I absolutely love Italian food. I am fluent in sauce, cheese, meat, and herbs. How could you not love it? One of my favorite dishes is lasagna. As much as I love it though, it’s not exactly the dish I think about making when I come home from a long day of school or work. That’s the beauty of this recipe. I get all the aspects that are so delicious about lasagna with half the work and time. On top of that, this dish is very filling because it’s more of a stew. I use a lot of cheese and sauce which adds a bit of a tasty broth to the dish. It’s so good and just as easy. One pot on top of the stove. No baking in the oven, no layering, no making cheese mixtures. There’s just no need. There is an easier way…this way. After a long day, this is what gets me back to being at peace. I’m sure it’ll do the same for you.
Meat and potatoes are at the center of comfort food. It doesn’t get much simpler or much better than that combination. However, many of us overcomplicate it. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting in the kitchen, but sometimes it’s better to stick with what you know. That’s where steak and fries come in. So simple, yet so filling. Many overcomplicate steak. In reality, steaks are one of the easiest things to cook. You just have to know what you’re working with and what you’re looking for as an end result. This recipe for steak is meant to be easy. It doesn’t overcomplicate the method of cooking the steak. It doesn’t overcomplicate the flavor of the beef. This is one of my favorite ways to make steak because meat and potatoes should be easy and delicious. This recipe achieves that.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve picked up a new hobby. Sugar cookie decorating! However, being the perfectionist I am, I can tell you the learning curve initially was very steep and aggravating for me. I know many of you are in the same shoes. You see these cool pictures on Instagram and Pinterest of different decorated cookies and you want to join in on the fun. However, it’s not that simple. There is a lot to learn. My intention here is to create an all-in-one comprehensive beginner’s guide to sugar cookie decorating.
It only makes sense that we start with the tools required to get started on this journey. Below is a list of recommended tools. Do your research. Some are essential, while others you can do without, to begin with.
Beginner’s tools (things to get you started): Baking sheet or cookie sheet, microplane, cookie cutters, offset spatula, pastry bags, squeeze bottles, pastry tips, scissors, parchment paper, silicone mat, rolling pin, scriber or toothpick or turkey lacer, food coloring, wire racks, paint brushes, rubber spatula, plastic spray bottle, mini drywall scraper, x-acto knife, rubber bands or Wilton ties, plastic wrap.
Advanced tools (things to get you to the next level): Pico or Kopykake projector with stand, airbrush kit, food-safe colored markers, tipless pastry bags, heat sealer, poly bags, cookie stamps, fondant, stencils.
**Trends and tools change every day in this industry. I’ll add to this list as things change.**
Perhaps the most important component is the cookie. A good sugar cookie is a bit sweet, buttery, a bit tangy (in my opinion), soft and chewy. That’s where my go-to sugar cookie recipe comes in. It’s a wonderfully versatile recipe that can be used as mini tart shells, pie dough or of course, sugar cookie dough. It hits all the flavor marks and they don’t spread as they bake!
You can find the sugar cookie recipe here.
After letting the dough rest, place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Use a dough scraper to cut the dough ball in half. Lightly flour the top and begin to work the dough into a ball. It is normal that it will be pretty crumbly, to begin with. Keep working it and it will become slightly darker in color and smoother in texture.
Work in as much as the crumbs as you can until you have a uniform ball. It’s fine to push some of the crumbs to the side and work them into a second ball. As you get a uniform ball, begin to flatten out with hand until it’s a circular shape. Lightly flour the top. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough. Roll and turn, roll and turn. I like doing this with a fondant roller, but you can use a regular rolling pin as well. I use a fondant roller because I don’t form huge circles. I cut the dough in half and then make two circles out of that one half. Roll with what you please. It’s really not a big deal, just giving you an idea of why I use the tools I do. I roll out the dough until it’s about 1/2″ thickness. I want a good cookie to icing ratio.
Dip your cookie cutter into flour. Shake off the excess and place your cutter firmly into the dough and press down.
Keep pressing down the cutters until you have enough from that one sheet of dough. Remove the excess dough surrounding the cutters or lift up the cut-out dough after you press down. Either method is fine.
Use a flat spatula or drywall scraper to move the cut-out shape onto a prepared baking fan. Using a spatula or something flat will allow you to move the cookie without distorting the shape. Continue to place the cut-out cookies onto the baking sheet. I have a regular half-sheet pan lined with a silicone mat that has been sprayed with cooking spray. You can also use parchment instead. Place the cookies a couple of inches apart. These cookies don’t spread, however, space around the cookies will allow them to bake better, because of the air circulating around them. Use a non-silicone pastry brush to brush off any excess crumbs or flour off the cookie tops and sides.
Bake at 350°F for 9-12 minutes, depending on the shape. The bottom edges should be very lightly golden brown. Understand that different shapes bake at different times. For example, the smaller flower and heart cookies finished a couple minutes before the other shapes, so I took them off the sheet and moved them to the wire rack sooner. Then, I let the rest finish baking. Just be aware of that. Also, once all the cookies are baked off, you can pop any bubbles that formed on top with a toothpick or scriber tool. Poke underneath the bubble and flatten out with your fingers. Do this a few minutes out of the oven so you don’t burn yourself, but the cookies are still warm enough to form.
After allowing the cookies to rest on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes, move the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. The picture below shows the color of the bottom of the cookie. Any darker and you’ll have a crunchy cookie. I don’t know about you, but I’m a soft cookie girl. Any lighter and you won’t get as much flavor as possible. This is the ideal color of the bottom of the cookie. I’d even accept just a tad bit lighter.
Our cookies are cooling and we’re all set. Now let’s focus on the icing.
Sugar cookies are typically covered with an icing called royal icing. This icing is made with only a few ingredients and it’s very easy to make. Royal icing allows you so much decorating flexibility. I have a go-to royal icing recipe as well. The reason why I like my icing is that it not only tastes great, but it doesn’t dry super hard, which is something royal icing is known for. Once you bite into the cookie, the icing somewhat melts in your mouth. It’s absolutely delicious.
For the full royal icing recipe, go here.
My royal icing uses pasteurized egg whites. I’ve never had an issue using them. However, there are many that still worry about possible health hazards of raw egg whites. They prefer to use a product called meringue powder, instead. Meringue powder is just dehydrated egg whites, along with some stabilizers and sweeteners. I’ve attached my meringue powder recipe in my royal icing post if you prefer to go that route. If you want your icing to be even softer but still stackable, you add a bit of corn syrup also. I don’t recommend doing this until you’ve made the royal icing recipe a few times so you’re familiar with the original texture of the icing.
Once you make your royal icing, place some into separate bowls and cover them with a single piece of paper towel. Obviously, you want to plan out what colors you’re using and how much of it, so you know how much to separate. Use a spray bottle, full of water to spray some water over the top of the paper towel. Cover the bowls with plastic wrap. Set aside.
This can be the messy part, so wear gloves if you prefer. To color your icing, remove the plastic wrap and paper towel, begin by adding in a few drops at a time of food coloring. Remember, you can always add more, but you can’t take it out. Once it’s done, it’s done. So, please be careful. After adding in a couple of drops of food coloring, begin mixing the icing. The more you mix, the more air bubbles you’ll get. Be mindful of this. Once you get the color you are happy with, begin spraying water into the icing, bit by bit, mixing until you reach your appropriate consistency. When you’re done mixing, tap the bowl against the table a few times lightly. Let it settle for a minute. Pop any air bubbles you see with your toothpick or scriber tool.
The key to decorating is consistency. No, I don’t just mean keep doing it. Yeah, practice is important and the more you do something, the better you will be at it. There is no denying that fact. However, I’m talking about icing consistency. Let’s dive into that topic for a bit.
There are four basic consistencies of icing-thin, medium, thick and extra thick.
The thin icing is the consistency you’ll use most often. This is also known as “flood” consistency. It’s called “flood” consistency because it’s thin enough to move around wherever it wants to. It settles out quickly. This consistency is ideal for filling in large areas of the cookie, such as a base coat. This consistency typically gives you a bit of leeway because it doesn’t dry as quickly as the other consistencies. If you need help visualizing it, it looks like the consistency of Elmer’s glue. Very thin, but still workable. [10-second]
Medium consistency is sometimes referred to as “one-consistency” icing. Many use this consistency for both outlining the cooking and filling it. This will work with a cookie that isn’t larger than 3″. The downside of this icing is that it tends to dry pretty quickly, which is why we have the size limit for the cookie. You also use this icing when you want to add dimension to a cookie. [15-second]
Thick icing is for details and outlining cookies. Think of it as the “piping” consistency. It will stay where you put it, which makes it perfect for details and piping letters or words. [20-second]
Extra thick. Well, it’s how the name sounds. Very thick and not commonly used in royal icing applications. However, you can use this consistency to spread on with an offset or to experiment with. It doesn’t give you much flexibility in terms of decorating though. [25-second]
Besides the descriptions of the icing, you also determine the consistency by time. There is 10-second, 15-second, 20-second consistency. The ideal for flooding is 10-second consistency. What this means is after you ‘re done mixing your icing and you’ve popped the air bubbles, run an offset spatula down the middle of the icing. Does the icing “heal” in 10 seconds? Meaning does that mark down the middle disappear in 10 seconds? 10 seconds corresponds with flooding. 15 seconds corresponds with medium and so on. It goes up to 20-25 seconds at the most. Play around with it and decide what works best for you. Once you nail down the consistency, everything is gravy. Believe me on that.
I believe this is crucial. When you first get started, you have no idea what to do regarding storage. I’ve learned this the hard way. I’ve worked hours on cookies and then they get ruined in minutes due to terrible storage techniques. The key with storage is you want to keep the cookies covered because you want them to stay moist and you don’t want them to dry out. However, we need the top to dry to the touch. So, here’s our dilemma.
You have a few options. One route is to buy a dehydrator. This is more advanced and pricy, but it does do the job. There are two types of dehydrators. There is one that blows the air back to front and one that blows up and down. Typically, the front and back one is pricier. Both do the job, but do your research and decide on one if you want to choose this option. The option I’d recommend when first starting out is using catering aluminum pans. The pans are deep enough so you can cover the cookies, without the tops touching the plastic wrap or foil you’re using to cover it. However, the downside to this option is that you can’t stack the cookies while they’re wet, so it’s not practical for a large order. You can also use a baking sheet that is deep enough to have the plastic wrap not touch the wet icing. There are a few options, but you just have to see what works for you.
What causes color bleeding?
Color bleeding is a no-no. It messes up you’re cookie design completely. Google it if you don’t believe me. There are many causes. It can be anything from humidity to placing darks on whites too soon to thin icing. The best way to prevent color bleeding is to allow the first color to completely dry before adding the next color. For example, I flood a cookie with white icing. I will allow that to dry completely for a few hours, then I’ll add my black design. If I have another dark color such as red or purple, I have to let that black design dry completely too, before applying them. You see. It’s like we’re doing layers. This will prevent color bleeding as much as possible.
What if my icing is too thin?
If you overdid it with the water and thinned out your icing too much, all you have to do is add in some sifted confectioners sugar to thicken it back up. Add a spoonful at a time and mix until your preferred consistency is reached.
What if my icing is too thick?
Continue spraying water into the icing bit by bit until the preferred consistency is reached.
How do I store my icing?
Place a paper towel over the top of the icing and spray with a bit of water. Cover the icing with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for up to two weeks or freeze for up to a month. When you want to use, allow to get back to room temperature and mix for a bit until proper consistency is reached.
How do I store unused cookie dough?
Store the unused dough in the fridge for up to two weeks or the freezer for a couple of months. Make sure it’s really well wrapped so the moisture and flavor are retained.
What do you recommend using for flooding the cookie?
This is a personal preference. I have used squeeze bottles and hated them. Some swear by them, though. I have used regular pastry bags or ziplock bags to get me by. You can use pastry bags with a hole cut or a 3 tip. Some even use paint brushes and just blob the icing on. I’ve never done that, but I’ve seen it done. Personally, I now use tipless pastry bags. They seem to work best for me and I can get them pretty cheap here. Try everything, a see what works best for you.
What food coloring do you use?
Always a gel-based food coloring. They work best and you use less to get the color you want. I typically use AmeriColor. However, in a bind, I’ve used Wilton gel food coloring and it’s ended up fine.
What if my cookie has an ugly edge with stragglers?
I use a microplane or lemon zester to sand my cookie edges sometimes. Don’t overdo it and be gentle, but it can help with situations like that.
What if I want to copy an image onto my cookie?
First, wait until your cookie icing is completely dry. Then, you can print out your image, cut out the pieces with an x-acto knife and trace the image on with an edible marker. As you advance, you can purchase a projector and use that to do the job. Typically, food markers come in handy with this.
What’s that needle thing people use to move the icing?
This is not optional. You need something to move the icing around when it’s in “flood” consistency. This can be a toothpick, turkey lacer or cookie scriber tool also known as a cookie pick. It’s up to you what ultimately choose, but all work well.
I will end by saying this. Cookie decorating will be very frustrating at first, but just remember, you’re decorating cookies. It’s all in good fun. The first step is to just do it. Don’t be scared. Worst comes to worst, you get to enjoy a cookie!
Remember, you will get better each time you do it. Trust me. Read, watch and practice and you’ll get to where you want to get to with this. Good luck on your cookie decorating journey and let me know if you have any questions!
Fried mozzarella sticks are definitely one of my guilty pleasures. Gooey cheese, crunchy breading, sauce or ranch to dip in…you had me at hello. However, ever since culinary school, my preferences have changed. I do my best to avoid processed foods. Not only are they unhealthy, but they are severely worse in quality when compared to homemade food, obviously. Unfortunately, that meant that I went a few years without eating one of my once favorite foods, mozzarella sticks. It was all bad. Until, one day, I found out just how easy they are to make at home. Not only that, but the real deal homemade variety is 100x better than the frozen stuff. Once you bite into a homemade mozzarella stick, you’ll know what I mean when I say, you can’t go back.
Add salt, black pepper, and Italian seasoning to the flour and mix until combined. In a separate bowl, combine the Panko, Italian breadcrumbs, salt, black pepper, and Italian seasoning and mix until combined. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs and milk and mix until combined.
Unwrap and cut the mozzarella sticks in half. Set them aside.
Place a couple pieces of the cheese sticks at a time in the flour, shake off the excess. Dip the sticks into the egg mixture and shake off excess. Dip into the bread crumbs and make sure it’s well coated. Repeat this dredging process so that you’re doing it twice for each stick. Do this dredging process to all the sticks and set aside. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour.
Pour the oil into a pot or deep fryer and drop a few at a time into a fryer that is set to 375°F. Give it an occasional stir with the tongs. Fry until golden brown and just as a bit of the cheese oozes out the sides. That’s when you know they’re done. Pull them out and let them drain for a minute or so on a paper towel lined tray. Sprinkle with black pepper and pecorino romano. Enjoy warm!
See how I do it:
- 6 Cheese sticks
- 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 3 eggs
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- oil for frying
- 1/8 cup Grated Pecorino Romano
In a small bowl, add salt, black pepper, and Italian seasoning to the flour and mix until combined.
In a separate bowl, combine the Panko, Italian breadcrumbs, salt, black pepper, and Italian seasoning and mix until combined.
In a separate bowl, combine the eggs and milk and mix until combined.
Unwrap and cut the mozzarella sticks in half. Set them aside.
Place a couple pieces of the cheese sticks at a time in the flour, shake off the excess. Dip the sticks into the egg mixture and shake off excess. Dip into the bread crumbs and make sure it's well coated. Repeat this dredging process so that you're doing it twice for each stick. Do this dredging process to all the sticks and set aside on a big plate or tray.
Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour.
Pour the oil into a pot or deep fryer and drop a few at a time into a fryer that is set to 375°F. Give it an occasional stir with the tongs. Fry until golden brown and just as a bit of the cheese oozes out the sides. That's when you know they're done. Pull them out and let them drain for a minute or so on a paper towel lined tray. Immediately sprinkle with black pepper and Pecorino Romano. Enjoy warm!
You can use fresh breadcrumbs, Italian only or Panko only or any combination. Season to taste at the end of the frying process. Must freeze for at least 30 minutes. You can sub the Pecorino for Parmesan. Enjoy warm!
Buttery, soft, chewy, pockets of chocolate, sweet and warm. Chocolate chips cookies are just perfection. This wonderful byproduct of an accident by Chefs Ruth Graves and Sue Brides in 1938 has been a true blessing to us all. It gives us joy. It gives us comfort. When you scarf down many in one session, as I do, it gives you some extra lbs on the scale. But, who cares about that? It tastes too good to care about the repercussions.
There are many ways to make chocolate chip cookies. None are wrong per-say, but I certainly prefer my cookies a certain way. I like my cookies soft and chewy. They don’t have to be that way all the way around, but the majority and the middle of the cookie should definitely be easy to eat. If the outside is a tiny bit crispy, I won’t complain. I love chocolate. The cookies should be studded with chocolate. I’m talking chocolate chips and pockets of chocolate. I’m talking melted chocolate oozes out when you break one in half. That’s how I like it. There are some recipes that use molasses. That’s perfectly fine and that ingredient does produce a soft cookie, but molasses is expensive! What I love about my recipe is it hits all MY bullet-points. It produces soft and chewy, chocolatey cookies. The flavor is on point and is what a chocolate chip cookie should be. It’s tremendously easy to make, as well. However, if I’m being honest, most cookies are very easy to make, but I’ll talk about that some other time. Lastly, no molasses is necessary. So you can spend your well-earned money on the more important ingredient…chocolate. My cookies turn out great every time with this recipe. I’m sure it’ll become you’re go-to, once you give it a try.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, begin creaming the softened, unsalted butter and both the granulated and brown sugar for about five minutes until creamy and lighter in color.
Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl really well. Add in one egg and mix on medium-low speed until combined. When you see the first egg well-absorbed, add in the next egg and vanilla extract. Mix on medium-low speed for a couple of minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl well again.
With the mixer still off, sift together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Slowly add in the dry ingredients into the dough all at once. Pulse a few times on the lowest speed until a lot of the flour is absorbed. A lot of flour will still show though.
Take the bowl off of the machine and add all the chocolate chips and chunks in. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour and chocolate. I use a stabbing motion to mix it in. This allows me to not overmix.
Cover the bowl with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. You can also freeze it for a few hours, then thaw it out before baking. The cooling of the dough for 24 hours, at least, is vital. It helps with the flavor. It helps with how the cookies spread. It helps with rolling the dough. It even helps with the coloring. So, in general, cool the dough before baking!
Prepare the cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Spray with cooking spray. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Use an ice cream scoop to portion out the cookies. Place the dough into your palms and form balls. Place the balls on the prepared pan and use your fingers to press down slightly.
Place the cookies a few inches apart. The cookies tend to spread quite a bit so please take note of that.
Bake at 350°F and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are very lightly browned. Take the pan out of the oven and leave the cookies on the pan for a few minutes to continue baking. Move the cookies to a wire rack to cool slightly. Enjoy warm. Please note: the cookies below were only the freezer for about 20-30 minutes due to the constraints in shooting the video. The ones in the photos that follow were in the fridge overnight. You can see the color difference and the difference in spreading. So once again, be sure to refrigerate overnight!
See how I do it:
- 2 ½ sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
- 1 ¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
- 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
- 1 ⅔ cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
- 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 ¼ pounds bittersweet, semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips and chunks (Use a good brand)
- Pinch of sea salt
Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.
Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until lighter in color and fluffier in texture, about 5 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape the bowl really well.
Stir in the vanilla and mix on medium-high speed for a minute or two. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl.
Turn the mixer off. Add the dry ingredients all at once. Pulse until just combined, about 10-15 seconds.
Add in the chocolate all at once. Unhook the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to combine everything. Use a "stabbing motion" to incorporate the flour into the dough. Don't overmix. Just combine until enough. A bit of flour can still remain visible.
Cover the chocolate chip cookie dough with plastic wrap, making sure to press the wrap against the dough, refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
Remove the dough from the fridge and let the dough thaw until you can handle it, but it's not at room temp.
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Prepare your cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Spray with cooking spray well.
Use a cookie scoop (ice cream scoop) to scoop out mounds of dough. Form the dough between the palms of your hands. Place the balls on the sheet and press the tops down lightly with your fingers. Give enough space between each dough ball, as the cookies will spread a bit. Sprinkle very lightly with sea salt on top of the cookies.
Bake for 10-14 minutes or until lightly golden brown around the edges. Rotate the pan halfway between at about the 6-7 minute mark. Remove the pan from the oven and leave the cookies on the sheet for about five more minutes to continue the baking. After the five minutes, use a spatula to move to a wire rack to cool until warm.
You can refrigerate the remaining dough for about a week or freeze the dough. It'll last for a couple months in the freezer. Wrap really well. I use Ghirardelli chocolate. It's great tasting and pretty reasonable. Use a good brand of chocolate, because you'll taste cheap chocolate.
If you know me, you know biscuits have always been my kryptonite. I shared a recipe for two-ingredient biscuits many months ago. It’s a wonderful recipe, but it’s made with sour cream only. There is no shortening or butter in them. There is no buttermilk in them. So, as wonderful as it is, it’s certainly not traditional. I’m going to be sharing a real traditional southern recipe within the next few months, but this is also a great recipe to have in your repertoire. Not exactly what you’re southern grandmother would make, but still delicious nonetheless. I love these biscuits. They’ve become my go-to, because it takes the stress out of biscuit making. It produces light, tall, fluffy biscuits that would make your grandma proud.
There a few golden rules to remember when making biscuits:
Okay, so the first key with biscuits is to begin with cold tools and ingredients and to keep them cool throughout the process.
The second key is when you cut the biscuit out, you should NOT twist. Just go straight down and up.
The third key is that a fluffy biscuit is produced with a cake pan that allows you to put the biscuits close together. If you want a crispier exterior, use a bigger pan or a baking sheet. That way the air can circulate around the biscuits, which will give them the crispier exterior.
Don’t overwork the dough. That means don’t over-mix or overwork the dough.
Now that we have those out of the way, let’s get started:
First, you want to cut the shortening and butter into 1/2″ and 1/4″ pieces. Wrap them well and freeze them for about an hour.
Sift together the dry ingredients and place them in a wide, but shallow bowl. Place that bowl in the fridge for about an hour.
Butter your 8″ cake pan really well. I’m using an 8″ cake pan because it will yield soft and fluffy biscuits. If you want crispier biscuits, use a baking sheet or a 9 or 10″ cake pan. This will allow the air to circulate so that the exterior will be crispy.
After the tools and ingredients have been in the fridge and freezer for about an hour, take the dry ingredients and fats out of the fridge. Begin by tossing the butter pads in the flour until well coated. Smash each piece between your thumb and index finger until each piece is done. Repeat this process with the shortening. The ending mixture should look like well crumbled feta. Place this mixture in the fridge for about five minutes.
After five minutes, remove the bowl from the fridge. Use a rubber spatula to form a well in the middle of the mixture. Add cold buttermilk into the well. It will overflow. That’s okay. Mix until just moistened. Don’t over-mix!
Use a rubber spatula, that should have been in the fridge for a while, to pour this mixture onto a lightly floured surface. I use a silicone mat, but you can use a marble slab or a wooden cutting board. I don’t recommend plastic. It will stick way too much at that point. Lightly flour the top. Using well-floured hands, pat out into a round. Use a well-floured dough cutter to fold the dough in thirds. Pat into a round and fold into thirds again from the other side. Pat into a round and do this step one more time. Pat into a round.
Use a well-floured 2 1/2″ round cutter to cut the biscuits out. Cut as close as possible starting at the edge. Do an down and up motion to cut out the biscuits. Do Not TWIST! This will prevent the biscuits from rising, so make sure to avoid twisting.
Use a mini spatula to move the biscuits to your prepared pan. Place in the fridge for five minutes.
Take out of the fridge and dab the tops with melted butter.
Bake at 425°F for 10-14 minutes until golden brown. Out of the oven dab the tops with melted butter.
After dabbing the tops with butter, remove the biscuits from the pan by turning the pan over onto a plate or surface. Serve warm!
See how I do it:
- 2 cups White Lily flour + more for flouring surface and dough
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into 1/4" pieces
- 1/4 cup chilled shortening, cut into 1/2" pieces
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Softened or melted unsalted butter for brushing.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Prepare your cake pan, pizza pan or ovenproof skillet. Butter the pan liberally.
Sift together the salt, baking powder and two cups of flour in a bowl. The bowl should be wide and not too deep.
Scatter the 1/4" size chilled butter over the flour and work in by rubbing fingers with fat and flour, like a snapping motion. Continue doing this until they are medium-sized round pieces, like well-crumbled feta cheese.
Do the same with the 1/2" size shortening pieces.
Shake the bowl occasionally to allow the larger pieces of fat to show themselves, so you can rub them out.
After this, place the bowl in the fridge for about five minutes.
Take the bowl out of the fridge and make a deep well in the center of the flour with the back of your hand. Pour 3/4 cup of buttermilk into the well and reserve 1/4 cup of buttermilk to the side.
Stire with a rubber spatula, using broad circular strokes to quickly pull the flour into the milk.
Mix until JUST combined. The dry ingredients should be moistened and the dough should begin to pull away from sides of the bowl. If there is some flour remaining on the bottom or sides of the bowl, stir in one to four tablespoons of the reserved 1/4 cup buttermilk. Just enough until the dough is shaggy and wettish. If it becomes too wet, add a bit more flour when shaping the dough.
Lightly sprinkle board or other clean surface with the reserved flour. Turn the dough out and sprinkle the top lightly with flour. With floured hands, fold the dough in half and pat dough out into 1/3 to 1/2" thick round, being mindful of the amount of flour your using. Flour, if needed, and fold again in half. If the dough is still clumply, repeat folding procedure.
With well-floured hands, pat dough out into 1/2" thick round for normal biscuit, 3/4" for tall biscuit and 1" for giant biscuits.
Brush off any visible flour from top and sides of biscuit. For each biscuit, dip a 2 1/2" round cutter into reserved flour and cut out the biscuits. MAKE SURE YOU DON"T TWIST THE CUTTER. Go up and down, don't twist. Start cutting out at the outer edge and cut very close together.
Scraps may be combined to make additional biscuits, but they'll be tougher than the first batch.
Use a metal spatula or scrapers to move biscuits to your prepared pan. Bake on the top rack for about 10-14 minutes or until lightly golden brown. After six minutes in oven, rotate pan then continue baking for about four to eight minutes.
When biscuits are finished and right out of the oven, brush the tops with the softened or melted butter.
Turn the biscuits out upside down on a plate and enjoy hot.
Biscuits are best fresh and day of. No exceptions. Sorry. Use unsalted butter. If you only have salted butter, decrease the salt in the recipe to 1/4 teaspoon. Keep everything cold throughout the process.
Last week, I promised you another easy recipe using leftover and/or stale bread. Well, here it is!
Bread pudding is a staple comfort dish. It’s incredibly easy to make. It’s versatile. You can easily transform the basic recipe into chocolate bread puddings or berry bread puddings and much more. They look beautiful and you have so many choices of toppings. If you serve these at your next brunch, your guests will be so impressed. I guarantee it. This is one of my absolute favorite ways to use leftover and stale bread.
For the bread, the key is using stale bread. As long as it’s slightly stale, you’ll be able to use it. If your bread isn’t stale yet, you can freeze it for a few days or bake it at 100°F for a few minutes. Both are great ways to slightly dry out the bread. I love using brioche buns that are typically leftover after using them for burgers. I’d definitely suggest using leftover brioche or croissants. They are great in bread puddings, because they’re already sweet and buttery. However, you can use any type of stale bread. I cut two sets of buns into medium sized cubes and set them in a bowl to the side. It comes out to a bit more than a cup and a half. The more the better. You can always freeze any leftovers for next time.
In a separate bowl, pour in the milk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and whisk until well combined.
Butter the inside of the ramekins really well. Make sure to get the corners.
Place a large handful of the bread cubes into the ramekin. It should flow over the top of the ramekin. Once you feel satisfied with the amount, you can pour half the custard over the bread. Be careful…it’s a messy job! As you pour, make sure to get all the cubes some moisture. Also, as you pour, the cubes will sink, which will allow you to add the extra cubes on hand. Repeat with the second ramekin.
Place the ramekins on a sheet tray to prevent a mess with possible dripping. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350°F for 35-40 minutes. If you poke the custard with a pairing knife or bamboo skewer and it comes out with only a few moist crumbs, you know the custard is cooked perfectly. Not overcooked and dry, but not undercooked.
Let the bread puddings cool for about ten minutes. Serve warm with the topping of your choice! You can serve with ice cream, whipped cream, cinnamon, powdered sugar or maple syrup. I do a combination of things, because…why not? In just under an hour, you have a delectable brunch dish that was beyond easy to make. Stale bread never tasted so good. Except when they’re croutons.
See how I do it:
- 1 1/2 cups stale bread, preferably brioche, but any stale bread will do
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- small pinch of salt
- unsalted butter for buttering the ramekins
Dice the bread into medium cubes, set aside in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Whisk until well combined. The custard is now done. Pour this mixture into a measuring cup.
Place a handful of bread cubes into a well buttered ramekin. It should come up over the top of the ramekin. Pour half the custard mixture over the bread cubes. You should make sure each cube has a bit of moisture. It will sink slightly and as it does, you can add a few more bread cubes to the top. Pour more custard over those few.
Do the same to the second ramekin.
Place both ramekins on top of a sheet tray in a preheated 350°F oven, cover with aluminium foil and bake for 35-40 minutes. Another way to test doneness is to poke the custard with a bamboo skewer or pairing knife, if it comes out with a few moist crumbs, it's baked perfectly.
Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack. Let them cool for about ten minutes. Serve warm with the topping you'd like. (maple syrup, ice cream, whipped cream, powdered sugar, cinnamon, etc. all good options)
Brioche and croissants are great options for bread pudding, but you can use any type of bread, if it's stale. You can dry out bread in a low heat oven for a few minutes or in a freezer for a couple of days. Serve warm. You can freeze the baked mini bread puddings for about a month, wrapped well. Reheat in the oven.
I’m the type of gal that hates wasting food. There already is a food crisis in many parts of the world and I do what I can to avoid contributing negatively to that already huge issue. I find that bread is one of the most common foods that goes to waste. I totally blame the bread companies. They stuff way too many slices of bread in the packaging. Even for a family of five, it’s too much. There is almost always a few slices that get left over or are on the verge of being no longer edible. Lucky for me, there are many ways to use up leftover bread. I decided I’ll show you two ways this week.
This is my first way. Croutons. I haven’t bought croutons in many, many years now. Why would I? They are extremely easy to make. All you need is some leftover bread and a few more ingredients and you’re well on your way to some delicious, crispy, homemade croutons.
I typically free my leftover bread before I use it. This is strictly because I usually notice the bread out of the blue. I place it in a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer. Freezing the bread gives me some time to figure out what I’m going to do with it. It’s like it pulls a Zack Morris and stops time. It’s really cool and it’s why the freezer is your friend. Typically, if you have a soft piece of bread, freezing it can help in the drying out process. Stale bread is key in the two recipes I’m going to show you, including these croutons. If your bread is still moist after freezing them, then you can always toast it on very low heat in the oven for a few minutes. If your bread is stale to begin with and you want to make these the same day, then no need to freeze! Just get started on ’em from the get-go.
I’m starting with some leftover French bread I had in the freezer. It’s probably two cups or two and a half cups of bread. This isn’t intended to be an exact recipe, although you can use it as so. It’s really a tutorial to show you what you can do with the leftover bread.
I place my bread pieces onto a sheet tray covered with a silicone mat. You can cut the bread into small little squares, but I don’t find it necessary. As long as you can fit the pieces in your mouth, it doesn’t have to be uniform and perfect. These are homemade croutons after all. Try to eliminate as many crumbs as you can, as those are too small and they’ll likely burn.
Drizzle olive oil over the top of the bread pieces. Sprinkle over some Italian seasoning, rubbing through your fingers to release the essential oils. Sprinkle a very small pinch of salt and grate some Parmesan or Pecorino over the top. You can eliminate the salt completely if you add cheese. Toss everything together on the tray. Drizzle a bit more olive oil on top.
Bake at 450°F for about 10 minutes. Check on it at the five minute mark.
Sprinkle some more Parmsean over the top and move to a bowl or storage container. Now you have them ready on hand for whenever you make salads or you can eat them as is for a great snack.
See how I do it:
- 2 1/2 Cups Stale Bread
- 1 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- 3-5 Tablespoons Olive Oil (be slightly liberal with it)
- 1/4-1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan or Pecorino (use half before cooking and half after)
- salt to taste (may not need with cheese added)
Toss everything together on a silcone mat or parchment covered sheet pan and bake at 450°F for about 10 minutes. Check on them at the five minute mark.
Out of the oven, grate more Parmesan or Pecorino on top. Croutons should be golden brown and crispy.
I'd ditch the salt completely if you're adding Parmesan or Pecorino. Recipe is not specific, because you don't have to have exactly 2 cups of bread. Use up whatever you have on hand. The amounts of everything else will obviously change if the quantity of bread changes. The key here is to start with stale bread. Also, don't over do it. It's easy to use too much cheese, oil, salt or seasoning. You can always add more, but you can't take it out. The oil is really used for color and flavor, but also to re-moisturize the stale bread. You be the judge of how much more or little you need.
Pumpkin is quite controversial. You either love it or hate it. There is no in-between. Well, if you hate pumpkin, then you’ll want to hide under a rock for the next few months. Why? Because, it’s pumpkin season, that’s why! Luckily for me, I love pumpkin. Funny thing is, I used to hate it. True story. It wasn’t until I tried a pumpkin pie while in culinary school that I fell in love with it. I’ve been a convert ever since. If you’re a pumpkin lover AND a cheesecake lover like me, then you’ll definitely want to try this delicious pumpkin swirl cheesecake. It not only looks beautiful, but the taste is OH MY GOD, out of this world. It’s like taking a big bite of Fall. What more can you ask for?
Combine all the crust ingredients together and mix until the crumbs resemble wet sand and it clumps together in your hands when pressed together. Set aside.
Okay, I know you’re going to hate me for this, but you’ll have to trust me when I say this. Ditch the springform pan. It’s really not necessary. I’ve worked in professional kitchens as a pastry chef in hotels, bakeries and restaurants. Nowhere in any of those kitchens, did I see someone use a springform pan to bake their cheesecakes in. They all had something in common. There was no fancy pan. They all used the trusty old cake pan. That’s right…if you have a cake pan, you can make a cheesecake. In my case, I’m using an 8″ pan, because I’m feeding myself. You also have the option to use a 10″ cake pan which will give you a little bit more room for the batter. Anyway, trust me if you prep a cake pan the right way, you’ll get great results. Prepare the cake pan by brushing on the pan grease in a light coating on the bottom and sides. Cover the bottom with a parchment circle and brush the pan grease on top of the parchment circle. Set to the side.
Pour the crust mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Begin to flatten the crust with your hands and then use the bottom of a measuring cup to evenly flatten the crust. Make sure you get the edges. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes. Set aside and let it cool at room temp.
Begin to smooth the softened cream cheese in the bowl of your stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for a couple of minutes until smooth.
Stop the mixer and scrape. It’s important to scrape the bowl and paddle thoroughly throughout this process. We want ensure we get no lumps in the batter. It’s also important you don’t turn the mixer on above medium low through the process. Also, be aware not to over-mix. The last thing we want to do is incorporate air. Add in the sugar in a steady stream. Mix for a couple minutes on medium low speed. Stop mixer. Scrape really well.
Add in the salt and lemon zest and mix until incorporated. Scrape. Add in the sour cream and mix well for about a minute or so. Stop mixer and scrape well. Add in the lemon juice, mix well for about a minute. Stop the mixer. Scrape well.
Combine the eggs and vanilla. Add the eggs/vanilla mixture into the batter in four stages. Allow the eggs to thoroughly incorporate before adding in the next addition. Stop the mixer. Scrape paddle and bowl really well.
Begin mixing on low speed and add in the heavy cream in a steady stream. Mix to incorporate for about minute or so. Stop mixer and scrape paddle and bowl well.
Pour out 1 1/2 cups of batter into a bowl and set aside. Add the pumpkin puree, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice into the remaining batter in stand mixer all in at once. Mix on low speed for about a minute or so. Stop the mixer and scrape bowl and paddle well.
Pour the pumpkin cheesecake batter into the prepared crust. Tap and shake the pan to allow the excess air bubbles to come up.
Use a small measuring cup, I use a 1/4 cup measure cup, to pour small amounts of regular cheesecake batter in random patterns over the pumpkin cheesecake batter. Use an offset spatula or knife to swirl. I do an up-down, across and up-down pattern. It creates a wonderful marble look. Tap and shake to remove excess air. Prepare a water bath. The easiest way is to place a large pan with water into the oven. Alternatively, you can place a pan in the oven and pour boiling water into it. The water should come up a 1/4 of the way up the sides of the cake pan.
Bake at 350°F for a half-hour, turn the oven down to 325°F and bake for another 30 minutes. Turn the oven off and allow the cheesecake to cook for another 5-10 minutes. It’s important to not overcook it. The outer 2″edges should be firmly set. The middle should be jiggly still, but if you touch it with your finger, it shouldn’t be a liquid. Your cheesecake may take more or less than an hour to bake. All ovens run at different temperatures. That’s why the jiggle test is so important. That’s the key to determining doneness.
After it comes out of the oven, let it cool to room temperature. Wrap well with saran wrap and aluminium and place pan in fridge to cool overnight. Make sure saran doesn’t touch the surface of the cheesecake.
The next day, to unmold the cheesecake from the pan, dip the bottom of the pan in boiling hot water and leave there for a minute or so. You can also run the bottom over a flame on the stove. My favorite method is using a blowtorch. It’s a great investment. Trust me. If you’re using a blowtorch, run it all over the sides while turning the pan. Flip the pan over and run it over the bottom of the pan (which should now be the top), constantly moving the flame. Flip it back over and use a cake board covered with parchment and place over the top of the cheesecake. Flip the pan over, the cheesecake should pop right out.
Use another cake board and place on the top (bottom) of the cheesecake. Use it to flip the cheesecake over.
From here, you’re done! It’s beautiful as is. I like to go the extra mile though and decorate it. I just pipped whipped cream rosettes, sprinkled leftover crust crumbs and white chocolate shavings over the top of the whipped cream. The fun thing is you can decorate as you wish. Get creative!
See how I do it:
- 10 oz Gingersnap Cookies
- 1 oz Granulated Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
- Cheesecake Batter:
- 1.5 lbs (Three 8 oz packages), Softened Cream Cheese
- 6 oz Granulated Sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/2 cup sour cream, room temp
- 5 whole eggs, room temp
- 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy cream, room temp
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup canned pumpkin (puree)
In one bowl, combine all your ingredients for the crust and combine until it resembles wets sand and clumps together when pressed between hands. Set aside.
Prep the 8" or 10" cake pan by brushing some of the pan grease all over the bottom and sides of the inside of the pan. Place a parchment paper on the bottom of the pan and brush the top of the parchment paper with the grease.
Dump the crust ingredients into the pan. Pat the crumbs until they reach the sides and are even across the bottom. Use your hands at first to pat the crumbs down, then use the bottom of a measuring cup to pat the crumbs down evenly across the bottom. Make sure the edges are even as well. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes. Let it cool after baking. Set aside.
Start by having all your ingredients at room temperature and pre-heat your oven to 350°F.
Mix the cream cheese on low for about a couple of minutes, stopping halfway through to scrape bowl and paddle thoroughly. It should be smooth.
Gradually add in the granulated sugar and mix until sugar is blended in, about 2 minutes after adding all the sugar in. Scrape.
Add in the lemon zest and salt and mix until combined on medium low speed for about a minute. Scrape.
Add in the sour cream and mix until incorporated. Scrape.
Combine the eggs and vanilla in a bowl. Add the eggs/vanilla mixture into the batter in four additions. Let it mix properly before adding the next batch. Scrape well in-between each addition.
Slowly pour in the heavy cream and mix until combined. Scrape.
Add the lemon juice and mix until combined. Scrape.
Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the cheesecake batter. Leave the rest in the stand mixer.
Add in the canned pumpkin, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice all at once and mix until combined for a minute or so on medium low speed.
Pour the batter on top of the crust into the prepared crust. Tap and shake pan to release the air bubbles.
Start adding in the regular batter on top of the pumpkin batter using a 1/4 cup. Pour in various spots on top.
Use a knife or offset spatula and swirl. Use an up-down movement, across and then up-down again. You should get a beautiful marble look.
Tap and shake to release air bubbles.
Prepare a water bath. Fill a large pan, that you can fit the cake pan in with 5 or more cups of hot water. The water should come up at least 1/4 of the way up the sides of the cake pan.
Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325°F for 30 minutes. Turn the oven off and keep the cheesecake in there for about 10 minutes. The key is don't over-bake. Check at the 40 minute mark. The outer edge, 2" out should be firm and set, the center should be jiggly like jello, but if you touch it, not be liquid.
Remove from oven and let it cool to room temp.
Wrap well in saran wrap, making sure the wrap doesn't touch the surface of the cheesecake. Cover the pan in aluminum foil as well.
To unmold, run a hot knife around the sides of the cheesecake in one swift motion. Unmold with hot water, stove top or a blowtorch. See the video to see how it's done. Decorate as you please. Use a hot knife and wipe between each cut for a clean slice of cheesecake.
Use canned pumpkin (puree). NOT pumpkin pie mix. For unmolding, you'll need parchment paper and two cake boards. Hot water, a flame or a blowtorch are options to use for unmolding. You'll need a scale for this recipe. I also recommend a blowtorch for unmolding. Invest in these valuable tools. It's important to keep a cheesecake refrigerated at all times. The waterbath is important to achieve a perfectly baked cheesecake. Don't skip it!