Family Favorite Cinnamon Rolls

I’ve been making these rolls for many, many years every Thanksgiving.

You may be wondering why I am sharing a cinnamon roll recipe right before the week of Thanksgiving. I should be sharing my favorite pie or telling you about this roll recipe that is perfect for your turkey leftovers. But instead, I am waxing poetic about cinnamon rolls. The best cinnamon rolls. Cinnamon rolls that I have been making and perfecting for many, many years. These rolls are tender, fluffy and filled with an ooey gooey cinnamon mixture then topped with a delicious “light on the cream cheese” frosting that is absolutely amazing. These cinnamon rolls are our family favorite and I have been sharing them with family and extended family every year over our Thanksgiving holiday.

Jump to Our Family’s Favorite Cinnamon Rolls Recipe
Missing this view this year! We’ll be back next year 🙂

My extended family has been going to the coast of Oregon for Thanksgiving every year for the past 50 plus years. We enjoy pot-luck style feasting for many days, lots of family time, long walks on the beach and I especially love making new and favorite recipes fit for a crowd. These cinnamon rolls are a part of our family Thanksgiving week every year. I sometimes make these rolls twice during the week…we love them so much. The dough is substantial, yet soft. The middles are gooey but baked through. The icing takes these rolls to a whole new level of glorious cinnamon rolls. Basically, our whole family loves these cinnamon rolls. 

Because of Covid this year, Thanksgiving looks a little different and my little family isn’t going to the Oregon Coast. It’s been a tough year for so many and I’ll be honest and say, writing out this cinnamon roll recipe has been hard but good if that makes sense. It’s hard to know we won’t be there to carry on this tradition this year but also good because I love looking back on the many memories I have of cinnamon rolls shared and consumed for so many years. 

Enough of the walk down memory lane…Let’s get to the details. Here are some of my pro tips for my family’s favorite cinnamon rolls.

The Dough

This dough is a dream to work with. I like to use a stand mixer (affiliate link…but check your local Costco for a good deal if you’re looking for one) or Bosch mixer but you could also make this dough kneading by hand. Just knead for about 10 minutes…until your arms are screaming at you to be done. All the butter and eggs in the dough enrich it, which can make it take longer for this dough to rise. To help combat this issue, I use instant yeast in the dough. This is my favorite yeast (affiliate link). It doesn’t need to be proofed and it helps an enriched dough rise a little more quickly.

Filling Cinnamon Rolls: Cinnamon-Sugar Paste

Throughout the many years of making this recipe, I’ve learned a few tips that have upped my cinnamon roll game. Many cinnamon roll recipes will have you spread butter over the dough and then add the cinnamon sugar mixture on top. Instead, I like to mix together softened or melted butter in a bowl and mix cinnamon, brown sugar and a little bit of flour into the butter. Then I spread the cinnamon-sugar paste over the roll dough. I think this gives a more even flavor and that little extra flour helps keeps the rolls from gaping open when baked. If you want to add nuts or raisins into your rolls, you can add them right on top of the cinnamon-sugar paste and roll them right up. I sometimes top some of the cinnamon rolls with toasted pecans. Yum!

Shaping Our Family Favorite Cinnamon Rolls

This recipe makes 12 large cinnamon rolls. I roll out my dough on the counter, spread on the filling and then roll up, pinching the seam together. To cut out the cinnamon rolls, you can use a sharp knife, bench cutter or even dental floss. If you have any wispy cinnamon roll ends, go ahead and tuck them under the roll so they don’t come loose during the bake. I also prefer baking these rolls six or eight to a pan because they rise a lot on the pan and in the oven while baking. I do know that’s not always possible or ideal (especially when I’m doubling this recipe to feed a crowd), so you can cram 12 to a pan if you want, though they may not rise quite as much.

Add A Little Heavy Cream

One other tip that ups the ooey, gooey factor in a cinnamon roll is the addition of warmed heavy cream. I like to take ¼ cup of lightly warmed heavy cream and pour it over the tops of the cinnamon rolls right before baking. You want the cream a little bit warm so it doesn’t impede the rise of the rolls. This little addition keeps the rolls extra tender and gooey, while still being baked through.

Just drizzle the warm cream right over the top of the risen rolls. Yum!

Baking the Cinnamon Rolls

A word of caution on baking the rolls. Ovens all bake differently. Some ovens bake hotter in the back and cooler in the front. If you want an even bake on your rolls, rotate your pan 180 degrees after the first ten minutes of baking. This will keep half of your rolls from getting too dark and the other half being too light. Check the center of one of the cinnamon rolls once the pan is baked to make sure that the middle isn’t raw. Sometimes you need to let them go a minute or two longer just so they are completely baked through.

The Best Cinnamon Roll Frosting

The frosting on these rolls is amazing. There’s no other way to describe it. I’m not a huge fan of overly “cream cheesey” tasting frosting, and the ratios on this icing are just perfection. More butter than cream cheese, all whipped together take these rolls to an ethereal level. I also highly recommend adding in the maple flavoring that really give a unique flavor to the entire cinnamon roll. It is just divine! Whip the frosting until it is thick and creamy. Let the cinnamon rolls cool about 5 minutes before spreading a large dollop on each roll.

How to Make Cinnamon Rolls Ahead of Time: A Few Options

  1. Mix up the dough, fillings and frosting the night before. Stick the dough in the fridge for the first rise and let it rise overnight. The next morning, shape the cinnamon rolls, let rise and bake. This would probably be my first choice if I wanted the freshest cinnamon rolls for a special morning breakfast.
  2. Make and shape the cinnamon rolls. Place them on a sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge. Pull the rolls out the morning of and let them come to room temperature and puff up a bit before baking and frosting. You may have a little bit of leakage from the cinnamon sugar mixture, but they should bake up well and taste delicious.
  3. Make the cinnamon rolls completely without adding the icing on top. Freeze them in ziplock bags. Warm them up and add icing on top when serving.
  4. Make the dough and increase the amount of yeast to 1.5 Tablespoons of yeast. Shape the cinnamon rolls and freeze them immediately. When ready to use, pull them out of the freezer, let them warm up to room temperature and puff up a bit and bake. The freezer can kill off a small amount of yeast in un-baked dough, so you add more to counterbalance this.

Have I convinced you yet? You need these cinnamon rolls in your life. And your family does too. I usually double this recipe to feed a large crowd at our Thanksgiving celebrations. This year I wasn’t planning to make these cinnamon rolls but my kids looked at me with those sad eyes of “too much has been cancelled in the name of COVID” and this mama has a hard time saying no right now, so I made them. And guess what? I am grateful I did. For the memories. For the traditions. For the look on their faces. And for the amazing gooey deliciousness that is sitting in my kitchen right now. I hope you love them too! Enjoy!

Family Favorite Cinnamon Rolls

All the cinnamon-sugar goodness rolled up in a tender, light & fluffy roll and covered in practically perfect icing. These cinnamon rolls are ooey-gooey perfection and our family's favorite treat.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 3 hrs
Course Bread, Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12 rolls

Ingredients
  

Cinnamon Roll Dough

  • 2 cups milk warmed (2% or whole milk works best)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 1/2 – 6 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Cinnamon Roll Filling

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter very soft or melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon all purpose flour

Cinnamon Roll Frosting

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 2 oz cream cheese softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream or half and half can also substitute milk in a pinch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple extract
  • a pinch of salt

Instructions
 

Cinnamon Roll Dough

  • Warm the milk in the microwave (about 1 1/2 minutes full power) or on the stove. To the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, add the warmed milk and melted butter. Feel the mixture with your finger (make sure you feel in the center of the milk/butter mixture) and make sure it is not too hot. You want the temperature to feel like a baby's bathwater. If it is too hot, let it cool a bit before proceeding.
  • Add the sugar and instant yeast to the milk/butter mixture. Stir. Look for the yeasty smell that tells you the yeast is activating (should happen within 10-20 seconds) and then proceed with the recipe.
  • Add the eggs, salt and a cup of flour. Turn on the dough hook on in your stand mixer and continue adding the flour a cup at a time until you have added 5 cups of flour. Knead for 1 minute until all the flour is fully incorporated. Check the dough by rolling it into a ball in your fingers to see if you need more flour. If the dough is too sticky to roll into a ball, continue adding flour 1/4 cup at a time, kneading for 1 minute after each addition. This process will make sure you don't over-flour the dough. Once you can pinch off a piece of dough and roll it into a ball with just a little sticky residue on your fingers, you can stop adding flour. Knead for a total of 5-7 minutes.
  • Lightly oil (or spray with cooking spray) a large container and dump the dough in the container. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel and set in a warm place to rise. I like to turn my oven into a "proofing box" with the oven light turned on. This is a nice warm spot for my dough to rise and speeds ups the process a bit. Make sure the oven is NOT turned on during this process.

Cinnamon Filling

  • While the dough rises, make the cinnamon filling.
  • To a small bowl, add the softened or melted butter. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon and flour. Mix together until fully combined and set aside.

Cinnamon Roll Frosting

  • While the dough rises, whip together the butter and cream cheese until fully mixed and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, heavy cream, vanilla extract, maple extract and salt. Whip together using a mixer until light and fluffy. Set aside.

Assembling the Cinnamon Rolls

  • Prepare two half sheet pans (18 by 13 inches) and cover with parchment paper.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, move it from the bowl to a clean space on the counter. The dough will be soft and not overly sticky. Pat the dough out into an approximate 18 by 12 rectangle.
  • Spread the cinnamon filling all over the dough with your fingers, making sure to cover up to the edges of the cinnamon roll.
  • Starting with the dough closest to you, roll up the cinnamon roll and pinch together the seam. Flip the cinnamon roll over, seam side down.
  • Cut the long log of cinnamon roll dough into 12 equal pieces.
  • Place the cinnamon rolls on the parchment paper, six or eight to a pan, leaving plenty of space to rise. Full disclosure, I often cram twelve to one pan, but I think they bake up better and have a better rise if they are placed six or eight to a pan.
  • Cover the rolls again and let rise for thirty minutes to an hour (depending on how warm your kitchen is).

Bake and Enjoy

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Once the rolls have puffed up and almost doubled in size, they are ready for the oven. If you want an extra gooey cinnamon roll, warm up some heavy cream and drizzle it over the top of the cinnamon roll before sticking in the oven. Bake the cinnamon rolls for 10 minutes. Then rotate the pan and bake for another 8-10 minutes until just starting to brown.
  • Check the middle of one of the cinnamon rolls by using a butter knife to pry up a bit of the roll and make sure it is baked to your liking (the center will tell you if it needs more time or is perfectly baked).
  • Let the rolls cool for 5 minutes before covering with frosting.
  • Freeze any extra frosted cinnamon rolls in a ziplock bag. To re-heat, place on a plate and warm in the microwave for 30 seconds (time will vary depending on microwave) and enjoy!
Keyword cinnamon roll

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One Hour (or Less) Yeast Rolls

The other day my family really wanted burgers for dinner. I did not want to run to the store and didn’t have three hours to make burger buns, so I tried out a super-fast bun recipe. And it worked! They were yeast buns and super delicious (recipe coming soon). This success gave me the idea to try and adapt a favorite roll recipe to be made start to finish in under an hour. Did I think it was possible? Yes. Did I think they would taste good? Undecided. But guess what? They actually taste amazing. Light, fluffy, tender and absolutely delicious. There is no reason you cannot have yeast rolls with a home-cooked meal or especially a holiday like Thanksgiving. These one hour (or less) yeast rolls are knock your socks off good and they are start to finish…all in less than an hour.

Jump to the Recipe for One Hour (or less) Yeast Rolls

The Process

To make these rolls, mix up your dough as you normally would for a yeast dough. Knead the dough, by hand or by mixer for about 5-7 minutes. After the dough is kneaded, you do not need to let the dough rise. Instead, immediately shape the dough into rolls and set them in a baking dish. Give them a quick 10-15 minute proof in a warm place and then bake them for about 25 minutes. You have eliminated the first rise and most of the second rise and are relying on the fast-acting power of the yeast and the heat from the oven for some perfect rolls.

Why One Hour Yeast Rolls Work: Instant Yeast

I love this instant yeast and cornstarch adds a little bit of extra tenderness to the rolls too.

The key ingredient in this recipe is the instant yeast. I love using SAF instant yeast (affiliate link) and stock up on it from my local mill. Instant yeast is more fine than dry active yeast which means that it does not need to be proofed before being mixed into the dough. You may also find instant yeast labeled as “rapid-rise” yeast and “bread machine” yeast. All of those will work for this recipe. Dry active yeast takes longer to activate and requires a second rise, so it will not work well for these one hour or less yeast rolls. The amount of instant yeast in this recipe is a lot. This, combined with the heat from the oven, is what gives the rolls their beautiful rise. Despite the 2 Tablespoons used, the rolls do not have an overpowering yeast flavor.

Why Does Dough Typically Need Two Rises?

Almost all yeast rolls call for two rises. Typically the first rise takes place after the dough is kneaded and the second rise happens after the dough has been shaped. During the first rise, the yeast feeds off the flour and produces carbon dioxide gas, which causes the dough to rise and creates the air bubbles in bread. Punching down the dough and shaping bread allows the yeast to continue feeding off the flour and produces more carbon dioxide, which causes the second rise. The longer the rise, the more chewy, flavorful and complex the bread is, which is why most recipes call for two rises. You will get optimal results with a double rise.

Time as a Factor

With all that said, I think that the time saved in making these rolls is absolutely worth it. Let’s face it, we don’t all always have the three hours to give to make homemade rolls and if we can cut a few corners and still have fluffy dinner rolls, then I think it is worth it. This roll recipe is delicious. If I made it side by side with a roll recipe that had a double rise I may be able to notice a slight difference, but I think the time saved is worth it in this recipe. If I have three hours on my hands I may choose a different roll recipe, but if I only have an hour and need rolls on the table? This is my go-to every time. 

So what are you waiting for? Add this recipe to your list for the upcoming holidays. Or check out some of my other favorite roll recipes if you have a little more time on your hands. Enjoy!

One Hour (or less) Yeast Rolls

Light, fluffy, tender and absolutely delicious. These one hour (or less) yeast rolls are knock your socks off good and they are start to finish…all in less than an hour.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Course Bread
Cuisine American
Servings 12 rolls

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/3 cup milk warmed
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Instructions
 

  • To the bowl of a stand mixer, add the warm milk (make sure this is the temperature of a baby's bathwater…so as not to kill the yeast), melted butter, sugar, yeast and salt.
  • Add the cornstarch and 3 cups of flour to the center of the bowl and knead using the dough hook. Alternatively you can mix the ingredients together in a bowl and knead the dough on your countertop by hand for about 10 minutes. If using a dough hook, knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes, adding the extra half cup of flour as needed. You should be able to pinch off a chunk of dough, roll it into a ball in your fingers with just a little sticky residue left behind. You can check out this blog post for how to check for readiness of dough if you need some guidance.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lightly grease a 9 by 13 pan with cooking spray.
  • Move the dough to your countertop and cut into twelve equal pieces.
  • Shape the dough into rolls one at a time. Pull up the sides of the dough into the middle while rotating the dough in your hand to form a ball. Then roll the ball on the countertop before placing on a baking sheet or dish. Watch the process here.
  • Cover the rolls and let them rise in a warm spot for 10 minutes.
  • After ten minutes, the rolls will have puffed up just a bit. If they don't look puffy, that's okay. Continue on with the recipe and bake the rolls at 350 degrees for about 22-25 minutes depending on how brown you like your rolls. For lighter rolls, bake in a glass pan. For a darker crust use a dark pan.
  • Once rolls have finished baking, top with melted butter and enjoy warm!

Notes

I always use SAF instant yeast in this recipe and in almost all my yeast breads. 
Keyword quick rolls, rolls, yeast rolls,
Watch this video for a roll shaping tutorial

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Erika’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Erika is known for her chocolate chip cookies

My sister, Erika, is known for making chocolate chip cookies. She has baked thousands of these cookies…to rave reviews every time (and she always triples the batch!). This summer I asked her to make them for me and I’ve made them myself a time or two since. If you want a chocolate chip cookie recipe that comes out perfect every time, this is the one. I have made hundreds of batches of chocolate chip cookies and many, many different recipes. Sometimes they turn out great, other times I’m left wondering why they don’t hold their shape. This recipe is basically the quintessential chocolate chip cookie recipe. Perfect shape. Perfect bake. Little bit crispy on the outside with a nice soft and gooey middle and literally you can have one in your hands and belly within 20-30 minutes. 

Jump to Erika’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

So many versions of the perfect chocolate chip cookie are out there. Every person is going to have their own view (or nostalgic memory) of what the perfect chocolate chip cookie is to them. This cookie is my definition of the perfect bake-at-home chocolate chipper. It takes 20-30 minutes TOPS from mixing dough to baking to eating. The chocolate chip cookie holds its shape with just a little bit of crispy edges (not too crispy), but a soft and gooey middle. They are divine eaten warm after a few minute rest, but are also amazing frozen and snacked on straight from the freezer. If this is the kind of cookie you are looking for, look no further than this recipe. 

A Mix of Butter and Shortening

I admit it. For years I have kind of turned my nose up at this cookie…trying to find a better one because I did not want to bake with shortening. The truth is, the shortening is the key to this cookie. The mixture of equal parts butter and shortening (butter flavor or regular shortening is fine) is what helps this cookie hold its shape while increasing the tenderness of the cookie. Baking with shortening decreases the gluten production in the baked good resulting in a tender cookie AND gives you a taller cookie which makes it chewier. Butter on the other hand tends to give a crispier cookie and a richer flavor. All that said, equal parts of shortening and butter mixed together will produce the best homemade chocolate chip cookie. Can you substitute butter for the shortening, you may wonder? You can, but your cookie will be a little more crispy and a little less tender. 

Should I use Convection Bake?

This question deserves its own post. I believe that if you have a convection oven, your cookies should always be baked with the convection setting. Convection ovens have a fan and exhaust system that blow hot air around the food and then take it back out through a vent. This makes food cook more evenly and quickly than normal bake. For cookies this results in the perfect browning, a little bit crispy edges with a gooey middle. You can also cook many pans of cookies at a time in a convection oven and don’t have to worry about moving pans around halfway through the bake. Moral of the story: use it for cookies!

A Few Rules For Convection Bake

If a recipe does not specifically call for convection bake, the rule of thumb when using the convection setting is to reduce the temperature by 25 degrees and bake for a little less time. In this recipe, these cookies bake at 350 degrees convection bake for 9 minutes. If you don’t have a convection oven, that is okay! You can still bake cookies and have them turn out amazing. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees on the standard bake setting (25 degrees higher than on convection bake) and bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes (depending on how well done you like them). They will still taste amazing.

This is an example of cookies on left baked with convection. Cookies on the lower right are baked at the 375 degree temperature. They are a little darker, a little flatter but still delicious. The convection-baked cookies on the upper left look like perfection. If you have convection, use it!

Let the Cookies Rest

Another one of my cookie rules is to let the cookies set up just a bit on the pan after baking before moving them to a counter area. I usually like to give my cookies about 5 minutes resting on the pan to get them set up before moving them. The way the cookies cool helps set their shape. This in no way means you can’t snatch one up and eat a hot-off-the-pan cookie, but for the cookies you want to gift, freeze or eat a little later, give them a few minutes on the pan to set up and your cookie will be perfect. 

How to Freeze and Thaw Cookies

This recipe makes about 36 cookies, depending on the size of your cookie scoop (a favorite medium sized one linked, affiliate), but once the cookies are cooled, they can be frozen. I use a gallon-sized ziplock bag or a large Tupperware to freeze my extra cookies. They thaw well and I’ve even had kids (who am I kidding…I do it too from time to time) eat them slightly frozen from the freezer. You can give them a quick zap in the microwave to thaw or set them out a few hours before you need them, covered with plastic wrap, and they will be perfect. You can also freeze the cookie dough. I like to let the dough thaw before baking, but you can also bake from frozen, just add a minute or two to the bake time.

Does this recipe mean I’m done with searching for chocolate chip cookie recipes? No it doesn’t! I will always try any chocolate chip cookie recipe and keep testing and sampling new ones. But, this recipe is one I will bookmark and keep for the days that I need a quick and perfect chocolate chip cookie. They are so good. I hope you love them too!

Erika’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Quintessential chocolate chip cookies: Perfect shape. Perfect bake. Little bit crispy on the outside with a nice soft and gooey middle and only 20 minutes start to finish.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Course cookies, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 36 cookies

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening butter flavor or regular
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. If you have a convection setting on your oven, use that instead and preheat to 350 degrees with convection.
  • Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, mix together the softened unsalted butter and shortening.
  • Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar. Mix until light and fluffy, usually a couple minutes.
  • Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Mix again until light and fluffy.
  • To the center of the bowl, add the baking soda, salt and one cup of the flour. Mix gently. Continue adding flour until all the flour is incorporated and mix until just combined. Feel the dough. If it feels too greasy/sticky, add another Tablespoon or two of flour. You want the dough to feel light and fluffy but it should not be overly sticky on your fingers.
  • Add the chocolate chips and mix until just combined.
  • On a parchment-lined baking sheet, drop spoonfuls of cookie dough using a cookie scoop (affiliate link). Each parchment-lined sheet should hold 12 cookies per pan.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees OR bake for 9 minutes using the convection setting until the edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool on the pan for a few minutes to set up before transferring to the counter to cool. Enjoy!
Keyword chocolate chip cookie

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Applesauce Bread

Our favorite local orchard is open until the end of the month. While the apple picking days are over and these fried apple pies with freshly picked apples will have to wait until next year, we are still able to buy their delicious cider by the gallon. We’ve been enjoying some late fall outdoor playtime with beautiful weather and, of course, apple cider. This applesauce bread is perfect to whip up for a fall day. It has the iconic fall spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice that you find in apple and pumpkin pies and is full of fall flavor. It includes one full cup of applesauce, delicious apple cider and is the perfect snack for this time of year.

This recipe makes one loaf, but I always double it because it freezes so well and I have a lot of kids to feed.
Jump to Applesauce Bread Recipe Below

My One-Bowl Method

One of the things I love about quick breads, is how easy they are to mix. I have a few favorites on my site: zucchini bread, banana bread and these pumpkin muffins. One thing they have in common is that I love only using one bowl. Most recipes will have you mix together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. My kitchen is usually so full of dishes on any given day that I always favor one-bowl recipes. I don’t want to wash another bowl if I don’t have to. The key to these recipes is adding the liquid ingredients plus sugar to the bowl first and mixing them together well. Then adding the salt and spices to the liquid ingredients and mix. Last adding the flour on top without mixing and then the leavening (baking soda/powder). I lightly fluff them together with a fork, my fingers or using my mixing spoon before completely incorporating them in with the liquid ingredients. This way those dry ingredients get a light mix (and don’t go flying out of my bowl when I start mixing) and I don’t have to wash two bowls. Win-win.

Apple Flavor and Whole Wheat Flour

This applesauce bread packs a punch of apple flavor with the applesauce and apple cider. It is possible to substitute the apple cider for apple juice, though the apple flavor won’t be as strong. If you want even more apple flavor and texture in your bread, dice up about ¾ cup of some of your favorite apples and add them to the mixture after the dry ingredients. I always use half whole wheat flour and half all purpose flour in this recipe and it turns out great. My kids don’t even know they are are eating whole grains. I think this recipe would also be a great one to substitute gluten free flour (my favorite here) if you need to make a gluten-free version.

The Perfect Bake 

One of the keys to getting a beautiful loaf of quickbread is to bake the bread at a high temperature for about 10 minutes. Then reduce the temperature and continue the bake for a longer time. This high heat helps activate the rising agent (baking powder/soda in this case) and forms a beautiful dome shape and crust on the bread. I bake this bread for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Then reduce the oven temperature to 325 and continue baking for another 40-50 minutes.

Parchment Paper Yes or No?

I found that this bread did not need a parchment sling if you have a really great non-stick pan (shameless plug for my favorite bread pan ever, affiliate link). If you are adding diced apples to the batter,  you will definitely want to use a parchment sling. A tutorial is found here. If your pan tends to stick, I’d liberally grease it or use parchment paper. There’s nothing worse than making a beautiful loaf only to have it fall apart when you go to turn it out (I’ve done that one too many times).

This applesauce bread is just delicious. It makes for a great after-school snack, morning breakfast or would be amazing as a dessert with a little drizzle of glaze on the top. I would mix a Tablespoon of apple cider with half a cup of powdered sugar (add a little more or less depending on the consistency you want for a glaze) and drizzle it over the top for a special fall dessert. However you choose to eat it, I hope you love this recipe as much as my family does. Enjoy!

Applesauce Bread

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Course Bread, Breakfast, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 1 loaf

Ingredients
  

  • 8 Tablespoons butter, unsalted melted
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce if you use a sweetened version you may want to reduce the sugar in the recipe a bit
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves or allspice if preferred
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour half whole wheat/half all purpose work well here too
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • To a large bowl, mix together the melted butter, applesauce and apple cider with a wooden spoon. Incorporate each egg by mixing quickly. Add the sugar and vanilla. Mix to combine.
  • To the center of the same bowl, add the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Mix to combine.
  • Add the flour to the middle of the bowl. Don’t mix! Add the baking powder and baking soda right on top of the flour and lightly combine with a fork or using the same wooden spoon. Then, using the wooden spoon and a light hand, mix together until just incorporated. This helps make sure you don’t over-mix the batter resulting in a tough bread.
  • Lightly grease a bread loaf pan (my favorite here) or use a parchment paper sling.
  • Pour the mixture into the bread pan and bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. After 10 minutes, reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and continue baking for another 40-50 minutes.
  • Stick a toothpick in the middle to check for doneness and then let cool to room temperature before slicing. Enjoy!

Notes

If you want even more apple flavor, add about a cup of diced apple to the mixture for a delicious flavor and texture.
I use a combination of all purpose and 100% whole wheat flour and the bread turns out great! (¾  cups all purpose, ¾ cups whole wheat flour)
This bread freezes very well. I like to slice my loaves and freeze for quick and easy breakfasts.
 
Keyword apple bread, applesauce bread, quickbread

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Mummy Dogs

Growing up, one of my favorite Halloween festivities was the fun spread of food my mom would throw together on Halloween night. Whatever it was we were eating was always turned into some “spooky” name: “witches brew” (soup), “blood and guts” (spaghetti and meatballs), “skeleton fingers” (carrots); and we always, always had a delicious “cat bread” that my mom would make. This was a basic bread recipe that my mom turned into the shape and face of a cat. She would bake it up and then add whiskers out of dry pasta noodles and a cute face. One day, I will recreate that cat bread. Today I’m sharing my own family’s tradition, one my kids love and look forward to every year: Mummy Dogs. They are delicious, easy and a crowd pleaser.

Jump Directly to Mummy Dogs Recipe

Our Halloween Dinner Now

We don’t always have our Halloween dinner on Halloween night. In recent years we almost never eat it on Halloween night because we enjoy having a friend party before trick-or-treating on Halloween. Instead, we pick one night leading up to Halloween and enjoy a spooky dinner. This almost always includes Mummy Dogs (along with other frightfully fun foods). Mummy Dogs are basically hot dogs wrapped up in a delicious breadstick dough with ketchup or mustard for eyes. They are fun for kids to make and super, super simple. I mean, you could technically buy some dough at the store, but you won’t need to with how quick and easy this breadstick dough is…perfect for wrapping up those hot dogs and turning them into “Mummy Dogs!”

Instant Yeast

These mummy dogs will take you less than an hour to make. Yes! Less than an hour! With just a few simple ingredients, you can have a super simple and super festive fun dinner on your table for your family to enjoy. The key to this quick rise time is in the instant yeast (my favorite linked here, affiliate link). One of the beautiful things about instant yeast is that it technically doesn’t need two rises. You can throw the yeast in, shape the dough and let it rise once before baking. This is a huge time saver! These breadsticks benefit from the use of instant yeast because you mix up the dough, give it a short ten minute rest and then wrap up your hot dogs, mummy-dog style. After a quick 20-minute rise, they are ready to bake. Easy peasy!

A Little Extra Butter

Liberally butter your pan for a delicious buttery crust

Preparing the pan with a little extra butter gives these mummy dogs a crispy and delicious breadstick texture. You will be asking yourself when you can make them again…the bread is so good. Light and fluffy with a buttery crust. Soften or melt about 4 Tablespoons of butter and coat the two pans with the melted butter before wrapping each mummy dog and placing on the pan to rise.

Mummy Dogs for a Crowd

I love this recipe because it is great for a crowd if you’re having people over for Halloween dinner. Sometimes I make half the hot dogs (8) and turn the rest of the dough into “breadsticks,” just twisting them up and laying them on the baking sheet instead of making 16 total hot dogs – the dough is so good for making breadsticks.

If you’re looking for a last-minute, delicious dinner with basic ingredients that you most likely have in your pantry, look no further than these mummy-dogs. They are delicious and perfect for a special dinner or to snarf down before trick-or treating.

Mummy Dogs

A light and fluffy breadstick dough wrapped around hot dogs make the perfect Halloween dinner!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Rising Time 30 mins
Course Bread, Main Course
Cuisine American, Halloween
Servings 16 mummy dogs

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups warm water (as warm as baby's bath water)
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil or any neutral-flavored oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 5-6 cups all purpose flour
  • 16 packaged hot dogs
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened or melted for the baking sheet

Instructions
 

  • To a stand mixer with a dough hook, add the warm water (as warm as a baby’s bathwater so as not to kill the yeast).
  • Add the instant yeast, granulated sugar, oil, salt, garlic powder, basil and oregano.
  • Using the dough hook, add the flour a cup at a time until the dough comes together in a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Take a pinch of dough and roll it into a ball. It should leave a little residue on your fingers but roll it into a ball. If it doesn’t roll into a ball, continue adding flour a Tablespoon or so at a time until it does. If you over flour the dough, you can add a little bit of water back in and mix it, though this should be a last resort. Check out this post for readiness of the dough if you have more questions.
  • Let the dough rest in the bowl for 10 minutes.
  • After resting for 10 minutes, separate the dough into 16 equal pieces and open a package of hot dogs (you need 16 total).
  • Butter two large baking sheets (my favorite here, affiliate link) with 2 Tablespoons of softened butter per sheet. I just plop it down on the sheet and use my hands to coat the pan in butter.
  • Roll each piece of dough into a long rope. Take a hot dog and starting at the end of the hot dog, wrap the dough around the hot dog, leaving a small gap for the eyes. Pinch the dough together at the end of the hot dog and place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining 15 hot dogs.
  • Cover the mummy dogs and let rest in a warm place for about 20 minutes for a quick rise. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • After twenty minutes, bake the mummy dogs in the oven for about 15 minutes until lightly golden on top.
  • Add two dots of ketchup or mustard for the eyes and enjoy immediately.

Notes

I often halve the number of hot dogs used in this recipe and make 8 mummy dogs and 8 breadsticks. Twist the breadstick dough, place on a baking sheet and bake for the same amount of time. Sprinkle with cheese or extra melted butter when they come out of the oven.
Keyword Breadsticks, Halloween, Hot Dogs

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How to: Shape Rolls into Pumpkins

I love celebrating holidays, traditions and making memories with my family. I also love low-key, high impact decor. The simpler to execute, the better. I love these pumpkin shaped rolls because they are so simple, but so cute. In a normal non-covid year we gather with extended family from all over the country for our Thanksgiving celebration. We all pitch in and bring a part of the meal. Sign up for the homemade rolls this year! These would be perfect for your harvest table.

Start with a Yeast Dough

To start, you will need to decide what yeast rolls you are planning to make. The second rise is where the magic will happen and the yeast is what causes the dough to rise. I have a favorite roll recipe here. This recipe for sourdough discard rolls would work beautifully with this method or even these Masa Butterhorn Rolls I recently posted (shaped as rolls instead of rolled up Butterhorn style). If you aren’t in the mood to make your own dough (tips and tricks found here…you can do it!), you can also use a bag of frozen rolls from the grocery store. I won’t tell! Once you’ve decided which dough you want to make, plan out the rise time. You will want to allow your dough to go through its first rise as normal. The pumpkin shaping will take place right before the second rise. 

The Pumpkin Roll Shaping Method:

Separate your dough into roll-sized pieces according to your recipe. Cut three pieces of twine about 10-12 inches each. You will need three pieces for each roll you make.

Place the three pieces of twine on the counter, all crossing over each other at the same place in the middle. Place the dough ball in the center of the twine.

Tie the first string over the dough. Then the second string and end with the third string, tying them all together with a quick knot. Try not to tie too tight, because the rolls will expand as they rise.

Place dough ball on a parchment-lined baking sheet for the second rise.

Watch the Process Here:

The Twine Matters

A word of caution: the twine does matter. I was in a rush to make these because I wanted to surprise my kids and get them on the table for dinner, so I went to the garage and pulled out the twine I could find. It happened to be the kind of twine that has little bits of “hair” that comes out of it. The hair left a little residue on the rolls and my kids were wondering what it was they were eating. So, make sure to get a twine that is compact and not “hairy.” This one looks good from amazon (affiliate link), though you may have some lying around that you could use. 

Colorful Orange Pumpkin Egg Wash

If you want a very fun and colorful orange pumpkin to go along with your rolls, you can make this quick egg wash to get a very orange color. I like the look of the natural and my kids loved the look of the orange pumpkin, so pick whatever suits you or a little of both like I did. The recipe for the egg wash is:

Mix together in a small bowl: 1 egg, a splash of cream or milk and 3-4 drops of orange food coloring. Brush the egg wash on the rolls after the rolls have risen and just before baking, covering them completely. 

Baking the Pumpkin Shaped Rolls

After the rolls have risen, bake them according to the recipe directions. Brush them with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven to give them a special shine. You can choose to leave them tied up in a pumpkin shape or take off the twine and add in a piece of pretzel or a green decoration for a stem. I liked the look of mine tied up, so I left them that way. However you choose to serve them, they will be a memorable part of your harvest table…and you will earn rockstar status for sure!

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Masa Butterhorn Rolls

I love making dinner rolls. As a kid I was always partial to butterhorn rolls, usually a dough enriched with milk, butter and eggs and then more butter added on top of the dough before rolling up in a crescent shape. What’s not to love about a really buttery, delicious dinner roll? It even made me look forward to eating my vegetables, so I could have another roll. These masa butterhorn rolls are made in the same way as my childhood originals, but with the addition of a masa pudding that gives the rolls a little more depth and makes for a little bit sturdier roll…perfect for dunking in soup, eating with some leftover Thanksgiving turkey or sopping up the gravy from your leftovers. Now I just have to decide which roll recipe I’ll be making for Thanksgiving…these are definitely in the running! Masa butterhorn rolls are sure to be a hit at your next family gathering. 

Jump Directly to Recipe for Masa Butterhorn Rolls

Masa: What it is?

Masa flour is a finely ground corn flour that you can usually find in your local grocery store. It is a very soft flour that is traditionally made from dried corn that has been pre-soaked. Masa flour is traditionally used to make corn tortillas, tamales, sometimes to thicken soups and even make special drinks in Mexico and Central American countries. If you have some masa flour (I’m liking it here, but I recommend buying it from your local grocery store for much cheaper) lurking in your pantry, now is the time to pull it out and use it in this roll recipe. 

Make a Masa Pudding

The way the masa flour is incorporated in the rolls is a little unique. You begin by warming up milk and adding the masa flour to the milk. Continue heating the milk and masa mixture together until it thickens and forms a pudding-like texture. I liked doing this process in the microwave, though you could also warm it on the stovetop. If you are using a microwave, heat the mixture about a minute at a time until you notice thickening happening around the edges of the bowl. Then mix the rest of the ingredients in with the pudding except for the yeast and flour. Make sure the mixture is warm to the touch (not hot) before adding the yeast, so it doesn’t kill the yeast. Then add the flour and knead to form the light and airy dough.

Shaping Masa Butterhorn Rolls

One of the unique things about these rolls is the addition of butter before rolling up crescent roll style. Please don’t skip this step. It adds a delicious buttery flavor to the rolls. Shaping the rolls couldn’t be easier by rolling half the dough out into a circle and then using a pizza cutter to cut the dough into eight slices. Roll the dough up from the edge of the dough to the center to form a beautifully shaped crescent roll. If you want to make them as a standard roll, that is also possible with this recipe. Forgo the extra butter, cut the dough into 16 pieces and shape into small rolls. Bake for about 14 minutes.

Perfect for a Family Dinner

Masa butterhorn rolls are the perfect roll for a special occasion. They are substantial enough for the leftover turkey sandwiches from your Thanksgiving meal but are just as good with a little schmear of jam. We like to eat a more traditional Sunday dinner and these would be great to add to our lineup of bread recipes that grace our table. This recipe makes 16 rolls. It doubles well for a larger group and these rolls freeze well after baking. I like to let them cool, then transfer to a ziplock bag and freeze. When I want to serve them again, I’ll defrost a bit and warm them in the microwave. However you choose to eat them, I hope you love them as much as we do! Enjoy.

Masa Butterhorn Rolls

Tender, buttery and delicious, these Masa Butterhorn Rolls use masa flour in the dough and are rolled with extra butter to form the perfect roll for dinner.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 11 mins
rise time 2 hrs
Course Bread
Cuisine American
Servings 16 rolls

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup masa flour
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter plus 4 Tablespoons softened and reserved for shaping
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 2 3/4- 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour

Instructions
 

Roll Dough

  • Warm the milk in the microwave or on the stove (medium heat) until bubbles form around the edges but the milk is not boiling. If using the microwave method, use a large liquid measuring cup (my favorite is this one, affiliate link), and microwave for 1 minute, check for bubbles around the edges. Continue warming in 30 second to 1 minute increments to check for readiness.
  • Once the bubbles have formed, add the masa flour to the milk and whisk together. Continue warming the masa and milk together in the microwave (one minute at a time), whisking in between minutes. If using the stove, stir continuously until the mixture thickens and forms a pudding-like texture.
  • You are looking for the mixture to thicken around the edges in the microwave. Once this happens (usually after a minute or two), whisk the masa/milk together until it forms a thick “pudding-like mixture.” If mixing on the stove, continue heating over medium heat and whisking until it forms a pudding-like mixture.
  • Cut the 3 Tablespoons of butter into small pieces and add to the warm masa pudding mixture, whisking it in until fully dissolved. Reserve 4 Tablespoons of butter and let it come to room temperature on your countertop to be used when shaping the dough.
  • Add the sugar and salt. Whisk together.
  • Add the egg. Whisk quickly to make sure the egg tempers and fully incorporates.
  • Pour the masa mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  • At this point, check the temperature of the masa mixture (I use my finger…if it feels cooler than a baby’s bath water, you are good to go. If not, whisk a bit more and allow to cool down a bit). Once the mixture is lukewarm, add the yeast.
  • Start the dough hook and add a cup of flour at a time, reserving the last half cup of flour to add in increments as needed. You will know to stop adding flour when the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixer and you can take a pinch of dough and roll it into a ball in your fingers with just a little bit of dough sticking to your fingers. It’s okay for the dough to be a little bit sticky. See how to check for readiness of the dough here.
  • Knead dough for about 5 minutes. Then cover and let rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.

Shaping the Dough

  • Once the dough has doubled in size, lightly flour a countertop.
  • Pour the dough out on the countertop and cut it into two pieces.
  • Roll the first piece of dough into a large circle. Cover completely with 2 Tablespoons of softened butter.
  • Using a pizza cutter (or sharp knife), cut the dough into 8 pieces, pizza-slice-style.
  • Starting with the largest part of the dough, roll it up until it forms a crescent-style roll. Continue rolling the rest of the rolls. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Repeat this process with the other piece of dough.
  • Cover the rolls and allow to rise for about an hour until doubled.

Baking

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Bake rolls for 11-14 minutes (we like ours around the 11 minute mark, but you may want yours a little darker on top). Eat immediately while warm. Enjoy!

Notes

Shaping: You can also shape the dough into traditional rolls. Cut the dough into 12-16 equal pieces. Shape into a ball, let rise and bake 12-14 minutes at 375 degrees
Keyword rolls

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Three Days in Brown County, Indiana

Oh 2020. What a year! We’ve had so many cancelled plans, trips, adjusting to a “new normal” and slower pace of life while trying to stay home as much as possible. This year has taken a toll on everyone, I think. My husband, Jeremy and I were looking at each other a few weeks ago and realizing that we really needed a little couples trip.

My parents decided somewhat last-minute to come out and visit during the kids scheduled fall break. Since our original fall break plans were cancelled this year and we had willing grandparents to watch our kids, we decided on a quick two night trip. Truthfully we didn’t care too much where we went. Anything would have been a nice break but we did have a short list of criteria: keep it short (our son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes this spring and we still don’t feel comfortable being away from him for long periods of time), socially distant, good food and fall colors (if possible). 

As much as I love to bake (one of my favorite pastimes), I also love to travel and plan travel (planning is half the fun of the trip in my opinion). I immediately scoured Tripadvisor, VRBO and googled places that had availability. We found a cute little cabin that was only a 2.5 hour drive away in Brown County, Indiana. After googling a few photos of the area and checking out a few local menus, we booked our cabin and were set to go. The kids were so excited to have alone time and be completely spoiled by their grandparents. We were excited to have some quiet alone time after being “on call” for seven months of a stressful pandemic. It was high time for a little couples getaway.

Brown County, Indiana  

Brown County State Park, the largest Indiana State Park, is located right outside the small town of Nashville, Indiana. The state park is home to over 15,000 acres of hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, camping, picnicking and much more. Brown County has beautiful winding roads for country drives, craft markets, antique shops and a very cute downtown Nashville. It is especially known for beautiful fall leaves and is the perfect destination for anyone wanting some peace and quiet. It is the perfect spot for a two-night fall getaway.

Here’s Our Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Brown County

After driving for two and a half hours through fields of horses, cows and barns and watching the trees changing into beautiful hues of yellow, green and red, we stopped for brunch in the cute little town of Story, Indiana. I’m not even sure I can call it a town as it is basically an Inn and restaurant with a few little houses, all oozing with charm. We poked around a bit and enjoyed a delicious brunch at the Story Inn (the dinner looked wonderful as well) with local lettuces from the backyard garden. Definitely worth a stop for a good meal. We loved meandering around the gardens afterwards. 

After our late afternoon meal, we drove to pick up the keys to our little cabin. We originally found the cabin on VRBO, but with a quick search we found it cheaper on the cabin’s rental website. It is often cheaper to book with the cabin directly, so keep that in mind when planning or booking a trip. We picked up our keys and headed to our cute little cabin in the woods.

Stonehead Ridge Log Cabin

This was the perfect cabin for a couples getaway. It was a bit big for us with two bedrooms and a large living area. We would have booked something smaller but didn’t have as many options as we were booking about a week before arrival. The cabin had a large kitchen and was decorated with fall decor. It was impeccably cleaned and they even left us masks, encouraging us to social distance while there. Stonehead Ridge Log Cabin was very private, and we enjoyed soaking in the hot tub surrounded by beautiful trees and nature. A perfect spot to get away from it all. 

Stonehead Nature Preserve

After relaxing and settling in, we went for a short walk at the Stonehead Nature Preserve that was literally a stone’s throw from the cabin. This is not a place that I would necessarily go out of my way to go to, but if you happen to stay in a cabin nearby, it is worth a visit. Quiet, peaceful and beautiful trails, it was the perfect spot for a little walk as the sun went down. Neither of us were hungry for dinner with the memory of our very filling late brunch on our minds, so we headed back to our cabin and stayed up late watching a movie. 

Day 2: Nashville and Brown County State Park

Brunch in Nashville, Indiana

After a leisurely morning and sleeping in for the first time in many months (no four-year-old to wake us up at 6:30 AM), we headed into the cute town of Nashville for another amazing brunch. We enjoyed our Eggs Benedict with fried green tomato gravy and breakfast burrito at the Bird’s Nest Cafe. Everything on the menu looked delicious. After brunch we poked around the cute town of Nashville with all of the craft shops, boutiques, candy stores and fall decor. It was such a cute little town and we definitely could have spent more time window shopping.

Brown County State Park

We picked up some “make-your-own” charcuterie at the local grocery store before heading into the park, as there aren’t many food options there. The fee to enter the state park is $9 for out-of-state guests. If you are an Indiana resident, it is only $7. It is nice to note that you can come and go as you please throughout the day, just show your receipt to get back in the park.

Vistas

Throughout the park, you can pull out to see beautiful views and the park advertises its “7 Vistas Challenge” where you can earn a sticker for taking and posting pictures at each vista. One of our favorite spots for a view was Hesitation Point. Picnic tables abound, so bring a lunch to enjoy an extended time at one of these vistas. We also loved seeing all of the playgrounds for kids scattered throughout the park and the fun mountain biking trails. We are already planning a return visit with the kids.

Ogle Lake

We spent most of our time hiking around the beautiful Ogle Lake. The fall colors were exquisite and the lake itself provided beautiful views. We hiked trail 7, 4 and 5 making a large loop through a nature preserve and around Ogle Lake. It was breathtaking and definitely worth a visit. With younger kids, I would probably only hike trail 7, but with older kids and adults you could definitely add in the larger loop. No swimming is allowed in Ogle Lake, but we did see people fishing on the banks and enjoying being out in nature.

Scenic Driving

We enjoyed some scenic driving around the rest of the park after our hike and stopped at a little lookout to enjoy some of the snacks we had purchased earlier in the day. After spending a good 4-5 hours at the park, we decided to head out of the park and come back later for the beautiful sunset. We wished we had brought bikes to bike some of the amazing mountain biking trails. Trails range from easy to difficult. This park looks like a great spot for mountain biking. We will be back!

Hot Caramel Pumpkin Sundae

By this point in the day we had worked up an appetite for something sweet, so we headed to Fearrin’s Ice Cream shop for a hot caramel pumpkin sundae with nuts, whipped cream and a cherry on top. It was basically all of the best things fall has to offer in one beautiful cup. Plenty of hot caramel and absolutely delicious pumpkin ice cream. I’m still dreaming about it. Apparently they offer this sundae year round, so don’t miss it if you are passing through Nashville, Indiana.

Sunset at Hesitation Point

After a little nap back at the cabin (no kids meant we got to nap!!!), we headed back to Brown County State Park to enjoy the sunset. Hesitation Point didn’t give us a direct view of the sunset, but we could still see the beautiful colors of the light from the setting sun against the fall leaves. It was the perfect end to a relaxing, nature-filled day.

Day 3: Checkout and Drive Home

Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

We woke up late, again (vacation) and were checked out by around 10 AM. We didn’t want our trip to end yet, so we took a little drive up north of Nashville and drove through the rustic Bean Blossom Bridge. The setting was idyllic and this beautiful bridge built in 1880 was full of history and charm. Definitely worth a little stop if you are passing through.

Lunch at Farmhouse Cafe and Tea Room

We continued our drive through more beautiful fall foliage and came to our last foodie experience of the trip, the Farmhouse Cafe and Tea Room. This little cafe is set outdoors in a beautiful flower and herb barn. We sat outside on the cute little patio with eclectic chairs and tablecloths. It was the perfect fall morning and we enjoyed a fizzy herb barn lemonade (milk lemonade that was absolutely delicious) along with fresh garden salads and yummy fried green tomatoes. After our beautiful lunch we walked through the gardens and greenhouse area. Such a little gem and definitely worth a stop for lunch or dinner. 

Then it was back to grown-up reality! We drove the 2.5 hours home feeling refreshed and excited to see our kids (and bring them back here one day) and ready to get my hands into some sourdough. Nashville, Indiana and Brown County State Park would be a fun getaway any time of year, but fall is just magical with the changing of the leaves. If you live within a couple hours drive and are looking for a little getaway, this should definitely be considered!

What are some of your favorite fall getaways? I’d love to hear in the comments.

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Pretzel Bites with Sourdough Discard

You guys know how much I love sourdough, right? It is one of my favorite things to bake with. I love the smell of fresh yeast, the light tang of the dough and the quality of the bread. I also love developing and baking recipes with my sourdough discard. It’s the perfect way to boost the flavor in a roll, biscuit or even pancakes and waffles. These sourdough discard pretzel bites are the best of the best when it comes to sourdough baking. They are light, fluffy and use up some of that discard lurking in the back of your fridge. Come on…I know it’s back there…just waiting for the perfect recipe to be used in. This is it!

Jump Directly to Pretzel Bites with Sourdough Discard Recipe

Why Use Sourdough Discard in Pretzel Bites? 

I am not a fan of food waste. I try to find uses for almost everything in my kitchen, and I enjoy meal planning to use up all the random veggies I have at the end of the week. This same thought process goes for sourdough discard. I love that this recipe helps me do my part in decreasing food waste by utilizing the sourdough discard. Truthfully, I keep discard in my fridge just so I can make this recipe—it is that good! If you don’t have discard in your fridge, go ahead and sub fresh sourdough starter. It will work too. 

Instant Yeast Helps the Pretzel Dough Rise

Discard in this recipe refers to refrigerated sourdough culture that is past its prime and over-ripe. it won’t have the same properties as a fresh, young, bubbly leaven (or sourdough starter). The cultures are often sluggish and do not produce the same rise as a bubbly starter would. Because of this, the pretzel dough benefits from the addition of instant yeast (affiliate link: I buy my yeast at my local mill, so look around to price check ). I love instant yeast for its fool-proof nature, but if you only have active dry, that’s okay too. Just proof it with a little warm water and sugar, wait 5 minutes and you should be good to go. The instant yeast gives the dough a quick rise while the sourdough discard gives a slight depth of flavor to the pretzel bites.

Baking Soda Wash

One of the unique things about these sourdough pretzel bites is the baking soda wash that is applied to the pretzels before baking in the oven. This gives the pretzels a golden brown, crunchy exterior with a soft, chewy middle that is just delicious. The baking soda wash is so simple and perfect for those little fingers that want to help you in the kitchen. Heat up ½ cup of water in the microwave until very hot (almost boiling but not quite). Add in a Tablespoon of baking soda (watch for the mixture to fizz up). Stir vigorously until the baking soda is completely combined with the water. Then brush the mixture using a pastry brush (affiliate link) onto each pretzel bite. Let the pretzel bites rise for 10-15 minutes while the oven preheats and then bake to perfection.

Brush on that Butter and Top or Dip to Perfection

Don’t skip over this step when making these sourdough discard pretzel bites. Keep on brushing the melted butter on top of the hot pretzel bites until it is all used up. The butter helps the toppings adhere and gives a delicious flavor to the pretzel bites. It’s worth it. Promise. Once the pretzels are fully covered in butter and toppings, enjoy them hot. They definitely do taste best eaten right away. We also like dipping them in cheese sauce or this yummy honey mustard sauce

  • Dipping sauce: 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise, 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard and 2 Tablespoons honey

Perfect Recipe to Bake with Kids

If you’re looking for a particularly kid-friendly recipe, this one is it. You can mix up the dough with your child or ahead of time and then after the dough’s first rise, let them help you roll the pretzels into logs, cut them up into bites and brush with the baking soda mixture. Kids can be so hands-on in this recipe and they love brushing the tops of the pretzels with melted butter and toppings at the end…not to mention eating them! Definitely check this recipe out if you are looking for a fun afternoon baking with your kids.

Double the Recipe to Make a Batch of Pretzels Too

While I am partial to the pretzel bites, this dough does make delicious pretzels too. My kids seem to love shaping the pretzels and playing with the dough, so I often double this recipe and shape half into pretzel bites and let them shape the other half into pretzels. Cut the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece and shape into a U. Fold over, twist around and then bring the ends down and pinch into the bottom part of the dough (see pictures for visual). Brush with the baking soda wash, bake for 9 minutes at 500 degrees, brush with melted butter and toppings and you have some delicious sourdough discard pretzels. These pretzel are yummy and fun for kids to make, though I really am partial to the pretzel bites; the perfect chewy, “pillowy” goodness in one bite.

Sourdough Pretzel Bites Make the Perfect Snack

Sourdough discard pretzel bites are the perfect snack. They are small, perfect to feed a crowd and absolutely delicious. I love how easy these are to customize so everyone can enjoy their perfect pretzel bite. Go find that sourdough discard in the back of your fridge and enjoy an ethereal soft, crispy sourdough discard pretzel bite. Yum!

Pretzel Bites with Sourdough Discard

Crispy, chewy and delicious pretzel bites made with sourdough discard. Perfect for a crowd or a snack. Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 8 mins
Course Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 32 pretzel bites

Ingredients
  

Pretzel Dough

  • 1/2 cup sourdough discard or bubbly sourdough starter, 145 grams
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water 175 grams
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar 5 grams
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast 7 grams
  • 1 teaspoon salt 5 grams
  • 2 cups all purpose flour* 285 grams, plus more for rolling

Baking Soda Wash

  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 Tablespoon baking soda

Toppings

  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
  • 2 teaspoons salt for topping
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese if desired
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon sugar if desired

Instructions
 

  • To a large bowl or to bowl in a stand mixer, mix together the sourdough discard, water, sugar, instant yeast, salt and flour.
  • Knead by hand about 5-8 minutes or knead in a stand mixer for about 5 minutes until it comes together and forms a smooth ball. Add a little more flour as needed. The dough will still be sticky, but not overly sticky. Pinch off a piece of dough and roll it into a ball in your fingers. If it forms a ball with minimal sticky residue left on your fingers, you can stop adding flour. Check out a few other tips for kneading dough here.
  • Lightly oil a bowl or container (affiliate link) and turn the dough around in the bowl to cover it lightly with the oil. Drape a kitchen towel or some plastic wrap over the bowl and let dough rise for 1-1 ½ hours.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Once dough has doubled in size, flour a counter with 1-2 Tablespoons flour and punch down the dough. Turn it out onto the floured surface and separate into 4 sections.
  • Roll each section into a long strand and cut each strand into 6-8 pretzel pieces. Place each pretzel bite on the parchment paper.
  • Heat ½ cup of water in the microwave until almost boiling. Add 1 Tablespoon of baking soda (it will bubble up a little) and mix together. Make sure the baking soda is completely dissolved before proceeding.
  • Using a pastry brush, brush each pretzel bite with the baking soda/water mixture.
  • Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Let the pretzel bites rise for about 10-15 minutes (usually the amount of time it takes for the oven to preheat) before baking.
  • Bake the pretzel bites for about 8 minutes until crisp and lightly brown on the outside.
  • While the pretzel bites are baking, melt the unsalted butter and prepare any toppings (salt, parmesan cheese, cinnamon sugar).
  • As soon as the pretzel bites are baked through, remove them from the oven and brush with melted butter. Continue adding butter until all of the butter is on the pretzel bites. It may seem like a lot of butter, but keep adding it for the best taste and flavor.
  • Top with salt, cinnamon sugar or parmesan cheese and enjoy immediately.

Notes

*Flour: You may need more or less flour than called for in this recipe depending on the percentage of flour and water your sourdough discard has. Check for readiness of the dough by rolling the dough into a ball in your fingertips. If it forms a ball with just a little sticky residue on your fingers, you can stop adding flour. If it is very sticky, add a little more flour about a Tablespoon at a time.
Substitutions: Bubbly sourdough starter can be substituted for sourdough discard. Alternatively, if you don’t have sourdough discard on hand, the discard can be omitted and you can increase the flour to 2 1/3 cups the water to 1 cup of water in the recipe. Keep the other ingredients the same.
 
Keyword pretzel bites, pretzels,

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Croissants For A Home Baker

I lived in Europe for six years as a kid. My love for all baked goods started young at the neighborhood bakeries and small supermarkets that sold fresh-baked pastries and bread. Almost every Saturday morning we would head downtown to shop at the bigger grocery store in town. While there, we would stop at the bakery counter and take home 20-30 of the most delicious, fresh chocolate croissants. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. We always ate one right away and my mom would bring the rest of the croissants home and freeze them for breakfast to be eaten throughout the week…with a large family they didn’t last long.

Jump to Croissants for the Home Baker Printable Recipe

Adventures in Making Croissants

I’ve often thought fondly about those chocolate croissants, but the process of making croissants has seemed out of reach for a home baker like myself…until recently. I decided there’s no time like the present and threw caution to the wind which resulted in my elbows deep in croissant dough. My first time through an entire recipe was filled with many laughs, a few tears and lots of fun with my 10 year old as we scoured recipes and tried to figure out the exact timing of the art of preparing croissants. The process took a couple days longer than we’d originally planned thanks to not reading a recipe correctly. Oops! We sure enjoyed those croissants, though…piping hot out of the oven at 10 PM on a school night (thanks to our “timing”). Every time we’ve made croissants since then we’ve learned, refined and fixed the errors we had made before until we’ve been able to get a pretty darn perfect croissant.

The Best Croissants Take Time

As far as time goes, this is one of the more intense recipes on my site. Making croissants takes time and effort, and it is not necessarily easy. After making them for the third time, with comments of “These are the best croissants I’ve ever eaten” and “When are you making these again?” I decided to share the recipe with you and give you the opportunity for croissant rock-star status too! Just fair warning…read all these tips and the recipe beforehand and break it into pieces. The recipe itself is not hard, just time consuming. That being said, you are only a few days away from the most amazing croissants…ever!

I love seeing all those beautiful layers of hard work

Two Days-Minimum

This recipe is going to take you at a minimum two days. The first day is very hands off. The second day requires you to be home to work with the dough every hour or so for about half your day. Prepare for this! If you go on to bake your croissants the second day, you will have a wonderful dinner. If you want to take three days to make the croissants, you can refrigerate the dough overnight and shape in the morning OR shape the croissants and immediately freeze them. Allow them to rise the morning of the 3rd day for a rockstar-status breakfast. This gives you the flexibility to have croissants whatever morning you want.

Dough after its final turn and ready to rest overnight in the fridge

Start With a Poolish

Building the croissant dough begins with a poolish. Poolish is a french type of “preferment” (according to King Arthur Flour, “a preferment is a preparation of a portion of a bread dough that is made several hours or more in advance of mixing the final dough“). It is more liquid and not stiff. Using a poolish deepens the flavor of the croissants. The longer the dough develops, the more complex the flavor. A poolish also gives extensibility to dough which is especially important for croissants because you are constantly working the butter into the dough and handling the dough much more than you would for a traditional loaf of bread. A poolish-based dough will often have better oven-spring than a dough formed without a poolish, and it can slightly extend the shelf-life of a bread. You may be tempted to cut corners when working with a long and complicated recipe. The poolish is not one of those corners to cut.

What Does it Mean to Laminate Dough?

The process of laminating dough may be unfamiliar. It takes some getting used to. I’ve found it helpful to have a measuring tape readily available and out as I was laminating my croissant dough. The first step of the lamination process is creating a block of butter that you will be rolling out and folding between the layers of your dough. I found the best results for my butter block when I added a little bit of flour on top of the butter. This helps keep the butter from sticking to a rolling pin and makes the process more seamless. Once you add the butter to the dough and fold the dough on top of the butter, you are turning the dough. Every time you roll out the dough and fold it over is considered a turn and creates beautiful layers of butter throughout the dough. This is called lamination. Laminating the dough is what gives croissants a unique, flaky, buttery goodness. This recipe calls for laminating the dough three times. You could do more or less if you want to try that, but I personally like the amount of layers that three turns provide.

Favorite Croissant Fillings

If you like plain croissants, these will not disappoint. If you like filled croissants, these are amazing. I especially love the savory combination of gruyere cheese and smoked ham. It is the best croissant I have ever eaten. I also love almond flavor, so adding a little bit of almond paste to my croissant dough and rolling it up is also heavenly. And there’s nothing like the perfect chocolate croissant. I take a few pieces of dark chocolate and add them to the croissant dough and it brings me right back to my childhood croissants…except maybe better. No matter what you fill them with, these are sure to knock your socks off and bring you to rockstar croissant status! Enjoy!

Jump to Croissants for the Home Baker Printable Recipe

Step By Step Directions With Pictures:

Day 1

Poolish (2-3 hours)

  1. In a microwave safe, medium-sized bowl, warm the milk in the microwave or on the stove until warm to the touch. It should feel like baby’s bathwater (not too hot as this can kill the yeast).
  2. Add the yeast (look for the yeasty smell to make sure your yeast is active…this happens within a minute or so of adding instant yeast).
  3. Mix the flour into the milk/yeast mixture, forming a thick batter. 
  4. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set in a warm place. Let poolish rise until doubled in size, at least 2 hours.

Dough (20 minute mix, refrigerate the dough overnight)

  1. Add the poolish to the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add room temperature milk, yeast and sugar. Mix with dough hook. Add the salt and melted butter.
  2. Add flour a cup at a time and mix with dough hook. After the flour is incorporated, pick up a chunk of dough and roll it into a ball. If it rolls into a ball and isn’t super sticky, you can stop adding flour. If it is overly sticky and doesn’t form a ball, continue adding flour a bit at time and mixing. This helps to avoid over-flouring the dough. 
  3. Knead the dough with the stand mixer for 10 minutes. I like to set a timer and let it mix. A long kneading period helps the gluten develop. You can check this post for more information on how to test for readiness of dough.
  4. After the dough is kneaded, place in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Refrigerate the dough overnight.

Day 2

Butter Block (10 minutes)

  1. Pull 5 sticks of butter out of the fridge. 
  2. Line the sticks of butter in the center of a row on a piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle ¼ cup of flour over the butter.
  3. Pull one side of the parchment paper over the butter. Using a rolling pin, hit the butter to flatten it and meld it together to form a butter block. Continue hitting the butter until it flattens. 
  4. Roll the butter into an 8 by 12 inch rectangle (I use a measuring tape to help guide me). Wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

Lamination (30 minutes active time, 3 hours refrigeration/freeze)

  1. Prepare a sheet of parchment paper with a light dusting of flour. Use a measuring tape to guide you and set it to 18 inches at the top of your parchment paper. Take the dough out of the fridge.
  2. Roll the dough into a 12 by 18 inch rectangle. Place the butter block in the middle of the rolled out dough so that the butter block aligns with the top and bottom of the dough.
  3. Fold the left side of the dough over, covering the butter block. Repeat with the right side of the dough, folding over on top of the left side. Pinch together any seams so the butter is fully encased in the dough.
  4. Rotate the dough 90 degrees or a quarter turn and roll out the dough to a 28 by 12 inch rectangle. 
  5. Fold the dough in the same manner as above, folding from the left side ⅓ and then the right side ⅓, resulting in about a 9 by 12 rectangle. This is your first fold.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour.
  7. Second fold: After 1 hour, pull the dough out of the fridge and on a lightly floured surface, repeat the process of rolling the dough out to a 28 by 12 rectangle and folding the dough over. Wrap again and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  8. Third fold: Repeat the same process as the first and second fold. FREEZE for 1 hour. At this point you can continue freezing the dough for up to 1 week. When you are ready to use the frozen dough, pull it out the night before you intend to use it and put it in the fridge before shaping. After 1 hour, pull the croissant dough out of the freezer and proceed with shaping.

Shaping Croissants (20 minute shaping, 2-3 hours proofing) 

  1. Line a couple baking sheets (my favorite baking sheets found here, affiliate link) with parchment paper.
  2. Prepare any fillings you plan on using (sliced cheese, sliced ham, almond paste or chocolate, etc...) by cutting or breaking them into small pieces or slices.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 30 by 10 inch rectangle. 
  4. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough in half so you have two sections 30 by 5 inches.
  5. Cut each 30 by 5 inch section into 6 pieces, resulting in six 5 by 5 inch sections.
  6. Slice each 5 by 5 inch section from corner to corner, resulting in a small triangle. Starting at the base, roll the triangle up to form a croissant. Place on a baking sheet.
  7. If you want to add a filling, place the filing at the base of the triangle and roll up, forming the croissant shape. You can also roll the 5 by 5 inch square up (cinnamon-roll-style) with a filling inside (ie: chocolate, almond paste) if you want a larger croissant. Continue with this process until all the croissants have been shaped.

Egg Wash/Rising/Baking

  1. Let the croissants rise, covered for 2 to 3 hours until puffed up and almost doubled in size.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Whisk together the egg, heavy cream and a pinch of salt. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops of the croissants with the egg wash.
  4. Bake croissants for 10 minutes without opening the oven door. After ten minutes, rotate the pan 180 degrees in the oven for an even bake and continue baking another 8-10 minutes. 
  5. Allow croissants to cool slightly before digging in. Enjoy all your hard work!