Biscuits and Gravy done right

biscuits_sausage_gravy 

 

Ingredients

2 Biscuits made from scratch or Pillsbury frozen Grand Biscuits baked

4 ounces fresh pork breakfast sausage

1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cayenne pepper, to taste

Directions

Place a medium skillet pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the sausage and brown, using a wooden spatula to break up the sausage into bite-size pieces, 4 to 5 minutes. Note: It’s okay if some of the sausage sticks to the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium and sprinkle the flour into the pan, stirring often for 1 minute.

Pour in the milk and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring the gravy to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the gravy thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. It should look velvety and have the thickness of heavy cream. Season the gravy with salt, black pepper and cayenne.

Split your hot biscuits and arrange in shallow bowls. Pour the gravy over the biscuits and serve immediately.

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Chocolate Crossiants

Chocolate Crossaint 

 

INGREDIENTS

1 pkg. (17.3 ounces) Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets, thawed

1 1/2 cups Ghirardelli® semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp. butter

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tbsp. hot water

DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 350°F. Unfold the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface.  Roll each into a 10-inch square.  Cut each into 4 (5-inch) squares, making 8 in all.

Place 2 tablespoons chocolate chips in the center of each pastry square. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg.  Fold each pastry over the chocolate chips and press to seal. Place the filled pastries onto baking sheets.  Brush the pastries with the egg.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown.  Let the pastries cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes.  Remove the pastries from the baking sheets and let cool completely on wire racks.  Cook and stir the remaining chocolate chips and the butter in a heavy 1-quart saucepan over low heat until the mixture is melted and smooth.  Stir in the confectioners’ sugar.  Stir in the water, adding additional water, if necessary, until desired consistency. Drizzle the icing over the pastries.

Easter Greek Tsoureki

Tsoureki-March-2012-1024x768

This traditional Greek Easter bread is terrific for Easter brunch, slathered with butter; and any leftovers make the world’s most outrageous French toast! A nice thing about this recipe is that the work is broken up into two sections. The first day you make and knead the dough in the evening, then pop it into the fridge for a long, slow rise. On the morning of the second day you shape the dough, then let it rise again and bake it. The traditional flavoring for the bread is a spice called “mahlep.” In a pinch you can substitute vanilla, but the mahlep is worth finding. It adds a distinctive cherry/almond, sweet-nutty flavor that’s unlike anything you’ve tried before.

Starter

1 1/2 cups  Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1 cup lukewarm water

4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

Dough

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons Baker’s Special Dry Milk

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground mahlep, or the same amount of vanilla extract

3 large eggs — 2 for the dough, 1 to brush over the loaf before baking

Optional Decoration

5 hard-boiled eggs, dyed red

1 tablespoon canola oil, for brushing the hard-boiled eggs

Directions

To make the starter: Mix the starter ingredients in a large bowl. Cover the bowl and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour. The mixture will initially be the consistency of thick pancake batter; after an hour it should be very bubbly, airy, and doubled in size.

While the starter rests, ready the dough. Melt the butter over low heat and set it aside to cool. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour with the sugar, dry milk, salt, and mahlep.

Mix 2 of the eggs into the risen starter. Stir in the cooled melted butter.

If you’re substituting vanilla extract for mahlep, stir it in. Add the flour/sugar mixture and stir until everything is incorporated.

Add the remaining 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups flour 1 cup at a time, as needed to make dough that’s stiff enough to form a ball but is also soft and slightly sticky.

Knead the dough — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — until it springs back when pressed gently with a floured finger. If kneading by hand, try to use only the lightest dusting of flour on the counter and on your hands. The more gently you knead, the less sticky the dough will seem. When done, place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours, or overnight.

The next morning, remove the dough from the fridge and knead it gently a few times, to deflate it.

Liberally butter a 9″ round cake pan, or line a sheet pan with parchment. Divide the dough into three pieces, and set them aside, covered with lightly greased plastic wrap.

If you’re using the dyed eggs, rub each one with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil and set them aside. Press the large piece of dough evenly into the prepared pan.

Make three16″ strands with the dough; pinch the ends together at one end. Braid for 4″ to 5″; tuck an egg into the braid. Continue to braid, placing another egg into the braid at 2″ intervals.

Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let the loaf rise at room temperature for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the top is just barely level with the top edge of the pan. During the last 45 minutes of the rise, preheat your oven to 350°F.

To bake the bread: Lightly beat the remaining egg. Brush it over the loaf. (Alternatively, omit the egg wash if you’d prefer to brush the loaf with honey when it comes out of the oven.) Press the last hard-boiled egg firmly into the center of the risen loaf.

Bake the bread for 20 minutes. Open the oven door, reach in, and carefully press each egg farther down into the bread.

Continue to bake the bread for an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 190°F. Tent the bread with aluminum foil for the last 30 minutes, to prevent over-browning.

Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack. If desired, heat 1/4 cup honey with 1 tablespoon water until warm, and brush over the loaf. Let the bread cool completely before serving.

Easter Croissants

croissants-114

Ingredients

Dough

2 large eggs plus enough warm water to make 2 cups of liquid

1/4 cup sugar

5 1/2 to 6 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

1/2 cup nonfat dry milk (optional)

1 scant tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional; for sweet pastry)

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Butter

1 7/8 cups unsalted butter, cool to the touch

3/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)

1/2 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Directions

Make a sponge by cracking the eggs into a 2-cup liquid measure and adding enough warm water to equal 2 cups. Beat until blended, and pour into a large mixing bowl. You can also put the sponge into the bucket of your bread machine, set on the dough cycle. Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar, 3 cups of the flour, and the yeast. Mix until well blended. Cover and set aside.

While the yeast begins its work, set up the butter inlay. Mix the butter and 1/2 cup flour just until the mixture is smooth and well blended (no hard lumps). You can do this with a mixer, a food processor, or with a spoon, by hand. Be careful not to beat the mixture at high speed; you don’t want to incorporate any air. Lightly flour a piece of plastic wrap, place the butter mixture on it, and use a dough scraper to pat it into an 8-inch square. Wrap the butter and put it in the refrigerator on a flat surface for at least 30 minutes.

Stir the vanilla, if using, and the melted butter into the sponge. Whisk together the remaining 2 1/2 cups of the remaining flour, the rest of the sugar, the dry milk, and the salt. Add to the sponge and mix until you have a soft dough, either by hand, in your mixer, or using the dough cycle of your bread machine. Check the dough after kneading for 4 to 5 minutes, adding more of the measured flour if the dough is still sticky.

Once the dough is smooth and elastic, pat it into a square shape, wrap it loosely and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.

Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and put it on a lightly floured surface. Gently roll it into a square about 12 inches across. Unwrap the butter slab and place it in the center of the dough at a 45° angle, so it looks like a diamond in the square.

Fold the flaps of the dough over the edges of the butter until they meet in the middle. Pinch and seal the edges of the dough together; moisten your fingers with a little water, if necessary.

Dust the top with flour, then turn the dough over and tap it gently with the rolling pin into a rectangular shape. Pick up the dough to make sure it isn’t sticking underneath, dusting under with more flour if necessary, then roll from the center out until you have a rectangle 20 inches long by 10 inches wide.

When you’ve reached the proper size, take a dry brush and lightly sweep off any excess flour, then fold the bottom third of the dough up to the center, and the top third over that (like a business letter). Line the edges up on top of each other and even up the corners so they’re directly on top of each other. Take a dab of water if you need to, to tack the corners together. You’ve now made your first “turn.”

Turn the dough package 90° to the right, so it looks like a book ready to be opened. If the dough is still cool to the touch and relaxed, do another rolling and turning the same way. Make a note of how many folds you’ve completed and the time, and wrap the dough. Return it to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Repeat the above folding and turning process one more time, for a total of four turns. Once completed, wrap the dough well and refrigerate it for at least an hour, and preferably overnight before using.

Using half the dough at a time, roll it to a 12″ x 18″ rectangle. Trim the edges of the dough on every edge using a ruler and pizza wheel. This cuts off the folded edges that would inhibit the “puff.” Cut the dough in thirds lengthwise and in half through the middle. This will give you six 4″ x 9″ pieces. Cut each piece in half diagonally and arrange them so the points of the triangles are facing away from you. It’s okay to stretch them out gently to elongate them when you do this. Cut a 1/2″ notch in the short edge of the triangle.

If you want to, this is the time to place a teaspoon of filling at the base of the triangle. Roll up the dough, starting with the notched edge and working toward the point. Make sure the point is tucked under the bottom of the croissant. If you have to stretch the dough a little to make that happen, it’s okay. You can also use a drop of water on the tip to help it stay in place. Form the crescent by bending the ends toward the center where the tip is tucked underneath. Place the croissants on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and chill for 30 minutes. You could also freeze the unbaked pastries at this point.

Take the croissants out of the refrigerator, and preheat the oven to 425°F. While the oven is heating, brush the tops of the croissants with an egg well-beaten with 1 tablespoon of water.

When the oven is hot, bake the croissants for 15 minutes then reduce the oven’s temperature to 350°F and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes. The croissants should be a deep golden brown, even where the dough overlaps; you don’t want any raw dough in the center. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

Easter Babka Chocolate Swirl Bread

Babka Chocolate Swirl Bread 

Babka is traditional Eastern European Easter bread. This version is a dessert bread, and it’s great with coffee.

Dough

1 cup water

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg yolk (reserve the white for brushing on top)

2 tablespoons sugar

3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

Filling

2/3 cup sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

1 tablespoon Instant ClearJel (optional; it keeps filling from overflowing during baking)
Topping

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Directions

Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Program the machine for dough or manual, and press Start. Check the dough’s consistency about 7 minutes after the kneading cycle begins, adding additional water or flour to form a soft, smooth ball of dough. While the dough is rising, combine all the filling ingredients in a small bowl, and then set them aside.

Shaping: Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, and roll it into a 10 x 14-inch rectangle. Brush it lightly with melted butter, and sprinkle the filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border along the edges. Starting at a short end, roll the dough up jelly-roll style. Pinch the ends closed, and tuck them under. Place the loaf, seam-side down, in a lightly greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Brush the top of the dough with the reserved egg white. Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the loaf in the pan. Cover with greased plastic wrap (or a proof cover). Let it rise for about 45 minutes; it won’t double in size, but should just barely crown over the rim of the pan.

Baking: Bake the loaf in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until its sides have pulled away slightly from the pan. Remove the loaf from the oven and, after about 5 minutes, remove it from the pan. Transfer it to a rack to cool completely.

ORANGE DREAMSICLE CAKE

Orange Dreamsicle Cake

Ingredients

1 Package  Yellow Cake Mix

2 small boxes Orange JELL-O

1 Package  Vanilla Instant Pudding

1 Cup 2% Milk

2 Teaspoon  Vanilla

1 Tub Cool Whip

Directions

Bake the cake as directed in a 9×13″ pan. Let cake cool completely. Poke holes in cooled cake. Mix 1 package orange gelatin dessert with 1 c. boiling water and 1 c. cold water. Pour over cake. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. Mix pudding mix with cold milk the other package of orange gelatin dessert and vanilla. Beat by hand with a whisk until thickened. Fold in the whipped topping. Frost the cake with the pudding mixture. These instructions will make a single layered amazing cake that is delicious!

PLEASE NOTE: To get the layered look as in this particular picture – make your cakes in well greased and floured pans – follow baking instructions. I then tip then out onto cooling rack and invert back onto a cookie sheet. Proceed to poke holes and do the jello thing and refrigerate (or put out on the cold enclosed back porch as we do). It is a little tricky to get the layers – but I love our pan lifters to help with this process. (most people use these to take pizza off their grills, but I use it a lot for cakes)! Enjoy! And remember – if your first time doesn’t come out looking quite so perfect — it will still taste amazing!!

Southern Charm Coconut Lemon Meringue Pie

Coconut-Lemon-Meringue 

 

Ingredients for the Crust

1 1⁄3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 tablespoons all-vegetable shortening

4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

Ingredients for the Filling

1⁄2 cup sugar

1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour

2 1⁄4 cups whole milk

4 egg yolks

1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut

3 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons lemon zest

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Meringue

Garnish: toasted sweetened, flaked coconut

Directions

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt for crust; stir well.

Using a pastry blender, cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, over flour mixture, tossing until moistened. Gather dough into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400°.

On a floured surface, roll dough into a 12-inch circle. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate, pressing into the bottom and up the sides. Fold excess dough under; flute edges as desired. With a fork, generously prick bottom and sides of dough. Place a sheet of parchment paper in piecrust. Add pie weights on top of parchment paper.

Bake until edges of crust begin to brown, approximately 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Carefully remove pie weights. Bake until lightly browned, approximately 20 minutes longer. Remove from oven; let cool completely on a wire rack.

In a large saucepan, combine sugar and flour for filling; whisk in milk. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, place egg yolks; whisk in 1 cup hot milk mixture. Return egg yolk mixture to remaining hot milk mixture in saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Add coconut, butter, and lemon zest and juice. Stir until butter melts. Spoon mixture into prepared piecrust. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on surface of filling. Refrigerate until chilled.

Remove plastic wrap. Make Meringue in a mixing bowl.  Add 4 egg whites and 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tarter.  Mix at medium speed until blended.  Turn mixer to high and add 6 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Beat until the egg whites become stiff peaks.  Spoon the meringue onto center of pie filling, spreading to within 1 inch of crust. Using your fingers, pull meringue into tall peaks.

Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown top of Meringue or bake in preheated 400 degree F oven until lightly browned. Garnish with toasted coconut, if desired.

Southern Peanut Butter Pie

Southern Peanut Butter Pie

 

Ingredients

1 (5-ounce) sleeve cinnamon Graham crackers (approximately 9 whole crackers)

1 cup salted roasted peanuts

2 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons butter, slightly softened

1½ cups creamy peanut butter

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 cups heavy whipping cream

Garnish: chopped peanuts, and sweetened whipped cream

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spray a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray.

In the work bowl of a food processor, combine Graham crackers, peanuts, and sugar; pulse until finely ground, 5 to 6 times. Add butter; pulse until blended, 3 to 4 times. Reserve 1 tablespoon crumb mixture for garnish. Spoon crumb mixture into prepared pie plate, pressing into bottom and up sides, using the back of a measuring cup.

Bake until lightly browned, approximately 10 minutes. Let cool completely.

In a large bowl, combine peanut butter and cream cheese. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth, stopping to scrape bowl occasionally. Add confectioners’ sugar, beating to blend. Add cream; beat on low speed until combined. Increase speed to high; beat just until mixture is thick. (Be careful not to overbeat.) Spread filling into prepared crust. Cover, and refrigerate until firm, approximately 4 hours. Garnish with reserved 1 tablespoon cracker crumbs, chopped peanuts, and sweetened whipped cream, if desired.

OVERNIGHT CROCKPOT OATMEAL

Overnight Crockpot Oatmeal

 

Ingredients 

Non-stick cooking spray

2 large tart apples chopped

1 1/2 cups skim milk

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup whole grain oats

3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon cinnamon (more or less to your taste)

2 tablespoons milled/ground flaxseed

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Additional Toppings 

1/4 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries)

1/4 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans)

Directions

Spray a 3 1/2 quart or larger slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Combine chopped apples, milk, water, oats, sugar, butter, and flax- stirring to combine. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours (overnight). Stir in 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt into the oatmeal just before serving.

If desired, serve with additional toppings (1 tablespoon dried fruit and 1 tablespoon chopped nuts, each)

BAKED STUFFED TOMATOES

BAKED STUFFED TOMATOES

Ingredients

6 large tomatoes

1 cup of bread crumbs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon minced onion

1 well-beaten egg

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon minced parsley

Pepper

Directions

Remove the tomato stems and cut out the centers of the tomatoes. Fill tomatoes with a stuffing made of the remaining ingredients.  Place into a baking dish and bake for half an hour at 350 degrees F.