3/27/13

7 Cool Kitchen Too: Butter Keeper


I love my Butter Keeper.  Some people call it a "butter bell" or "butter bell crock" because of its bell shape.


Why do I love it?

Because it keeps my butter fresh and soft on the counter top for up to 30 days!

Don't you hate it when you try to spread cold butter on a piece of fresh bread....it tears and rips the bread apart!

I also love it because it costs under $10 and it is so easy to use...

Simply spread 1 stick (1/2 cup) of softened butter into the "bell."


Fill the other container with a couple of inches of fresh water.  This is one of the keys to keeping your butter fresh.  You must change the water every 2-3 days.


No biggie.  This butter pretty much disappears after a week or so, which I then hand wash the butter bell and replace with a fresh stick of butter.

The water creates a seal, keeping outside air away from the butter, keeping it fresh.

Cool, huh?




3/21/13

6 As Seen on TV Eggs-periment


Have you ever wondered if the products "as seen on TV" really work?  I usually don't fall for the gimicky things that are sold on t.v., but my hubby really, really, wanted to try these "Eggies."

When I saw them in the dollar store, I thought, "Why not?  It would be a good experiment to try."

Hey, the package says it all ~ "Crack, Boil, and Twist....Never Peel a Hard-Boiled Egg Again!"

So here it goes, my first "as seen on tv "eggs-periment" you might call it....

Out of the package, I read that Eggies must be coated with oil or cooking spray. 

Another step?


The instructions were very vague on how to put the Eggies together, and here is my first messy attempt.  Using an extra-large egg, this is what happened...


Looking at the pictures outside of the box, I realized my mistake.  The collar goes on first, then the egg, then the top.


I made sure everything was screwed together tightly and put three Eggies in a pot of warm water, to bring to a boil.

Minutes later, the pot began to boil over and I quickly turned the heat down and covered the pot.  I could tell that the egg whites were leaking all over the pot....

Ughhh.  I even tried another batch of eggs, making sure the collars were screwed on tightly. Same leaky, messy results.


Here are the Eggies, simmered covered, for 10 minutes and cooled for 3, with the tops unscrewed.


With a slight squeeze, the hard boiled eggs come out easily onto the plate, although they don't look like traditional hard boiled eggs, and the yolks look perfectly cooked, let's see how they taste...


I was not happy with the taste of the yolk.  It was dry and almost rubbery.  My guess is that either too much of the egg whites leaked out or the Eggies somehow allow moisture to cook out, leaving the yolks dry and rubbery tasting.

I would not serve these eggs at all.  I think the time spent oiling the Eggies, cleaning up the leaky mess it leaves behind, and the taste gives this a big thumbs down.  I prefer my Perfectly Peeled Hard Boiled egg recipe:  simply plop whole, uncracked eggs into a pot of water, boil them, set them in an ice bath and boil them for 1 minute longer to release the membrane from the shell, making the eggs easier to peel.

Besides, don't these Deviled Eggs look pretty and pretty darn tasty?


3/14/13

0 Buttery Celtic Knot Shortbread Cookies


I received a Celtic Knot shortbread pan for Christmas from a sweet aunt who understands my love for baking. My neighbor gave me a box of shortbread cookies and I was immediately hooked by the crunchy, buttery, yet melt-in-your-mouth taste of these cookies and had to make them!

You don't have to have a stoneware pan to make these cookies, but they sure are pretty, aren't they?  You can use a 9" round cake pan for this recipe (listed as a link at the bottom of this post).

Room temperature salted butter (yes, salted butter is used.  If you use unsalted butter, add 1/4 t. salt per stick of butter) is beaten till light and creamy.  Powdered sugar, is weighed (yes, I weigh my ingredients whenever possible!) and added with vanilla and almond extract if desired.


Unbleached all purpose flour is added.  The mixture may seem dry ...


but keep beating until the dough comes together.


I cut this recipe in half for a couple of reasons.  First, I only had one stone pan, and second, I wanted to see how this recipe turned out, and third, I didn't need a whole batch of butter cookies to wreck my diet, right?

Lightly grease your pan.  (I used canola oil) If you are using a 9" round cake pan, you can grease it, line it with parchment paper, and grease it again.  Trace a circle on your parchment paper, using the 9"round pan as a guide and cut it to fit your pan.  This will help the cookie release nice and easily.


Press the dough into your prepared pan.  I found that it is easier to use a piece of plastic wrap to help press and smooth the top of the dough.


I totally forgot to do the next step:  prick the top of the dough with a fork to prevent the dough from bubbling.  After baking to a light golden color, it looks like there are no bubbles on the surface.

 *whew*

Find a thin, thin, knife and run it around the entire edge of your pan.  My offset spatula worked great.


Place a pan or cutting board on top of your baked cookie and flip it over to release.


I gingerly lifted the pan, expecting a big crumbly mess....

Yay!  It looks beautiful!

Use a sharp knife to cut each round in wedges, and transfer to a wire rack to cool.


These cookies were even better than the store bought shortbread cookies ~ crunchy, light, buttery, and melt-in-my-mouth delicious!  This basic recipe would be great with any of your favorite extracts: almond, lemon or drizzled with white/dark chocolate.

This is a very simple, easy, and elegant recipe to make with all the ingredients readily on hand.  A great idea for a last minute gathering!


Print Friendly and PDF
Buttery Shortbread Cookies
Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners sugar (4 oz)
2 t. vanilla extract
¼ t. almond extract, optional or the flavor of your choice
2 c. unbleached all purpose flour (8.5oz)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 300°. Lightly grease two round 9” cake pans or line with parchment and grease the parchment.
In a med sized bowl, beat butter till light. Add sugar, vanilla, and almond extract, then beat in flour. Mixture may
seem dry, but keep beating till it comes together. Add up to 1 T. of water if needed for a stiff dough. Divide dough
in half and press each into prepared pans, smoothing tops with fingers or mini rolling pin. Prick tops all over with
a fork. Bake until light golden, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately turn out onto clean work
surface. Use a sharp knife to cut each round into 12 wedges; transfer to wire rack to cool.

Options:

Drizzle w/melted caramel, chocolate and sprinkle w/nuts. Spread jam on top and crumble a cookie or two on top.
Add ¼ -1/2 t. eggnog flavor to dough in place of almond extract.
Ginger: 1/3 c. finely diced ginger + 1 t. powdered ginger.
1/8t. butter rum flavor +1 c. diced toasted pecans. 


3/6/13

16 Chewy Bagels ~ You Have to Make These!!



Let me introduce this lovely, chewy water bagel that rival the ones from your local bakery. Bakeries often "steam-bake" their bagels, making them light and chewy, but often lack in flavor that these boiled bagels can give you.


I made bagels many, many years ago and swore I would never bake them again.  They were too time consuming; had too many steps.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy and simple these were to make!

It begins with a batter-like sponge of yeast, bread flour and water.  I don't have bread flour, so I used 1 Tablespoon of vital wheat gluten plus enough all purpose flour to equal 4 cups.

After 1-2 hours, it is a bubbly mass.

Add more yeast...




more high gluten (bread flour or APF with vital wheat gluten), salt and malt powder.

What is malt powder?   It is a derivative of roasted barley.  It converts the dough starches into sugar, promotes a strong rise, gives it great texture and that beautiful brown crust.  You can find malt powder and syrup at Kingarthurflour.com.  Only  2 teaspoons are needed for this recipe, and the rest can be stored in your freezer.  Do not confuse malt powder with the malted milk powder that you use for shakes, etc.  It is not the same thing!


If you don't have this powder, you can use honey, brown sugar or malt syrup.

O.k., for those of you who have the Classic 4.5 qt. 250 watt Kitchen Aid mixer, DO NOT USE it for this recipe.  You will kill (burn out) your mixer with this very stiff dough. I recommend an electric mixer that is at least 450 watts or higher.  Oh, and yes, a Bosch mixer will work!

Knead by hand or use a mixer till you have a smooth, pliable dough.




The original recipe suggests weighing the dough into 4.5 oz. portions, which make 12 VERY LARGE COSTCO SIZED bagels.  I prefer to make the 2.25 oz size, which makes 24 perfect mini bagels for sandwiches, mini pizzas, etc.








Each portion is rolled into a ball, with the ends tucked neatly underneath....





After a 10 minute rest, I poke a hole in the middle...




Move over, Pillsbury Dough Boy...

And stretch it out with my fingers until I get a 1-2" sized hole.

The shaped bagels are covered with plastic wrap for another 10 minute rest.









This part is new to me.  After 10 minutes, you give one bagel the "float test."  Why do the float test?  It will let you know exactly when to put the bagels into the fridge to slow down the rising process.  If you wait too long, your bagels may rise too much and deflate during baking.



Drop the bagel into a bowl of room temperature water.  If it floats, it's ready to go into the fridge. If not, wait another 5-10 minutes and test the bagel again. 

This floated immediately.  It floats, it floats!!

Bagels are covered with plastic wrap and put into the fridge for up to 2 days. Make sure no air can get into the plastic wrap or your bagels will develop a "crust" where the air comes in contact.





Set it and forget it, awriiiiiight!

When you are ready to bake, set your oven, and get a large pot of water ready.

Add baking 1 T. soda to your water.  This is one of the secrets to a chewy crust!


These are boiled for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side...


and immediately dunked into toppings of your choice.

My boys love the EVERYTHING topping.  This is equal parts of sesame seed, coarse salt, dried garlic, dried onion and poppy seed. I found the garlic and onion at Winco. Hooray for bulk spices!

Tip:  I couldn't bring myself to pay $5 for 1 oz. of sesame seeds.  I spoke to my local baker and he sold me 2 oz. for .60 cents!  



Immediately bake the bagels for 5 minutes at 500 degrees, rotate pans, drop the temperature to 450 degrees and bake for another 5 minutes.


Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, and they are ready to eat!!!!


My favorite?

The Asiago cheese topped bagels....





The verdict?

A soft, dense, chewy bagel that is worthy of cream cheese, jam, or your favorite sandwich fillings ~

I will be making these again.



And again.

Bagel Recipe
(full page printable recipe)


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