Girl Versus Dough

Round Forty Seven — Braided Challah

Braided Challah

They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

I disagree. I say when life gives you lemons, throw them away (or use them to clean your garbage disposal, and then throw them away) and make challah bread.

Round Forty Six — Easiest Stollen

Easiest Stollen

Every holiday season, I get a serious case of baking lust. I want to bake 134 billion different kinds of cookies, cakes and breads. I want to make truffles. I want to make homemade candy canes. I want to buy a tree and bedazzle (yes, bedazzle.) it with popcorn and cranberry-studded strings and sing “Fahoo fores, dahoo dores!” like the Whos down in Whoville do. (At least I think that’s what they’re singing.)

And yet, every year, I never do any of it. I involuntarily become a real Scrooge, with nary a decoration or a Christmas treat in my home. It’s a real “bah, humbug!” of a situation, I know, but alas, I only have 24 hours in a day, and my fantasy Christmas schedule calls for at least 72. Sigh.

I do still make it a point, however, to bake a few holiday treats during the season. Because if it’s got sugar, I’ve got time for it.

Last year, I made panettone, a traditional Italian holiday loaf. Rick Steves told me the other day that, during Christmas in Italy, children walk door-to-door in their neighborhoods handing out homemade panettone to the elderly who don’t have family in the area with whom to celebrate Christmas. Yes, I was watching Rick Steve’s “European Christmas” holiday special the other day. Yes, it did make me cry. Moving on.

This year, I thought I’d keep with the tradition of holiday breads and baked this ah-maz-ing stollen. The husband was pretty happy about this one, as he grew up on the stuff. Soft, buttery and sweet (and I MEAN buttery and sweet — there are layers and layers of butter and sugar on top of the loaf), with colorful pieces of dried fruit inside that look like bright ornaments, it tastes like Christmas in bread form. For serious.

This particular recipe is the easier, yeast-free version of the loaf, though it’s traditionally made with the ingredient. In other words, it’s the perfect recipe for us involuntary Scrooges who only have so much time these days to soak up the Christmas spirit. Not that I’m complaining — after all, no matter how crazy life gets, it still is the most wonderful time of the year.

Debrief: Don’t freak out if the dough looks a funny shape — this is normal (as described below). Also, when brushing the bread with butter for a second time, don’t worry if it looks clumpy and, well, kind of gross — once you sprinkle it with sugar again and let it cool completely, you’ll be oh so glad you slathered on a double-dose of buttery, sugary goodness. Easiest Stollen Adapted from King Arthur Flour Yields: 2 loaves Ingredients: 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 1/2 cup sugar 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp salt 8 tbsp cold unsalted butter 1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese 1 large egg 1 tsp vanilla extract 1/4 tsp lemon curd 1/2 cup golden raisins 1/2 cup combination of your favorite dried fruits, chopped (I chose cranberries, blueberries and apricots) 1/3 cup slivered almonds 6 tbsp melted butter (for the topping) confectioners’ sugar (for the topping) Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or set aside a baking stone. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the cold butter in small, 1/4-inch cubes, and blend into the flour mixture. In a separate large bowl, combine cheese, egg, vanilla and lemon curd. Whisk until completely combined. Add dried, chopped fruit and almonds to the flour mixture and mix until completely combined. Add wet mixture to the flour mixture and mix until completely combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times until dough holds together. Divide in half. Roll out each piece of dough into an 8 x 7-inch oval, about a 1/2 inch thick. Fold each piece of dough lengthwise (or crosswise, up to you) leaving the edge of the top half about a 1/2 inch short of the bottom half’s edge (see step-by-step here). Lightly press the dough to seal about 1 inch in back of the open edge to get that traditional stollen shape (it’ll look kind of funky, like an off-kilter, misshapen loaf — this is normal. Do not panic.). Place the stollen on prepared baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, about 30-40 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Transfer baked stollen to a wire cooling rack and brush each with about 2 tbsp of the melted butter reserved for the topping. Sprinkle generously with confectioners’ sugar. Allow the stollen to cool completely, then brush on the remaining melted butter and sprinkle again with confectioners’ sugar. Extra punches: There are no rules when it comes to what kinds of dried fruits go into stollen. I tend to throw in whatever I have on hand which, in the past, has been anything from dried pineapple to dates. It’s all tasty. Also, if you want, you can toast the almonds before adding them to the dough. Also also, this bread doesn’t mess around — wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, it will stay fresh (and dare I say, get better) for up to an impressive 2 1/2 weeks.

Sifted Words — thankful.

I know Thanksgiving is over, and all that remains of it is a handful of leftover dinner rolls, a broken turkey wishbone, some pie crumbs and a loosened belt.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not still thankful for so many things.

I thought I’d share them with you. And no matter how cheesy/cliche/commonplace this list may be, you know you feel thankful for so many things in your own life. Go on. Admit it. That’s right.

I am thankful for (in no particular order) —

Family.

Friends.

My husband.

Butter.

Vacations.

Holidays.

Sunshine.

My kitty.

Cake.

Beauty.

Jesus. (sorry, no picture for this one, but if I did have one, WHOA.)

A home.

Opportunity.

Flowers.

Biscuits.

Coffee.

Love.

And you.

Happy Sunday.

Round Forty Five — Homemade Pizza Rolls

Homemade Pizza Rolls

Ever heard of Pizza Rolls? I’m sure you have. They’re those frozen pockets of dough filled with cheese and pizza sauce as well as what I’m sure is a whole host of bad things for you.

Of course, the husband loves them.

It’s become a habit of ours lately to buy nasty frozen treats like these for the weekends or for weekday dinners when neither of us has the energy to even lift a finger. Though I don’t generally partake in the heaping mound of Pizza Rolls the husband warms up for himself for lunch or game days, I have been found guilty of eating a frozen burrito or lasagna from a box. It’s shameful.

This weekend, I decided to make some changes. So, after eating buttery theater popcorn (while watching the new Harry Potter movie, of course) on Friday and helping ourselves to a generous serving of Mexican food on Saturday, I thought it best to at least make the inevitable Pizza Roll lunch on Sunday a healthy meal.

I wouldn’t necessarily call these an exact replica of those infamous Pizza Rolls — they’re more like doughy pillows with a hint of cheese and pizza sauce. Still delicious, but not quite the same. If you’re going for a healthy lunch — er, snack — these will do the trick, but if you’re really craving actual Pizza Rolls, these won’t hit the spot. But they do make a tasty lunch — er, snack — and saved us from being a few hundred calories shy in our weekend of what Michael Phelps devours in a day. It’s all relative.

Debrief: As mentioned above, if you’re looking for legitimate Pizza Rolls, these aren’t quite the same. But they taste like mini pizzas wrapped in dough. Kind of like a calzone. A mini calzone pillow. Yeah.

Homemade Pizza Rolls A Girl Versus Dough original (gasp!)

Yields: About 28 pizza rolls Ingredients: 1 3/4 cups flour 3/4 tsp salt 2/3 cup warm water 1/2 tbsp sugar 1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil 1/2 cup pizza sauce 1/3 cup finely shredded mozzarella cheese Directions: In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in water, yeast and sugar. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Then, add olive oil and mix ingredients together until a dough forms. Pour dough onto counter and knead about 8-10 minutes. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place risen dough on countertop and, using a rolling pin, roll into a very, very thin square (about as thin as the walls of a ravioli). Using a pizza cutter, cut square into strips lengthwise and then cut crosswise so you have about 56 individual 1 1/2-inch squares (or as many as you end up making). Put about 1/2 tsp pizza sauce on half the squares, and top with the same amount of cheese. Take the plain squares and place them on top of the squares with sauce and cheese and pinch the seams closed. Press fork tines around the edges of the squares to close the seams completely. Place each pocket on a baking stone or parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until lightly brown on the edges (I had to take mine out before they were very brown at all because the cheese and sauce was exploding out of the sides — oops). Serve immediately.

Round Forty Four — Cheddar Squash Muffins

Cheddar Squash Muffins

You may recall we just welcomed a new member to our family — Percy.

He was once a sweet, cute little kitten. He once lounged around all day and left me alone to bake (as you may also recall). In fact, he left me alone most of the time, unless he wanted to cuddle/rub his body against my ankles/meow at me until I fed him. It was nice.

Things have changed.

Here is a day in the life of Stephanie. Ready? Let me tell you how exciting it is — it’s exciting.

“Mmm, I made these amazing Cheddar Squash Muffins for dinner tonight.”

“What’s that? Muffins? Baking? Hmm, now I think is a good time to run around and cause some trouble. Let’s play hide and seek!”

“No, Percy, I don’t think that’s such a good idea. See, I’m taking pictures of these muffins here and, uh…”

“Nope. Go.”

“UGH. Where are you Percy?” (Proceed to chase Percy around our 750-square-foot apartment. You’d think this is no big deal, but this cat can find places we didn’t even know existed. Good grief.)

“You’re under the TV stand. How do you even fit under there?”

“Oh, now you’re hiding by your litter box. That’s just gross.”

“I can see you.” “No, you can’t!” “Yes, yes I can.

“Percy, I don’t have time for this. I have muffins to make. And a cake to finish for Elliott’s birthday (yes, those are M&Ms. For a 24-year-old’s birthday cake). Go… do something else.”

“OK. I’ll check on what Elliott is doing. … Can I have some cereal?”

“No, Percy. Go eat your salmon-y smelling cat food. Yum…”

“Ick, no thanks. I’ll just go check on what’s going on outside.”

“OoOOoooOOhhh… trees.”

“Thanks, Percy. Now I can get back to these muffins.”

“Whatever.”

Zzzzz…

Zz…

z.

Debrief: The original recipe calls for oatmeal muffin mix. From a box. Egads. So, I futzed around and made up what I thought would come from a box of muffin mix. I think it turned out well, though next time I might incorporate more salt, or sugar instead of honey, to “kick it up a notch,” if you will. But still, it’s a very tasty savory muffin that goes well with greens and mashed butternut squash.

Cheddar Squash Muffins Adapted from Glamour Magazine (uh huh.)

Ingredients: 2 eggs 1/2 cup water 1 cup mashed, roasted butternut squash* 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese 1/4 cup chopped scallions 1 cup uncooked rolled oats 1/2 cup whole wheat flour 1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour 1 tbsp baking powder 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 cup honey

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and butter or grease a 12-cup muffin tin. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine squash, water and eggs. In a separate medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder and salt. Add to the large bowl scallions, cheese, oats and honey. Pour in flour mixture and mix until just combined. Fill muffin tin cups about 3/4 full with the batter and bake about 15-20 minutes or until the muffins are a golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool about five minutes on a cooling rack before serving.

*Extra punches: To roast a 2 lb butternut squash — Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a screwdriver or the sharp end of a meat thermometer, poke a hole in the squash. Place whole squash in a casserole baking dish or roasting pan and bake for about one hour, or until you can easily poke a fork in its side without resistance (that sounds gruesome, sorry). Remove from oven and, when cool enough to handle, cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Then, scoop out the soft squash and mash it. If you want to eat the remaining squash leftover from the recipe, mix the mashed squash with 1 tbsp butter and salt to taste.

Round Forty Three — Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzels

I know I’ve been kind of slow on the upkeep of this blog. But it’s not my fault.

It’s his.

Go ahead and try to blame him. I know I have.

It has not gone well.

Percy, as we’ve named him, moved in this weekend and I think he’s planning to stay. I think we’re OK with it. So long as he lets me bake, which so far, hasn’t been a problem.

These soft pretzels are a perfect complement to my husband Elliott’s Sunday Vikings Game-Watching Ritual. I’m kind of the best wife ever, not only letting him take over the TV for a few hours when I could be watching Project Runway marathons, but also making him game-day food. Yes, I’m gloating. As a (albeit lukewarm) Bears fan having lived with an obsessive Vikings fan for over a year, I think I’ve earned my right to do so.

But back to the pretzels. It took me multiple tries to get the twisting right (a few look like strangled pretzels, while others are just ugly blobs), but I eventually figured it out. The dough rose incredibly well and the boiling/baking process was really easy. The hardest part was keeping myself from eating them right away (a burnt tongue never killed anyone).

And Percy? Well…

I guess he’s more patient than I am.

Debrief: The pretzels will look ugly after being submerged in the baking soda bath. Don’t worry — this is normal. They’ll look less wrinkly once they’ve been baked (but there’s no saving the ones that are shaped nothing like pretzels). Soft Pretzels Courtesy of Michael Knock, the Iowa City Press-Citizen Yields: 8 pretzels

Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups warm water 1 tbsp sugar 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast 4 1/2 cups flour 4 tbsp butter, melted 2 tsp salt 10 cups water 2/3 cup baking soda 1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water Kosher or pretzel salt (or sesame seeds or Parmesan cheese) for dusting the pretzels (or sea salt, as I used) Directions: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine water, sugar and yeast. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until slightly foamy. Add in melted butter, flour and salt and, using the dough hook, knead for about 4-5 minutes or until the dough is cohesive and has pulled away completely from the edges of the bowl. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

When the dough is nearly doubled, bring to a boil the 10 cups water and baking soda. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and line two baking sheets with lightly oiled parchment paper. In a small bowl, beat together egg yolk and water for the egg wash. When dough is risen, remove from the bowl and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece into a 2-foot long rope and twist into a pretzel shape, pinching the edges to keep them from coming apart.

Using a turner, place one pretzel at a time into the baking soda bath and boil for 30 seconds. Remove from the bath and place on parchment paper. Brush each pretzel with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt or topping of your choice. Once all pretzels have been boiled, bake for about 12-14 minutes or until a deep brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before eating.