Gorilla Bread

Made this recipe, monkey bread from Cook’s Illustrated, to have for breakfast this morning, but with a few tweeks and twists:

MonkeyBread
from Cook’s Illustrated

Ingredients

Dough
4 tablespoons unsalted butter , divided, 2 tablespoons softened and 2 tablespoons melted
1 cup milk , warm (about 110 degrees)
1/3 cup water , warm (about 110 degrees)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 package rapid-rise yeast (or instant)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour , plus extra for work surface
2 teaspoons table salt

Brown Sugar Coating
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted

Glaze
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons milk

1. For the dough: Adjust oven rack to medium-low position and heat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. Butter Bundt pan with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Set aside.

2. In large measuring cup, mix together milk, water, melted butter, sugar, and yeast. Mix flour and salt in standing mixer fitted with dough hook, (see below for instructions without a mixer.) Turn machine to low and slowly add milk mixture. After dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until dough is shiny and smooth, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn dough onto lightly floured counter and knead briefly to form smooth, round ball. Coat large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Place dough in bowl and coat surface of dough with cooking spray. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 50 to 60 minutes.
3. For the sugar coating: While dough is rising, mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in bowl. Place melted butter in second bowl. Set aside.
4. To form the bread: Gently remove dough from bowl, and pat into rough 8-inch square. Using bench scraper or knife, cut dough into 64 pieces.

5. Roll each dough piece into ball. Working one at a time, dip balls in melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into bowl. Roll in brown sugar mixture, then layer balls in Bundt pan, staggering seams where dough balls meet as you build layers.

6. Cover Bundt pan tightly with plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until dough balls are puffy and have risen 1 to 2 inches from top of pan, 50 to 70 minutes.

7. Remove pan from oven and heat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap pan and bake until top is deep brown and caramel begins to bubble around edges, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out on platter and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

8. For the glaze: While bread cools, whisk confectioners’ sugar and milk in small bowl until lumps are gone. Using whisk, drizzle glaze over warm monkey bread, letting it run over top and sides of bread. Serve warm.

Note: The dough should be sticky, but if you find it’s too wet and not coming together in the mixer, add 2 tablespoons more flour and mix until the dough forms a cohesive mass. Make sure to use light brown sugar in the sugar mix; dark brown sugar has a stronger molasses flavor that can be overwhelming. After baking, don’t let the bread cool in the pan for more than 5 minutes or it will stick to the pan and come out in pieces. Monkey bread is at its best when served warm.

The Picky Cook has some really fantastic pictures at the link. 

Now the alterations:

  1. It was only for my husband and me, so I halved the recipe, which worked fine.  We still only ate about 3/4 of it. 
  2. There are a lot of versions of this recipe that use canned biscuit dough or frozen rolls.  These are fine, but the way I figure it, if you are going to eat something this rich and unhealthy, you might as well make it the most delicious version possible.  This really requires a yeast dough. 
  3. The recipe warns against using dark brown sugar because the molasses taste will be overwhelming.  I love dark brown sugar, and find that light brown tends to clump up badly, so I don’t bother with it.  I used half dark brown sugar and half white granulated sugar instead of the light brown. 
  4. I just used 3 TBS of butter to dip (3/4 of the halved recipe) and still had a bit leftover.  I also had a lot of cinnamon/brown sugar leftover, so feel free to reduce these to avoid waste. 
  5. I added some almond and vanilla extracts to the glaze. 
  6. In order to have it at breakfast, I made it the night before, allowing the second rise to go 50 minutes long.  Then I covered it and refrigerated it overnight.  Next morning, took it out for about 10-15 minutes, then turned on the oven and put it right in (without allowing it to preheat first, hoping that that would help bring it up to temp before the real cooking set in).  From putting it in the oven to finish was about 35 minutes (and I might go 2-3 minutes less next time).  I checked it with an instant read thermometer and it was about 205 degrees in the middle (this was great, but I’m thinking 195 would probably be the complete ideal).
  7. Now the big one- I converted it from “monkey bread” to “gorilla bread.”  As far as I can tell, this is just an idea that Paula Deen came up with, but it’s a good one.    (I give less approval to her use of canned biscuits over a yeast dough, though.)  While forming the balls, simply take a small nub of cream cheese (about the size of a fingertip) and fold the balls around it, making sure to seal the edges well. 

 Sweet, chewy, sugar and cinnamon coated balls, and a little hit of creamy cheese in the middle- unbelievable!

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What others are eating

As a skinny person who loves food, I’m often faced with cracks, some polite and some not, about how I stay slim.  At the same time, though, I’m often shocked by the things many people who appear to believe that their weight is outside of their control actually eat. 
 
That’s why the “advice to others” in this article, from a woman who lost 102 lbs, drives me batty.  
Her advice to others: Be willing to make some changes, even small changes to your diet will help. If you drink soda, switch to diet soda. If you eat fast food, gradually cut back on the number of times you eat it each week until you cut it out. Cut out excess sugar.
Gradually cut back the number of times you eat fast food each week?  How on earth can someone with weight concerns eat fast food on a “several times a week” basis?  I eat fast food, perhaps six or seven times a year.  It’s a very rare treat.  Since learning how to cook, I don’t even think of it as generally appealing anymore (occasionally it’s agreeable as a sort of slumming, but only rarely).  There are dozens, nay, hundreds, of quick and easy recipes that can be made in less time than it takes to swing by the drive-thru, and they taste better, too. 
 
The same with soda.  Why on earth would you drink it on a regular basis?  That’s an enormous amount of sugar to take in at one time.  Don’t your teeth feel fuzzy afterwards?  Gross.  Other than in the occasional mixed drink, I rarely touch the stuff.  And I didn’t need someone else’s advice to tell me that. 
I waited tables for a few years in college, and in my experience, you had maybe somewhat chunky people who generally ate normally, and could credibly say that their less than perfectly ideal weight was a product of genetics, and then you had the truely fat (I’m talking Precious fat) people who ate exactly like you would expect them to.  Refill after refill on soda, extra extra dressing, fries, extra butter, and so on.  They usually finished their enormously portioned meals before the normal-weighted people had time to taste theirs, too, making me wonder why they even needed the taste enhancers like butter and dressing. 
 
I don’t deprive myself, but I do eat vegetables (and not just the lettuce on a Big Mac!) every day (mostly frozen), fruit on a regular basis, and drink a lot of water and (unsweetened) tea.  And I have a small dessert (often after lunch and dinner) just about every day and a burger and fries when I really want them.  It isn’t that hard, guys. 
 
I’m glad this women lost weight and changed her habits, so I’m not putting her down.  It’s just that I read an article like this, and then I hear fat people shout “Woe is me, I cannot help my weight!” and something doesn’t add up. 
Added: The Advice Goddess took some serious heat (but came out swinging) when she advised a woman that her weight gain was probably why her boyfriend was losing interest. 

My New Favorite Restaurant

OK, I”ve never actually been there, but “The Chip Shop” in New York City sounds absolutely fantastic.  They have an entire section of their menu devoted to fried chocolate bars.  They have a twice fried cherry pie.  They have a button that you can click to tell them what you would like to see fried.

These brownies are insane

Saw an episode of Bobby Flay’s Throwdown where he made a fabulous looking German chocolate cake which I wanted very much. But, with only two people in the house, cakes are usually more trouble than they are worth, and this one is a lot of trouble.

But I still wanted that rich, chocolately, coconutty combination.  So I decided to create my own, in brownie form.  The simple, one-bowl brownie recipe, which has been my favorite for a while, is adapted from this one from Gourmet.  The topping is adapted from Bobby’s German chocolate cake. 

Brownies:

  • 3 Oz Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
  • 1 Oz. Unsweetened Chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 stick (6 Tbs) Butter, cut into pieces
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1/4 Cup Cool Coffee (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour

Topping

  • 3/8 Cup (6 TBS) Sugar
  • 2 TBS Water
  • 3/4 Cup Whole Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 TBS Light Corn Syrup
  • 1 TBS Cold Unsalted Butter, cut up
  • 1/2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • Dash salt
  • 1/2 Cup Sweetened Coconut
  • 1/3 Cup Chopped Pecans
  • 1/4 Cup (approx.) Chocolate Sauce (melt chocolate chips with heavy cream to make your own)

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking dish, knocking out excess flour. 

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolates and butter, stirring at least every 30 seconds.  Cool to lukewarm and whisk in sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs one at a time.  Add coffee and whisk until smooth and glossy.

Stir in flour and salt until just combined.  Spread batter evenly into pan and bake 22-25 minutes, tester should still have moist crumbs.  Do not over-bake!  Place pan on rack and allow to cool. 

Meanwhile, start on topping.  Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan or saucier over high heat.  Cook without stirring until it becomes a deep amber brown, watching very carefully.  Remove from heat and add milk and cream, stir in corn syrup.  Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half and is the consistency of caramel sauce, about 20-30 minutes. 

While caramel is cooking, toast the pecans in a small saucepan over medium heat until fragrant.  Remove from pan and toast coconut until lightly browned.  Set aside. 

When caramel has reduced, remove from heat and whisk in the butter, vanilla extract, and salt.  Stir in pecans and coconut.  Stir well and spread over brownies.  Drizzle with chocolate sauce.

Molten Spiced Chocolate Cabernet Cakes

Since I decided the other day that it’s OK to link to product-placement recipes if they’re good, I have another one to share.  Molten Spiced Chocolate Cabernet Cakes

This is one of those great recipes where the name contains almost all of the ingredients right there.  And even though it’s a product placement, the product is spices, so it’s not as if it’s asking you to use a bunch of crazy processed foods or anything.  (BTW, McCormick is fine, but I prefer to get my spices from Pensey’s).  Plus, it can be put together in minutes and I always have the ingrediants on hand (wine-in-a-box is perfect for cooking), so it’s great for those times when it’s 8:30 at night and you get the craving for something sweet.

Molten Spiced Chocolate Cabernet Cake

4 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 tablespoon Cabernet Sauvignon or other red wine
1 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
6 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection Cinnamon, Saigon
1/4 teaspoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection Ginger, Ground
1/8 teaspoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection Cloves, Ground (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Butter 4 (6-ounce) custard cups or soufflé dishes. Place on baking sheet.

2. Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwavable bowl on HIGH 1 minute or until butter is melted. Whisk until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in wine, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar until well blended. Whisk in eggs and yolk. Stir in flour, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Pour batter evenly into prepared custard cups.

3. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until sides are firm but centers are soft. Let stand 1 minute. Carefully loosen edges with small knife. Invert cakes onto serving plates. Sprinkle with additional confectioners’ sugar. Serve immediately.

We added some red-wine caramel the second night, and it was divine, but unnecessary.  (Although it’s easy to make caramel while it bakes.)

Michelle, Could You Please at Least Consider a Frying Pan?

As I’m sure most of us are aware, Michelle Obama has staked out her official First Lady cause as the fight against childhood obesity.  She’s planted an organic garden, complete with its very own beehive.  She’s bought $5 a dozen eggs and certified organic Tuscan kale from a local farmer’s market.  She told the world that her pre-adolescent daughters were getting fat

But there’s one thing she’s not doing.  She’s not cooking

[W]hen The Washington Post asked Mrs. Obama for her favorite recipe, she replied, “You know, cooking isn’t one of my huge things.” And last month, when a boy who was visiting the White House asked her if she liked to cook, she replied: “I don’t miss cooking. I’m just fine with other people cooking.” Though delivered lightheartedly, and by someone with a very busy schedule, the message was unmistakable: everyday cooking is a chore.

Now, it’s perfectly fine for the first lady, this one or any other, not to cook.  Unlike most of us, she’s got a full staff who can make whatever she and her family crave on a whim, and they can be directed to keep things as healthy as she desires.  And I’m well aware that the mere idea of suggesting that a woman should cook is as fraught with sexist implications as requesting that a woman get you a cup of coffee.  So, I’ll be clear: If Hillary Clinton had become president, suddenly adopted a couple of youngsters for some reason, and Bill were taking up the cause of childhood obesity in his spare time, I would be making the exact same argument about what he should do.  Here, Ms. Obama has taken up this cause, so she is the one who is accountable for making it more than just a PR stunt. 

Gardening, even if it must be organic, is a perfectly fine hobby.  It’s healthy and tasty, and it provides a good science lesson for the kids.  It’s also expensive, time consuming, seasonally and geographically limited, requires land that many people don’t have access to, and produces very little output for the work required.  I keep a small garden myself, and it’s great to have fresh tomatoes and chilies in the summer, but it doesn’t pay the grocery bills by a long shot (and I live 500 miles south of the Obama family).  Making a garden pay for itself takes an enormous amount of dedication, talent, and luck. 

Exercise, also stressed by Ms. Obama, is also a great thing.  But, again, it’s effectiveness is limited.  New studies are now showing that exercise does very little to help obesity and can even be counterproductive by causing the exerciser to eat more. 

Really making a dent in childhood (and adulthood) obesity requires encouraging healthy eating on an everyday basis for all kinds of people.  Restaurant meals are absurdly high in calories, and who doesn’t feel the urge to eat more when going out?  Take-out’s no better, unless you spring for limited “healthy” options at inflated prices.  In my experiences, processed foods (such as those from a box or can) are less satisfying and encourage overeating.  Real, home cooking, with highly flavored, minimally processed ingredients, are the best way to reduce obesity.  And, for those of us not living in the White House, that requires doing it ourselves. 

And, contrary to stereotype, most cooking is really very simple.  Just follow a recipe; they are available, for free, by the hundreds of thousands.  Yes, it takes some time, but there are enormous resources devoted to recipes that can easily be completed after a normal workday.  I have a solid collection of delicious dishes that can be made with staple ingredients in less time than it takes to detour and wait at the drive-thru.  And you can’t tell me that she couldn’t have fun creating something with her kids that they can share. 

How about, instead of some elite organic garden that’s unavailable to many Americans and ultra-expensive eggs, Ms. Obama dedicated her advocacy to learning how to cook, and teaching her daughters to do the same?  She could invite us to follow her on the journey of a formerly unwilling home cook.  She could take a class, or hire a private instructor, and post her experiences and new found knowledge online to encourage families to try.  She could learn about, and share with us, wonderfully healthy, easy to use ingredients that don’t cost a lot of money, like whole grains, hardy greens, squash, seasonal produce and frozen vegetables.  She’s already appeared on the FoodNetwork twice; certainly they would jump at the chance to devote an hour or so to her quest for healthy, fun, and flavorful foods. 

Ms. Obama, please try to become just a little bit of a foodie.  Help us convince families to avoid junk food and have fun doing it.

Is Cracking Eggs Too Hard for You?

Well, have no fear, here comes the E-Z Cracker!  It cracks the eggs for you!  And, by dirtying another weird contraption which is probably a major pain to wash, you won’t risk getting stuff on your counter that might need to be wiped up!  And it had a scoop that catches the yolk to separate the eggs for you! 

And I am not making this up!  Although someone might be just making this up to mess with me!