Dinner Rolls

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At every family meal we have on my maternal side of the family, everyone gets really excited when they find out that my Aunt Bobbie has made the rolls or bread. She’s famous in the family for delicious, fluffy, homemade rolls and bread. At this most recent Thanksgiving, when she was slicing bread to place out on the table, my brother elbowed me and whispered, “Do you think anyone would notice if I just ate all the bread before dinner starts?” For the record Kev, I do think so…

We’re having Friendsgiving today this year, and so I decided to try to make her rolls. It’s never quite as good when you make someone else’s recipe that you love, but I thought it was worth the challenge. I adjusted a smidge from her recipe in the family cookbook, so we’ll know where I screwed up when it’s not the same!

Results? Pretty darn good, but shockingly, not exactly the same. Hers are fluffier. But these are still pretty fluffy, especially if you eat them right out of the oven! (How else would you want to eat them…?)

Dinner Rolls

(Recipe from my family cookbook, by Aunt Bobbie, obviously)
Ingredients: 
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • 4 tbsp butter, divided
  • 3 1/4 tsp yeast
Instructions: 
  1. Sift together the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a bread hook.
  2. Stir the yeast into the warm water.
  3. Beat the egg and then whisk in the sugar. Then add 2 tbsp of melted butter, followed by the water and yeast.
  4. Pour all of the wet ingredients in with the dry. Start the stand mixer and knead for 3-4 minutes.
  5. {If needed, add tiny amount of flour or water to combat too sticky or too dry dough.}
  6. Place dough ball in a large, greased bowl. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise for 2 hours.
  7. Divide dough into individual rolls. Bobbie suggests 24; we did 18. Place rolls on a baking sheet.
  8. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and generously brush on top of all the rolls.
  9. Set aside for another 2 hours to rise again. They should double in size.
  10. Finally, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 12-15 minutes.
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Pumpkin Roll

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I’ve had this recipe pinned for a long time, because I knew Selim would like it, but I found it really intimidating. When I bake, things just never turn out as pretty as the should. {I blame my friend/old roommate Terry – she is an amazing baker/dessert wizard. I’m just assuming that when we lived together, any ounce of baking ability that Katie, our other roommate, and I might have ever possessed leeched out of us and went to her. Actually, maybe she absorbed all the potential baking ability of everyone she’s ever lived with – she’s that good. I mean, people pay her to make desserts for their special events out of our little old kitchen. She made our wedding cake! Let’s all gang up on her and peer pressure her to open a bakery; it will be for the betterment for all of humankind!} But anyway… I promised Selim I’d make him a fall treat and that I’d use real pumpkin, so here we are. Obviously, I haven’t tried this dessert with canned pumpkin puree, but I don’t think roasting your own pumpkin really added that much more work. I’m sure it’s worth it 🙂

Now, I’m not going to lie. This dessert is a little bit of a project. The active time really isn’t all that much, but there’s a lot of down time. It’s a perfect fall weekend project, while you’re around the house anyway! Pumpkin roasting in the oven = watch a quarter of football. Rolled cake cooling = rake some leaves. Entire roll chilling in the oven = go on a walk around the neighborhood.

Mine didn’t turn out quite as pretty as my model from Gimme Some Oven, or as pretty as Terry would’ve made it, but it was tasty!! What can I say, I’m a baking work in progress 🤷

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Pumpkin Roll

(Adapted from Gimme Some Oven)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 sugar/pumpkin pie pumpkin (utilizing 2/3 cup of pumpking puree)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla, divided
  • 8oz block cream cheese, softened/room temp
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar + extra for sprinkling
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice pumpkin in half and scoop out all of the seeds and strings. Roast face-up for an hour.
  3. Meanwhile, in one large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients from flour through salt.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla.
  5. Once the pumpkins are done, scoop the flesh out and into a food processor. Blend a few times until you have a nice puree.
  6. Take 2/3 cup of the pumpkin puree and whisk in with the other wet ingredients.
  7. Now, fold the wet and dry ingredients together until you have a well-combined batter.
  8. Splash a tiny bit of water into a 10 x 15 glass baking dish. Press wax/parchment paper into the dish, with extra hanging over the edge (you’ll use this to lift the cake out of the dish).
  9. Pour the batter into the dish and then bake for 15 minutes. [When it’s done, the dough will spring back when you touch it with your finger.]
  10. Lift the cake dough out of its pan and lay on a counter-top. Trim the paper so it is just past the edges of the cake. Roll the dough from short end to short end, as tightly as you can.
  11. Set the roll, seam down, on a wire cooling rack and allow to cool.
  12. Meanwhile, prepare the cream cheese filling. Using a hand-held mixer, ombine all of the remaining ingredients – cream cheese, 1 tsp vanilla, butter, and powdered sugar.
  13. If the cake has cooled to room temperature, unroll it and spread the cream cheese mixture onto it. Leave a little bit of an edge on all sides.
  14. Re-roll! Peel the wax paper away as you’re rolling. Wrap the now-completed roll tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  15. Prior to serving, slice off the edges (and eat them!), so you have a pretty edges to show the world!
  16. Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar if desired. Slice with a bread knife and serve those rounds.

Strawberry Streusel Bars

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As we’ve mentioned before (see Mint Chocolate Bars), we like to bring a treats in for the staff when we finish a rotation. It’s the least we can do for the people who spend their time and effort training us! We’re not the only one’s who do this – but we do try to have the best treats! This means a little bit of variety from the standard brownies and chocolate chip cookies. It also mean a little bit of thinking, because I’m like everyone else – when I think of easy treats that everyone loves, my mind also immediately jumps to brownies and chocolate chip cookies! I’ve never made anything remotely like this before. (See previous comments about being intimidated by baking.) I found them to be fresh and summer-y. I think they’d be a great addition to a summer-time picnic or BBQ.

And they were a hit at the hospital today. I got rave reviews from everyone who tried them – hopefully they weren’t just being nice 😉😉 Side note – I ate mine chilled as they were after being cut, but I was informed by a few people that they warmed theirs back up before eating and highly recommended it!

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Strawberry Streusel Bars

(Adapted from this recipe here)
Ingredients: 
  • Base layer
    • 8 tbsp butter, softened
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 cup flour
    • 2 tsp cornstarch
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Strawberry layer
    • 2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • Streusel layer
    • 4 tbsp cold butter, chopped into small cubes
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • Pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

  2. Line an 8×8 inch square baking pan with aluminium foil or parchment paper. Spray lightly with a cooking spray.

  3. First make the base layer: Using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until well combined in a large bowl.

  4. Now slowly add the flour, cornstarch, vanilla, and salt until combined. (It may look a little crumbly, but it’ll be

  5. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan using your hands.

  6. Bake for 15 minutes.

  7. While the bottom layer is baking, make other two layers.

  8. For the strawberry layer: Stir together all ingredients for this layer and set aside.

  9. For the streusel topping: Using the hand-held mixer, mix all of these ingredients together. The mixture will be uneven.

  10. Once the bottom layer is done, remove the pan from the oven and turn up the oven to 350 degrees. Let it sit for just a few minutes before topping.

  11. Using a large spoon, layer the strawberry layer evenly over the base.

  12. Top with the streusel layer. This should look a bit messy/uneven.

  13. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

  14. Refrigerate until all the way cooled prior to slicing and serving.

Baklava

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Filo dough can be very intimidating to work with.  It’s hard to find, not used in American cuisine, and requires patience to handle.  We learned that filo dough originated in the kitchens of Topkapı Palace, where the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire once lived.  When people think of filo dough, most think of decadent sweets like baklava, but filo dough is also be used for savory snacks like borek (filo layered with spinach & feta).  We haven’t made borek yet, but trust us, it’ll be on the blog soon enough.

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Gate to Topkapi Palace

Naturally, when we started to make baklava, we had to call my father, Baba (Turkish for father), since he’s our resident Turkish food expert.  He loves the blog and hopefully will love the shout out as well.  He gave us some tips for how to make the best baklava possible and include how finely to grind the walnuts, how thick the walnut layer should be, and also that the best baklava sets for a couple days to really absorb all the sweet syrup.  Baba also shared a great story from when he was a child and my Babaanne (father’s mother = grandmother) would make baklava, she would have to lock the finished baklava in another room so my father and his siblings wouldn’t eat it all before it was perfectly set.  Of course, we had to try it as soon as we poured the syrup over it… but when we tried it again for breakfast the next day, we both agree that it only gets better as it sets for a day or two.

We hope you enjoy this decadently sweet treat, your sweet tooth will thank us.

Baklava

(Adapted from the cookbook Sultan’s Table, by Ozçan Ozan with tips from Selim’s father)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 3 cups + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 cups (~300g) walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted, clarified butter
  • 40 sheets of filo dough (usually 2 packages)
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. (If you have clarified butter, melt the appropriate amount. If you only have regular butter, melt it in a saucepan and then skim off the foam and slowly pour the liquid into a bowl making sure to not transfer solid milk fats which are at the bottom.)
  3. Prepare the syrup: combine cold water and 3 cups of sugar in a medium saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes, then lower heat to a simmer. Continue cooking for another 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in the lemon juice and allow to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, combine walnuts and 2 tbsp sugar in food processor. Process until “medium” ground – don’t let it get too fine.
  6. Now brush the inside of a large cookie sheet with clarified butter.
  7. Place a sheet of filo dough in the pan. Brush with another little bit of clarified butter. Continue in this pattern until you’ve placed half of the sheets (~20) of filo dough in the pan.
  8. Now spread the walnut mixture onto the top layer of filo dough. Drizzle with more clarified butter.
  9. Return to the pattern of layering dough and clarified butter until you use all of the rest of the filo dough sheets. Brush the top layer and the edges with clarified butter.
  10. Take a very sharp knife and dip it into hot water. Slice down halfway through the height of the dough into the size and shape of baklava pieces you want at the end.
  11. Bake for 25 minutes in the center of the oven.
  12. Lower heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.
  13. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  14. Slice all the way through, along the lines you previously made.
  15. Pour the syrup over top, along the cut lines.
  16. Top with additional ground nuts if desired.

Savory Casserole Bread

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Ally: What is casserole bread? Honestly, I had no idea when I was first looking at this recipe. Not joking, I literally googled, “what is casserole bread.” Basically, as best I can tell, it just means that you don’t knead it or let it rise so much, and therefore, it’s a much quicker and easier type of bread to make. True? Anyone know? I can definitely attest that it was the easiest and fastest loaf of bread I’ve ever made.

Selim: When I saw the casserole dish I immediately thought, “oh great casserole…”  When I think of casseroles I think of condensed soup, canned vegetables, sodium, and a burnt tongue (I always underestimate how long to let it cool before eating it).  As always, I was happy to be wrong when I saw this massive ball of dough heaping over the top.  The funny thing is, the savory smells of the ingredients started filling our place well before the whole thing was put in the oven.  The yeast starts working really quickly when warmed up and immediately started raising the dough – yay chemistry!  This bread would go well with any poultry dish (chicken, turkey, duck) or Thanksgiving dinner if you can get people to try something different instead of bland rolls.

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Savory Casserole Bread

Adapted from a Southern Living Cookbook – American’s Best Home Cooking
Ingredients: 
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp granulated onion
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 4 1/2 tsp active yeast (or 2 packets)
  • 1 1/2 (+ a little more) cups sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • ~2 cups warm water
Instructions: 
  1. Place all ingredients except for the water into the bowl of your stand mixer.
  2. Turn the mixer on low, with a dough hook attached.
  3. Slowly add the water as the mixer is going. You may not use all or may need slightly more. You want the dough to come together into a slightly sticky ball.
  4. Place the dough into a 2 1/2 quart baking dish (buttered, oiled, or sprayed with cooking spray). Push it down to fill fully.
  5. Cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  6. After rising, sprinkle a little bit of additional cheese on top.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 40 minutes.
  8. After baking, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the dish for 10 minutes.
  9. Then remove from the baking baking dish to a wire rack to cool for another 10 minutes.
Makes a LARGE loaf!

Challah

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So the other evening, I tried to flip the ceiling fan on (after Selim told me not to because he thought it was broken, but I forgot ok?!), and instead blew a fuse. I tried to flip the breaker back and it sent blue sparks at me. So I quit doing that. I may not be the most savvy girl in the world when it comes to things like that, but I know that blue sparks + no electricity = call an electrician.

What does this have to do with challah? Everything and nothing. Unfortunately for my TV and internet addicted self, the fuse I blew covered our whole living room – where our TV and internet router are. Sure we could’ve moved them I guess, but it just seems sad if you can’t live without the Netflix and Hulu for a whole day. So instead of wasting my life on mindless TV, I baked instead!

I’d been thinking about challah because Passover was last week (and because it’s the best bread ever). I honestly never thought about making it before because its gorgeous appearance made it seem out of my league in terms of baking ability. Plus I figured the Jewish grandmas had some secret that they weren’t sharing with the rest of us. Turns out I was wrong – even I can make gorgeous challah! It’s actually way less complicated than I thought and you probably have all the ingredients on hand. (I did, hence spur of the moment baking afternoon.)

Since I don’t have a Jewish grandma handy, I got this recipe from one of my favorite corners of the internet – The Kitchn. Check them out if you want to learn how to do anything culinary related. Their step by step guide to making challah worked perfectly for me and is nearly verbatim what I’ll be sharing in this recipe. Thanks guys!! 👋🏼

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Challah

Ingredients: 
  • 2 teaspoons active dry  yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 4 cups flour + extra for sprinkling
  • 1/4 cup sugar + a pinch
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • A third egg, divided into yolk & white
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil
Instructions: 
  1. Dissolve the yeast into the water. Stir and then allow to sit until yeast causes frothing on the top.
  2. Meanwhile, sift together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt) in the bowl of your stand mixer.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining wet ingredients except for the egg white (eggs, egg yolk, oil).
  4. Pour the bowl of wet ingredients into the dry ones. Begin to mix together with a large spoon. Follow with the water/yeast.
  5. Attach a dough hook to the stand mixer. Turn on low-medium and knead for 6+ minutes. [If the dough is to sticky, slowly add flour by the teaspoon. If too dry, do the same with water.]
  6. Oil a large bowl. Place the ball of dough in the bowl. Cover with a damp towel and let rise for two hours.
  7. Now that the dough has doubled in size, divide it into six equal chunks.
  8. Roll each piece of dough out into long ropes.
  9. Lay the six dough ropes next to each other. Pinch the ends of all six pieces together at the top. Then braid together, taking the right-most strand and pulling it over the nearest two strands, under the next, over the remaining two, and then laying it down at the far left. OVER two – UNDER one – OVER two. (Check out The Kitchn’s lovely pictorial in their post for a visual!) Once you can go no further, pinch the ends together.
  10. Sprinkle dough with a smidge of flour. Place on a cooking sheet lined with parchment paper (or a Silpat if you have one). Re-cover with your damp towel and let sit for another hour.
  11. Brush the dough generously with the leftover egg white.
  12. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  13. Bake for 30 minutes. When done, the challah will have a gorgeous deep brown crust and be warm and fluffy on the inside.
Makes a large loaf.

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Spiced Blueberry Pie

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So confession. We’re not really the big Valentine’s Day types. I feel like I’m a middle-of-the-road kind of girl when it comes to this. I don’t hate Valentine’s Day or go on long rants against the commercialism of the day. But I also don’t really love or expect a dozen red roses with a heart-shaped box of chocolates. No offense to those who fall in either camp! To each their own…

But the moral of my story is that I wanted my sweet-tooth husband to have a Valentine’s Day treat, without falling into a cliché. I preferred to make him something myself, so here we are! (Don’t judge me that it’s in fact two days after Valentine’s Day… We’ve been on opposite schedules – him working long days and me working nights.)

If you’re running late on your Valentine’s Day celebration, or maybe doing something smart like waiting for the weekend, here’s your alternative to a box of chocolates for your sweetheart (or Galentine’s Day girl’s night). This blueberry pie is a lot easier than I expected it to be. Pies intimidate me! (And all desserts, for that matter. I think I’ve mentioned that once or twice.) The dough was super-easy to make and the filling was just a matter of stirring a few times. This recipe was based on one in the mouth-watering cookbook Pie Love. Mine isn’t quite as pretty as the ones in those cookbook photos, but we’re here for the taste right? Tasty > pretty. Plus, I think this is the first pie I’ve ever made. I’ll perfect the prettiness maybe by the 50th.

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Spiced Blueberry Pie

(Recipe adapted from the cookbook, Pie Love)
Ingredients: 
Piecrust:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 10 tbsp cold, unsalted butter
  • Ice water (6-8 tbsp)
Filling:
  • 5 cups blueberries
  • 2/3 cup Grade A maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • Additional brown sugar for sprinkling
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. To prepare the dough, initially place the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir together.
  3. Add the butter in small pats. Turn on the stand mixer and mix until the ingredients begin to form crumbs.
  4. Add the water, tablespoon at a time, while the mixer remains on. Continue until the dough comes together and begins to form a ball.
  5. Turn the ball of dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Separate into two different sections, roughly 1/3 and 2/3 of the original ball.
  6. Take the 2/3s ball and roll it out into a round piece of dough, approximately 12 inches in diameter and 1/8th of an inch thick. Fit this piece of dough into a greased 9-10 inch pie pan.
  7. Chill the pie pan and the additional ball of dough (wrapped in plastic) in the refrigerator while preparing the filling.
  8. Rinse your blueberries and drain.
  9. Place berries and maple syrup in a large pan. Turn heat on to medium. Stir in the spices, and salt. Add the butter in pats. As the butter is melting, slowly stir in the flour. Ensure it is well combined.
  10. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring nearly continuously. The mixture should slowly bubble and begin to thicken.
  11. While the filling is cooking, remove the pie pan from the refrigerator and bake for 5 minutes.
  12. Roll out the remaining piece of pie dough and slice into long strips.
  13. Pour the blueberry mixture into the piecrust.
  14. Top with the long strips of dough. {Try to do it better than I did ;)}
  15. Whisk together the egg and the vanilla. Brush over top of the pie.
  16. Sprinkle additional sugar over the top.
  17. Bake for 30 minutes. You should be able to see the filling bubbling.
  18. Allow to sit out for an hour prior to slicing and serving.