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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Easy Halloween Treats!

Halloween Boo Brownies, Ogre Ear Wax Q-Tips, and Goblin Eye Brownies
My hubby's office had a Monster Mash Dessert contest today, so I whipped these up with my Mom-in-Law, who was visiting from out of town, last night.  Although the results of the contest haven't come in yet, I think they came out great (especially for the short amount of time they took!). 

I made a batch of basic brownies. I wanted them to be extra-thick, so I made 1 1/2 times the recipe on that post in a 9x13 pan.  While the brownies were cooking/cooling in the freezer, I made a basic buttercream frosting with 3/4 cup of softened butter and 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar beaten in my stand mixer for about 6-7 minutes.  I split the frosting in half, and added 7 oz. of marshmallow creme to one half.  The other half got 2 Tbsp. of Creme de Menthe liquor (similar to the Crème de Menthe Brownies posted here).

When the brownies were completely cool, I cut them into 24 squares and placed them on the serving dishes. Then, I piped (but you could spoon) white frosting on half and mint on the other half. For the ghosts, I used a combo of mini and jumbo chocolate chips for the faces.  I actually held the chocolate chips while pointing a long handled lighter to the back to melt the chocolate, which made my MIL nervous.  If you can think of a method that's less hazardous to your health, by all means, use it.

For the goblin eyes, I used mini Oreo cookies that I had sitting around for use as a treat in potty training our son.  Apparently they weren't working so well, since he's still in diapers and the Oreos were on the verge of going stale.  If you didn't have those, you could use more of the jumbo chocolate chips or some dark chocolate candy melts.  For the red, I dyed a bit of the white frosting.  I spooned it into a sandwich bag, cut a teeny bit off the end, and piped it onto the brownies.

The Used Ogre Q-Tips were just bamboo skewers that I cut in half (I would have preferred to use lollipop sticks, but I wasn't able to get the two kiddos to Jo-Ann Fabrics yesterday).  The cotton is mini marshmallows, and the ear wax is peanut butter. 

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Challah

I tried out this new challah recipe for Shabbat this week from The Shiksa in the Kitchen.  LOVE her site.  I modified her directions to use my KitchenAid stand mixer, because I'm too lazy to knead the dough by hand.  I'm sure it would have turned out tastier if I had followed her directions, but both boys were sleeping and the laundry was threatening to spill out of its room and into my kitchen.  I also didn't have honey, and so I substituted 1/2 cup sugar, a bit of extra oil, and 1/2 tsp. baking soda for the honey.  I added about 1/2 tsp. of sugar to the egg wash, too.  Tori has wonderful directions for braiding the challah on her site, and it turned out gorgeous on my first ever try at a six-strand version!



Here's the rundown on how I did it.  Know up front that you'll need flour, honey or sugar and baking soda, yeast, eggs, water, and salt.  This recipe made the one large loaf pictured, or you could divide it into two smaller loaves.

1. Add 2 1/4 tsp. yeast (one packet) to your mixer using the paddle attachment with 1/4 cup warm water and 1 tsp. sugar. Mix to combine, and let sit for 10 minutes until the yeast froths and expands.

2. Add 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 cup oil, 1 egg, 3 egg yolks, 1 1/4 cup warm water, and 2 tsp. salt, mixing to combine.  Begin adding flour about 1/2 cup at a time until the dough forms a ball and the paddle attachment can no longer move it around (about 3 cups). Change to the dough hook attachment, and continue adding flour until the dough no longer pools on the bottom of the mixer (between 4 1/2 and 6 cups total). Towards the end, allow the mixer to run for 30 secs or so between additions until you can tell if it needs more.  Knead with the dough hook in the mixer for about 10 minutes. I generally err on the side of kneading for a longer time than shorter, because I don't think that you can "over knead" the dough (although correct me if you've done it!).

From there, follow Tori's directions for rising and braiding.  In short, let rise 1 hour, punch down, rise another hour, braid, coat with egg wash, rise 30 min, bake at 350 for 20 min, egg wash, and bake another 20 minutes. 

I'm going to try out some methods for allowing the bread to rise the night before  and in the fridge for those working who aren't able to stay home all afternoon on a Friday to wait for the dough to rise, and I'll let you know how that goes. At the least, you should be able to freeze the challah after you've braided it, and pull it out of the freezer the morning you'd like to use it and let it rise in the fridge all day.  

I hope you'll try out making your own challah when you have the time!