Saturday, February 26, 2011

A back up to Valentine's day

Why is it that just because February has fewer days in the month it has to go by twice as fast? Those days have been ticking by at the Bacon house. I haven't forgot about my awesome readers here, just been side tracked with kid events. Also there is a big change happening at the Bacon house that involves bring home the bacon, and it's taking a lot of my time. But I will try to catch up on a few posts and update more routinely.

So lets start with backing up to your Valentines day? Did your sweetie get you something special? Even though it was our 10 year anniversary from the day Mr. Bacon asked me to spend forever with him (P.S. I said yes!) I believe once I started having kids Valentines day moved over to a kids holiday. I love planning some sweet and red surprises for them. So what did we do this year?

To start how about some pink heart pancakes? I used my mix recipe from here. Added pink food coloring and a bit of creative work pouring the batter on my griddle and the kids had the best breakfast to start their Valentines day.

(since we are taking about the day of love... this griddle was my first Christmas present from Mr. Bacon.... Nothing says romance better than a griddle for your girlfriend. I'm happy to say the griddle and the two of us are still working out!)

Lunch was the traditional heart shaped PB&J sandwiches. I wonder if the Bacon kids will get bored of heart sandwiches when they are teenagers? .... And what do you make your sweethearts for dinner? Why.. Heart shaped homemade pizza of course! One pepperoni for the kids, one pepperoni, sausage, & mushroom or Mr. Bacon and me. Everyone loved it so much I'm happy to report we didn't have leftovers!

Now you know Ma Bacon better than to just leave the day as that... So in the afternoon I baked up my other treat for the kids. I've been waiting for a while to put this recipe on here. It's a household favorite and it's highly requested by everyone who eats them. These are THE BEST sugar cookies I've found!

Ma Bacon's Sugar Cookies
1 cup butter softened (the real thing makes these amazing, but margarine works too)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2.5 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp Orange Juice
1 tsp vanilla (or almond- my favorite) extract

In mixing bowl place butter and sugar and mix together. Add in egg and mix. Add in baking powder and flour next, the dough will be thick. Next add in the extract and orange juice (this is the magic secret ingredient!). Mix all together. Now it's time to make cookies!

Get your work area ready. I use my good ol' cutting board for rolling out cookies. It saves my counter top some wear and tear. Place about 1/4 cup of flour on the board and spread some of it out to work into the dough. Take 1/2 the dough and roll it into a large ball. Then kneed it a few times in the flour on your work surface. Roll out your dough, keeping it thicker will help makes these cookies remain soft after baking. You can see how thick they are in the picture below. I roll my dough between 1/4-1/2 inch thick!

One big tip on rolling out the dough, is to only roll it out 3 times, then set it aside. (check out my scrap pile on the cutting board above.) Once you've rolled all the dough out 3 times and cut out your cookies, then you can roll the scrap pile out and cut cookies out of it. This also helps keeps the cookies super soft.

Once you get a pan full, they are ready for the oven. Bake 375* for 7-9 minutes. With sugar cookies you want to make sure they are not all brown like other cookies. You just want them baked though. the bottoms will be slightly brown but until you take them off the pan you won't be able to see this. I have to say finding the exact baking time is a bit of trial and error but it 's worth it when they melt in your mouth! Let them rest on the pan for no more than a minute and then remove them to a cooling rack. If you leave them on the pan they will continue to cook and become hard.

Next comes the fun part.. frosting! Here is the basic icing recipe I use.
Ma Bacon's Sugar Cookie Icing:
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp butter softened
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
2 tbsp milk

Mix all together. Add more or less milk to make icing spreadable. If it's too runny, add more powdered sugar.
The pink frosting on these cookies is from the recipe above. I took half the batch and let the kids decorate them how they'd like with the sprinkles... they were gone too fast to for me to get a picture of them! But decorating is their favorite part about these cookies besides eating them! As for the white frosting I used the butter cream recipe here (half batch)and put it in my decorator bags and got creative!

YUMMY! Thick delicious better than any store bought sugar cookies!
Even though Valentines day has come and gone... you can still show some love with a 'hearts' day or just because I love you day. How about some shamrock pancakes, pizza and cookies tinted green for St. Patrick's day? Heck these cookies don't need a special occasion to make! But I'll warn you - they don't last long! (hint you can put some unfrosted one's in the freezer for a later treat if you'd like. I actually like eating these just as much unfrosted too!)

Hope you enjoyed these- And Happy Belated Valentines day from the Bacon Family!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Twisted Super Bowl Treat

It smells G-O-O-D in here!

We had our own little super bowl party at the bacon house tonight. I decided to make a special treat for it. Nothing better to go with your ice cold... well what ever you're drinking than pretzels. Soft, buttery, salty pretzels were great while we cheered on our favorite team- GO PACKERS!!

They didn't take much time at all to make, but were gobbled up fast. These seem like another one of those scary to make breads because once again it uses yeast. Trust me, it's easy and the taste is SO worth it. These are by far better than those you buy at the mall.

The first steps of this recipe are similar to those I used while making buns here.

Buttery Soft Pretzels

5 tsp yeast (or 2-.25 packets)
1 tsp sugar
1 1/4 cup warm water (110-115*)
3-4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 TBSP oil

1/4 cup baking soda
2 cups water
2 TBSP butter - melted
Coarse salt

In bowl, place yeast, 1 tsp sugar and 1 1/4 cups warm water. Let sit until yeast becomes bubbly. Add in sugar, salt and oil and mix. Slowly add in flour 1 cup at a time and mix until dough forms a ball. If using your mixer, when dough ball forms and pulls away from sides. Kneed dough by hand or in mixer for 6-7 more minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning once and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for one hour. I turn my oven on 200* while I start to mix up the dough, I place the dough in the bowl in the oven and turn the oven OFF to rest for one hour.

Ahhh... the relaxing hour. Today was great, Mr. Bacon took the kids outside to play, I was able to get Bacon bit to take a nap... so quiet! It goes by too fast.

Once doubled in size. Punch down and turn out onto a floured surface. You don't need a ton of flour here. Kneed dough a few times into a ball.

Cut ball into twelve pieces. Now the fun begins. This is where this is where it requires some work, but still it only took me 30 min tops to roll these out. And that was with having to answer the door three times because Little Miss Bacon kept wanting to show me the snow balls she was making.

Take one dough ball and start to roll it between your hands. Then roll it along the the cutting board or counter until you get a thin, long rope. My cutting board is 23" long, I made my ropes that long.

Now it's time to twist. If you want to make a traditional pretzel, twist the ends twice like the picture below. Then fold it over on it's self. Tada!

Next- take the 1/4 cup of baking soda and dissolve it in the 2 cups water. Place in a shallow pan, I found my 8x8 baking dish worked well. Take the pretzel and dip it in the water solution. Then pat it on a paper towel to get rid of any drips and place on greased cookie sheet.

If you prefer to make something easier than the pretzel, you can make twists. Roll the dough into a long rope again, cut it in the middle. Lay the 2 ropes next to each other and twist together. Repeat the baking soda bath with the rope and place on the pan.

Once you have them all rolled out. Melt 2 Tbsp butter and brush on the tops of the pretzels. Sprinkle with course salt. Bake in oven at 425* for 8 minutes. Go ahead and try out other variations. You can bake them and then dip them in cinnamon and sugar, sprinkle with garlic salt, our your favorite seasonings too.

Don't worry about the dough puffing up once it sits on the pan. It's ok. It will puff up more once it's bake too so make sure not to crowd them on the pans either. Baked buttery goodness! ENJOY!