Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mexican Wedding Cookies

For some recipes, there is only so much you can do to make them healthier. This is one of them. Of course, once you taste one of these melt-in-your-mouth morsels, you really won't care...

So here's the breakdown: These cookies do have a fair amout butter. However, it's half a stick less butter than most Mexican Wedding Cookies, plus this recipe incorporates whole wheat flour, uses heart-healthy pecans, and has less than half a cup of sugar. So butter aside, they're not horrible for you. And besides, a little extra butter every now and then does a body good.

Toasting the pecans is key, so don't skip that step! It lends such a wonderful nutty flavor and aroma that you won't regret it.

Mexican Wedding Cookies
1 cup pecan halves
12 tbsp unsalted butter
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp + 1/3 cup unsifted powdered sugar, divided
1-1/2 cup all purpose flour
6 tbsp + 2 tbsp whole wheat flour, divided
1/4 salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg or cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread out pecans on baking sheet and bake for about 7 minutes, or until fragrant.

In a food processor, combine the pecans and 2 tbsp whole wheat flower. Process until finely ground, and set aside.

In the microwave, soften the butter until almost melting. In a medium bowl with a mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and 6 tbsp sugar until well combined and light. Add the egg white and vanilla, and beat until well combined.

In a small bowl, combine the flours (the all purpose + the remaining 6 tbsp whole wheat), salt, cinnamon, and nuts. Add this to the wet ingredients, and stir until combined.

Divide the dough into 3 separate sections, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F (unless you left it on while dough was refrigerated). Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Taking out one section of dough at a time, roll dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets.

When first sheet is full, go ahead and bake for 11 minutes. Meanwhile, roll cookies for the other baking sheet. When cookies are done, let them cool for about 5 minutes (instead of transferring to a wire rack, I just slide the parchment paper off the hot baking sheet and onto the cool counter).

Put in the next batch and while they are baking, roll the cooled cookies in the 1/3 cup powdered sugar. When second batch comes out, let them cool and roll in remaining sugar (after both batches are rolled, there will still be some leftover).

Yield: 46 cookies
70 calories per cookie


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Molasses Wheat Bread

This started out as another recipe I found on Smitten Kitchen for pumpernickle bread, but since the only 3 grocery stores that are close to me didn't have rye flour, this turned into a molasses wheat bread instead! And it was really good, so I can only imagine how delicious it is with the rye flour.

This bread was very soft inside with a chewy crust and slight sweetness that made it PERFECT for a pb&j. So I'll go ahead and post the recipe with the variations I made, but be sure to click on the link to see the original and check out all the other great recipes while you're there!

Molasses Wheat Bread
1 cup warm tap water, about 110 degrees
2 1⁄2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon molasses
Cornmeal for bottom of loaf

Place water in a mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast on surface and whisk, letting it stand for five minutes. Add molasses and stir well to combine. Stir in flours and remaining ingredients. Knead dough by hand to form a smooth, elastic dough.

Transfer dough to a bowl that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, and turn it over so top is coated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise at room temperature until doubled, about 45 minutes.

To shape loaf, turn risen dough out on to floured work surface. Press dough with palms of hands to deflate. Gently knead, the shape dough into a sphere by tucking edges under and in toward the center all around the bottom. Invert the dough into a round basket lined with a heavily floured napkin or tea towel so ends are on top. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

When loaf is almost doubled, preheat oven to 500 degrees and set rack at the middle level. Place baking pan or stone on rack.

Sprinkle cornmeal on top of loaf and invert it onto a paper plate. Slash an X across the top of the loaf. Slide risen loaf from the plate onto the pan. Immediately lower oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake the loaf for about 40-45 minutes or until internal temperature of the loaf reaches 210 degrees. Cool the loaf on a rack and do not cut until it is completely cooled.

Yield: 1-1/2 ounce loaf
125 calories per 2-ounce slice


Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Bread That Lived...

According to all laws that govern the world, this bread should not have survived. I did SO MANY THINGS wrong! But against all odds, not only did this bread work, it tasted GREAT! My family of four ate nearly the entire thing in one sitting! It's chewy and soft, yeasty and moist, and down right addictive.

I'm new to baking with yeast, and I obviously still have a lot to learn. So if I can successfully bake this bread, so can you! Plus, since there's no fat or sugar, it's MUCH better for you than, for example, typical storebought sandwich bread.

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, but out of necessity I did a few things differently, so I'll post it with my variations added. Click on the link to see the original, and make sure to check out all the other mouth-watering recipes there!!

No-Knead Bread
Slightly heaping 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1-5/8 cup warm water, 105-115ºF
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/4 tsp salt
Extra flour, as needed, for dusting and coating

The night before, start the bread (it will need to rise 18 hours). In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and let stand for 5 minutes. In a large bowl combine flours and salt. Add water-yeast mixture, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest 18 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees (an off oven works well).

Dough's surface should be dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball by folding the edges of it under itself. Sprinkle a paper plate with flour; put dough seam side down on plate and dust with more flour. Cover with a cotton towel and let rise for about 2-1/2 hours (mine really didn't actually rise much at all, but that's how long I let it sit).

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450ºF. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Carefully turn dough over from the plate into the pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until loaf is browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: 1-1/2 ounce loaf
115 calories per 2-ounce (1/12th of the loaf) slice


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bread Pudding with Crème Anglaise

Bread pudding is, always has been, and always will be one of my favorite desserts. Ever. And luckily, it is a recipe that is easily made more healthy with a few substitutions that don't effect the taste at all! I even fool my "health-food-hating" dad with this one time and time again. Probably because it's so gooey and warm, with its chewy raisins and sweet custard, drizzled with crème anglaise.... yum!

In this recipe, I use unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze, which is a non-dairy "milk" similar to soymilk, but made with almonds rather than soybeans. I don't like to drink it, but it lends a nice, very subtle nutty vanilla flavor to baked goods so I use it every now and then. If you'd prefer, you can use skim milk in it's place. Just make sure that for the crème anglaise, you use skim milk and NOT the Almond Breeze.

For the Bread Pudding
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons unsweetened apple cider
1 1/2 cups fat-free Almond Breeze, in unsweetened vanilla (or skim milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs and 1 egg white (SAVE YOLK FOR CRÈME ANGLAISE)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp of salt
4 1/2 cups (about 8 oz) stale cubed French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tsp coarse-grained decorative sugar (optional)

For the Crème Anglaise
1 egg yolk
1-1/2 tbsp sugar
3/4 cups skim milk
1 vanilla bean, 1-1/2 inches long

For the bread pudding, combine the raisins and cider in a small bowl and let stand for 30 minutes. Coat an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray.

Combine the milk, vanilla extract, eggs and egg white (reserve the yolk for crème anglaise), sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt a large bowl; mix well. Add bread, tossing gently to fully coat. Pour mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle with raisins. Cover with foil; chill 1 hour, or up to 4 hours.

Meanwhile, start the crème anglaise. Whisk the reserved egg yolk and sugar in a medium bowl; set aside. Set a strainer over another bowl for the sauce, and have it ready by the stove.

Pour milk into a medium saucepan. Scrape seeds from the vanilla bean; add seeds and bean to the milk. Heat over medium heat, stirring often to prevent scorching, until steaming and hot but NOT bubbling. Discard the bean.

Gradually whisk the hot milk into the eggs. Pour the mixture back into the pan and place it over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until sauce is thick enough to thinly coat the back of the spoon, 4 to 5 minutes. Quickly remove from heat and strain into your sauce bowl. Cover and chill for about 1-1/2 hours (it will continue to thicken in the refrigerator).

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the bread pudding dish in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan and add hot water to the 13 x 9 until it’s 1 inch deep. Bake, with foil still on, for 20 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with decorative sugar, and bake an additional 10 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature, with room temperature crème anglaise.

Yield: 8 servings bread pudding, and about 3/4 cup crème anglaise
210 calories per serving (185 without sauce)


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Monkey Bread

Ooey. Gooey. Cinnamony. Sugary. DELICIOUS. I can't believe it took me until now to discover how good this stuff is (I had never tried it until a few weeks ago!). Seriously... it is soooo goooooood. Plus, it's fun to eat AND easy to make. So basically, you have no excuse not to try this recipe. Go make some Monkey Bread. Now.

Monkey Bread
24 ounces refrigerated roll or bread dough

7-1/2 tbsp + 3 tbsp granulated sugar, divided
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon, divided
2 tsp light butter
3 tbsp skim milk

Preheat oven to 350°F and spray a loaf pan or small bunt pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Mix together 3 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut dough in pieces so that you can roll it into 3/4-inch to 1-inch balls. Roll in the cinnamon-sugar, arranging them in the pan as you go. Sprinkle any extra cinnamon-sugar on top.

In a microwavable bowl, combine the 7-1/2 tbsp granulated sugar, brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, butter, and milk; microwave until butter is just melted. Stir it all together, and pour mixture over dough balls.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes, then turn upside down onto a plate.

Yield: 8 servings
310 calories per serving

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