Monthly Archives: October 2009

No SMS: Spiced Pumpkin Cookie Cakes

Evil Pumpkin

This week’s recipe was chosen by Debbie of Everyday Blessings of the Five Dees.  Unfortunately, I was unable to participate 😦  I couldn’t find pumpkin puree when I went shopping, and because of midterms did not have a chance to go to another grocery store.  Apparently there’s currently a shortage of pumpkin in some parts of the country due to problems with sugar pumpkin productions, which I didn’t realize.  If you’re interested in reading more, check out this discussion on Chowhound.  Please check out Debbie’s page for this week’s recipe, which sounds lovely and oh-so-fall!



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SMS: Sticky Buns with Toasted Almonds

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Hey guys!  Guess what?  It’s my week to choose the Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe!  Woo-hoo!  No joke, I’ve been looking forward to this since I joined the group this spring.  I chose the Sticky Buns with Toasted Almonds, and as with so many recipes from this cookbook, I wasn’t disappointed.  Melissa’s recipe produces a wonderful soft bun scented with orange zest, which seems to continue the trend in her book of using citrus in unexpected places (I think it might be fun to try a mixture of lemon and orange in this recipe).  The sticky sauce was delicious as well, although mine became very hard very quickly after the buns were removed from the pan.  My roommates, however, have actually requested that I make just the sauce and let it harden into toffee, they liked it so much.

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This dough came together really easily, even though I don’t have a stand mixer (I actually did everything by hand without much trouble).  The dough took a little bit longer on its first rise than stated in the book, probably because the yeast is not dissolved in water and sugar before being added to the recipe.  Once it rose, though, I had no trouble rolling out the dough.  I also thought it was interesting that the recipe uses an egg wash inside the rolls instead of butter.  The sticky sauce also came together very quickly, and then everything was set in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day was a quicker rise than I had expected, and then baking the buns.  My only major complaint about the buns is that they are done way before the time listed.  I tented mine with aluminum foil at about 25 minutes to prevent over-browning, but ended up taking them out at 35 minutes, which was still a little bit late (and may have attributed to the toffee-like consistency of the sauce).  I also really liked that the toasted almonds are added after the buns are baked, so people who aren’t such fans could omit them.

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Please make these buns!  They’re wonderful!  If you’re not much of a sticky bun fan, you can make them without the sticky sauce and top them with cream cheese frosting after they’re baked for regular cinnamon buns.

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Please go to the blogroll and check out what all the other bakers thought of these buns, ok?

Sticky Buns with Toasted Almonds- Makes 12 buns

from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book pages 39-41

For the Dough:

1 large egg yolk

1 c. whole milk

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Zest of 1 orange

2 1/2 to 2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

2 1/4 tsp. (1 package) active dry yeast

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 c. sugar

For the sticky sauce:

1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter

3/4 c. firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 c. pure maple syrup

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

For the egg wash:

1 large egg

2 Tbsp. whole milk or heavy cream

For the cinnamon sugar:

1 Tbsp. plus 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground cinnamon

1/2 c. sugar

For finishing:

1 c. whole natural almonds, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped

To make the dough (first rise)

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, combine the egg yolk, milk, vanilla, zest, and one-third of the flour.  Mix on medium speed until it is a smooth paste.  Add the butter in pieces and mix to combine.

2. Change the mixer attachment to a dough hook.  Add the remaining flour, the yeast, salt, and sugar and mix on low speed to combine.  Increase the speed to medium and beat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the dough forms a ball and is no longer sticking to the sides of the bowl.  The dough should be nice and elastic.  If it is very sticky, slowly add up to 1/2 cup more flour.

3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Set  aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

To make the sticky sauce

1. Generously butter a 9×13 inch baking pan.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and cinnamon, stirring until it reaches a rolling boil.

3. Remove from heat and pour into the prepared pan.  Set aside to cool.

To make the dough (second rise)

1. When the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Roll out the dough into a rectangle that is 12 inches wide by 18 inches long.

2. For the egg wash: In a small bowl, using a fork, whisk together the egg and milk.  Using a pastry brush, brush it over the surface of the dough.

3. For the cinnamon sugar: In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar.  Sprinkle over the dough, leaving unsugared the bottom 1 inch of one long side of the rectangle.

4. Starting at the top edge of the rectangle, roll the dough toward you jelly-roll style and pinch the bottom seam closed.  Slice the roll into 12 pieces approximately 1 1/2 inches thick, and place them cut side up about 2 inches apart on top of the sticky sauce in the pan.  Spray the buns lightly with nonstick vegetable cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap (or lighly butter one side of the plastic wrap).  Refrigerate overnight.

To complete the buns

1. When you are ready for the final rise, remove the buns from the refrigerator.  Bring about 3 quarts of water to a boil.  Place an empty roasting pan large enough to hold the water on the bottom of your cold oven.  Pour the boiling water into the pan.

2. Remove the plastic wrap from the buns.  Position a rack in the center of your oven.  Place the pan on the rack in the oven (do not turn it on!) and shut the door.  The steam of the water will help the buns in their final rise.  The buns will just about double in size in 30 to 45 minutes.  (If your fridge is on a super-cold setting, the buns may need a little longer to rise.  If they need more time, just boil some more water and refill the roasting pan.)  When the buns have doubled in volume, remove them (and the roasting pan filled with water) from the oven.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

4. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove to a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes.  Using tongs, turn the buns over onto a serving dish.  Pour the sticky sauce in the pan over the buns and sprinkle with the chopped almonds.


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Two summers ago, I worked for a newly opened office, designing their billing systems and doing data entry as well as answering phones.  The majority of my co-workers had immigrated from Mexico and Central America, and about half of them barely spoke English.  One day we had a potluck lunch, and I basically gorged myself on delicious, authentic Mexican food.  I’m not exaggerating when I say I almost couldn’t move after lunch, and just wanted to take a nap for the rest of the day.  I asked one of my co-workers to ask another girl for the recipe for her carnitas, because I don’t speak Spanish.  She wasn’t able to give me an exact recipe, but said that the pork is cooked in water with onions and jalapenos, shredded, and then cooked in a mixture of orange juice and milk.  I’m glad she didn’t tell me about the OJ and milk combo earlier, because I probably wouldn’t have tried it, but somehow it works and just adds a tiny bit of sweetness.

After looking around online I found a popular recipe that only seemed to deviate from my coworkers recipe in that it didn’t have jalapenos.  I made it recently using half a jalapeno, because I was worried about it being too spicy and my roommates not eating it.  It was delicious, but not at all spicy.  Next time I’ll use at least one whole jalapeno, and more likely two.  These carnitas are simple and fairly quick to throw together, because most of the cook time is completely hands-off.  You could also probably cook the pork in a crock-pot during the day, and just shred the meat and add the OJ and milk right at dinnertime.  No matter which way you do it, this is an easy, delicious meal that everyone will like.

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Your ingredients.

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I used pork shoulder steaks, because they were on sale.  It’s just a pork shoulder that’s already partially cut.  I only used half of this.

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After cutting up your meat, garlic, and jalapenos, add them to a pot of water with salt and pepper and boil for 40 to 45 minutes.

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Drain your meat, and shred it a little bit with two forks.

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Put your meat back in the pan, and add the orange juice and milk.  Remain calm.  Continue to cook over medium heat.

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Cook the liquid and pork until the liquid has mostly evaporated and coats the meat.

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Place your carnitas in a tortilla with whatever you want.  Some salsa or veggies would be great.  I just added a little bit of cheese.  Devour.

Pork Carnitas

adapted from Martha Stewart

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used pork shoulder steak)

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped (I would use 1 or 2, and maybe leave some of the seeds in)

Salt and Pepper

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 c. milk

1/2 c. orange juice

Tortillas and whatever toppings you like (I would recommend salsa, onions, cheese, cilantro, and lime wedges)

1. In a large pot, combine the pork, onions, jalapeno, garlic, salt and pepper, and about 8 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 40-45 minutes.  Drain well.

2. Heat oil over medium-high in a large non-stick skillet (I just used the same pot).  Add pork, milk, and orange juice, and cook 8-12 minutes, until liquid has evaporated and pork is browned.  Serve carnitas in a tortilla with whatever toppings you like best.

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SMS: Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble

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Hey everyone!  I said it earlier this week, but it’s now officially fall to me.  Yesterday I loaded up on allergy medicine and made the required fall trip to Curtis Orchard (where the apples were kind of awful, but the kittens, goats, and apple cider and donuts made up for it), and then froze my butt off watching the Illini get killed by Penn State.  Then I spent the evening watching more football and “Defiance” while drinking root beer floats and hot chocolate.  Yep, it’s officially fall!

Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get my apples for this week’s SMS recipe from an apple orchard.  Oh well…  This week Christine of Christine Cooks chose the Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble for our weekly bake.  I was a little bit disappointed, because I was really looking forward to choosing this recipe my week, but then I realized I get to make it even earlier!  Suddenly, everything was right in the world again.

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This was delicious.  Next time I think I’ll reduce the sugar that gets sprinkled over the apples, like several other people have said.  I also think I’ll reduce the baking time a little bit.  I burned the crumble a little bit because I forgot to check on the crumble about 10 minutes before the end of the baking time, like I usually do.  The other reason I might reduce the baking time, and this is purely personal preference, is because I like my apples still a little bit crunchy when I eat a crisp.  These apples were cooked down so much it was almost like eating applesauce sometimes.  Which, really, isn’t a bad thing.  It’s just not what I usually like best.  That being said, everyone else thought it was great, so I’m pretty sure I’m alone on this one :-D.  But despite these little things, I will most definitely be making this again.  This recipe was much better than the package of apple crisp mix I bought last year at Curtis Orchard.  One of my favorite things about this recipe, as silly as it is, was that it used melted butter rather than cutting in cold butter.  I think that just makes everything so much easier!

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Anyway, drop by the blogroll to see what everyone else thought of this week’s super awesome recipe.  And make sure you come back next week- it’s finally my week to choose a recipe!  EEK!!!

Curtis Orchard with Adam and Laura 009And a gratuitous kitten picture.  I really wanted to pack this little guy in my purse and bring him home, he was so sweet and friendly!  I honestly don’t think anyone there would have noticed.  My roommates and pet fish might have been another story…


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