Smoky Sweet Potato Cheddar Soup with Chipotle Peppers

Comfort foods tend to be super greasy and carb-packed, but not all of them have to be that way. I mean, I don’t complain if they are. I’m not likely to turn down a big bowl of homemade mac ‘n’ cheese…if I do, there’s something wrong. That being said, sometimes a bowl of soup can be just as comforting, and you might not feel the immediate need to nap afterwards.

This soup is a new favourite for me. Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are a great, versatile ingredient; a little goes a long way. I put two in, but if you don’t love spice, I would cut out the hot sauce completely and only use one pepper. The smokiness from the peppers is contrasted with the sweetness from the sweet potatoes, making for a damn good soup.

The original recipe I adapted mine from is from Healthy Seasonal Recipes. When first reading the recipe, I was a little hesitant to add the cinnamon because I’ve never been a huge fan of sweet spices with sweet potatoes. In the end I decided to take a risk and try it out, and trust me, even though it’s subtle it makes a huge difference in a good way.Smoky Sweet Potato Cheddar Soup with Chipotle

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 2 drops extreme hot sauce (I used Blair’s Ultra Death Sauce)
  • 1 drop liquid smoke
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch chunks
  • 6 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, minced
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 6 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
  • Basil leaves for garnish or fresh chopped chives for garnish

Method

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil. Add onion, celery and salt, stirring until the onions very lightly brown and soften. Add in the hot sauce, liquid smoke, cumin and cinnamon, and stir for another 60 seconds until all the flavours have mingled and become aromatic.

Add in sweet potato and broth, stirring to mix well. Cover and increase heat, bringing the mixture to a light boil. Uncover, bring heat back down to medium-low, and allow to lightly simmer for 20 minutes until the sweet potatoes are cooked all the way through. After the 20 minutes is up, stir in the minced chipotles and the cider vinegar. Stir well.Smoky Sweet Potato Cheddar Soup with Chipotle

Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth and creamy. Stir in cheddar and serve hot, garnished with fresh basil leaves, chives or freshly ground black pepper. Store the soup in the fridge for up to 5 days—it tastes even better heated up the next day!

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Garlic Dill Pickles (Canning 101)

Before now, the process of canning was this big, looming mystery that I wanted to learn but was too scared to try.

My aunt Nancy and I had this very overdue pickling date (for more than a year, actually) and it finally happened this past week. I’m a huge fan of basically all things pickled—cucumber, radish, beet, mushroom, cauliflower, onion—but I never actually learned how to do it myself. I’d heard all these horror stories of people getting really sick over a bad batch of homemade canned goods, so I knew I needed to do it right with somebody who had been doing it for a while.

Please, please, please READ THE INSTRUCTIONS before doing this. Sure that sounds like the obvious thing to do, but you don’t want to miss a step and be left with a bunch of inedible pickles.

Asides from the initial cost of pickling equipment (canning pot, jar funnel and lifter) this recipe is really inexpensive for what you get. I’d say including all the ingredients and the mason jars, your total will come out to roughly $20. Not only do you get 22 jars of homemade pickles that taste great, but to me pickling was immensely satisfying and I felt as if I’d gained a skill—pretty cheap if you ask me.

The method used in this recipe is known as cold-packing, which essentially means you’re pickling raw, uncooked foods. It takes a good chunk of time (3 1/2 – 4 hours) so make sure you’ve got plenty of time and to be in a good mood. It definitely helps if you’ve got someone with you!Garlic Dill Pickles 101

Garlic Dill Pickles Recipe

Ingredients

Makes 22 jars

  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 quart apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 bushel of small cucumbers (roughly 150 of them)
  • 1/2 tsp. pickling spice per jar
  • 1 dill flower per jar
  • 1-2 sliced garlic cloves per jar

Special Equipment

  • 22 mason jars
  • A heatproof funnel for jars
  • A large canning pot
  • Jar lifter

Method (Read this several times before starting)

First and foremost, make sure everything that will be used in the process is sterilized. Remove the lids from the mason jars and soak them in boiling water until you need them. You will also need to soak any ladles, knifes or spoons, etc. that may be used in the process. To sterilize the jars, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F and place the jars on a cookie tray in the oven for 20 minutes.

While the jars are in the oven, this is the perfect time to prep your ingredients. Wash and cut the dill flowers so that they will fit nicely in the jars. Peel and slice the garlic into quarters. Thoroughly wash the cucumbers to get rid of all dirt that may be stuck to them. If there are any rotten pieces, toss them.Garlic Dill Pickles

Once your ingredients are ready, remove one tray of jars from the oven, leaving the others in until you are ready to use them. Place one dill flower, a clove or two of garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of pickling spice in each jar. Stuff as many cucumbers as humanly possible into each jar; this is to avoid “floaters” later and makes sure the jar will have a nice finished look. If you have some extra space but can’t fit a full cucumber, half or quarter some and stuff them in the middle. Just be sure that none of your cucumbers come above the opening of the jar, as everything needs to be able to be covered in the brine.

In a large pot, bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil, then reduce heat. Stir until all of the salt crystals have dissolved, then remove from heat completely. This is your brine.

At this time you’ll also want to fill up your canning pot with enough water so that it will be able to cover the jars that are put into it; normally 7 or 8 at a time. This will take a while to come to a boil, so set it up now.Garlic Dill PicklesGarlic Dill PicklesGarlic Dill Pickles

Once all of your jars are stuffed and the brine is ready, you can begin filling the jars with the liquid. Get your funnel and carefully place it on the mouth of the jar. I filled up a measuring cup with brine to make pouring easier (make sure you sterilize it). Carefully pour just enough liquid into the jar to cover all the ingredients, leaving roughly 1/2 inch from the top of the jar. Wipe down the rim with a paper towel, then place the lid on top of the jar, screwing it on tightly. Repeat with remaining jars.Garlic Dill Pickles

In your prepared and boiling canning pot, place however many jars are meant to fit. Be careful as the steam is very hot. Lower the jars into the boiling water and cover—let cook for 20 minutes exactly. Remove them from heat with a sturdy jar lifter and oven mitts, and place them on a flat, cool surface that will allow them to seal. Once you hear the lid make a “pop” sound, you know it has properly sealed. You can also test this by pressing down on the lids; if they are sucked in towards the bottom of the jar and don’t move when touched, they are sealed. Repeat until all jars are sealed.

To allow the flavours to fully develop, you will want to let the pickles sit for at least one month from the date you made them. Store them in a clean, dry place. For best results, lightly shake the jars once a week to mingle the flavours. Once these jars are opened, they need to be refrigerated. Unopened, these pickles have a shelf life of 1-2 years.

Notes

  • You may need to add more water to the canning pot during the process, as the liquid will lower and it always need to cover the jars. Make sure the water is always boiling before you place the jars in the water.
  • Depending on the size of your pickles and jars, you may need to make more brine. You do not necessarily have to double the recipe, but make sure it follows the correct ratio.
  • Make sure your cucumbers are fully immersed in brine. If there are bits sticking out, they can rot, spoiling the entire jar and making them unsafe to eat. Worst case scenario, just cut the part of the cucumber that protrudes. It may look funny but it’s better than all your hard work going to waste.
  • Do not try to take shortcuts. This process takes a good couple of hours and needs close attention. The right equipment will make the process go smoothly.
  • I know this is mentioned above, but it is important: Sterilize, sterilize, sterilize.
  • Once your jars have fully cooled, you can place fun labels on them if you plan on giving them away as gifts. Alternately, you could also date-stamp them just for reference.

Nutella-Swirled Banana Bread

Nutella and banana are a pretty unbeatable duo. Pack the two into a loaf pan and you’ve got yourself an impressive-looking marble dessert that’s not long for this world.

I’m normally all for substitutions, but I have to admit this banana bread is near perfect for look, taste and texture. I wouldn’t change a thing. Using frozen bananas was really key for me because they don’t leave any chunks and mix really well with not a ton of effort.

I didn’t specify the baking pan size because I find that banana bread is forgiving when it comes to baking times. As long as you use a medium-sized loaf pan that isn’t too large so the batter thins out, or too small so the batter oozes all over your oven, you’re good.

The recipe I used is from Rachael Ray’s website here. I added in some walnuts and altered the pouring method (as suggested by my wonderful baking buddy Taiya) so that you don’t have to stir it up once it’s poured into the pan.

_DSC0078 _DSC0080

Ingredients

Makes 1 loaf of banana bread

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus a little more to flour the pan
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup mashed banana)**I used frozen bananas and thawed them out—perfect for baking
  • 1/2 cup Nutella, or another chocolate hazelnut spread
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a medium-sized loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray, then dust thoroughly with flour. Set aside.

Combine sugar, flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, oil, and banana, and mix well to combine. Stir in walnuts. Take half of the batter and put in a separate medium-sized bowl.

Combine with 1/2 cup Nutella and mix well. If your Nutella is too stiff, soften in the microwave for 10 seconds or until it loosens. Place alternating spoonfuls of the batters in the prepared loaf pan; try to make it even as this is what gives it the swirled effect.

Bake for 55-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely (if you can wait that long before digging in). Cutting the loaf into slices is definitely easier once it’s 100% cooled off.Nutella-Swirled Banana Bread

Banana Bread Scones with Brown Sugar Glaze

A few months back, my aunt and uncle got me a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer as a graduation gift. I wanted to make them something as a small thank-you, so I asked for requests. In response, they said either raisin scones or banana bread would do.

Now, if you’re a regular reader you’ll know that I’m pretty anti-raisin, but very pro-banana bread. So I mixed the best of both worlds. Being unfamiliar with how to bake scones, I was afraid of them turning out too crumbly, dry and dense. To my recollection, I don’t even know if I’ve ever tasted a scone. I figured if I used bananas, it would give me a safe cushion to work with—they’re moist, add flavour and change things up a bit.

I followed this recipe from The Kitchn, and have added a couple of small notes alongside the recipe that I hope you’ll find useful. Full disclosure: I made these the week I had my wisdom teeth removed so I couldn’t really try them, but my boyfriend, aunt and uncle all had good things to say.Banana Bread Scones

Ingredients

Makes 8 scones

For the scones:

  • 2-3 very ripe or thawed frozen bananas (about 1 cup mashed)
  • 2-4 tbsp. milk
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp. white granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

For the glaze:

  • 1 tbsp. salted butter
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4-3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Method

Mash the bananas and then add enough milk to make one total cup (if necessary). Stir in the yogurt and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon in a large bowl. Work the cubed butter into the dry ingredients using a fork, pastry cutter, your fingers or a mixer until no large pieces of butter remain.

Pour the banana-yogurt mixture into the bowl with the flour and stir just enough to incorporate all of the flour. Fold in the walnuts, if using. This will make a fairly wet dough.

Line a dinner plate with a piece of wax paper, lightly grease it, and turn the dough out on top. Pat it into a disk about 1-inch thick and cover with another piece of greased wax paper. Place the plate in the freezer and leave the dough for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel off the top layer of wax paper and invert the scones onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Peel off the second layer of wax paper. Slice the scones into eight wedges (you can use a pizza cutter, plain dental floss or a regular knife) and pull them apart a little to give them some room to expand. If the scones are sticky as mine were, pat the tops and bottoms very lightly with flour so they can maneuver easier. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the scones are firm to the touch and turning golden brown on the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to allow the scones to cool completely and cut apart any scones that baked together with a sharp knife.

To make the glaze, melt the butter and the milk in the microwave for 30 seconds. Add the brown sugar and vanilla, and stir until the sugar has melted (heat for an additional 15-30 seconds in the microwave if necessary—careful not to overdo it). Whisk in the confectioner’s sugar, starting with 1/4 cup. Add more confectioner’s sugar if desired to make a thicker glaze. I did since I was afraid it would be too drippy, and it turned out perfectly.

Just before serving, drizzle the glaze over the scones. The glaze hardens fairly quickly; it only takes a minute or two. You can either serve the glaze right away or store it for later.

The glaze can make the scones a bit sticky/less fresh if kept for longer than a few hours, so store any scones to be eaten later un-glazed. When you want to glaze them later, just heat up the mixture for 30 seconds or so and it will be ready to be drizzled.Banana Bread SconesBanana Bread Scones

Pistachio, Arugula and Mixed Herb Pesto

I eat a lot of condiments. Like, a lot. I’d say 75% of my fridge at home is filled up with hot sauces, mustards, hummus, pesto, dressing…all the good stuff. So in the summer, when I’ve got fresh herbs in my backyard all the time, I like to take advantage and make my own.

Pesto is easy enough for anyone to make, really quick, and is probably the most versatile condiment there is. Sandwiches, pastas, dips, salads—you name it, I can put pesto on it. I made this recipe, jarred up the results and my boyfriend and I took pieces of bread and just scooped up the pesto that was left and ate it in a messy, embarrassing way.

I feel the need to explain that when I was taking these photos, I was a little rushed and did literally zero prep, so that’s why they may not quite be up to standard or even the same colour tone. Sometimes you just want to eat it and forget the picture taking!

Sidenote: I am leaving for Costa Rica & Nicaragua in just over a week! I’m excited for more reasons than I can list, but one thing I want to be able to share with all of you are some authentic veg recipes from (what I consider to be) abroad. From what I hear, rice, beans, tortillas and fried plantains are big. I’ll be sure to report back. Any tips for traveling?

Pistachio, Arugula and Mixed Herb Pesto  Pistachio, Arugula and Mixed Herb PestoIngredients

  • 2 cups fresh arugula
  • 2 cups parsley
  • 1/3 cup each of fresh sage, basil and oregano
  • 1 cup shelled, toasted and unsalted pistachios
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • Salt to taste

Method

In the bowl of a food processor, add arugula, parsley, sage, basil and oregano. Pulse until very fine and well combined. Add in pistachios and process for 30 seconds. Slowly pour in olive oil while pulsing, stopping along the way to scrape down the sides of the bowl in necessary. Add in Parmesan and salt, and process for a few more seconds to allow the ingredients to blend together.

For best results, allow the pesto to sit for an hour so the flavours can develop. Serve fresh with pasta, sandwiches, pizzas and whatever else you want to smother pesto on.Pistachio, Arugula and Mixed Herb Pesto

Butternut Squash Risotto

I’ve always had an unexplicable struggle with properly cooking rice. I even have a rice cooker and still manage to mess it up (yes, it’s sad). That’s why when I had a craving for risotto, I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. Luckily for me, my mom has made risotto many times so she knew when to add more liquid, when to stir, etc. which made the process go much smoother.

Plus, throw some butternut squash and white wine into basically anything and it will taste good.

One pleasant surprise I got from this recipe is how creamy it turned out to be. Besides a small amount of butter and some parmesan cheese, there’s no added thickeners or dairy, it’s just the slow simmer of all the ingredients which makes it so perfect.

For this recipe I was fortunate since I planted some fresh sage in my backyard at the beginning of the season. I’ve never done much cooking with sage but it made a big difference—don’t substitute dried sage instead, it’s just not the same. This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s website.Vegetarian Butternut Squash Risotto

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Coarse sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups vegetable broth, mixed with 1/2 cup water and heated
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage, plus sprigs for garnish

Method

In a medium heavy-bottom saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add squash; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until edges soften, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add rice; stir to coat. Add white wine; cook until almost all liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add 1/2 cup hot broth mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, until almost all liquid has been absorbed. Add remaining broth mixture 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until liquid is absorbed before adding more, 35 to 40 minutes total. You want to prevent any rice from burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Stir in Parmesan, sage, and salt to season, if desired. Serve immediately garnished with shaved Parmesan and a fresh sprig of sage.Vegetarian Butternut Squash RisottoVegetarian Butternut Squash Risotto

Two Year Blogiversary!

blogiversary

TWO YEARS!

Firstly, thank you to everyone who continues to visit, read, comment, cook and so on.

That being said, my second year into blogging has been much different from the first. I’ve taken my photography beyond the boundaries of the web and got published in print here and there (the most notable being my little feature in Gastropost below). I also had the amazing team from Emerge TO make a profile on the blog which you can watch here. WARNING: I’m a little awkward but what can you do.Gastropost PageAnother big, big difference between this year and last year is that I switched to a .com. This made my blogging that much easier because (as I’m sure many of you can relate to), giving a URL to someone that has .wordpress in the middle gets a lot of puzzled looks. After switching over it made posting to social media that much easier as well, plus the URL doesn’t look too shabby on a business card either.

Speaking of social media, let me just say what we all already know: People of the internet are all crazy. This past year, I’ve had some…encounters…shall we say—about some of the most random topics you could imagine. Let’s just say I never knew someone could get so worked up over enchiladas (I’m looking at you reddit).

And of course, I got more unexplained and creepy google searches leading people to my blog.squash fingersAnd then there’s the food. I’ve tried my best to keep it versatile, creative, and appealing to people with even the pickiest eating habits. I’ve come across some incredibly handy tips & tricks along the way, acquired some new cookware and gear, and ate far too much.

Here’s a list of some of my top culinary tricks from the last year (feel free to add your own in the comments, I’m always looking for more):

  • To get puffy, chewy cookies, make them taller than they are wide and refrigerate them for 30 minutes before baking. This prevents them from spreading out excessively and they bake into a rounded ball of glory.
  • If you cook with a cast iron skillet, get it really hot before adding the oil to the pan. This will prevent your food from sticking and make for easy sautéing, frying and baking.
  • Boil unbaked dough for buns before placing them in the oven to get the chewiest results.
  • If you’re doing any kind of gluten-free baking, try your best to keep the dough moist. Cover it with a damp towel, keep a spray bottle full of water on your work surface—whatever works. This will make it malleable and prevents it from crumbling while prepping.
  • When cooking stir frys, Chinese soups, and making fillings or dipping sauces for spring rolls, rice wine vinegar is a must. It gives that extra punch of flavour without having to unload a bucket of soy sauce into your food.
  • Baked eggs are amazing for groups. They make the perfect single-serving size, are less greasy than the fried alternative, and you can customize each one individually.

To end this off, I’ll leave you with a little gallery of my favourite posted recipes and photos from the past year.

You’re all the best (except for you enchilada hater),

Veronica Sheppard

Hamburger Cupcakes

Let me say this first before the food blogging population banishes me for using boxed mix—this recipe is purely for fun and not meant to be “gourmet” or any of that. Quick & dirty gets the job done sometimes you guys.

That being said, I initially wanted to make an enormous hamburger cake using fondant layers. But realistically, nobody likes the taste of fondant and it was going to take up way more of my time and money than I would have like. So I went with the simpler route (cupcakes) and the result was what you see before you: an epic dessert.

I followed guidelines from here as a backup, but made quite a few of my own alterations. For one, I baked the brownies in muffin tins to avoid the cutting stage afterwards to save time; this also guarantees identical shapes. The less fuss the better. I also used shredded coconut for lettuce instead of icing to give some flavour and a change of texture.

These are great cupcakes for kids and adults alike, not only because of their clever look but also because of the easiness of the recipe. You can do most of the steps in advance too, saving assembly for the night before or day of.Hamburger CupcakesHamburger Cupcakes

Ingredients

Makes 24 cupcakes

  • 1 (648g) yellow cake mix box (I used Duncan Hines)
  • 2 (581g) boxes of fudge brownie mix **the measurement on the box doesn’t have to be exact, as long as you can yield 24 small brownies from the batch, you’re good.
  • 2 cups royal icing
  • 7-9 drops yellow food colouring
  • 1/2-1 tsp. red gel food colouring
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 tsp. green gel food colouring
  • Sesame seeds for garnish
  • 24 deli toothpicks

Method

Prepare the yellow cake mix as directed on the back of the box. Using cupcake liners is a must. Once baked and out of the oven, sprinkle with sesame seeds and allow them to fully cool; proceed to remove all of the cupcake liners and discard them. Slice each cupcake in half horizontally to give the look of a “hamburger bun.”

Next, prepare the brownie batter as directed on the box. Using muffin tins, pour roughly an inch or two of batter into each hole and bake for 7-10 minutes at the it gives temperature on the box. Allow brownies to fully cool on a wire cooling rack.

For dying the icing, you will want 1 cup of the yellow icing and 1 cup of the red icing, to act as your mustard and ketchup. Add the yellow dye to one cup of the icing and the red to the other cup in separate bowls until the colours generally match those of the condiments desired.

Lastly before assembling, place the coconut and green gel food colouring in a ziplock bag. Shake it vigorously until the colour is coating all of the coconut—you’re going for the appearance of lettuce. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect because it will be smushed between icing and brownie and cupcake.

Now you’re ready for assembly.

Grab one of the hamburger bun cupcakes and one of the brownies. Spread a generous spoonful of yellow icing on the top part of the bottom half of the cupcake, then spread the same amount of red icing on top of the brownie. Place the brownie icing-side-up on top of the yellow-iced bun. Sprinkle a large pinch of coconut on top of the red icing, then place the top half of the hamurger bun on top. Insert a deli toothpick through the top centre of the cupcake. Repeat with remaining ingredients until you have 24 hamburger-like cupcakes in front of you, ready to be devoured.Hamburger CupcakesHamburger Cupcakes

Soft Pretzel Rolls

Bread is intimidating. You have to keep an eye on temperatures, the rising of the dough, shaping the rolls, boiling and baking. That’s why when I baked these, I was surprised by how process went seamlessly, the buns came out looking picture perfect, and they tasted even better.

The tutorial I’ve included in the recipe is really helpful; if you’re new to rolls (as I was) and need a couple of good tricks up your sleeve, this is a good one to hold on to.

I decided to experiment with a small portion of the dough by making bagels and sandwich-length buns. I would recommend testing out the bagel shape the most because the consistency was ideal for dipping in soups and toasting, while the process was no more difficult than the rolls. Just sprinkle some poppy seeds on top along with the coarse salt and there you have it. Make a long, thin piece of dough, form a circle and pinch to two connecting ends. Boil as you would the other rolls and bake for the same amount of time as well.

The recipe I used for the rolls was from Mel’s Kitchen and worked perfectly. I am still learning the tricks to using my stand mixer so the speeds were up and down, but I generally stayed at speed 2 and it worked out well.

Sidenote: I was pleasantly surprised with how well these rolls turned out, they looked perfect. The only part where I messed up was after the baking—I didn’t wait until they had fully 100% cooled before storing them in airtight containers. This caused the rolls to form a bumpy, moist exterior which is still edible when toasted or oven-warmed, but definitely lessened the appeal. The rolls are best fresh from the oven and if you are storing them overnight, be sure to cool them completely!Soft Pretzel RollsSoft Pretzel Rolls

Ingredients

Dough
  • 1 tbsp. instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 cups warm milk
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 6 1/2 – 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Water Bath and Extras
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • Coarse salt for sprinkling

Method

In the bowl of an electric mixer—or hand in a large bowl—stir together the yeast, oil, milk and water. Add the salt and two cups of the flour. Add the rest of the flour gradually until a soft dough is formed and knead for 3-4 minutes. You may not need to use all the flour so be careful of the moisture level while mixing; add the flour until a soft dough is formed that clears the sides of the bowl. Be sure not to overflour.

Transfer the dough to a large lightly greased bowl, cover it with greased plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm, dry space until doubled in size (1-2 hours).

Portion the dough into 16 pieces and roll each piece of dough into a lovely little round ball. The recipe I followed suggested this tutorial which worked perfectly for me; it gave me that puffy ball of dough without too much hassle or frustration.

Lay out the rolls on baking sheet lined with lightly greased parchment. Let them rest for 15-20 minutes.

While the dough rests, bring the water, sugar and baking soda to a boil in a large pot.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, carefully take it off the parchment or counter, flip it over in your hand and pinch the bottom to form a little pucker and help the dough form a nice, taut ball. Take care not to deflate the dough; you should pinch just the very edge of the dough.

Place 3-4 dough balls in the boiling water and boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side.

Remove the dough from the boiling water with a slotted spoon or colander and let the excess water drip off into the pan. Place the boiled dough balls onto lined baking sheets (lined with lightly greased parchment—you can use the same parchment you used to rest them on before).

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Using a lightly dampened sharp knife, slice 2-3 cuts into the top of each boiled roll about 1/4-inch deep or so. Lightly sprinkle each dough ball with coarse salt and you are ready to put them in the oven.

Bake for 20-22 minutes until the rolls are deep golden brown. All bread products are best the day they’re made, but if you have leftovers (this is a pretty hefty batch) you can reheat them in the oven the next day or two.Soft Pretzel Rolls

This is the experimental pretzel--not bad!

This is the experimental pretzel–not bad!

Soft Pretzel Rolls

Mini Mixed Berry Pies in Muffin Tins

Earlier this week as a graduation present, my aunt and uncle got my a KitchenAid Stand Mixer (in an awesome retro blue colour) and I’ve been trying to make as many recipes as possible with it. I’ve never mastered a good pie crust until now, but I went with a really basic base on a low speed and it worked perfectly. Not too crumbly or moist, just perfect. I swear this isn’t a plug, I’m just really excited about having one!

The filling is also really easy to make, takes no time and you can switch around the fruit if you’re partial to some more than others. I had a little bit of filling leftover from this recipe so feel free to cut back as well.

Since I don’t own any round cookie cutters, I just used a ramekin with a sharp knife to cut out my dough shapes. If you can find a large cup or small bowl that generally fits the size of your muffin tins, that will work.

One mistake I made when making these was that I filled up my pies a little too much, so probably 90% of them overflowed or drowned the lattice a little bit. They still tasted great, but if you’re serving these up and want them looking cleaner, I’d stick to filling the cups about 3/4 of the way.Mini Mixed Berry PiesMini Mixed Berry Pies

Ingredients

Pie Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 6-8 tbsp. cold water

Filling

  • 1 cup strawberries, quartered
  • 2 cups raspberries
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch

 

Method

In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, mix together the flour and salt. Cut the cubed butter into the dough until it has the consistency of cornmeal, then add water in small portions at a time until the dough feels just moistened and doesn’t crumble when squeezed.

Pack the dough into two disc-shaped balls and cover in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for an hour in the fridge.

In the meantime, prepare the filling in a large bowl. Add strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, sugar and cornstarch and toss well until the fruit is coated. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to form a thin sheet of pastry, then cut circles about 3″ wide (however big your muffin tins are, you want the circles to fit snugly up to the rims). Continue until almost all the dough is used up—cut the remaining dough into thin, short strips to use as lattice.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the dough circles in lightly greased muffin cups (no lining necessary) and spoon in the pie filling about 3/4 of the way. Weave a small lattice on top of each pie, tucking the strands under and over one another.

Bake the pies for approximately 30 minutes and allow to cool for 5 minutes once removed from the oven. Serve hot with fresh vanilla ice cream and enjoy!Mini Pies in Muffin TinsMini mixed berry pies