Appetizer: Mini Pastry Puffs

Baked Pastry Puffs
Whenever attending gatherings with appetizers or horsd'oeuvres and discovering something delightfully different and/or fancy, I try to duplicate it at home.  A local caterer served these mini puffs filled with a salmon cheese spread which caught my attention, but I've filled them with: a cheese spread topped with popcorn shrimp; an olive spread; tomato relish; crab spread, spinach dip, or made  mini sandwiches ...... it's up to imagination! 

They're fun to make and can be made in larger sizes for use as dessert, by filling with berries, topped with whipped cream; pudding or ice cream, then drizzled with chocolate. Again, use your imagination. Family and guests will be impressed with your presentation.

This recipe makes about 24 - 36 mini puffs but can be doubled for larger groups.  After baking they freeze well, and handy for quick appetizers or desserts.

Mini Pastry Puffs
4 Tabs. of butter cut in pieces
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
Optional seasoning: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, fresh rosemary
Heat oven to 425.

In medium saucepan, bring water butter and salt to a boil. Remove from heat and add flour all at once, stirring til dough hold together.  Return to heat an let cook about 1 minute, until a film coats the bottom of the pan. Put dough in a bowl and let cool about 5 minutes.

Beat in eggs one at a time until dough is soft, glossy and sticky.  Put dough in pastry bag with 1/2 inch nozzle, or use a plastic bag and cut off corner.

Squirt vertically on prepared non-stick sheet an inch apart in one inch to 1-1/2 inch wide mounds, about 1/2 inch thick.  Each will have a small peak, so wet your finger and pat each mound down a bit to smooth.  An egg wash can be applied, then sprinkle with seasoning of choice.

Bake for 12 minutes, at 425, then reduce heat to 375 and remove sheet, taking a toothpick to pierce the side of each puff, then return to oven to bake until golden brown, about 10 to 15 more minutes.  Cool on wire rack. Slice open to fill with desired fillings.

Best White Bread

I began mastering my bread machine a few years ago, finding the most successful recipes.  I've owned it for over a decade, but used only occasionally.  Since finding great recipes, I haven't bought bread at the store in over 2 years.  For some breads I use the machine  just for mixing, kneading, and first rise then shape and bake in oven, and others I fully bake in the machine.  I've used "mixes" but  it's much more economical to enjoy bakery quality bread of all kinds when making from scratch.

A friend in Texas shared this recipe and it makes a huge, soft loaf equal to two loaves of bread.  Once cooled, I slice it in half vertically and freeze one half for later use. Dough can be made then taken out and shaped into buns or rolls.  Bread machines are great for making pizza dough, too.

You'll never find a better bread for toast!

Bread Machine White Bread 
1 cup milk warm milk
1 large egg, or 2 small at room temperature 
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups bread flour, regular white flour will be okay, too.
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Put ingredients in according to machine instructions.  Mine calls for liquids first, then dry ingredients, with yeast last. I warm milk to about 90 degrees quickly in microwave with the butter, then beat egg(s) and pour in. Next add sugar, salt, then flour.  Make an indent on top and spoon in yeast.  I set the machine to basic white. During first knead, seeds such a poppy or sesame, or  dry spices may be added.

No-Knead Ciabatta Bread

Ready to Bake
Slice of White Ciabatta

Ciabatta Bread
4 cups flour (can use white or combo of white and wheat)
1 tsp. yeast
1-1/2 tsps. salt
2 cups warm water

Put four cups of flour, yeast and salt in large bowl; add warm water.  Stir until blended and sticky.  Cover bowl with foil, plastic wrap or towel for 12 - 18 hours at room temperature until doubled in size. Dough will be spongy and bubbly looking.

Pull out of bowl and turn out to floured board to shape into long oval or divide making two rounds. Dust with flour.  Flipover onto oiled baking sheet sprinkled with corn meal, dust top with flour.  Cover with towel for 2 hours and let rest and rise again. It won't seem like it's risen very high, put will spread,  and rise greatly when baking.

Bake 425 oven, 35-45 minutes until browned.  Bread will have thick crust and large airy holes. Experiment with adding seeds or Italian spices, or brush top with oil or butter before baking for different effect and taste of an artitsan style bread.  Can be divided and shaped into baguette loaves.

Hint:  Great bread for children to help make.  So easy!  I usually make dough in late afternoon and it's ready in mid-morning.

Link to Video of Step-by-Step

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Cake Mix Cookies

Watch for cake mix sales or coupons when they're a dollar or less.  These are so fast and easy and freeze well.
Ready to Bake

Cake Mix Cookies
1 box of cake mix with pudding if none, add box of instant pudding
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil or butter
1 cup of whatever you want or have on hand: chocolate or other flavored chips, nuts, M&Ms, crushed candy bits, raisins.  Be creative! If using a white cake mix you may want crushed toffee or butterscotch chips; if chocolate mix, chocolate chips and nuts.  A tsp. of flavored extract can enhance the flavor.  I've used chocolate mix, mint extract, and chocolate chips.

Chocolate Mint
Mix cake mix and baking power, toss in and mix eggs and melted butter or oil, then stir in one cup of  chips or nuts.  Batter will be stiff dough.

Drop by teaspoons on baking sheet and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.
Makes 3 or 4 dozen.  Will look underbaked and puffy when done, but let sit for about 10 minutes to set before lifting off.  They'll be crisp on outside and chewy inside.

Ideas:  Spice cake mix, and nuts; lemon cake mix and lemon zest and drizzle with icing.  Many, many possibilities.