27 February 2007

Biscotti and other crunchy things....

Have another meeting this week at work so am making Chocolate Biscotti. I found this recipe from another blog and thought it was interesting in that it contained butter and not oil, which is how most biscotti are made. So thought I'd give it a go and see how well it works. I have made biscotti in the past - usually just a plain one with nuts or chocolate chunks in it.

However, this recipe is quite good and so chocolaty that a dipped layer of melted chocolate would be surplus to requirements. But then again I'm not a chocoholic but I do enjoy things made with good quality chocolate. I'll have to get some Valrhona chocolate as that makes the best brownies and I bet it would lend just the right amount of depth to this treat too.

I have to say that the tip of letting the logs cool was also quite helpful. I have always cut the biscotti while warm and wondered why I had more crumbs than biscotti. I now will always do this.

I also liked the tip of brushing the logs with a beaten egg white. This added a glossy shine the biscotti while also I think keeping the whole log together with less crumbs than I have had in previous batches.

So now that you have been tempted go ahead and try the recipe. You might be sorry because you'll see how fast they go! Enjoy!

11 February 2007

Winter comfort foods

There is something about winter and making comfort foods. I tend to always cook and bake more in the winter months than the summer ones. Not that I don't bake or cook in the summer time but I tend to make stews and soups much more now than in summer. Summer is about enjoying the weather and in England it changes so quickly you have to enjoy all the sunshine you can get!

Over the weekend I made some split pea soup - lovely. The chunks of carrots and potatoes made it more like a chunky feast that needed a fork rather than a spoon. I also made a loaf of bread which went nicely. J usually likes cream crackers with his soups but with my home made ones he doesn't use them - doesn't want to adulterate them! Awwww, how sweet.

Now a bit more about the reduced aisle. Unfortunately, the nearest thing you can find reduced in America is when it's on sale. Over here in the UK when something is coming close to its sell by date the store staff reduce the item's price by usually half if not more depending on what it is and does it sell.

I am quite lucky and find a lot of things that I continually use reduced. I also go through these phases where I find the same things consistently reduced. For instance, I love hummus and I might go through a few weeks of always finding this reduced then it will be organic produce, or something similar. I try to shop at least three sometimes four times a week for my fresh vegetables and fruit so this provides me with ample opportunity to scour the usual reduced aisles.

I'm not sure what others do but for me and J this provides plenty of variety of what I might find but also allows me to try new recipes without having to get numerous ingredients at top prices. I usually have a well stocked larder and pantry so the basics and staples are almost always there and available. It also is economical as I am not making a mint in money and have to make it stretch.

Do you buy reduced? Is there anything that you wouldn't buy on the reduced aisle? I don't think there's much I wouldn't buy except for things that look off or I know are well off.

9 February 2007

Keeping your buns warm!

Well I finally made the famous cinnamon buns and they were quite a hit! I found a few recipes from my books but also a few from the web. I sort of then just combined what I knew from past experiences. I found that adding a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg to the yeasted dough allows for more depth of flavour. I also made a cream cheese frosting which had vanilla bean seeds in to give a more pronounced vanilla flavour

I had a dilemma in how I was going to keep them warm (cold buns are just not the same!). I then had a brain fart - I used my pizza stone. It seems so obvious now but what took me so long?! I must be getting old.

While the buns were baking the pizza stone was in the oven too getting super hot. When ready to transport the buns I wrapped the stone in two large kitchen towels and put a few rubber bands around to hold them in place. It must be noted that next time I'll use string to secure the towels. A few rubber bands perished when I was trying to figured out how to wrap the stone initially. Probably not a good idea!

I then wrapped nice piece of damask cloth around it (to make it look nice) and set that in the bottom of my basket. I then put the buns on top of the stone, which I had baked in glass pie plates (glass holds heat longer) and set off for work.

As it happened we got a large amount of snow dumped on us. It wasn't the nice fluffy kind of snow but the sleek, wet kind that makes it slippery just to walk. Thankfully, I had a nice friend who offered to pick me up and take me to work which came in handy - especially that day!

So now for the recipe - I have altered it a bit but nothing dramatic that shouldn't work for you too.

Cinnamon buns


1 Tbsp yeast (I used quick active kind that you don't have to re-hydrate)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
1 large egg
4-5 cups bread flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

Mix all wet ingredients in a measuring cup. Add to a mixer 4 cups of flour and yeast and salt. Mix thoroughly. Add all the wet ingredients and mix dough. You might have to add the last cup of flour to the dough until it becomes soft and manageable (it will be soft but firm enough to handle). Knead a minute more once you have mixed it in the mixer for about 4-6 minutes. I didn't heat my liquids as I have found heating doesn't make the dough rise any faster - the yeast if in date will work warm or cold. Now I never heat things unless I am using the kind of yeast that has to be proofed.

Place in greased bowl, cover with cling film and allow to rise until at least double in volume. I just left it out overnight on the counter or you can leave in the fridge.


Melted butter (at least 1/4 to 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vanilla sugar (white or raw)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix both sugars and the cinnamon until well blended. Roll out dough into a rectangle if you like lots of dough between your swirls then leave it rather thick - and if you like less then roll it thinner. Brush dough with melted butter until coated. Spread cinnamon sugar over and roll up dough. Slice with a serrated knife and place in a well buttered dish (use some of that melted butter to coat it). Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C or 350F for 15-25 minutes depending on the thickness of your dough and slices.

Cream Cheese Icing

2 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened
5 1/2 ounces icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Seeds scrapped from a vanilla pod (optional)

Cream the cream cheese until well mixed and add icing sugar. Add vanilla extract and seeds and mix again. Depending on humidity, etc. you might have to add a bit more sugar but this is normal. It should be spreading consistency but not too liquid like.

Spread on rolls when they come out of the oven. Sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy!

2 February 2007

Cinnamon Rolls Recipe Anyone?

Am now hunting for a good cinnamon rolls recipe. I have one for cinnamon bread but it would be too rich for rolls (plus expensive as it contains lots of sour cream in the dough!). I wanted to bring something in for this committee I am on at work (a committee to improve work moral!) and figured it would cheer people up to have something home baked. I am a rarity in these days of convenience foods - I actually bake and cook from scratch!

I'm not hurting for recipes you understand, as I do have lots and lots of cookbooks (something for another posting!), but I want a tried and tested recipe. I am off for a few days (yippee a three-day weekend!) and will just trudge out to the store for some bread flour and make some for home first. Found a good recipe for cream cheese icing for the tops - one cannot have cinnamon rolls without the obligatory icing!

I collect handwritten recipes as well - some I have are from the 1870's! But unfortunately none contain cinnamon rolls. Wish I had more of them (I only have a few handwritten items) but they now go for big dollars as me and my friend say.

I've posted a few links to the left of places I like to visit. One is my best friend in America who does lovely things with broken china and sells them on eBay. I suppose that would make us good friends because me and anything that can break do not get along - she is the recipient of my clumsy ways!

A bit more about me is that I've been on-line since 1993 - a long time and I can remember a net with no lag. Shame it now is so clogged rather like the arteries of Americans! I didn't know much about what the Internet was then but knew I had to find it, get on it and use it! So in my usual fashion I got a book and read about it. It seems no one now thinks they need to do that but experience has taught me they still do.

Well this doesn't get me any closer to cinnamon rolls and I'm now going to go and forage for some breakfast. I'll post more later about me - perhaps you are wondering who this MysticBunny is?! Stay tuned....

1 February 2007

Dumpster Diving

Two weekends ago I came home from work and was rounding the corner when I heard this most God awful screeching noise. I then saw only about 1/4 of this piece of furniture that was being pushed by this rather large dude towards the trash containers. I think to myself - that looks interesting but as usual, I avert my eyes and look to the ground (or floor as it is referred to over here).

So in the door I go and wait for the lovely elevator to come whisk me up to my flat. I am counting the seconds as I wait - hoping that no one else passes by and grabs the treasure. The rather large dude and his cohorts come in the lobby area and are now too waiting for the elevator.

Finally, it arrives and I get in and they ask what floor? I say 7th and they push 6 for themselves. I hoping and praying that significant other is upstairs to help with the rescue, as I know I cannot move the furniture by myself - otherwise I am going to be sitting down there alone for a long, long time!

Dude and company get off and finally it reaches the 7th floor and I'm out like a shot and in the door and screaming for partner who answers. I tell him to get his shoes on (in my most panicked voice!) and that we are going to do some dumpster diving. Bless him, he knows me by now when I am in this mode not to question me as I am usually onto a good thing, and time is of the essence.

Back we go down to the lobby out the door to the where our trash bins are, and we see it. It is even better than I hoped and cannot believe someone got rid of this furniture. Well I can believe it because you see; I have practically furnished this whole flat with items found in the trash.

Therefore, we just look at each other and J (name withheld on purpose) says 'You've done it again'. Yeah, I do not know why I get good luck finding furniture and such bad luck in other areas but hey, I will take it! So one, two, three, and we lift and carry back into the lobby and up the elevators for its journey past the 6th floor to its new home on the 7th!

Once in the flat and we squeeze past the cabinet, which is now blocking the hall wardrobe and just about everything else and we wonder where to fit this beauty in our already cramped flat. We are lucky that we have a lot of room for a two bedroom flat but by American standards, it is small.

Fortunately, we had this useful but ugly hallway entertainment centre thingy in the hall. It was here when J moved in and Landlord said it could go. It was just kept, as it was utilitarian and did the job albeit not great on the eyes.

We now look at each other (it is great when you can read each other's mind!) and say – it has to go. So the long task of taking everything out and finding some place to put it began. Every inch of available floor space used, we were still unloading the thing! What now? Onto every chair, bed, and anything, flat that would hold something.

Then came the fun moment – breaking it apart, well you have to have some fun! It is quickly dispatched to the trash heap (it was not fit to be donated which we do if it is possible). Back up to the flat and we have to move the cabinet back out into the hall to be cleaned (it was filthy).

Then of course, since we were never able to move said entertainment centre I took the opportunity to clean behind it and wipe walls, etc. Then we had to Hoover and do all of that stuff too.

Now the cabinet comes back in for internal clean and rub with furniture polish. It really is not bad looking and only one of the drawers looks somewhat damaged from what I suspect is from too much heat (i.e. being too close to a heater or fire).

There is a cool bit where you pull on the handle and it comes down like a writing desk does but inside is a little overhead lamp with a mirror in back and a lovely glass shelf. I am assuming it was some sort of sideboard/drinks cabinet at one point. There are two large doors that pull out and reveal two shelves that can hold a lot of stuff (we keep our important papers in notebooks).

Now we have the task before us of putting it all back again. However, what was even more important was deciding on what has to go. We both knew the cabinet could not hold what was there previously. Also it was an opportunity to get rid of so much of our clutter that we figured we would not have bought something to replace it and only something like this would have driven us to begin the de-clutter process.

So kick kindly received and we started at 5pm and yes, did not get to bed until 5am but we had nearly everything back. We only had a few things on the floor that needed to be dealt with the largest bit was all away.

Here are a few pictures (if I can ever get it to work!) of the cabinet and the ones below that are from our other dumpster diving expeditions. We figured about half of our flat was free stuff and the other half is stuff we got via charity shops for very little money. In all we have only paid about £175.00 total if that.

Well that is one long post but thought you might enjoy the story. More adventures to follow so stay tuned!

blog template by suckmylolly.com