Monthly Archives: October 2012

Hawaiian Banana Coconut Streusel Muffins

One of dearest professor’s spouses passed away last night.

I think all of us had a hard time staying focused after hearing the news. I know my mind was full of a whirlwind of thoughts.

What happens when it’s somebody who’s really close to you?

I can’t even begin to imagine. I thank my lucky stars that I can’t, but I can’t. I can’t. Period.

Sometimes those moments creep up on me and everything suddenly stops. Maybe I’m in the middle of scanning Beowulf. Maybe I’m standing in the kitchen half-listening as my mom chatters away at me while she’s making ma po tofu. Maybe I’m just sitting there thinking about something completely unrelated, like how I really want to make marshmallow Tigger Tails for Halloween.

The spoon stops stirring. The scanning is suspended. Whatever I’m doing, stops.

My parents aren’t going to be around for the rest of my life. Neither are my grandparents, or brother, or friends or mentors or cousins or aunts or uncles or all the people I know and love so dearly.

Wallflour Power: “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” –Mark Twain

I have a really, really hard time wrapping my mind around that. I always thought I could handle the thought of it when the time came, in theory, but now I’ve been thrown off by something so removed from myself that I just. Can’t. Imagine.

And here I am, uploading photos and writing and trying to sort it all out.

It’s always a sign of how much somebody is respected when everyone around him or her feels the blow almost as keenly as if it had happened to them.

Another incredibly difficult thing I never had to think about was how you say you’re sorry when somebody has just lost their life partner, their significant other, their soulmate.

What do I say to that?

What does anyone say when this happens?

We’re sending her a card–I sent her a short email expressing my deepest sympathy and letting her know she’s in my thoughts. There is no template for somebody else’s sorrow.

Thoughts. I’m thinking aloud here. This isn’t a melancholy post, but I can’t help it being a very reflective one, so I’ll leave you all for now with a final photo and maybe, hopefully, more than just one morsel of food for thought to carry with you through the day.

Any thoughts you might have would be deeply appreciated–just as I appreciate all of you and wish you the best in appreciating all those around you.

Hawaiian Banana Coconut Streusel Muffins
Yield: 1 dozen muffins
Adapted from Allrecipes
Ingredients:
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • For Glaze-like streusel (optional): 1/4 cup honey mixed with 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/4 cup brown sugar + 2 tablespoons flour
  • For streusel topping:
  •  1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped nuts (optional)

Directions for muffins:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine mashed bananas, sugar, egg, and melted butter. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in coconut and nuts. Fill lined muffin tins 3/4 way each with batter.
  2. At this point, if you’d like to make the glaze-streusel layer, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Spread lightly on top of each batter-filled liner. (Note: the glaze adds an amazing dimension of crunch and sweetness, but it will also darken your muffins slightly. If you’re worried about appearance, skip this step and only do the post-baking oat streusel.) Bake muffins in oven for 17-19 minutes (making sure to top with streusel with 5 minutes left of baking), until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  3. To make streusel: While your muffins are baking, combine streusel topping ingredients in a small bowl. Press gently on top of each muffin five minutes before your muffins are done baking. This will prevent the streusel from melting or oozing off.

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Muffins

Cheesecake-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes w/Coffee Cinnamon Frosting

It’s still Thursday already Friday somewhere in the world! Thank God.

I may or may not have been blasting some Rebecca Black as I started a new page for this post.

One of the best parts of having an entire two-room bedroom apartment to yourself is that anything goes the moment your pinky toe crosses that blessed threshold.

Rocking out to One Direction and Carly Rae Jepsen into the weest of the wee hours? Of course.

Staying up all night at Disney movie marathon sleepovers that would make fifth-grade girls emerald with envy? Uh, yeah.

Dunking your entire hand into the bowl of cake batter instead of reaching for a mixing spoon because it’s in a drawer that’s ten whole feet away from you? Now we’re talking, my friend.

Lounging on your couch like a boss on a Thursday night in nothing but what your momma gave you and with a glass of pinot noir in your well-manicured hand?

Okay, I haven’t tried that last one. Yet. Apparently maintenance has the key to every apartment in this building, meaning they are allowed to come in without so much as a “hello resident-on-whose-territory-we-are-totally-intruding, you should really put your fig leaves over whatever you don’t want exposed to these eyes.”

Of course, by the time I’m finished with this kamikaze quarter of teaching, coursework, and having a social life the size of a pea, I may just throw in (or rather, away) the towel, grab my fig leaves, and start lounging to my heart’s content. With my pinot noir. For which I will accordingly acquire a refined taste that I currently don’t possess.

As with most things that don’t involve legal persecution or intense self-reevaluation of my worth as a human being, I grossly exaggerate here. My social life has actually been moving along quite swimmingly as of late, thank you very much.

I can’t go into any details about it, though

They might be watching reading.

By “they,” I mean the incredibly attractive young men working as incredibly successful entrepreneurs at an incredibly well-established corporation that still manages to hang onto its good ol’ homey American values.

You know, the ones currently residing in…my head.

Or Storybrook, to be more precise.

Yeah, I’ve started watching Once Upon a Time.

It kind of sucks…

…that my life has been summarily sucked up by it.

Ha.

You know what else sucks?

Not these cupcakes.

We whipped up a batch of these for one of the guys in our department celebrating his birthday this week. If you like a) the idea of a steaming mug of hot chocolate dipped into your morning wake-up call with a hint of autumnal flair, or b) being awesome, you need to try these cupcakes.

(These filled cupcakes were made for Julie’s baking challenge over at Willow Bird Baking–she’s a fantastic gal, so this is something else you should definitely check out if you like, again, being awesome.)

HungryLittleGirl
Cheesecake-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes w/Coffee Cinnamon Frosting
Yield: 15 cupcakes
Cupcake recipe adapted from Allrecipes
Self-filled cupcake ingredients:
  • 1  cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 cups and 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup and 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, pour hot water over cocoa and whisk until smooth. Allow to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, then add to wet ingredients alternately with cooled cocoa liquid. Mix until all ingredients are all just incorporated and smooth; your mixture will be relatively thin, and this is perfect!
  3. To make cheesecake mix: In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until creamy and smooth. Add egg, vanilla, and cinnamon; mix until well-incorporated. Set aside.
  4. Place cupcake liners in a muffin tin and fill each liner about 1/3 of the way with batter. Carefully pour a small teaspoonful of cheesecake batter in (recipe below). Pour additional cupcake batter on top until the liner is 2/3 full; the easiest way to make sure your cheesecake batter doesn’t leak is if you pour the cupcake batter over it in one smooth sweep. (A slow pour will give the cheesecake time to ooze outwards.) Bake in preheated oven for 14-17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in comes out clean. Allow to cool before frosting with coffee cinnamon frosting.

Ingredients for Cinnamon Coffee Frosting:

  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons brewed coffee, cooled
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon instant ground coffee, crushed into fine powder (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon coffee, and cinnamon. Mix together, then add additional coffee as necessary to thin out your frosting and reach desired consistency. (Adding the crushed instant ground coffee adds additional coffee flavor without thinning out your frosting too much. Add more to taste if you like!)

Note: If you want to add a nice chocolate drizzle to your cupcakes, simply melt 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate with 1 tablespoon butter on the stovetop on medium-low heat. Make sure you watch your chocolate carefully and stir frequently to keep it from burning!

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Cakes & Cupcakes

Magic Cookie Butter Bars

When’s the last time you felt so happy or inspired by something that you squealed, or wanted to really, really badly?

This week has been full of those moments. This week has also been a total vortex of busybody heckishness, resulting in a sleep-deprived mental state and horribly dry left eye. It’s funny how often these two go hand in hand, isn’t it? Emotional schizophrenia can be so tiring! I’d really rather just wrestle a grizzly bear or something.

I’m sure that would be much easier than grading a bunch of papers on Call of the Wild or Winnie-the-Pooh.

 Fortunately, right when I reach the point where I’m ready to throw in the towel and stalk the forests in order to satisfy my primordial instincts of bloodlust, something good usually happens.

To give you an example: early this morning I arrived at the office to find one of the other TA’s looking completely faint. Her first ever guest lecture was in a half hour’s time, and she had spent weeks exhausting herself over preparing for it. We talked about it and agreed that it was just a matter of getting it over with, and that she’d do just fine.

She even told me how she’d been thinking about how I lead discussions, and don’t get overly worked up over whether I know every little bit of info ever written about Lewis Carroll, because I love turning those gaps into a dialogue between my students and myself.

Flour Power: “When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”"I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.” –Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne

That was squeal potential moment #1. Bear hugs superseded any residual thoughts of bear wrestling that might’ve been running through my mind a moment before.

Well, kindness begets kindness. An hour later, she came back into the office with a huge grin and plenty of compliments under her belt about how well she had done.

That was squeal moment #2. Don’t you love it when you can squeal for somebody else’s happiness, despite the spiraling hole of despair underneath your own feet?

I just had squeal moment #3 as I was typing just now–my adviser told the class that he’s bringing an original replica of the teddy bears on which Winnie-the-Pooh, i.e. Edward Bear was based to class on Thursday.

If you see a tiny girl heading for the hills with a giant stuffed bear in her arms, you’ll know what happened. The 100 Acre Woods is kind of like the Hogwarts I never got into. I’m still waiting for my owl post, by the way.

Absolute magic.

Funflour Fact #8: Did you know that Winnie-the-Pooh wasn’t always the red-shirted tubby bear the world knows and loves? His original name was Edward Bear, and he made his first appearance in 1922 in a popular satirical periodical called Punch Magazine! It wasn’t until 1924 that he was officially dubbed Winnie-the-Pooh in his self-titled book by A.A. Milne.  

Kind of like these magic cookie bars.

Try these!

Magic Cookie Butter Bars
Yield: 1 9×13-inch baking pan
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips (or any other kind)
  • 1 1/2 cups flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (any variety)
  • 3/4 cup cookie butter (store-bought or homemade)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine melted butter or margarine, graham cracker crumbs, ground cinnamon, and white sugar. Press evenly into a well-greased 9×13-inch baking pan.
  2. Pour half a can of sweetened condensed milk over crust. Sprinkle with both types of chocolate chips, as well as half of the coconut flakes and nuts. Pour remaining half of sweetened condensed milk evenly over the other toppings, then top with remaining coconut flakes and nuts.
  3. Drop cookie butter in small dollops over other ingredients. 
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 22-25 minutes, until top is golden brown. Allow to cool before cutting into squares. 

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Pina Colookies (with a Cheesecake Surprise!)

Wait. Back up. Why didn’t anyone warn me about this movie?

You know, the whole Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind and a freakin cute-as-heck blue mutant pet learns to love one?

Yeah. Talk about a bawl-fest at my crib last night.

My friend and I had a Disney movie marathon last night. A pack of tissues may have been lethally wounded over the course of the evening. The event might have involved the unleashing of an entire army of Disney stuffed animals.

Maybe. I’m not fessing up to anything except that we made these adorable Mickey Mouse pumpkin pancakes to celebrate:

We also might have had delicious food that my friend made for us. Again, whether or not I own something as embarrassing as stuffed Disney paraphernalia, I’ll let you decide.

As you can tell, I plead the fifth on that count. No self-incrimination here.

There may have been a tad more guilt involved in the making of this amazing amalgamation, which was entirely in keeping with the theme of Stitch’s rather mutant, unknown history. And really, what better way to celebrate a fictional account of an alien apocalypse in Hawaii than to make a fun, tropics-themed dessert?

If you didn’t already know, this stuffed cookie was inspired by the challenge Julie is hosting over at Willow Bird Baking. As you’re no doubt aware, she’s a fantastic gal and it’s always a pleasure creating things she’ll happily share!

The only problem with rewatching Disney films that you haven’t seen since you were about yay high (imagine me Lilo-sized–not that I’ve really grown since the fifth grade) is that you pick up on so much more that you never noticed the first time.

Crying during the ohana scenes. Check.

Understanding the total MAIN STORY about Lilo getting taken away from her big sister. Did not see that the first time at all. Check.

Wanting my own personal cuddle buddy Stitch. Uh, yeah. Definitely check. And bonus points for making it happen, too.

Did you hear that?

Wait! Shh. Listen…

Me name Stitch. Make yummy pina colookies. Mmmm.”

Yeah, I’m going to make one sad, batty old lady when I grow up. I’m going to go hug my Stitch now. In the meantime, though, why not listen to the anthropomorphized blue blob and try making a batch of these pina colookies (pineapple cheesecake-filled white chocolate coconut cookies)?

Pina Colookies
Yield: 10 large filled cookies
 
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon hot water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • For the filling:
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon pineapple juice (adjust to reach desired consistency)
  • A few drops lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Cream together butter and sugars. Beat in egg. Mix in vanilla extract.
  2. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to mixture, along with salt. Add flour and stir until just combined. Fold in white chocolate chips and coconut. Place in freezer for 20-30 minutes, until dough is relatively stiff and easy to handle.
  3. To make filling: Combine all filling ingredients in a medium bowl.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place a small ball of chilled dough onto greased cookie sheet and press down gently with your thumb in the middle so that you create a small indentation. Fill with a small teaspoon-ful of filling. Place another ball of dough of equal size on top and wrap around filling, sealing sides of dough so the filling doesn’t leak when baking. Continue shaping cookies until all dough and filling is used.
  5. Bake cookies in preheated oven for 14-16 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Apple Pie Streusel Bread

THIS POST IS DEDICATED TO APPRECIATING THE EDUCATORS AND TEACHERS IN OUR LIVES.

This has an embarrassing amount nothing to do with the fact that I’ve just started teaching an undergraduate course.

Have you ever had a teacher you respected to the core?

Like an apple core–you know, strong, sturdy, and full of so many little seeds of great ideas?

Now that I’m a full-fledged apple-core teacher of sorts, I’ve also crowned myself queen of magnificent metaphors. Because apparently everything I says actually has weight now, or at least so I’ve gathered from the fact that every ounce of word vomit that spews forth from my lips is written down by a dozen zealous pen-wielding university undergrads.

Funflour Fact #7: Did you know that (according to www.fotps.org) the average teacher…a) Spends an average of $443 per year of their own money to meet the needs of their students, and b) spend an average of 50 hours per week on all teaching duties, including non-compensated school-related activities such as grading papers, bus duty and club advising? 

Teachers have been on my mind a lot lately. Just last week, I graded my first full batch of papers and nearly flew off my rocker at the sheer amount of work that goes into such a seemingly “simple” task.

Probably the only thing we got right about our teachers when we were still little bright-eyed brats was that they basically live in their classrooms. I’m stuck in my office at 9 PM as I type this, but I guess that’s about the same thing. And until I started teaching this fall term, I never really–I mean really–appreciated how much our teachers have done and continue to do for us.

Just this morning, I attempted to channel massive levels of anxiety into productive writing energy for nearly half of my students, whose second paper is due this week. We had quite a few tightly-wound strings and lots of near-hyperventilation moments.

Wallflour Power: Don’t wait until it’s too late–show somebody important in your life that you care by making something special for them when there’s no official “occasion.” (This apple pie streusel bread could be a great start!)  

I will be keeping my paper bag handy at my desk from here on out…right next to the Costco-sized packs of tissue boxes.

I will also need to keep a loaf of this apple pie bread around, because apparently it is a total balm for the soul. So I was told…after my friends inhaled it in one round. On second thought, maybe I’ll just save some for myself so that they’ll actually have a sane instructor when they come to talk to me.

Lots of people can point at the education debate and say that teachers don’t do their jobs, that the government “supports” education when the legislation and history says otherwise, and all sorts of crazy stuff. If you’ve ever been in a teacher’s shoes, though, you’ll know just how dedicated these people are.

So this is a post in honor of all you teachers out there–dear teeches, we appreciate you!!

Here’s one for all the appreciated teachers in your life: apple pie bread, everyone. Print this, and show a teacher how much you appreciate them today!

(This post was also part of the October Improv challenge at Frugal Antics–blog hop!)

Which teacher in your life has made the most lasting impression on you, and why?



get the InLinkz code

Apple Pie Streusel Bread
Yield: 1 loaf
Slightly adapted from My Baking Addiction
 
Ingredients:

For the Batter

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups Gold Medal all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups peeled apples, diced (approximately 3-4 medium apples)
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans OR graham crackers, lightly crushed (not too finely) into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup raisins

For the Streusel Topping

  • 1/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, cream butter or margarine until fluffy. Add sugars; blend until well-combined and creamy. Add buttermilk and baking powder; mix until combined. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until thoroughly incorporated.
  2. Gradually add flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and mix until just incorporated. Fold in apples, pecans or graham crackers, and raisins. Spoon into a prepared greased 9×5″ loaf pan.
  3. For the streusel: In a medium bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, oats, and pecans. Cut in butter or margarine until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Spoon evenly on top of batter. Bake entire bread for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted all the way through comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack, and cut when completely cooled.
  4. The final (and most important!) step: serve this to a teacher or instructor in your life whom you appreciate!

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Bread, Fruit Desserts

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

“Meltdown” seems to be the word of the week over in these parts.

As a consequence, I’ve chosen to melt down one of my favorite desserts and turn it into a completely acceptable breakfast liquid substitute. This smoothie found inspiration in Erica‘s recipe of the same, but you’ll find that the ingredients are about as similar as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Oscar Wilde.

If you can’t tell, I’m doing a lot of thinking about Oscar Wilde at the moment. I’m doing archival research at the premier Wilde institute possibly the world round and am, in fact, currently demonstrating my unconditional commitment to the process by writing this post in the archival tombs. Again.

Wallflour Power: A great idea for combating the meltdown syndrome is by starting with small reminders about great things that have recently happened to you. Every night before I go to bed, I write a post-it with something that made me smile during the day. When I have a bad day, I take a few minutes to look at my wall-ful of colorful post-its, and it never fails to bring a spark of inspiration back into my life!

More importantly, though, I’m teaching, and the bulk of this current week’s meltdown comes in the form of not having done any of my own work this week…although this may have had more to do with the fact that I went to an epic family banquet all day on Saturday, and spent my entire Sunday at Disneyland rather than with dear Wilde.

I am, undoubtedly, one of the hardest workers within a two-centimeter radius of myself.

I justify my dalliance with the consolation that I really, really needed this break. After spending nearly 40 hours poring over two classes’ papers last week, and after skipping every single one of my extracurricular activities trying to phrase my comments on near-fail papers as constructively (and kindly) as possible, I came charging into this week nose-to-ground first.

This is my rationale for creating a meltdown drink that is not only delicious and only a tiny portion of the guilt, but to which you can lift your glasses and say…

Cheers! We ain’t dead yet.

And amen to that.

What’s your best remedy after a bad day?

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
Ingredients:
  • 6 ice cubes
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup cookie butter
  • 1/4 cup oats (any variety)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • A dash of ground nutmeg
  • A splash of vanilla extract
  • A few crushed graham crackers (for garnish)

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients (except graham crackers) in blender. Crush ice until mixture becomes liquidy, then blend until completely smooth. Serve with crushed graham crackers and cinnamon as garnish, and watch as your bad day melts away!

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Pineapple Custard Coconut “Bun” Breakfast Braid

Before I get started on anything else, I wanted to let you all know for what fabulous occasion I made this (equally fabulous, if I say so myself) breakfast braid. If y’all don’t already know her, Julie from Willow Bird Baking is hosting her first challenge series ever and all of you should join! She’s fantastic. This week’s challenge is breakfast braids. And at the risk of exposing you to yet another countless hours logged browsing awesome blogs, I’m sending you on over there to check it out.

Do it.

Admit it–it sounds better to you than washing that pile of laundry glaring at you from the corner of your room.

So about this pineapple custard coconut bun.

Breakfast braid.

Hybrid thing.

Have you ever had a Chinese pineapple bun before? I’ve always wanted to try this recipe from Christine’s site, but a) I haven’t quite worked up the courage to make “fluffy” pastries yet, and b) I’m scared (read: terrified) out of my size who-knows-what pants even thinking about replicating a food that I grew up eating.

Because usually it ends up with my parents poking at it and going, “Ehhh, why you make this? Give up and buy from store already. Much better.”

Okay no, my parents don’t have absurdly martian accents. I just like to add them in for effect, sort of like I adopt a really corrupt British accent every time I imitate the snooty people I occasionally encounter in my department, even though I’m pretty sure all of them popped out of the womb singing “America, The Beautiful.”

It doesn’t really make sense. Neither do a lot of things in my pell-mell life, and neither do these hybridized, slightly mutant buns/bread that are deliciously awesome.

What’s special (or what I’d like to think is special) about them is that actually combine three awesome foods and jam them into one crazy concoction that actually resembles edible sustenance. We have, of course, the requisite breakfast braid base for the challenge, but I wanted to put an Asian spin on the whole ordeal. I love Chinese baked goods, and I love working with them when my martian parents aren’t around to poke fun at me, so it seemed natural to work that flair into this challenge.

I can just imagine my mad fantastic Zumba instructor screaming it at me now. Work it, girl–work those buns!!

So I stuffed it with my favorite filling from these traditional cocktail buns–and then, instead of your conventional breakfast braid icing, I jammed on a hunkin’ layer of the sweet “pineapple” layer from pineapple buns on top.

(For those of you who have never eaten a pineapple bun: first, we need to fix that. Second, the bun gets its name from the pineapple pattern this layer forms on the bun post-baking, rather than any actual pineapple ingredient in the bun itself. I usually peel this part off and eat it while sneaking away in triumph. It is, unquestionably, the best part of the pastry.)

But then again, maybe it’s a good thing not all of you know about it. More for me.

One final, CRITICAL note, and then I’ll shut my selfish trap.

If you make this recipe, read this carefully: Make sure you leave a piece for me.

I am in the process of grading the last batch of papers from our first round of essays, and I need edible renumeration for my pains.

Shipping address available upon request.

That is all. Now go work those buns.

Pineapple Custard Coconut “Bun” Breakfast Braid
Yield: 1 medium braid
 
For breakfast bun braid:
Adapted from Willow Bird Baking

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1.5 ounces cream cheese OR 1 ounce tofu + 2 tablespoons plain yogurt*
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in softened butter or margarine, as well as cream cheese (or substitute–see note below) and mix until a sort of coarse meal forms.  Add milk and vanilla, and stir until a very loose dough forms. Be sure not to overmix–doing so might turn your pastry dough from a rocking good pastry to a plain old rock!
  2. Turn out onto floured surface and knead very gently about five or six times, until your dough just comes together. Julie notes that it will be a very rough dough at this point, and that this is “perfect” for our purposes! Roll out into a rectangle about 5″ by 10″–just as long as it’s not too thin, you’ll be good to go.
  3. In the vertical middle third of your dough, spread coconut custard filling (see below for instructions). Then, along each side, make diagonal cuts (all in the same direction) about 1.5-inch in length and 1-inch apart from each other. Starting on one side, carefully fold one of the strips over the filling, then fold the matching strip from the other side. Continue folding until a braid is formed. Ta-da! Not so bad, was it?
  4. Top with pineapple layer (see below for instructions) and brush with egg wash (see below for instructions). Bake in preheated oven for 14-18 minutes, or until your top pineapple layer becomes golden. Allow to cool slightly before serving–the filling will be hot!

*Note on cream cheese substitute: I’m offering my cream cheese substitute because I do a really good job of not checking all of my supplies beforehand (d’oh) and didn’t have a package on hand. The tofu and yogurt will do the trick if you’re making small batches like I did; however, if you’re making a full-on breakfast honkin’ braid, it’s probably best if you use the cream cheese like a normal responsible  human being.

For the coconut custard filling:

Adapted from Christine’s Recipes

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/4 egg, beaten (hold on to the rest of the egg–it’s going into your pineapple topping!)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut

Directions:

  1. Combine butter and sugar. Mix until light and fluffy.
  2. Stir in egg. Add coconut and stir in until just combined.
  3. Place mixture in fridge for at least a few minutes before using it, if possible; this will make it more manageable.

For pineapple bun topping:

Adapted from Rasa Malaysia

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Beat butter or margarine, sugar, and vanilla until fluffy and light. Add in egg. Fold in flour.

For egg wash:

  • Use remaining 1/4 beaten egg and brush onto pineapple-topped breakfast braids immediately before baking.

19 Comments

Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Bread

DIY: Homemade Plain Yogurt

Guess who’s sitting in the reading room of a world-reknowned research library…

…writing on her food blog. I’m such a great academic, I know.

At least I don’t text while I’m at Disneyland. You know those rumored labyrinth of tunnels that runs underneath the theme park? I have it on good authority that they actually exist and, what’s more, that that’s where Ursula drags all the people who are texting and performs her “Poor Unfortunate Souls” solo. So that the next time you see them, it’ll be with their fins nailed to the floor singing a mermaid rendition of “It’s a Small World” in the infamous ride.

But really–who pays $100+ to walk into the happiest place on earth, plop down on the nearest bench, and have blase conversations with people hundreds of mile away about the recent film “Looper”?

I mean, it was a good film, bub, but let’s face it–it can wait. And frankly, nobody really cares if you thought there was a major flaw in the time warp logic, because time travel has nothing on JGL’s badass-ness…if that’s a word. It will be in four years when I come out with my doctorate. That’s the first word I’m going to coin. Badassness, read: JGL.

Speaking of acronyms, the world is chock full of acronym-based crazes these days–some great (like DIY) and some not so much (YOLO, anyone?). I’m personally a huge proponent of DIY, not least because:

a) it’s easy on the pocketbook,

b) it’s fresher (if we’re talking about food–I’m not sure whether a homemade sweater is any “fresher” than a store-bought one unless you shear the sheep yourself or something), and

c) it makes you feel like you actually possess some semblance of control over your otherwise untameable destiny.

Flour Power: There are plenty of DIY projects out there that are waiting to be created! If you ever feel blue and need something to do, make something fun and you’ll feel like brand new!

Now, let’s not jump ahead of our horses here. As recently as two years ago, I didn’t see the point of DIY. It contained everything that irked me: an action verb (I was much more of a passive voice kind of gal), an unspecified pronoun, and a much-unneeded reference to the lazy-bummed being I was.

Now, I not only love DIY (even though I always get it mixed up with DUI, much to my own social embarrassment), but I’m even a little bit addicted to it (and the use of dangling pronouns, apparently)! I’ve been making my own granola, ice cream, hummus, pesto, and now, my own yogurt. It’s as easy as two recipes and about 20 minutes in which you can check on the progress of your yogurt over the span of six hours.

DIY: Do-it…yogurt!

Do this. Print it. Save it. You’ll get a bucket full of yogurt and a buck more in your wallet. Plus, homemade yogurt can be tweaked to have a more subtle taste than most biting tart plain yogurts. What’s not to love?

Happy reading, and happy eatings!

Homemade Plain Yogurt
What you’ll need:
  • 2 cups milk*
  • 3-4 tablespoons plain yogurt**
  • A medium pot, a towel, and a warm spot in your kitchen (preferably the oven)

*Note on milk: You can basically use any fat-percentage milk. I use 2%–whole milk would make your yogurt creamier, as expected, while I’m assuming skim milk will make your yogurt a bit thinner. However, don’t feel like you need to use whole milk in order to make great (and guilt-free) yogurt!

**Note on yogurt: It’s VERY important that you check your store-bought yogurt’s ingredients list–if you see “Live and Active Cultures” listed, you’re good to go! If your yogurt brand is missing this ingredient, your yogurt won’t cultivate properly. The type of plain yogurt you use is completely up to you, although I recommend using a nice tart and thick Greek yogurt–the tangy bite of the yogurt will fade a little bit when you make your own (and that’s completely fine with me, since I’m not a huge fan of super-tart yogurt anyway).

Directions:

Step 1: HEAT UP your milk.

Over medium flame, heat up your milk in saucepan until it begins to foam (just before it boils). Your milk will reach a temperature of about 180 degrees F at this point. Allow it to cool for 15 minutes, or until you can comfortably dip a finger in for a few seconds without scalding yourself (for those of you with a thermometer, it’ll be about 110 degrees F).

Step 2: ADD yogurt cultures.

When your milk reaches the desired  temperature, stir in 3 to 4 tablespoons of your store-bought yogurt until completely incorporated. I typically use store-bought yogurt as a starter each time just because it yields the most consistent results, but I’ve heard that you can definitely use your own homemade batches as starter.

Step 3: COVER AND KEEP WARM for 6 hours.

Cover the pot with a towel and place the pot in a warm place. I like to heat up my oven briefly and then turn off the heat before placing my yogurt inside the oven. I usually fire it up for a moment every hour or so to keep the temperature stable inside. (Just don’t forget to turn off the oven like I did! If it gets too hot, your yogurt will simply seize and the cultures won’t work anymore.) Allow it to sit inside for about 6 hours, until your yogurt is pretty firm when jiggled lightly. After that, you can eat it straight, but I definitely prefer refrigerating it overnight and anticipating my next morning’s breakfast. Bon appetit!

19 Comments

Filed under Breakfast & Brunch, Homemade/DIY

“Sorry–It’s Still Summer!” Cinnamon Rolls (Raspberry Cheesecake Rolls with Lemon Icing)

With the plethora of pumpkin and autumnal recipes hitting the web these days, I thought we all needed a little reminding that it is not, in fact, autumn everywhere in the world. In some places, it’s legitimately springtime, and in others, it’s legitimately autumn but actually not because it doesn’t feel like autumn. It feels, in fact, like summertime. Still. In October.

So I say…

Why fight it? And if anyone says otherwise, you can just say what I say–

“Sorry–it’s still summer! And summer says I’m making these rolls.”

There are some bloggers who say, “Oh look, the calendar says it’s autumn–I guess it’s time to make autumn recipes! Hooray!” Don’t get me wrong–I love pumpkin and apple and cinnamon and pecan and the list could go on and on of recipes. I love them all; I’ve even posted my own fair share of them recently, like this pumpkin spiced granola or this delicious pumpkin pull-apart bread.

But if summer wants to overstay its equinox and beat me on the brow with high-90′s weather as I trudge to my classroom with enough brick-like books for a mason to build a house with, I say we fight back.

With…cinnamon rolls. Raspberry cheesecake ones, more specifically.

And tangy sweet lemon glaze. Very importanto.

Funflour Fact #6: Speaking of made-up sort-of-sounds-legit words (“importanto” is not, to my knowledge, a real word), did you know that the Spanish word for “pelican” is “pelicano,” and that words with the same etymological origins are called “cognates”?

What’s also very importanto is trying your hand at new things, like this fun challenge Julie is hosting over at Willow Bird Baking!

Flour Power: Feeling up for a challenge? Don’t forget to head on over to Julie’s blog and check out all the entries, and submit one of your own, too!

If you haven’t guessed it already, the theme is…da da da…autumn!

Just kidding. It’s cinnamon rolls. I haven’t reached that blessed pinnacle of ironic wit at which I could make that sort of a joke entry and get away with it yet. Soon. Soon.

Go wild, go crazy, or go summery, if you’re like me and clinging onto those last (blazing) streaks of sunshine.

And once you’re done being a wild child, bake a batch of these–because I guarantee you that they are “berry” blazing summery good!

Happy reading, and happy eatings!

“Sorry, Sir–Still Summer!” Cinnamon Rolls (Raspberry Cheesecake Rolls with Lemon Icing)
Yield: 6 cinnamon rolls
Base recipe adapted from Allrecipes
 
For the dough:
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons  (or half an average packet) dry active yeast
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons margarine, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

How to make the dough:

  1. Heat up milk in saucepan until warm enough that you can comfortably dip your finger in for a few seconds without scalding yourself. Transfer to a large bowl and dissolve white sugar. Stir in yeast and allow to sit in a warm spot for 10 minutes. This is the proofing step–your mixture should foam slightly and give off a “bread-y” smell. (If it doesn’t, your yeast is no longer active, so you might have to toss it out and try again.)
  2. Mix in melted margarine and salt. Add flour gradually and stir in until a dough forms. Turn out onto lightly floured board and knead by pulling dough away from your body, then folding it back in on itself. Rotate dough a quarter of a turn after each pull. Knead until pressing two fingers gently into dough creates two indentations that hold their shape–then you’ll know that your dough is smooth, elastic, and ready to go!
  3. Place into a well-greased bowl and cover with damp towel. Place in a warm spot and allow dough to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Turn out onto lightly-floured board and punch down dough. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Roll out dough into a 9×13″ rectangle and spread filling evenly over dough (see below). Starting from one of the short ends, roll up dough until it forms a tight spiral. Be careful not to push too hard though, or your filling will spill out! Cut into six even pieces and place them seam-side up in a greased 9″ baking pan. Place in a warm place and allow dough to rise for an additional 30 minutes.
  5. Bake cinnamon rolls in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove and immediately pour glaze over hot rolls so that it melts into the dough; allow rolls to cool slightly before spreading on frosting (see below).

For the filling:

  • 6 oz. cream cheese, softened (you’ll be using the other 2 oz. for the icing, so keep it handy)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup raspberry preserves, adjusted to taste
  • Splash of vanilla

To make filling: Whip cream cheese in a medium bowl until creamy. Add preserves and vanilla, then stir until mixture is fluffy. Spread onto dough (step 4, above).

For the glaze (to pour over rolls while hot):

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Splash of vanilla extract

To make glaze: Combine all ingredients and stir until it forms a thinnish glaze. (Feel free to add more lemon juice or powdered sugar as necessary to adjust the consistency.) Pour over cinnamon rolls immediately after they come out of the oven to allow glaze to soak into dough.

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Splash of vanilla extract

To make frosting: Whip cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla. Mix until your frosting is fluffy; add more sugar or lemon juice as necessary to reach desired consistency. Spread over warm rolls immediately before serving.

6 Comments

Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Fruit Desserts

Mediterranean Couscous and Kashk E-Bademjan

Happy belated Mid-Autumn Festival!

To celebrate, we went Greek. Which makes no sense if you don’t think about it–but if you do think about for just the teeniest bit, it starts to make a little sense.

…And if you do happen to find that nugget of sense, please let me know what it is, because I haven’t thought of it quite yet.

Last night I invited over the new recruits for our program (hooray, fresh blood!) who live in the same graduate student complexes as me. Mind-melting weather aside–a whopping 95 degrees in the dead of night–our motley crew really was a melting pot that made me glad I’d pulled my dishes so many different cuisines. We chatted over couscous and Kashk E-Badjemajan (a Persian eggplant and fried onion dip), Chinese garlic eggplant and honey “walnut” tofu (I used tempeh because one of the guys had a nut allergy), homemade sweet bread and cucumber salad. And of course, we had moon cakes.

Flour Power: I first ran into Kashk E-Bademjan in a Persian restaurant and just needed to make a copycat recipe…and now that I’ve done it, it feels great eating this scumptious dish in the comfort of my own kitchen! Next time you go out and have a great dish, go home and do some research, or go straight to your kitchen and give it a try if you’re feeling bold. You never know what you might come up with!

Do you know how absolutely terrifying it is cooking for somebody with nut and dairy allergies? I wouldn’t touch anything with nuts in them for the entire day (ever hear the story of the guy who died kissing his girlfriend, who had eaten peanut butter the day before? Holy. Cripes.), and I shoved anything with dairy in it to the wayyy back of my fridge so I wouldn’t accidentally, you know, use it.

That being said, I love challenges. It was a vegan sort of night in the household.

So when are you coming over so I can have an excuse to cook like this again? I’m already bored of the stuff in my fridge, and it’s only been…about 12 hours.

Although that might be because I’ve already finished all of the leftovers–they were pretty darn good.

I just realized I was going to offer you some, too. Sorry. None for you.

I think the highlight of my night was when one of the girls said we should do this often, and a guy responded, “We should do potlucks!”

A guy. In my department. Wants to do potlucks.

It’s like we’re blood siblings or something.

Oh, and they know what Sailor Moon is. And they want to watch the 2013 release of a new season with me.

I have a feeling I’m going to like this new crew very, very much.

What’s your go-to dish(es) when you have a potluck or dinner? Feel free to link me up!

Happy reading, and happy eatings!

Mediterranean Couscous (Vegan-Friendly)
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup dried whole wheat couscous
  • 1 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine or apple cider vinegar (any mild or fruity vinegar variety will work well)
  • 1 pinch ground cumin
  • 1/2 large cucumber, diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup cashews or peanuts (optional)
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring broth to a boil. Stir in couscous, then cover with lid and allow to steam for 5 minutes. In the meantime, in a large bowl, combine oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and cumin. Add cucumber and tomatoes, and toss until completely coated.
  2. Fluff finished couscous with a fork, then add to the liquid mixture. Add raisins, nuts, and cheese as desired, then toss all ingredients together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.

Kashk E-Bademjan (Eggplant Fried Onion Dip)*

Ingredients:

  • 1 large Japanese eggplant, diced into small chunks
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2 tablespoons soy yogurt (see note)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large frying pan, heat up oil and start frying onions. When they begin to brown, add eggplant and continue frying until eggplant is completely tender, and onions are caramelized. Set aside to cool briefly.
  2. Set aside some of the fried onion (for garnishing); place the rest of the mixture, as well as the soy yogurt, into a food processor. Pulse until the eggplant and onion is still chunky but relatively paste-like. Add salt and pepper to taste. Scoop out from food processor and garnish with reserved onions, as well as a drizzle of yogurt. Serve warm and enjoy!

*Note: This appetizer traditionally contains whey, the liquid byproduct of yogurt. Since my friend is allergic to dairy, I substituted a small amount of soy yogurt for the whey.

5 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, Lunch & Dinner, Vegetarian