Sunday, December 22, 2013

Some Seasonal Smiles!

It's only a few more days till Christmas.

Is your holiday shopping done? Are you ready for the big guy to make his rounds? Are you up for more holiday gatherings with family and friends?

Hate me if you must, but I've been done the decorating, cards, gifts, wrapping and baking since December 1! The gifts have been sent and most of the baking has been delivered. I'll see more friends and family after the holidays or early in the new year. I did the last of the pre-Christmas grocery shopping this past Friday morning. Now I can pretty much hibernate for the next week! I'll check the post-Christmas sales online but I won't be venturing to the malls till the new year!

I'm quite content to hibernate this time of year. The malls are packed and the weather here in "Winterpeg" is truly frightful!

So, for those of you who are also all tucked in for the season and especially for those in these last days of pre-Christmas frenzy, here is a little humour to keep you somewhat sane!

cartoon by John Baynham

For some of my past holiday humour, you can check these posts:

You will find more laughs at these sites and many more!
Aunty Acid
Off The Mark

Merry Humbug!

Happy New Year!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

This Recipe MAY Be Addictive!!

The recipe I want to share today may well be one of my BEST creations EVER!!

The idea came to me while I was making buns for a family gathering on our Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada but I didn't have time to play with the idea till the following week.

There are tons of recipes online for pull-apart breads which are also known as monkey breads. Small balls of dough are dipped in melted butter/margarine then in a coating mix. They are then layered in a Bundt pan - usually with some kind of cheese in between the layers - then baked. When they are done, you invert the baked bread onto a serving plate and place a container with a complimentary flavoured liquid in the center to dip the baked bread pieces into.

So, what's my idea?

Well, what "IF" you could make a pull-apart bread that tasted like stuffing???

I did a search for such a recipe but didn't come up with anything close to what I had in mind so I decided to try and create it!

The idea of using a pre-made dough only briefly crossed my mind. I dismissed the idea, as I knew I wanted to add a few flavourful ingredients to the dough to make it taste like stuffing. Adding additional ingredients to a pre-made dough isn't always easy as recipes vary greatly. Some dough's are more forgiving than others. It would be much easier to make my dough from scratch.

The French Bread recipe on the Mennonite Girls Can Cook site is simple and very versatile. It can be readily adapted for many different versions. I've made a half recipe (one loaf) of it a couple of times and enjoyed the flavour. It would be the basis of my dough - with a few additional ingredients of course.

I have always LOVED my mom's bread stuffing! I could (and admittedly have) eat it uncooked and cooked by the handful! It is a simple recipe of bread cubes, rolled oats, onion, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper and margarine. Mom always made enough to stuff a bird plus do an extra side-dish of it to satisfy our stuffing loving family! When she did it as a side-dish, she'd add chicken bouillon powder to some hot water for the required moisture and additional flavour.

Okay, I had the concept and my base recipes as a rough guide. All I had to do was play with the quantities and hope that the result would be as mouth wateringly delicious as I imagined it could be!

The first attempt actually turned out surprisingly well. The only major glitch in my prep was my guess of how much coating mix to make. I was way off! I had to stop half way through the dipping process and mix another batch of coating!!

It smelled amazing as it baked!  As for the taste test?  It was about 3/4 of the way to what I imagined. I had added some seasoning to the dough itself, but it needed more. The poultry seasoning flavour had always saturated without overwhelming my mom's stuffing and I wanted that same effect for the dough - not just plain bread dipped in a seasoning mix. The coating mix needed a bit of tweaking - mostly in the quantity.

The second time I made it, I upped the seasoning in the dough with much better results! The coating mix was slightly more than doubled. I also switched from Monterey Jack cheese to Havarti in between the layers. Both cheeses worked well as they are quite mild and thus add to, rather than distract from the seasonings.

I didn't bother making gravy for dipping the first time I made this. Frankly, I'm not a big gravy fan - a bit on my turkey/chicken is enough for me - rather than covering my stuffing and/or potatoes as well. However, the second time I made this, I did prepare a package of low sodium gravy mix to give it a more thorough test and also to serve to a couple of taste testers.

The results? The taste testers thought it was amazing and that it tasted EXACTLY like stuffing!!


So now I'm sharing this recipe with you! You should allow about two hours from start to serving. It will take far less time for this to be devoured!! 

Be forewarned however, that this may well be very addictive! Once you and your guests start eating this, you probably won't want to stop! Even when your stomach says it is stuffed, you may find yourself reaching for just one more piece!!!

OMG! Lovin' Stuffin' Pull Aparts
Bread Dough:
1 Tablespoon white sugar
1 Tablespoon cooking oil (I use Canola oil)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cups hot tap water
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 1/4 - 2 1/2 cups flour, divided (I used a combo of all purpose and whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
2 Tablespoon oat bran OR 1/4 cup oat flour (both are available at bulk food stores)
1 Tablespoon instant yeast

3/4 cup quick rolled oats
4 teaspoons low sodium chicken bouillon powder*
2 1/4 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon basil
pinch black pepper
2/3 cup finely chopped onion (divided)

1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted
1 1/3 cup grated Monterey Jack or Havarti cheese
1 or 2 packages of low sodium turkey or chicken gravy mix*
Dough - Combine the sugar, oil, salt and water. Add the onion and stir. Add 1 cup of flour and mix to combine. Mix the poultry seasoning, oat (bran OR flour - NOT BOTH) and yeast with 1/2 cup flour and add that while dough is still very soft. Add enough flour to make a soft dough that is not sticky if you handle it with lightly floured hands. Form into a ball in the mixing bowl then cover with a tea towel and set in a draft free area to rise. Let the dough rise until double in size, about 30-45 minutes.

While the dough is rising, combine the coating ingredients - except the onions - in a small bowl and set aside. Melt the margarine so it is ready for dipping. Grate the cheese and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375F Spray a Bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray such as Pam. Sprinkle a teaspoon or so of the onions and about 1 - 2 tablespoons of the cheese evenly in the bottom of the Bundt pan. Add the rest of the onions to the coating mix and stir to combine. Pour about 1/3 of the coating mix onto a small plate for dipping. (Add more to the plate as needed - this way the coating mix doesn't get saturated with the melted margarine that is on the dough balls.)

Punch down the dough. Place on a lightly floured surface. Tear small pieces of dough and roll into balls about 3/4 inch in diameter. Note: Try to keep the pieces uniform in size to avoid over or undercooked pieces in the baking process. Roll all the balls first. (I generally get between 40 and 45 when I make this. That makes for a nice sized piece for dipping when baked)

Then separately, dip each ball - first in the melted butter - then in the coating mix. (Note: I dip the balls in the melted margarine with one hand then drop it in the coating. I role it in the coating with the other hand. That way you aren't getting coating mix in the margarine or too much margarine in the coating!) Place each coated ball in the prepared Bundt pan until you have a single layer. Don't overcrowd the balls as they need room to rise and spread while baking. Sprinkle first layer with about 1/3 of the grated cheese. Then proceed with second layer, staggering the balls (as in brick layers). Pour any remaining butter and coating over the balls. Sprinkle the top with remaining cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes. Set pan on cooling rack.

While the bread is cooling in the pan on the rack (about 5 - 10 minutes), prepare a package of gravy mix per package instructions. You may want to prepare two packages of gravy mix, depending on how much you love gravy! Invert the bread to a serving plate. Transfer some of the hot gravy to a small round bowl/glass (I used an old fashioned glass) that I bought at the Dollar Store) and place the gravy bowl/glass in the middle of the bread for dipping. Refill the gravy as needed.

Servings? That will vary greatly, but probably as little as 4 to as many as 8 depending on how addictive this is to those eating it! In the unlikely event that there is some bread left over, cover and store in the fridge. It is great cold or you can pull off chunks and heat for a few seconds in the microwave.

*Note: You could switch out the chicken bouillon powder and the chicken/turkey gravy mixes for vegetarian versions.