. Rice pudding. In Brooklyn: the famous Blackout Cake.

And cheesecake, the sine qua non of any self-respecting NYC deli.

We’ve all had cheesecake, right? It’s not hard to make, and is universally beloved.

Maybe you’ve made a box mix – add milk, stir, and pour into a graham cracker crust, no baking needed.

Or maybe you’ve made it from scratch; after all, it’s not complicated. Cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla, gently beaten and poured into a graham cracker (or cookie crumb) crust, baked, and crowned with the fruit topping of your choice.

I’ve done it myself; Easy Cheesecake is a never-fail recipe I clipped from The Boston Globe decades ago, one whose grease-stained edges attest to many cheesecakes.

But Brooklyn-Style Cheesecake? Never heard of such a thing, until “Junior’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake & Desserts” restaurant in Brooklyn, self-proclaimed home of the “World’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake,” was featured on the Food Network a year or so ago.

I was fascinated by this cheesecake’s crust: not crushed graham crackers, nor even a cookie crust, like so many New York cheesecake recipes, but a layer of sponge cake.

Cake crust – really?

So say the bakers at Junior’s.

I tried it; found a couple of online recipes purporting to be “Junior’s original.” Followed them faithfully.

The result was OK, but the process was weird and difficult. So I streamlined it, added a couple of practical-sense touches, and voilà! A light, golden spongecake crust.

So, while it’s truly the filling that shines here – “best ever,” says the crowd – I encourage you not to blow off the Brooklyn-style cake crust. Change is good, right?

If you decide it’s “meh,” go on back to your graham crackers. But at least you will have experienced one of New York’s culinary landmarks: a Junior’s cheesecake.

Chanukah starts tomorrow. With its emphasis on dairy foods, it’s the perfect opportunity to showcase our version of the
“World’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake” – Brooklyn-Style Cheesecake.

Click anywhere on this picture to enlarge it to full size – this will work for any of the photos you see in this blog post.

Sponge cake is light, airy, and “spongy,” in the nicest of ways – think Twinkies. This is a great place to use our cake flour blend, a lower protein flour perfect for light, fine-textured cakes. If you don’t have any, never fear; I’ll give directions for all-purpose flour, as well.

Since cream cheese is the star of this particular show, it pays to use the best – which in our book is Philadelphia. You’ll need 2 pounds – four of the 8-ounce blocks. A few hours before you’re going to bake, take them out of the fridge, unwrap, and let them come to room temperature. It’s much easier to make a smooth filling with room-temperature cream cheese than with cold.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ round springform pan or deep 9″ round removable-bottom pan.

This cake is very tall, and requires an extra-deep pan. Measure your pan; if it’s not at least 2 3/4″ deep, don’t attempt this recipe.*

*Another option – make your usual graham cracker crust in a 9″ pie pan, and fill with HALF the following filling recipe.

Wrap the bottom and sides of the springpan with aluminum foil, preferably a single sheet.

To make the crust: Place the following in a mixing bowl –

1/2 cup (2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend*
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter
3 large egg yolks, whites reserved

*If you don’t have cake flour, use King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, reducing the amount to 7 tablespoons (1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon).

Beat until well combined; the mixture will be stiff and somewhat crumbly/pasty.

In a separate bowl, beat the reserved egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar until they’re frothy. Add 1/4 cup sugar gradually, beating all the while, until the mixture is stiff and glossy.

Gently but thoroughly mix the beaten egg whites into the batter. Take care to keep the batter light; mix gently, don’t beat. You may find at the end there are still some tiny lumps in the batter; that’s OK.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cake has risen, is barely beginning to brown, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven, and immediately loosen the edges with a table knife or thin spatula. Allow it to cool in the pan while you make the filling. It’ll settle and shrink a bit as it cools; that’s OK. Leave the oven on.

To make the filling: Place the following in a mixing bowl –

one 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch

Mix on low speed until smooth.

Add the remaining three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, continuing to beat on low speed until smooth.

Add 1 1/3 cups sugar and beat until well combined. Again, keep the beater speed on low; you don’t want to aerate this dense filling.

Beat in 2 large eggs, then 1 tablespoon vanilla.

Finally, gently beat in 3/4 cup heavy cream or whipping cream.

The filling should be smooth and pourable.

Place the springform pan into a larger pan, and fill the larger pan with enough hot water to come 1″ up the sides of the springform.

Spoon the batter over the cake in the pan. The filling will expand and rise, so make sure you don’t fill the pan right to the brim.

Place both pans on a lower-middle rack of your oven. Bake the cheesecake for 75 to 90 minutes, until the cake is just barely beginning to turn golden around the edges, and the top appears set. The center will still look jiggly; that’s OK. A thermometer inserted into the center should register about 160°F to 165°F.

Remove the cake from the oven, and gently lift it out of the water bath onto a rack.

Run a table knife or spatula around the edges of the pan to separate the filling from the pan; this will help keep the cheesecake from sinking.

Allow the cake to cool at room temperature, undisturbed, for 2 to 3 hours, until it’s no longer warm to the touch. Refrigerate the cake, covered, until you’re ready to serve it.

To serve, slice with a knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry. Repeat this step after every slice.

This cake is traditionally served without topping; but feel free to add your own favorite, if desired.

Now – I know many of you are itching to tell me that this isn’t a REAL New York cheesecake. It’s not Carnegie Deli’s cheesecake. Nor is it Lindy’s, nor that of the newly trendy Two Little Red Hens.

Junior’s Brooklyn cheesecake, like the borough itself, has attitude – mostly fostered by that sponge cake crust. It’s authentic to Junior’s, in Flatbush, in New York – and that’s good enough for me.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Brooklyn-Style Cheesecake.

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Easy Fudge

Would you believe I live about 45 minutes away from the Guinness World Record’s longest candy counter in the world? Would you believe I don’t go there for the candy? For me, it can be all about the fudge…

Let me just say that yes, folks, the longest candy counter in the world (an impressive 112 feet!) is in Littleton, NH. It’s in a lovely shop called Chutters, and it’s a twice-yearly destination for our family. We hit the door with an excited “See you in a bit” and head for a paper sack and a glove, then off to open jars of sweet sugary goodness. The candy is pay by the pound, so you pick your favorite treats and pay at the end.

My personal bag (hands off!) is chock full of licorice Scottie dogs, BB bats, sour cherry balls, Sixlets, and a couple of flavored Tootsie Rolls. My husband will choose an assortment of hot cinnamon candies and I don’t even try to keep up with what the kids we’ve brought along get.

My true love at Chutter’s, though, is their fudge counter. I don’t mind waiting in line; there are always plenty of free samples, and folks from all over the country to chat with. Oh yes, and don’t let me forget to mention the buy-one-pound-get-a-half-pound-free offer. Music to my ears, that offer.  I fill my box with penuche, maple walnut, chocolate mint, and something called Tiger’s milk, a peanut butter creation that’s beyond-words delicious.

Alas, I can’t go to Chutter’s every day. So in between visits, I get my fudge fix at home. Confectioners will say that this quick version isn’t true fudge, and I agree. But it certainly is a quick way to get creamy, flavorful candy that’s gift-worthy during any season.

Ladies and gentlemen, fire up those microwaves: it’s time to make Easy Microwave Fudge.

Place 2 cups of your chips of choice in a large microwave-safe bowl, and heat on high for 1 minute. Here I’ve used 1 cup of chocolate chips, and 1 cup of green mint chips from our local grocery store.

*UPDATE* Some folks had trouble with the fudge setting up with the original measure of 1 1/2 cups of chips. After more testing, I  found that increasing the chips did not hurt the fudge in any way, and even the bargain chocolate chips I used set up fine. So, the measure has been increased to 2 cups of chips. Thanks everyone for your input!**

Remove from the oven and stir well. If you have many unmelted chips, return to the microwave and heat for another 15 to 20 seconds, or until all the chips are glossy and losing their shapes.

Pour in one 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk. Stir to combine. Cut 2 tablespoons of butter into small pieces, and scatter over the top of the fudge.

Return to the microwave for another 30 to 45 seconds. Stir again, adding 1 teaspoon vanilla. The fudge will be getting thicker at this point.

Now’s the time to add chips, dried fruits, nuts, etc., or a few drops of your favorite flavoring. I’m leaving this chocolate-mint version as-is for now.

Pour/scrape the fudge into a parchment-lined 8″ square pan, and gently spread to fill the pan evenly.

If desired, sprinkle additional toppings on. I love the look of green mint chips on dark fudge. Plus, it gives the taster an easy way to identify the flavor at a glance.

Pop your tray of fudge into the fridge for at least 2 hours, to firm up.

Once your fudge is chilled, cut into small squares and serve. Ah, the velvety smooth goodness that awaits!

Chocolate not your thing? How about a blast of butterscotch and pumpkin?  Use 2 cups butterscotch chips instead of chocolate.

After microwaving and stirring in the condensed milk, add 1/4 cup pumpkin purée, 1/2 cup diced nuts, 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, and a few drops of pumpkin flavor.

Here I poured the final fudge into a round paper baking pan. In hindsight, I wouldn’t go this route again. The fudge didn’t want to release from the pan easily, and the pieces got squashed.

If you want to offer a tray of fudge for gift giving, use your metal pans to chill the fudge, then cut and place in the paper pan for gifting.

A little squished, but still delish!

In the two days that I tested these fudge variations we made and ate the following: chocolate, chocolate walnut, chocolate mint,  and butterscotch pumpkin. We didn’t quite get to chocolate peanut butter cup, chocolate caramel, chocolate chile, and chocolate Oreo; but I’m sure you, our intrepid fellow bakers and confectioners, will soon be posting your comments below on the sensational swaps you make. Can’t wait to see them all!

Please make, rate and review our recipe for Easy Microwave Fudge.

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Gluten-Free Orange-Vanilla Shortbread

I could sense some doubt when I mentioned making a gluten-free shortbread.

I heard, “You can’t do that, it just won’t work” enough times to almost start believing it myself. I was like the kid who was discouraged from doing something dangerously daring and just wanted to do it anyway to prove everyone wrong.

Armed only with a gluten-free butter cookie that crumbled like a dry sandcastle when touched, I was ready for some structure science. This drop cookie was great for a trifle maybe, but not-so-impressive for solo presentation.

True shortbread should be strong enough to be cut in to wedges or squares, but still tender enough to melt in your mouth.

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Sourdough Popovers

Popovers.

Their name is almost onomatopoetic, isn’t it? (Can’t believe I spelled THAT one right on the first try!)

I mean, when you put popovers into the oven, they look like calm, cream-colored lakes, serene as a summer sunrise.

But 15 or 20 minutes later – POP! Up they go, the steam created by the very-liquid batter hitting the just-formed flour/egg crust and carrying the whole shebang up, up, and away.

This recipe accomplishes two goals – and very successfully, too.

One, it’s a great use for that sourdough starter you’d otherwise discard during the feeding process. You know, that 1 cup you need to get rid of by stirring it into a batch of waffles, or a chocolate cake, or giving it to a neighbor, or – heaven forfend – actually discarding it.

I know how much you dislike throwing away perfectly good starter. Thus, this is a great recipe to whip up when you’re feeding your starter for another use, and need to discard some; use 1/2 cup of the discard starter right here.

Second, if you’re looking for a quick and easy hot bread to go with breakfast eggs, lunchtime soup, or [fill in your favorite dinner entrée] – you’ve found it.

Sourdough Popovers – rise and shine!

Did you know that by clicking anywhere on this block of pictures, you can enlarge them to full size? Go ahead, give it a try; it’ll work for any of our photos.

First, measure out 1/2 cup of your sourdough starter.

The nice thing is, it doesn’t need to be fed; it’s being used strictly for flavor in this recipe, not to help the popovers rise, so no need for it to be active.

Whisk the 1/2 cup starter with the following:

1 cup milk (full-fat, reduced-fat, or skim), warmed to lukewarm
3 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt

Add 1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, whisking to combine.

Don’t over-mix; a few small lumps are OK. The batter should be thinner than a pancake batter, about the consistency of heavy cream.

By the way, can you double this recipe to make a dozen popovers?

Sure, go right ahead; simply double all the ingredients.

Oh, and can you make these with whole wheat flour?

Sure. The result will be a very moist and eggy whole wheat muffin, though, not a popover.

Heat a standard muffin pan or standard popover pan in the oven while it’s preheating to 450°F.

Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven, and spray it thoroughly with non-stick pan spray, or brush it generously with oil or melted butter.

Quickly pour the batter into the cups, filling them almost to the top. If you’re using a muffin tin, fill cups all the way to the top. Space the popovers around the muffin tin so there are empty cups among the full ones; this leaves more room for expansion.

Bake the popovers for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 375°F and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until popovers have fully “popped,” and are golden brown.

Remove the popovers from the oven and serve immediately.

Now THAT is one towering popover!

These popovers aren’t overly sour; but you can definitely taste the tang. They’re very nice served plain, with soup or stew; or buttered, and served with breakfast bacon and eggs.

Can you make these ahead? Sure. They may deflate a bit, but will still taste fine. Warm them in a preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes, to freshen them up.

Can you freeze the batter? Yes. Keep frozen no longer than a month; defrost overnight in the fridge, and warm to room temperature before using.

Can you freeze baked popovers? Mm-hmm. Cool thoroughly, wrap tightly, and freeze no longer than 3 weeks or so. Once thawed, “freshen” in a 350°F oven before serving.

Can I make these without sourdough starter? Sure – our quick and easy Popovers are perfect for any non-sourdough bakers out there.

OK, did I answer all your questions? Hope so! If not, give our baker’s hotline a jingle, 802-649-3717; we can help.

Oh, wait, let me answer one more question I know will bubble up around this recipe:

Can I make these gluten-free? Well, you can make regular (non-sourdough) Gluten-Free Popovers.

And if you’ve created some gluten-free sourdough starter, try substituting 1/2 cup of it for 1/4 cup of the milk and 1/4 cup of the gluten-free flour blend in the recipe cited above. We haven’t tried it, so no guarantees; but it seems as though it should work.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Sourdough Popovers.

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