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Pan de Coco

Welcome to another special birthday edition of Needs Baked! This week’s recipe comes all the way from Honduras. I made it for my friend and coworker’s birthday. He’s from Honduras, so I wanted to make something Honduran.

The yeast mixture and the coconut.

The yeast mixture and the coconut.

His birthday was actually a little while ago, but I didn’t know it was his birthday until it happened. And before I could make something for him, he was out of the office (and out-of-town) for a week, so it was delayed.

The dough!

The dough!

While I consider myself fairly worldly, I have to admit there are a lot of places in the world that I don’t know anything about. Honduras is one of them. So I had to do some research to find Honduran recipes. In the process, I did some research about Honduran history and culture, which was fun, too.

The dough after rising.

The dough after rising.

I came across this recipe, and it looked pretty cool. Pan de coco translates into English as “coconut bread”. Fun fact: it’s also popular in the Philippines. I found a few different versions of the recipe. I settled on this one because it looked pretty straightforward.

First batch, ready to rise.

First batch, ready to rise.

In some ways, it was similar to making the pretzels I recently made. That is to say, it was not complicated, but there were lots of steps, and lots of different things to do. First you mix up the yeast and some ingredients. Then you wait. Then you add the coconut. Then you wait. Then you add everything else in and mix it together. Then you wait some more. Then you split it up and form it into little balls. And then you wait once more. Then you finally bake it. There’s a lot of waiting, but that’s because you have to wait for the dough to rise. (Side note: I once wrote a play called “Waiting for the Dough”. There is a pizza delivery that is central to the play. Bonus points if you get the pun.)

Second batch, ready to rise.

Second batch, ready to rise.

I took a couple of shortcuts while making it. I melted the butter instead of just softening it. (This happened by accident, as I microwaved it too long.) I also kneaded the dough right in the bowl rather than make more of a mess.

First batch after it rose.

First batch after it rose.

I split the dough into two equal pieces by weight. (Thank you digital scale!) I split each of those two pieces into 8 balls, also by weight. I did that by dividing the total weight of each piece into 8. Then I weighed out each ball until it was close enough to that number (about 2 oz). It wasn’t exact, but it was much more accurate than guessing, and easy too. (Thank you again, Mr. Scale!) Measurement FTW!

Second batch after it rose.

Second batch after it rose.

I baked them on a baking sheet, but I used a Silpat instead of buttering it. Before baking, they looked a little bit like biscuits. They smelled really nice while baking.

First batch fresh from the oven!

First batch fresh from the oven!

I tried one warm. It was delicious! The coconut taste is mild. There’s the slightest hint of it in the dough, and there are bits of shredded coconut throughout. But it’s not too much. It’s kinda like a dinner roll, but with a little something extra.

Second batch fresh from the oven!

Second batch fresh from the oven!

I brought them into work to share with the birthday boy. I explained to him that it was in honor of his birthday, even though his birthday had passed. He enjoyed them very much. Everyone enjoyed them. They’re different from the baked goods I normally bring in, but people really liked them. Even my wife, who doesn’t like coconut, enjoyed them.

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There were a few left over, and I enjoyed those for the rest of the week. They were great for breakfast or a snack. They held up well for the few days they lasted. I would totally make these again.

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Thanks to my wife for helping with the cleanup as she usually does. Fortunately, there wasn’t too much this time. I also want to give her an extra special thanks. You already know that she helps out when I bake, but I don’t know if you know that she’s constantly helping other people. In fact, as I’m writing this she’s out and about helping others. I don’t know if she realizes how much she does for other people. So I just wanted to acknowledge that. Thank you for always giving of yourself, even when it’s not easy or comfortable. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

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So, if you like coconut, or even if you don’t, and you’re looking for a little something extra in the bread department, give this a shot. It’s really easy, and it’s completely worth it. And if you have a few extra moments, take some time to read about the history of this delicious food, and the history and culture of the people who make it. (Assuming you don’t know about it already.) Food for the belly and food for thought!

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Recipe courtesy of The Latin Kitchen.

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Homemade Soft Pretzel Bites

Have I told you that I like pretzels? I know I’ve mentioned potato chips before. I grew up in central Pennsylvania, which is home to lots of potato chip and pretzel companies. So I’m a little bit of a connoisseur of snack foods, if there is such a thing.

While I don’t eat them as often, I am also a big fan of soft pretzels. With the doughy inside and the crunchy outside, what’s not to love, right? How much do I like soft pretzels? On a trip to Germany twenty years ago, I managed to score a real German pretzel. And by real, I mean gigantic. And by gigantic, I mean bigger than my head. That’s not an exaggeration. I have the photo. I don’t remember what tasted it like or how long it took me to eat it, but I’m sure the answers are “delicious” and “not that long considering the size”.

Mixing the dough.

Mixing the dough.

In all of my baking adventures, baking pretzels is one that I had been wanting to do, but hadn’t gotten to yet. My wife even got me a pretzel making kit a while back which included a recipe and some ingredients. One of those ingredients is lye, which is why the kit also includes plastic gloves. I won’t lie, the lye scares me a little bit which is why I haven’t used it yet.

Ready to rise.

Ready to rise.

While I was wanting to make pretzels, I wasn’t intending to at this point. I actually found the recipe by accident as I was looking through my to do list. I was looking at a particular cookie recipe, and on the side of the page there was a picture for this other recipe which caught my eye. It looked awesome. Pretzel-y goodness, check. Adorable mini size, check. Easy looking recipe, check.

It has risen!

It has risen!

So I decided to make this recipe. And in particular, I decided to make it for my gaming group. One of my other hobbies, besides baking, is role-playing games. You know, games like Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a lot of fun. It involves imagination, creativity, teamwork, math, laughter, dice-rolling, and ridiculousness. And usually lots of snack foods. This particular group has been playing together for many years, but hasn’t met in a while. So this was a reunion of sorts, and I wanted to make something for it.

Splitting the dough.

Splitting the dough.

It turns out making pretzels isn’t difficult, but there is a bit of labor involved. There are many steps. Briefly summarized, it’s making the dough, letting it rise, separating and rolling it out, boiling it, salting it, and baking it. Each step was pretty easy, but it does take an investment of time.

Rolling out the dough.

Rolling out the dough.

My good friend KitchenAid helped me make the dough. (We’re not Facebook friends or anything, but we are friends IRL.) This was actually my first time using the dough hook. Fun! (Whirl, whirl, whoosh, whoosh!) As you may know, I’m a big fan of the KitchenAid, and I use it a lot. I just hadn’t had the need for the dough hook yet. I’m glad I did though, as I’ve used the other attachments, and I didn’t want this one to get too lonely.

Cutting the dough into bite-sized pieces.

Cutting the dough into bite-sized pieces.

After making the dough, you let it rise. After an hour, it didn’t look like it had doubled as it should have. So I moved it to a warmer area and let it sit for another 20 minutes or so. While it didn’t look it, in the end it was enough.

Close-up!

Close-up!

I split the dough into 8 chunks (weighing them out to be sure they were even), rolled them all out, and cut them. It was fun!Β I rolled them out to the suggested 22 inches, but they contracted. The first few I cut, I measured them carefully by using the measurements on the pastry mat, but after that I just eyeballed them.

After being boiled, getting the butter wash, and being salted, they're ready to bake.

After being boiled, getting the butter wash, and being salted, they’re ready to bake.

I didn’t have a good roasting pan to use, so I used a pot to boil them. Adding the baking soda to the water is fun! It’s like a little chemistry set in the kitchen.πŸ™‚ As I was boiling all the pretzels, the water started to turn brown. Pretzel color in fact. I started referring to it as pretzel water, and eventually pretzel juice. I jokingly asked my wife if she wanted to drink any. She humored me, but politely declined. (I think that was the smart choice.)

Pretzels!

Pretzels!

After boiling the pretzels, the recipe calls using for an egg wash, and then sprinkling salt on them. Instead of an egg wash, I used my soon-to-be-world-famous butter wash. I’ve used it in the past, and it’s done the trick quite nicely. I just melted a tablespoon of butter and mixed with some water.

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They looked and smelled delicious while they were baking. I baked them for 15 minutes and they were perfect. The smell in particular reminded me of something, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. And then my wife nailed it: Auntie Anne’s pretzels. It’s a chain of pretzel shops, and I used to eat their pretzels a bunch back in the day. I’m not sure what it was about these pretzels that reminded me of those pretzels in particular, but it was a strong connection.

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In any case, these pretzels were absolutely delicious. The look, smell, taste, and texture are exactly what you want from a soft pretzel. Crunchy, chewy, yummy goodness. I had one fresh from the oven, and I had some later with some deli mustard. Yum all around.

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Since the gaming festivities were the next day, I had to figure out how to store them overnight. After some research, I settled on wrapping them in parchment paper, and storing them in a paper bag. I stapled the bag shut overnight. I had to wait till the next day to see how they survived, to see how they reheated, and how people liked them.

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It turned out that the paper bag worked relatively well for storing them. After much research, I had settled on reheating them by microwaving them with a damp paper towel on top. However, when I actually took them out to reheat, they seemed to have retained much of the moisture, so I microwaved them without a paper towel.

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People were impressed that I had made them, but I don’t think they were as good as they were fresh. Later on, I figured out that I hadn’t microwaved them enough. One minute in the microwave, uncovered, on a plate seemed to be the magic formula. They came out close to fresh at that point.

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Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my wife here for all of her help. Thanks for oiling the bowl while my hands were knee-deep in yeasty dough. And thanks for all of your help with the cleaning, there was a lot.

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The recipe ended up making about 7 dozen pretzel bites. They were a little bit of work, but they were totally worth it. They were fun to make, very yummy, and IMHO, they were very impressive. They looked fancy, cute, and professional. Like real pretzel bites. I kinda can’t believe I just made pretzels.

Sealed up in a paper bag overnight. Btw, Russ & Daughters is an awesome shop. If you're ever in NYC, definitely check it out.

Sealed up in a paper bag overnight. BTW, Russ & Daughters is an awesome shop. If you’re ever in NYC, definitely check it out.

Have you made pretzel bites? Have you made pretzels? What’s your recipe look like? How do you keep them fresh? How do you reheat them? Why are soft pretzels such magical foods and why do they not last so long? These questions and more will soon be answered, with your help!

Recipe courtesy of Two Peas & Their Pod.

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Two Years

Two years is a long time. Not in comparison to the age of our planet or the age of our universe, of course. But it would be a really long time to wait in line for a movie. Or, to put it in another perspective, to the millions of people who are less than two years old, it’s longer than they’ve been alive.

This little blog turns two years old today. Why today? I didn’t pick this date for any particular reason. It doesn’t have any special significance otherwise. But I had been preparing the blog for a while and wanting to get it started. This date just happened to be the date I officially opened its doors.

Two years certainly seems like a long time. Time is a weird thing. While I could certainly point to a lot of things that have changed over the last two years, my work situation for instance, at this moment I can’t think of anything in particular that is all that different. Not concretely at least.

Have I learned anything over the last two years? Maybe. It’s not as easy as it looked. One post a week didn’t seem like too ambitious a goal at the time. And thankfully it wasn’t, but it’s a lot of work. Researching, deciding, ingredient shopping, prepping, baking, cleaning, photographing, writing. It’s one thing I’ve kept doing in the face of other things going on.

I think two years is also a good point to think about making some changes. They’ve started to seep in a bit. I’ve stopped taking ingredient shots, or as I like to call them “ingredient parade” pictures. They’re informative, but they’re not necessarily interesting. At least not until I can figure out how to spice them up some more. (Pun slightly intended.) I’ve also started getting away from writing recipe procedurals. Again, they’re informative, but I don’t know if they’re interesting. Tell me if you disagree, but for me, I think it’s more interesting to tell the stories of the food, than to tell the stories of making the food. I think there are some interesting stories in making the food as well, and as I find those, I’ll tell them, but otherwise, maybe not so much.

Two years is a good time to take stock. (Okay, pun definitely intended.) I’d like to do some other things differently. I’d like to learn how to take better photographs. I’d like to do more of my own recipes. I’d like to experiment more. I’d like to bake more efficiently. I’d like to dedicate more time to writing, so I can write more leisurely. I’d like to have more baking community, so it’s not just me alone staring down the business end of a 9 x 13 dish.

I definitely wasn’t thinking two years out when I started this. I know I had a lot of ideas and a lot of things I wanted to try. But I don’t know that I thought this far ahead. What will the next two years bring? Will I get a chance to follow-up on any of the things I want to do? Will I have a chance to learn and grow and change and create and evolve and experiment and eat and enjoy and smile and taste and wonder? I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

Thanks for coming along on the ride for the last two years. Here’s hoping the next two will be as much fun.

PS – In case you’re wondering what the picture is, it’s an old picture I found while searching through my photo archives. In fact, it’s the second oldest baking related picture of mine that I could find. (The oldest one was pretty bad, so I’ll spare you that one.) It predates the blog by almost 5 years. It reminds me of where I started and where I have yet to go.

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookie Peanut Butter Swirled Brownies

Sometimes combining two things makes them better. Sometimes, it makes them more than the sum of their parts. Sometimes, not so much.

Brownie batter.

Brownie batter.

This recipe was on my to do list. And it looked just ridiculous enough to try. I mean a brownie, swirled with peanut butter, and mixed with a chocolate chunk oatmeal cookie. Ridiculous and awesome sounding, right?

Oatmeal cookie batter.

Oatmeal cookie batter.

Another thing this recipe had going for it was that I had all the ingredients on hand. And not having to run out and buy ingredients means it moved up a bit on my list. That, and it called for a bunch of oats, which I was trying to finish up the last of. (In my pantry not, you know, in the entire world.)

Assembly part 1.

Assembly part 1.

There is a lot going on in this recipe, including three different chocolates. For the first chocolate, in the brownie batter, I used bulk milk chocolate that I happened to have. For the second chocolate, mixed into the brownies, I used semi-sweet chocolate chunks. For the third chocolate, split between the oatmeal cookie dough and the top of the brownies, I kinda cheated. I used more of the semi-sweet chunks for that. (I learned a lot about chocolate from this David Lebovitz post.)

Assembly part 2.

Assembly part 2.

Everything went swimmingly, but I did forget to chop the first bit of chocolate before melting it. I mixed everything by hand, one bowl for each part of the recipe. It was pretty straightforward to put together. Each part smelled pretty good: peanut buttery brownies and oatmealy cookies.

Assembly complete.

Assembly complete.

Once both parts were done, I moved on to putting it all together. I dropped the first brownie bits by large drops, maybe only 5 or 6 for the whole dish. Then I spooned the oatmeal cookie bits all around. I did slightly smaller dollops for the rest of the brownie bits.

Fresh from the oven.

Fresh from the oven.

Then I swirled the peanut butter around the brownie bits and then swirled some of that in with the other layers, as it wasn’t quite spread out evenly across the dish. Then I spread the rest of the chocolate chunks over the top.

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I baked it for 30 minutes, but it didn’t seem quite done. I baked it for the other 5 minutes, and it seemed done at that point. I let the dish cool on a cooling rack until after dinner. It smelled lovely.

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How did it taste? It was… okay. Not bad at all, just not as exciting as I was expecting. The peanut butter was inconsistently mixed, which is totally on me, so it was hit or miss on tasting that. The oatmeal bits were fine, but not amazing. The brownie bits were also fine, but nothing special. It was a little bit dry, so I might have been better off baking it a little bit less. (I understand there are a lot of “b” words in that sentence, so I apologize if you’re allergic to “b’s”.)

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My wife said the two different parts were both good in their own right, but they have such different textures that she didn’t think they fit well together. Kinda like two people who are really good people on their own but who shouldn’t date each other. All in all it was perfectly fine, but I wasn’t wowed by it. I don’t think it’s a bad recipe, it’s just not what I was looking for.

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If you try it out, let me know how it goes. If you happen to have any good combinations of brownie and oats, I’d love to hear about it. This is my second attempt. (You can read about the granola brownies here.) Neither of them have been show stoppers, so if you have one, I’m all ears.

Recipe courtesy of Half Baked Harvest.

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Snickerdoodles

Sorry for the delay in getting this week’s post out to y’all. It’s been a bit of a busy and chaotic week on both the home front and the work front, so I haven’t had time to bake or write or much of anything else.

So this week I again dig back into the Needs Baked archives with another post from my soon to be hit series “Recipes of Future Past“. Snickerdoodles. They have such a funny, lovely name. It seems to fit them, actually. I know some people are really into them, but they weren’t really a passion of mine in that way.

They’re such an easy cookie to make. You most likely have all of the ingredients sitting around. (Except maybe cream of tartar, although I’m sure you could substitute something for that, or possibly find a recipe that doesn’t use it.) They don’t take a lot of effort. And they’re delicious. I think one day I wanted to make something easy, and I ended up deciding on these.

As I recall, they were quite yummy. Sweet and cinammony as they should be. Soft and chewy. A light but fulfilling cookie. Also, I think I might have made them smaller than intended by the recipe, because looking at the pictures, I made a lot of them.

So, about the name. According to Wikipedia, it could come from the German word “Schneckennudel”, which is also an awesome name. The linguist in me can see that word turning into the word “Snickerdoodle”.

Snickerdoodle is also the name of a dog. One that you’ve probably never seen or heard of. It’s the name of our imaginary dog. Yes, you heard that right. We have an imaginary dog. My wife really likes dogs, but we’re not allowed to have any in our apartment. So we have an imaginary one. He’s a rust colored toy poodle, and his name is Snickerdoodle. He’s adorable. Or he would be if he were real. Every once in a while when we see a real dog that looks like how we imagine he would look like if he were real, we joke that it’s Snickerdoodle’s cousin. I’m not sure if he likes the cookies he’s named after, but it wouldn’t surprise me, as who doesn’t.

As is often the case with these posts about old baking adventures, I’m not quite sure what recipe I used for them. I’m fairly sure I didn’t use cream of tartar, as I never really have that on hand. So I’ll bet the recipe didn’t call for it, or I substituted something for it, as hinted above. If you want to make them, there are a million recipes out there. I imagine that the ones I made could have been something like this one or this one, but I don’t know for sure.

My apologies also for the low-quality pictures. Many of the pictures from the Needs Baked pictures vault are unfortunately of low-quality.

Do you have a favorite Snickerdoodle recipe? Do you have a good cream of tartar substitution? Any imaginary pets in your life? Drop me a note below!

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Shortbread

Have you ever had a brilliant idea? Like something just pops into your head, and you go, “Wow! Why didn’t I ever think of that before?” That happened to me the other day. It wasn’t of theΒ  “end world hunger” or “create world peace” type of brilliant ideas, but I thought it was pretty good. I had the idea to make chocolate peanut butter shortbread by using my millionaire’s shortbread recipe and substituting peanut butter for the caramel.

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Great idea, right? I thought so, too. (Although if I could figure out how to end world hunger or create world peace I’d be really happy.) The next step was finding a suitable recipe to borrow the peanut butter filling from. At first I thought I might use the filling from the buckeye brownies that I had made. But I started looking through my to do list, you know, that list of recipes you accumulate when browsing the internet that you want to make one day. You have one too, right? Well, in that list I found a better candidate. The ingredients were easier, and it had a great tip about making sure the peanut butter layer stuck to the other layers, something the buckeye brownies had a problem with. The recipe was similar to millionaire’s shortbread anyway, so I figured it would be a good fit.

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So I started off making the shortbread. I’ve done it like a million times (πŸ˜‰ ), so easy peasy. While that was baking I made the peanut butter layer. I decided not to use a mixer for it, but rather to do it the old-fashioned way and mix it by hand. (I know, roughing it.) It was pretty straightforward. To make the mixing easier, I mostly melted the butter instead of just softening it. Then I just mixed all the ingredients together and put it in the fridge to chill.

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Back to the shortbread recipe, I needed to melt some chocolate. The recipe I use calls for 190 grams of chocolate. But the secret from the other recipe for gluing down the peanut butter layer was to use more melted chocolate.

Chocolate glue layer.

Chocolate glue layer.

I went with 240 grams. Why 240? I used a very complex scientific principle called… eyeballing it. (Super extra bonus points if you get the reference.) That recipe needed 1/4 cup of chocolate for gluing it down, so I figured I needed 1/4 cup extra. I looked at how much chocolate might fit into 1/4 cup and I weighed it.

Peanut butter layer with the start of the top chocolate layer

Peanut butter layer with the start of the top chocolate layer.

Then I melted the chocolate as per usual. I ended up spreading about 2-3 tbsps of the melted chocolate on top of the shortbread as the glue. Then I spread the peanut butter on top, partially using utensils, partially using my hands. The other recipe called for refrigerating it after adding the chocolate glue layer, but before adding the peanut butter layer. I didn’t do that. I just added the peanut butter right away. So some of the chocolate oozed up a bit from underneath. I wouldn’t know till later if it stuck properly.

Top chocolate layer.

Top chocolate layer.

After I put the peanut butter layer on, I spread the rest of the chocolate on top. I forgot to take a picture after the peanut butter layer, so I took one as I was just starting to put the top chocolate layer on. Then I put it in the fridge overnight, as it was already late.

Totally chilled.

Totally chilled.

Overall, it was fairly easy to make. Two thirds of it were the same as the millionaire’s shortbread. And doing the peanut butter instead of the caramel didn’t make it any more challenging.

You can see how the bottom chocolate layer oozed up around the side.

You can see how the bottom chocolate layer oozed up around the side.

So the next night we tried it. I took it out of the fridge to let it get to room temperature before cutting it. I love the shapes in the corners caused by the bunching up of the parchment paper. When I started cutting it up, I realized that it looks kinda like a candy bar with a big fluffy center. I also noticed that there was a lot of peanut butter filling in comparison to everything else.

One of the cool corner shapes.

One of the cool corner shapes.

And how was it? Well, first of all, it was delicious. And second of all, the peanut butter is the star of the show. In the millionaire’s shortbread it’s complementary, with all three layers working together. But in this one, it’s all about the peanut butter. It overpowered the other layers, to the point where I didn’t taste much of the shortbread or chocolate. It was delicious, but it was basically a vehicle for the peanut butter. And the chocolate seemed to work well as glue, as the whole thing stuck together well.

Another one.

Another one.

My wife described it as either a “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup on steroids” cookie, or as a softer and creamier quadruple decker Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup on top of shortbread.

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If I made it again, I would put in less of the peanut butter layer (probably half as much). I would also probably add a little bit more chocolate. I think if it was more evened out, the three layers would work better together. As it is, the other two layers are kinda jealous of the peanut butter, and that’s not good for anyone.

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So, I encourage you to try this recipe. The first reason is that it’s delicious, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. The second reason is a little more selfish, in that I hope you’ll iron out the kinks. In any case, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear your results. And if you have frankenstein creations of your own that you want to share, feel free to let me know that, too.

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Original millionaire’s shortbread recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com. My slightly modified version here. Peanut butter filling (and chocolate glue idea) courtesy of Once Upon a Chef.

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Gluten-Free Whole Grain Cheese and Mustard Muffins

This week I bring you another recipe from my long-ish running series, “Recipes of Future Past”. This one also happens to be gluten-free, and is near the beginning of my gluten-free baking.

Before we discovered that my wife didn’t get along that well with wheat, I had never considered baking gluten-free. I had heard of it, but there wasn’t any real impetus to do so. Shortly after we found out, I decided that I would try gluten-free baking.

I looked up some gluten-free recipes that looked interesting, and I went out and got a whole bunch of different gluten-free flours. I used them in a couple of recipes, but after that, they mostly just sat there unused. That’s because it got complicated. I found that many gluten-free recipes used specific flours. There are so many different kinds, and everyone uses different ones. So having enough for all of the different recipes would mean stocking many, many different kinds of flour. It just wasn’t practical.

What I soon realized though, is that I didn’t have to go that route. I stumbled upon a really great all-purpose gluten-free flour from Trader Joe’s. At that point, I didn’t need to seek out recipes that were specifically gluten-free. I could use any recipe and just substitute the all-purpose gluten-free flour for the “regular” flour. And with this particular gluten-free flour, it works. No more stocking up on half a dozen different kinds of flour. No more researching recipes specially crafted to be gluten-free. Just one substitution and I’m done. Thank you, Trader Joe’s!

But this recipe was made before I figured all of that out. IIRC, I went out and found some millet. It was not a grain I was familiar with, but hey, why not. I don’t remember what gluten-free all-purpose flour I used for this, as I believe it predated my using Trader Joe’s gluten-free flour. My guess is that it was probably Bob’s Red Mill, as that’s the brand I generally find when I’m looking for alternative flours. I did not use the optional walnuts.

I enjoy mustard, and I enjoy cheese, so I figured this would be a good gluten-free recipe to try. And as I recall, it was. I remember them being decent muffins. The only caveat is that between the cornmeal and the millet, I believe they were a little grainy.

It was a while back that I made them, so I don’t remember them all that well at this point. I would have to try making them again in order to have more to share. But given that I would have to get millet specifically in order to make them means I’m not all that likely to do so, unless I can find a reasonable substitute. If that happens, I’ll be sure to let you know.

I should also mention that around the time I made these, I also made another set of muffins that I found at the same time from the same source: Gluten-Free Banana Chocolate Muffins. As I’m constantly expanding the Recipes of Future Past section, you will probably hear about these sooner or later.

If you happen to make these, let me know how they go. I’d love to hear. And if you have any other gluten-free recipes, or recipes that you’ve successfully gluten-freeified, feel free to share. I’d love to hear about those, too.

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Recipe courtesy of The New York Times.

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Zucchini and Ricotta Galette

This week we take on something different. I know you’re used to seeing lots of desserts here at Needs Baked HQ. This week’s recipe is not sweet, but it’s still delicious. A tart for dinner, you say? A delicious crust wrapped around cheese and vegetables, you say? Yes, I say!

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So what is this galette thing anyway, you might be wondering. Yeah, I was wondering, too. It can be a lot of different things, but this one, as many of them are, is like a tart. But it’s a tart without a tart pan. (See here for more info.) You might notice there’s now a new category on the site called tarts, so I think you can safely assume that there will eventually be more to come.

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So why this galette? One night last weekend we were trying to figure out what to make for dinner. I remembered that I had a leftover pie crust from making the chess pie. So we discussed using that and making some sort of vegetable tart. We looked to see what vegetables we had handy and found that zucchini was our best option. So I did a little poking around on smitten kitchen, which always has great recipes, and I found this one which used zucchini.

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Since I was using the leftover pie crust I had, I didn’t use the crust mentioned in the recipe. It’s also from smitten kitchen, but it’s slightly different than the one in the recipe: a little bit of sugar, no sour cream, no lemon juice. After we settled on making this, I took the dough out of the freezer and put it in the fridge so it could defrost but still stay chilled as the recipe required. By the time I got started it hadn’t quite defrosted, so I took it out of the fridge to defrost the rest of the way.

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As far as the rest of the ingredients went, we didn’t actually have two zucchinis, we had one zucchini and one squash, but we figured they would play nice together. I used some pre-minced garlic we had, which was super easy. We actually had to go out and get all the cheeses. But, since we went for a nice afternoon walk through the neighborhood anyway, we just stopped and picked up the cheeses on the way home. We also got some sausages to have with it. I didn’t get any fresh basil, I just used dried basil which we already had.

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I didn’t do an egg wash. As you may know, I generally don’t have eggs around and I didn’t want to get any just for this. I remembered doing a cream wash before, but I didn’t have any cream either. I figured butter might be close, so I melted some butter for a butter wash.

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My wife cut up the zucchini and squash, salted it, and let it drain. (Thanks hon!) I blotted it dry and put it into a bowl to make space on the counter. I then mixed the olive oil and garlic, followed by mixing the cheese mixture.

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By this point, the dough had been defrosting for a while, so I figured it was ready. I took it out of the plastic wrap it was in and started rolling it out. It was hard to work with. It was still a little frozen, or at least really cold, as it wasn’t really malleable. After working with it for a few minutes it finally started behaving, but by that point it had absorbed a lot of flour, which I had needed to use to keep rolling it out. (I probably should have just let it sit some more, but the evening was moving forward with it or without it, and I figured the evening would go better if we actually had something for dinner.) I rolled it out on my pastry mat which has all the sizes right on it, making it easy to measure.

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I covered a baking sheet in parchment paper, and I carefully moved the dough onto it. It was a little messy, and the dough was a little weak in places, but I got it moved. I spread out the cheese mixture, arranged the zucchini and squash, and drizzled the garlic/olive oil mixture on top. Then I folded up the dough. I melted a little butter, mixed it with some water, and used it as a wash over the dough.

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I baked it for 30 minutes, but it seemed like it needed a few more, so I baked it for 5 more. The dough didn’t look quite as brown as in the pictures with the recipe. However, I did use a different dough and a different wash, so those probably made the difference. Also, the zucchini/squash juices were kinda everywhere. I don’t know if I should’ve patted the vegetables dry again right before I used them. I also don’t know if the dough being a little weak in places is why it oozed out. I blotted the top of it with a paper towel and wiped up around the sides. Then I sprinkled on some dried basil and carefully slid it onto a dish for serving.

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It looked fantastic and it smelled great too. I felt very European. And I have to say, it was delicious. Yummy vegetables, yummy cheeses, yummy dough. I was worried that the pie dough might be a little sweet, but it wasn’t. It all worked together perfectly. And the sausages were a great choice to go with it. My only real complaint was that at some point it was gone.πŸ™‚ My wife said it was delightful, and she wished we could have one every week. She also described it as “what pizza wants to grow up to be.”

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While I don’t know if we’ll have one every week, I would totally make one again. It was fairly straightforward, very delicious, and a great answer to the eternal question of “What’s for dinner?”. It also made me want to bake more for dinner. How about you? Do you have any favorite dinnery dishes? Any savory servings to share?

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Dough recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen. Galette recipe also courtesy of smitten kitchen.

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Skillet Biscuit Bread

I have a huge list of recipes that are on my “to do” list. You have one of those, right? As I’m browsing the web, I come across tons of interesting looking recipes, and I add them to a list. I like to think that I’ll get to them soon, but given the number of recipes I come across and the number of hours in the day, it’s never as soon as I would like.

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This one has been on my list for a while, but I should have done it so much sooner, as it’s super quick and easy. Start to finish, it wasn’t much more than 20 minutes.

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I usually do pictures of the ingredients in every post. And while they aren’t always the most interesting pictures of the bunch, I like this particular one for two reasons. One, because it reminds me that from simple ingredients come great things. And two, for the little detail you might have noticed. There’s baking soda in the picture. However, the recipe called for baking powder. Thankfully, in between photographing it and using it, I realized that I had grabbed the wrong thing. Phew.

Dough just added.

Dough just added.

As I mentioned, this was very easy to make. I mixed all of the ingredients together. I had one minor mistake. I had read through the instructions a little while ago, but I hadn’t read all the way through on the night I was making it. I forgot that the extra few tablespoons of water were for once it was in the pan. I added that extra water to the dough by mistake, but it was still okay.

Ready to flip.

Ready to flip.

I used our cast-iron skillet to make it. If you don’t know anything about cast-iron skillets, you should check them out. They are the definition of old school, and they are nonstick the old-fashioned way. They also last a long time. My mom has one that’s been in the family for generations. When you’re cooking with something like that, you get to remember history and think of all the people who have cooked before you.

Flipped and cooking.

Flipped and cooking the other side.

I love ours. It’s one of the best wedding gifts we got. (You might have noticed some of the other ones, like the KitchenAid and Silpats, which have also been outstanding.) It doesn’t have a cover, so I borrowed one from a similarly sized pan to cover it while cooking.

Fresh from the skillet!

Fresh from the skillet!

It cooked quickly like the recipe said it would. It was fun to watch the oil creep up around it, and to watch and hear the bread bubble, sizzle, and cook. Parts of it got a little charred, so maybe I should have spread the oil around a little better.

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And for the million dollar question: how was it? It was nice! I let it sit for a little bit, then cut off some pieces to eat. I tried it with and without butter. It was good either way. It’s simple, yummy bread. Chewy inside, slightly crispy outside. It reminded me a little bit of naan, which is similar in size and shape and is also sometimes slightly charred in places.

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I cut up the rest of it to have another time. And a couple of days later, we had a bunch of it for lunch. It made great impromptu sandwiches and faux bruschetta.

All in all it was an easy and tasty recipe, and I would definitely recommend it. It’s a great choice if you need bread really quickly. Do you have any bread recipes that are fast? Or other favorite fast recipes? Let me know in the comments below!

Recipe courtesy of This Week For Dinner.

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Lime Tart

I hope you’ll forgive me if I post another recipe with limes. Does it help if I mention that there are no further lime recipes for a while? Does it help if I say this one is delicious? Does it help if I invite you over for some?

You might remember that in last week’s recipe I was trying to use up some cornmeal. I had gotten some limes for that recipe, and now I had a bunch of limes. So I found another recipe to use up the limes. Yeah, I know this could turn into a never-ending story, but thankfully it stops with this. (This time at least.πŸ™‚ )

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You might notice that there’s no picture of the ingredients this time. Well, I wasn’t sure if the limes were actually any good still. So I had to cut them open and check them out and by that point a picture seemed already too late. Actually, my wife took care of the limes. She zested and juiced them while I was putting the crust together. Thanks hon!

If you’re following along with the recipe, I want to point out a few things. I forgot to put the vanilla in the crust. Oops! Juicing 4 limes made just enough for a 1/2 cup of juice. Also they were not key limes, just regular limes. I didn’t use an egg in the crust.

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I used my friendly neighborhood kitchen helper, the KitchenAid, twice for this recipe. The first kitchenaiding (is that a word?) was making the crust. Mixing it together using the KitchenAid was a snap.

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However, I have to come clean about something. I cheated on putting the crust together. I don’t have a tart pan, so I used a cake dish (9″ round). And rather than roll out the crust, especially if it was going to be a crumbly mess like the recipe suggested, I grabbed the cake dish and just dumped the dough in. I pressed it all along the bottom. Then I pulled some of the excess out and smooshed it up the sides. I tried to keep it from being too thick along the edge, which is an issue I have when making crusts this way. It wasn’t perfectly flat, but it was okay. I put it in the fridge to chill.

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After it chilled, I sprayed cooking spray onto a piece of foil and covered the dough. I weighed it down with pie weights. After the first 20 minutes baking, it looked super poofy and like it was baking unevenly. (I guess that’s why you shouldn’t do it the way I did.) I pricked it with a fork and put it back in for another 20 minutes. It looked very done at that point, so I took it out. Unevenly done, but done. I let it cool.

As it was baking, I made the filling. The zest and juice were already done. I minced the zest with the sugar in the food processor. As I was doing so, what can only be described as lime scented sugar dust wafted up from it. And in the end it turned into sugary lime powder. Yum!

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The second kitchenaiding (I figure if I keep using it as a word it might catch on) was for mixing up all the ingredients for the filling. Easy peasy. Then I put the filling in a saucepan. I had thought it was all combined, but as I was pouring it, I realized it wasn’t. At that point, all I could do was hope that it would combine more while heating. I heated it up a bit different than the directions. It took a total of 12 minutes on medium heat. I was concerned that it wasn’t thick enough, so that’s why I cooked it for a longer time and at a higher heat. Eventually it thickened. (Maybe it needed the extra time and heat because it wasn’t quite combined at the start?)

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The crust was cool-ish when I poured in the filling. I let it set, and I did the jiggle test to confirm. We weren’t quite ready for it, so I put it in the fridge till we were. It smelled lovely all through the making of it: the zesting and juicing, the processing, the mixing, the heating, etc.

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When it got to dessert time, it was hard to cut it. Mainly because it’s a non-stick pan, and I don’t want to ruin it. I need to get something to cut on it, as I keep having this issue. I ended up using two different spatulas and a plastic knife. Eventually I was able to cut it. The second piece was easier, as is usually the case.

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It was a bit of a mess. Maybe it hadn’t really thickened enough, as it was kinda sloppy and all over the place. And even though I had tried to work against it, the crust had bunched up at the edge. I think next time I should make a tart crust properly, or if I’m going to do it this way, I need to adjust my technique by either leaving it lighter around the edge, or starting from the edge and working my way in.

Even with all of the mess and such, it was still really good. There is a nice taste and texture to the crust. Thankfully, it didn’t taste overcooked. The lime filling was nice and limey, which is to say tart and sweet.

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Coincidentally, my wife’s anosmia had kicked in again. You can read more about it here. That time I made a lemon based dessert which she could taste. I didn’t realize it had really kicked in again when I made this, but it was a similar situation. She couldn’t smell it, but she could taste the citrus and the sweet.

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I was hoping that after a whole day in the fridge the filing would firm up more. Well, I can confirm that on the second day, it had firmed up a bit and was much more solid. And still delicious. And I can’t say for sure that it kept getting better day after day, but one taster a few days later said it was one of the best things she’s ever had.

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Now, I could go the punny route and say it was simply sublime. Or I could go the non-poetic route and say it was tasty. Or I could just suggest that you all try it for yourselves and tell me what you think of it. I think I’ll go the last route. So I look forward to hearing how it was for you.

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Recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen.