Brown Butter Sourdough Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I think it was at the beginning of the pandemic a year and a half ago – when people were going crazy putting sourdough discard in everything – that I first heard of adding sourdough discard to cookies. Now I don’t bat an eye at adding sourdough discard into recipes and it has produced some pretty amazing bakes i.e.: sourdough blueberry crumb cake, I’m looking at you! In the beginning, I did have a few misses with an overly-sour flavor that just wasn’t the flavor I wanted. As I’ve baked more and more with sourdough discard, I love creating recipes with the addition of discard. These brown butter sourdough chocolate chunk cookies are no exception. The brown butter combined with the sourdough discard (or bubbly starter) adds such a complex and delicious flavor. I wish I was eating one right now! Thin and crispy or thick and chewy, these brown butter sourdough cookies are only about half an hour away from this screen to your stomach.

Jump to Brown Butter Sourdough Discard Cookies

Brown Butter in Sourdough Discard Cookies

Browning the butter is one of the key steps to these sourdough cookies. If you’ve never browned butter before, it’s a pretty simple process. Heat butter over medium heat, stirring every couple minutes. It is easiest to use a pan with a white bottom, but you can also use a darker bottom pan. As the butter heats it will start to brown. This can take 5-10 minutes, so it’s important to watch closely. Brown butter can easily turn into burned butter if you don’t watch it and that is no good for cookies! Once you notice little brown bits on the bottom of the pan take it off the heat. It will smell nutty and delicious. Pour the butter with the brown bits into a bowl to cool a bit before using in the cookie dough.

Sourdough Discard in Cookies

In working with sourdough discard recipes, I have found some recipes complement the discard and enhance the flavor. Other recipes don’t necessarily need sourdough discard, but they are a great vehicle for using up sourdough discard so it doesn’t go to waste while still tasting delicious. This is the case with these Brown Butter Sourdough Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Brown butter cookies don’t necessarily need sourdough discard (plenty of recipes out there don’t call for sourdough discard in their cookies) but these cookies taste amazing with the discard. The brown butter complements the discard and makes for a deliciously complex cookie that you can feel good about. No waste, plus a delicious flavor. The sourdough discard in this recipe is made from starter that is 100% hydration. If you use discard that is fed at a different hydration, you may need to add more or less flour to the cookie dough.

Thin and Crispy or Thick and Chewy Cookies?

There is one simple trick for turning a thick and chewy cookie into a thinner and crispier cookie. Less flour! I prefer my cookies to puff up, be a little bit thick and gooey in the middle with crispy edges. The flour called for in this recipe is the perfect amount for a thick and chewy cookie. If you want to make these thinner and crispier…which is also super delicious, reduce the flour by 1/3 cup. Only add 1 cup of flour instead of the 1 1/3 cups flour and you will get cookies that look like this. Still delicious, just spread a bit thinner with a crispier bite. Either way, these brown butter sourdough chocolate chunk cookies are delish.

Convection Bake for Cookies

I have waxed poetic before about using convection bake when baking cookies. I make a lot of cookies (my kids run a little bake shop that sells awesome cookies and yours truly helps them create the recipes, etc…). Convection bake is one of the secrets to a delicious crispy edge with a gooey or chewy middle. If you have convection bake on your oven, use it! If you don’t have convection, you can increase the temperature by 25 degrees (400 degrees Fahrenheit for this recipe) and preheat your oven for 15-20 minutes to get it really hot. 

Chilling the Dough

The brown butter in the dough is warm and melted which means that these cookies will spread even more in the oven if you don’t chill the dough. If I’m in a hurry, which let’s face it, I usually am when it comes to chocolate chip cookies, I’ll stick the bowl of dough into the freezer for 15 minutes. It is just long enough for the dough to firm up a bit, which helps solidify the fats. This will help the cookies hold their shape while baking. If you want even better flavor, you can chill the dough for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. This dough also freezes well. Shape the dough into balls and freeze. When you’re ready to bake, pull the dough balls out of the freezer and set them out for 10-15 minutes to thaw a bit, then bake according to the recipe directions. 

Chocolate Chunks, Dark Brown Sugar and Sea Salt

I love using dark chocolate chunks in these cookies. They add a yummy pop of rich chocolate flavor that complements the brown butter. Dark brown sugar is another key ingredient to these cookies. Can you use light brown? Yes, you can. However, the dark brown sugar complements the sourdough and brown butter flavor much better than regular brown sugar. If you can grab some dark brown sugar, do it (though not having any wouldn’t keep me from making these cookies). Adding a sprinkle of flaky sea salt (affiliate link) also takes these cookies to next-level deliciousness! You can also use chocolate chips in these cookies if you don’t have chocolate chunks on hand.

Cookie Scoop

My grandma gifted me this cookie scoop many, many years ago (affiliate link). It has made hundreds and thousands of cookies and held up so well. I use it for scooping mini muffin batter with these banana muffins, scooping meatballs and of course cookies. It is the perfect size and I highly recommend investing in one of these if you are cookie connoisseur. And if you don’t have sourdough discard on hand and want some awesome chocolate chip cookies, check these favorites out here.

If you love using sourdough discard and a deep, complex cookie flavor, these cookies are for you! They are chewy, rich and downright delicious. These cookies are kind of addicting, it was hard to stop at one or two. My kids gobbled them up and didn’t even know they had sourdough discard in them. I hope you love them too!

Brown Butter Sourdough Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Thick, chewy and deep flavor – these brown butter sourdough chocolate chunk cookies are perfect to satisfy your sweet tooth. Add a sprinkle of sea salt for a more complex flavor or a little less flour for a thinner, crispier cookie.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 7 mins
Chill Time 15 mins
Course cookies, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 20 cookies

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup sourdough discard see recipe notes
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour see recipe notes
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chunks or chocolate chips
  • flaky sea salt if desired

Instructions
 

  • Brown Butter: Heat the butter in a pan or pot on the stove over medium heat. Swirl the butter around and stir every few minutes until little brown flecks are on the bottom of the pan and the butter smells nutty and delicious. Be careful not to overheat as it can burn the butter. Pour the brown butter along with all the little brown bits on the bottom of the pan into a medium sized bowl and let sit for 5 minutes to cool.
  • Add the dark brown sugar and granulated sugar to the bowl with the brown butter. Stir to combine.
  • Mix in the egg yolk, sourdough discard and vanilla extract. Mix together with a spoon until the mixture turns light and fluffy.
  • Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt to the middle of the bowl. Mix together using a light hand so the flour mixture is evenly dispersed throughout the dough.
  • Add chocolate chunks (or chips) and stir into the dough.
  • Place the whole bowl into the freezer and chill the dough for 15 minutes. It is possible to bake these cookies right away, but they will not be quite as puffy and will spread a lot more than the chilled dough. You can also chill the dough in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours or freeze the dough in small balls. Let the balls come back to "chilled" temperature before baking.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees convection. Scoop the dough into balls and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet (my favorite linked here, affiliate link), about 12 cookies per baking sheet. Sprinkle the top with flaky sea salt if desired.
  • Bake cookies at 375 degrees convection for 6 minutes until cookies are puffed up and the edges are a little crispy. Let the cookies sit for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet to set up before removing. If your oven doesn't have a convection setting, preheat oven for 20 minutes and bake cookies at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes.
  • Repeat with the remaining cookie dough and enjoy!

Notes

Substitutions: This recipe has the best flavor with dark brown sugar. You can substitute for light brown sugar, but the cookies may have a little more sourdough tang.
Sourdough Discard: I feed my starter with equal weights of water and flour for a 100% hydration starter. If your starter is fed differently, you will want to adjust the amount of flour called for in the recipe; adding more flour for a starter that is fed with a higher percentage of water and less flour for a lower hydration starter. The longer your discard sits in the fridge, the more “tang” it will have. I prefer using a younger discard in this recipe to balance with the other flavors.
Flour: This recipe has been tested with more and less flour. If you want a thinner and crispier cookie, use 1 cup of flour. If you prefer a thicker cookie, use 1 2/3 cup flour. I’ve found 1 1/3 cup flour to be perfect for the way we like our cookies. FYI: When I scoop flour, 1 cup is about 5 oz.
Keyword beginner sourdough, chocolate chip cookie, cookies, sourdough discard

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Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls

St. Patrick’s Day is one of those holidays that makes a normal day just a little extra special. We love to celebrate with a visit from the leprechaun and a festive meal. Often we’ll serve this Irish Soda Bread to accompany our dinner and some years we choose to make these cloverleaf dinner rolls. We love them for any special meal, though they are especially fun on St. Patrick’s Day. Shaped like a clover, three little bread balls are set in a muffin tin to rise and create the perfect, fluffy, pull-apart dinner roll. Cloverleaf rolls are tender and would be a tasty addition to your March 17th. 

Honey and Oil

One of my favorite tips whenever I’m using a recipe that calls for both honey and some kind of oil or melted butter is this: Pour the oil (or butter in this case) in first, then use the same measuring cup for the honey. In the case of this recipe I melt the butter in a liquid measuring cup and then add the honey to the same measuring cup. The honey slides right out and doesn’t stick to the measuring cup.

Bread Flour or All Purpose Flour?

Bread flour really gives these rolls a nice texture. The exterior is chewy and the rolls bake up nice and tall. I recommend getting your hands on a bag of bread flour if you can. If you only have all purpose flour, go ahead and use it, but the rolls might not rise quite as much. Adding about a Tablespoon of vital wheat gluten to the all purpose flour is a good substitute for bread flour in this recipe. And if you don’t have vital wheat gluten, check out this post that tells you all about why you need it in your kitchen.

Eight Minutes of Kneading

One of the keys to good bread and dinner rolls is in the long kneading time. You can knead this dough by hand, but it will be an arm workout. I like to use a Bosch Mixer (affiliate link) or a Kitchen Aid (affiliate link) stand mixer. Any mixer that is fitted with a dough hook should work. When I mix bread dough, I add flour just until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Pinch a piece of dough off, roll it into a ball and notice if you have just a bit of sticky residue left. These are clues that you can stop adding flour. After I’ve determined that the amount of flour is correct, I’ll set a timer and let my mixer go for about 8 minutes. Doing this develops the gluten strands in the dough. These gluten strands are what will trap the gases from the yeast and give your rolls a beautiful shape. If you want to improve your bread skills, start with kneading the dough for a good eight minutes (ten to twelve minutes if you are doing it by hand).

Shaping Dough into Large Rolls

After the dough has risen, it is ready to be shaped. This recipe makes twelve large rolls. If you’d like to make them a little smaller or even four-leaf-clover shaped, cut the dough into more pieces. Separate the dough into twelve (or more) equal-sized pieces. Taking a piece at a time, cut it into three equal-sized balls. Place each ball into the cup of a lightly greased, non-stick muffin tin (affiliate link). Let the dough rise until puffy and just over the top of the muffin tin before baking.

Festive St. Patrick’s Day

If you really want to get festive with these, you could brush the top with a little bit of green-dyed egg wash, like I did with these pumpkin-shaped rolls in October. They would be a lot of fun for a green-themed meal. With or without the green dye, I hope the leprechaun shows up at your house so you can create a little St. Patrick’s Day magic with these cloverleaf dinner rolls.

Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls

Light, fluffy and tender, these cloverleaf dinner rolls are a fun take on a traditional roll. Easy to pull apart and delicious for any dinner or fun to make for St. Patrick's Day.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 22 mins
Rise Time 2 hrs
Course Bread, rolls
Cuisine American
Servings 12 rolls

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup 2% or whole milk, warmed temperature of baby's bathwater, see note
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 1/2-4 cups bread flour see note
  • melted butter for topping

Instructions
 

  • To the bowl of a stand mixer, add the warm milk, instant yeast and honey. Drizzle in the melted butter and add the salt.
  • Turn on the mixer and add three cups of bread flour, a cup at a time. Knead together and continue adding flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough moves away from the sides of the bowl and you can pinch off a piece, roll it up in your fingers and have just a little bit of sticky residue left on your fingers. More tips for checking the readiness of your dough here.
  • Knead the dough for 8 minutes. I like to set a timer to make sure my dough gets the full eight minutes. This helps develop the gluten strands in the dough which gives a better crumb, rise and texture to your bread.
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and let rise about an hour or until doubled in size. The warmth of your kitchen will impact how long it takes for the dough to rise.
  • Lightly grease a muffin tin (affiliate link) with cooking spray.
  • Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a countertop and cut into twelve (for large rolls) or sixteen (smaller rolls) pieces. Take each dough piece and cut it into three equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place the three balls into one cup of the muffin tin to create a cloverleaf shape. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough until all of the muffin cups are filled with dough.
  • Cover and let rise 45 minutes to an hour until puffy and about doubled in size.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake rolls for 20-22 minutes.
  • Top with melted butter as they come out of the oven. Enjoy!

Notes

Milk: 2% or whole milk is best in this recipe. If microwaving milk, warm it in 20-30 second increments, stir the milk and check the temperature in the middle of the milk (it can sometimes be hotter than the edges). The temperature of the milk should be warm, not hot. Milk that is too hot will kill the yeast. 
Bread Flour: These rolls are best made using bread flour. If you don’t have bread flour you can use all purpose flour and add 1 Tablespoon of vital wheat gluten to help increase the protein content and texture of your bread.
Amount: This recipe makes 12 large rolls. If you want the rolls a little smaller, make 16 rolls and bake for a minute or two less.
Keyword Clover, Dinner Rolls, St. Patrick’s Day

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King Cake Scones

King Cake Scones

A year ago, when starting this blog, I wrote one of my first ever posts about a kid-sized king cake that I enjoy making with my kids during Mardi Gras season. We had so much fun making a traditional king cake into a smaller version to enjoy as a family. This year, Fat Tuesday, the last day of the Mardi Gras season falls a few days after Valentines Day and with all our celebrations and cookie baking, I needed something quick and easy to make this year. These king cake scones take about 30-40 minutes…start to finish! No rise time. No kneading dough. Basically, the perfect sweet treat I was looking for to give us the Mardi Gras feel after a busy weekend of celebrating.

Jump to King Cake Scones Recipe

Cinnamon Flavor

These King Cake Scones are based on the flavors in my kid-sized king cake recipe. Traditionally, king cake is flavored with cinnamon, though you may find other flavors now as well: vanilla, cream cheese, etc… I based the scone recipe off of these chocolate chip scones which we love. The scones themselves are not super sweet with only ⅓ cup of sugar in the dough. The cinnamon sugar filling and the glaze on top really give these king cake scones their sweetness and the balance between the two is perfect.

Grating Butter

One of my favorite tips when working with pastry, scones or biscuits is to grate the butter into the flour mixture. Start with butter straight from the freezer or refrigerator. Grate it into a pile and add the small bits of grated butter to the flour mixture. This grated butter is the perfect size for most recipes calling to “cut in” butter. You can also use a pastry cutter (affiliate link) to get pea-sized pieces of butter sprinkled throughout the flour mixture.

Preheat Oven

I used to be the kind of baker who would forget to preheat my oven. ALL. THE. TIME. As a busy mom, I never thought I had the time to wait for my oven to fully preheat. While that might work for some recipes (I’ll often put loaves of bread into a preheating oven to finish the rise while the oven comes to temperature), it does not work well for others. These scones really benefit from a properly preheated oven. They don’t bake very long and the high heat reacts with the baking powder giving them a beautiful rise. Basically, for this recipe, you won’t want to cut corners. Preheat the oven before baking these king cake scones.

Light Hand

Scone dough is very similar to biscuits or pie crust. If the dough is overworked, the gluten starts to develop, which results in tough, not tender scones. To achieve a tender scone, do your best to use a light hand when working the dough. I use a fork to mix the dough together until it has just barely come together. Then turn the dough out on the countertop and fold it over in a kneading motion two-three times. And that’s about all you’ll want to “work” this dough.

Sandwiching the Filling

Typically, scone dough is rolled out, cut and baked. This recipe differs because you actually cut the dough in half. Roll out both halves of the dough into equal eight inch circles. Then add a sweet cinnamon filling on top of one of the circles of scone dough. Smooth it around, leaving a little bit of space at the edge of the circle of dough. Then sandwich the other piece of dough on top. You get a nice thick layer of cinnamon filling in the middle of the scone. Pinch the edges of the scone dough closed together, moving around the edges of the dough. Initially I thought the scones would be oozing out filling but the filling holds pretty well when baked. A little cinnamon mixture will ooze out a bit, but it is easily removed from the scone after the scone cools if desired.

Glazing and Sprinkling Sugar

Once the scones have cooled, spread the glaze over the top. The glaze is meant to be fairly thick to allow the sanding sugar (affiliate link) to stick to it. If you want a thinner glaze, add a little more cream to thin it out. Sprinkle sanding sugar on top of the glaze in the typical Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and yellow. 

My whole family loves these scones. They taste sweet, cinnamony and are super quick to make. My kids all enjoyed helping glaze and sprinkle the sanding sugar on the king cake scones. King Cake Scones are the perfect low-key way to celebrate Mardi Gras this year! Enjoy!

King Cake Scones

King Cake Scones

Quick, fun and super delicious. These King Cake Scones, sandwiched with cinnamon, covered in sweet glaze and sprinkled with sanding sugar are the perfect way to celebrate Mardi Gras!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8 scones

Ingredients
  

King Cake Scones

  • 2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter cold from the fridge or freezer
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup milk

Scone Filling

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Scone Topping

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3-4 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • green, yellow and purple sanding sugar

Instructions
 

Scone Dough

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • Grate the entire stick of cold butter into small pieces. Add the butter to the flour mixture and mix until little pieces of butter are evenly distributed throughout. Alternatively you can "cut" the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter into pea sized shapes.
  • Mix together the eggs, heavy cream and milk in a liquid measuring cup. Pour into the butter/flour mixture and mix together until it is just combined and forms a ball.
  • Turn the dough out onto a countertop or pastry mat and knead two or three times. Cut the dough into two equal sections. Let rest while you mix together the filling.
  • To a small bowl, mix together the scone filling: brown sugar, powdered sugar, flour, ground cinnamon, heavy cream and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  • Lightly flour both balls of dough. Roll both balls out into equal sized 8 inch circles. Spread the cinnamon scone filling on top of one of the circles, leaving a little gap on the edges.
  • Place the other 8 inch circle of dough on top of the cinnamon filling, sandwiching the scone dough together. Pinch the seams closed.
  • Cut the dough into 8 triangular sections and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Bake scones for 14-16 minutes until baked through and a little brown on top.
  • While the scones bake, mix up the glaze. Whisk together powdered sugar, heavy cream and vanilla extract. After the scones have cooled a bit, top each scone with glaze. Sprinkle colorful sanding sugar on top of the scones. Enjoy!
Keyword King Cake, Scones

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Sweet Spinach Banana Muffins

I make a lot of muffins. Muffins are delicious, quick, easy and freeze well for quick breakfasts, snacks and even perfect to pack in lunch boxes. We have been making these sweet spinach banana muffins for years and they are a hit every time. My youngest (preschooler) seems to have a vendetta against any and all vegetables (except carrots…he’ll eat carrots). These muffins though, are his favorite. Spinach banana muffins and green smoothies are about the only way I can get green veggies into him right now. The struggle is real over here folks. But these spinach banana muffins get him his greens and he begs to make them with me. I call that a win-win!

Jump to Sweet Spinach Banana Muffins Recipe

Kid Friendly Muffin Making

Sweet spinach banana muffins are super easy to make with kids. The wet ingredients, including the banana and 8 ounces of spinach get blended up in a blender until nice and smooth. My preschooler loves packing the spinach into the blender, whirling it around and watching all those ingredients blend together into a very green liquid mixture. The dry ingredients only need a quick whisk in a bowl and then the magic happens…pouring the green spinach liquid into the flour mixture. It is very, very green. Kids love this fun green color and it’s all natural too.

Twenty-Four Beautiful Muffins

I love a muffin recipe that makes twenty-four muffins. If you fill the muffin tins just a little over halfway full, you’ll get 24 muffins out it. If I have any leftover batter I’ll usually spoon it into the tins that look like they need a little extra batter. These USA pans (affiliate link) are my favorite muffin tins. With these pans, I only need a little spritz of cooking spray and then I can bake my muffins without muffin liners. You can also use muffin liners if you prefer that option. Let the muffins cool a bit in the tins before popping them out.

Jam-Packed with Spinach and Whole Grains

I have always loved baking and cooking but as soon as I had my first baby (over 11 years ago), I became passionate about feeding my kids the least-processed foods as possible. Making almost everything from scratch was an affordable way I found to feed my family healthy foods. Spinach banana muffins have been our go-to for years because they are delicious but also filled with whole grains and veggies. I make these muffins with 100% whole wheat flour. I buy mine at our local mill, but any whole wheat flour should work. I always use fresh spinach and don’t notice much if any flavor from the spinach in the muffins…just the bright green color.

Freeze for a Quick Meal

I’ve mentioned this before but I love freezing muffins. Let the muffins cool completely and then stick them in a gallon-sized ziplock bag in the freezer. Sometimes I’ll individually wrap them if my kids take them as part of their school lunch. To reheat, just pop in the microwave for 10-20 seconds or let them come to room temperature and enjoy. A school lunch tip that we use all the time: put them in the lunchbox frozen. They thaw throughout the morning and are nice and moist when lunchtime rolls around.

Brown Bananas and Coconut Oil

Spinach banana muffins have a pleasant banana flavor. This flavor is more pronounced if you use brown (even black) bananas. The more ripe the banana is, the more banana flavor your muffins will have. If you prefer not as strong banana flavor, use a yellow-green banana. Because you are blending the banana up in the blender with the other ingredients, you can easily use any banana you have on hand, even if it’s not quite ripe. I also like to add the coconut oil while the blender is running. Coconut oil solidifies quickly if a certain temperature is not met and adding it while blending prevents the coconut oil from solidifying into chunks.

These spinach banana muffins are really and truly some of our family’s favorites. I find myself in the kitchen making them at least once a month and I don’t mind one bit if my kids eat them for an after school snack or a quick breakfast as we’re heading out the door because they are packed with vitamins and nutrients. We are a muffin-loving family, so even when we don’t have these spinach banana muffins on hand, we usually have some kind of muffins. Some of our other favorites are these amazing chocolate chip muffins, cinnamon sugar muffins (with or without sourdough discard), carrot cake muffins (perfect for spring), pumpkin spice muffins and so many more.

Sweet Spinach Banana Muffins

Sweet spinach banana muffins are packed with 8 ounces of spinach, sweet bananas and whole wheat flour. These muffins are delicious, full of nutrients and perfect for a healthy breakfast or snack.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 18 mins
Total Time 38 mins
Course Bread, Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 24 muffins

Ingredients
  

  • 3 medium-sized bananas mashed, see recipe notes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk see recipe notes
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted you may substitute any neutral flavored oil
  • 8 ounces baby spinach
  • 3 3/4 cup whole wheat flour see recipe note
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two muffin tins with cooking spray (my favorite muffin tins here, affiliate link).
  • To a blender, add the bananas, eggs, buttermilk, sugar, spinach and vanilla. Blend on high for 30 seconds to a minute until the mixture is smooth and creamy. With the blender running, drizzle in the melted coconut oil and blend together until the ingredients are completely blended together.
  • To a large bowl, add the whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk together.
  • Pour the spinach banana liquid into the flour mixture and gently combine with a large spoon. Stir until only a few streaks of flour mixture remain (be careful not to over-mix).
  • Fill each muffin tin about half full (about 1/4 cup batter per muffin tin) until all 24 tins are filled.
  • Bake for 16-18 minutes until muffins are baked all the way through. Stick a toothpick in the middle of a muffin. If it comes out clean, the muffins are ready. If a little wet batter is stuck to the toothpick, the muffins need a few minutes longer.
  • Let the muffins cool for 5-10 minutes and then remove from the tins to a cooling rack. Enjoy!

Notes

Bananas: If you want a strong banana flavor in the muffins, use very ripe bananas where most of the banana is brown or even black. If you want a more mild banana flavor, use yellow bananas.
Buttermilk: I prefer to use buttermilk. If you don’t have it on hand, you can mix together 1/2 cup milk with 1/2 cup sour cream or greek yogurt (for a total of 1 cup liquid) as a substitute.
Whole Wheat Flour: I like using all whole wheat flour. You can also substitute all purpose flour or 50% all purpose and 50% whole wheat flour.
This recipe was adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe “Whole Grain Hulk Muffins.” This recipe makes 24 muffins instead of 16, calls for a little less spinach and I decreased the amount of sugar from the original recipe.
Keyword banana, muffins,, spinach

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Fondue Two Ways: Classic Swiss and Rich Chocolate

We were babies!

Many years ago (almost fifteen if I’m being exact), I ate my most memorable fondue dinner. My husband and I were honeymooning in Europe. We had a small wedding and spent the money we would have spent on a fancy party traveling around Europe for five weeks. This was definitely one of our better decisions. One evening we found ourselves in the tiny mountain village of Gimmelwald, Switzerland surrounded by the Swiss Alps. We were traveling on a budget trying to eke out the most of our trip but when we saw fondue on the menu, we threw caution (and a whole lot of Swiss Francs) to the wind and enjoyed one of the most memorable meals we’ve eaten together. Melty cheese, gorgeous mountains and two kids in love. Definitely a moment to remember.

Jump to Fondue Two Ways Recipe

Alcohol Free Fondue

Ever since that evening, I’ve been trying to recreate our fondue experience…sans beautiful mountains and overlooking the bluegrass fields of Kentucky instead. This recipe lives up to the hype in our minds of the perfect Swiss Fondue. It uses equal parts Gruyere and Emmentaler cheese which are pricey but totally worth it. We are not the biggest fans of alcohol in fondue and find it a bit overpowering, so we like to use chicken stock in place of the traditional white wine. If you prefer the flavor of white wine, by all means, substitute that for the chicken stock. You can add a few Tablespoons of Kirschwasser for a more traditional flavor too. I think this Classic Swiss Fondue recipe is pretty perfect without the alcohol and our kids love it too.

Cheese, Cheese and More Cheese

Can you substitute other types of cheese in this recipe? You can, but it may not give you the traditional sharp Swiss flavor that we love so much. That doesn’t mean it won’t be good. If you are looking to substitute cheese, I would look for a good melting cheese. Jarlsburg, French Comte or a generic Swiss cheese can be used. A pro tip: If you are looking for one of the easiest fondue recipes ever, just pick up a block of brie cheese. Cut off the casing and melt it in a fondue pot. Not quite as flavorful as our favorite recipe but delicious just the same. We love the creaminess of the classic Swiss fondue recipe and the sharpness of the Swiss flavors with some crusty bread or apples. 

Rich Chocolate Fondue

In our family it’s not a fondue night without chocolate fondue. Our kids love dipping fresh fruit, marshmallows, muffins or angel food cake in the chocolate mixture and it makes for a very fun and memorable evening. This chocolate fondue recipe I’m sharing below does not make a whole lot of chocolate fondue. You may want to double it if you are just making it on its own. For our family, after eating the cheese fondue we don’t need a huge pot of chocolate fondue because our bellies are so full of cheese!  I love this chocolate fondue because it is downright delicious and so easy to whip up.

What to Dip

A good crusty bread cut into chunks is a must for cheese fondue. We also like cutting up apple slices to dip in the cheese. I will often set out bowls of nuts, cold cuts, boiled potatoes or other easy-to-eat foods with the cheese fondue. For the chocolate fondue I scour my fridge and pantry for fresh fruit and marshmallows. If I can’t find angel food cake or pound cake I will cut up muffins into small pieces to dip in the fondue. I love how adaptable fondue is to what I have on hand. It’s not hard for anything to taste good covered in cheese or chocolate.

Fondue Tradition

In our family, fondue has become a tradition. We like to have fondue for our New Years Eve dinner, setting goals and toasting around the table to the new year. We also eat this traditional fondue (cheese and chocolate) for Valentines Day. It’s a dinner my kids look forward to all year long. Every so often we’ll pull out the fondue set for a back-to-school dinner or some other special occasion. We love eating fondue together because it slows down the meal and lets us enjoy and create family memories together. We’ve had so many good times gathered around the fondue pot as a family; laughing and enjoying delicious cheese and chocolate fondue.

Fondue Pot

Do you need a fondue pot to make fondue? Technically, no. If you are planning to have a one-off fondue dinner, then maybe you don’t need to invest in a fondue pot. If you want to make it a yearly family tradition, I think it’s worth it! We started off with this fondue pot (affiliate link) and after using it a couple of years, upgraded to this one. We definitely prefer the Swissmar pot (affiliate link) because it heats so evenly, but the Cuisinart is a good value too. It can burn easier on the bottom, so make sure you stir your fondue every so often.

Fondue is fun and has become a wonderful tradition for our family. Our kids look forward to it every New Years and Valentines Day (and sometimes on other special occasions). We love these recipes because they are simple, special and delicious. I hope you love them too! Happy New Year!

Fondue Two Ways: Classic Swiss Fondue and Rich Chocolate Fondue

The perfect creamy and classic Swiss cheese fondue and a rich chocolate fondue for dessert. Use these two recipes for a perfect special occasion dinner!
Prep Time 20 mins
Course Dessert, Main Course
Cuisine American, Swiss
Servings 6 people

Ingredients
  

Classic Swiss Fondue

  • 2 cups high quality Gruyere cheese, freshly grated see recipe note
  • 2 cups high quality Emmentaler, freshly grated see recipe note
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock *substitute white wine if desired
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of ground pepper
  • 1 loaf soft or crusty french bread cubed

Rich Chocolate Fondue

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips can substitute for your favorite chocolate
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2-3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • an assortment of items to dip ie: fresh fruit, marshmallows, angel food cake, etc…

Instructions
 

Classic Swiss Fondue

  • Grate the cheese. I sometimes use a food processor for the harder cheese and it makes the process very fast.
  • To a medium-sized bowl, add the cheese and 4 teaspoons of cornstarch. Coat the cheese in the cornstarch and mix until completely combined. Set aside.
  • To a liquid measuring cup, add the chicken stock and milk. Whisk together.
  • Heat the fondue pot, (affiliate link) and add the chicken stock and milk to the pot. Warm to a weak simmer. Then add the lemon juice and continue to simmer (weak simmer).
  • Taking a handful at a time, add the cheese to the pot, stirring constantly. Wait for the cheese to melt before adding in another handful. Continue this process until all the cheese has been added to the fondue pot.
  • Add a pinch of nutmeg and pepper to taste.
  • Eat immediately by dipping the crusty bread into the fondue. Enjoy!

Rich Chocolate Fondue

  • To a fondue pot (affiliate link) or small saucepan, add the chocolate chips, heavy cream and a Tablespoon of milk.
  • Stir the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Add a Tablespoon of milk as needed to thin the chocolate fondue. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  • Keep the chocolate warm as you dip fresh fruit, marshmallows, muffins or angel food cake into the chocolate fondue. Enjoy!

Notes

Recipe Notes:
Pre-Shredded Cheese: This recipe works best when you use block cheese that is freshly grated. Pre-shredded cheese often is coated with preservatives which means they don’t melt together as well during cooking. 
Classic Swiss Cheese Fondue: Traditional cheese fondue is made with alcohol. We prefer the flavor of the fondue made with chicken stock (and our kids do too). If you prefer, add 1/2 cup of your favorite white wine (or other alcohol) in place of the chicken stock for a deeper flavor.
Rich Chocolate Fondue: This recipe makes the perfect amount for dessert after eating cheese fondue. If you are making this recipe without eating a meal beforehand, you may want to double it.
Keyword fondue

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Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas Cookies

In our house, it is not Christmas until we have made our traditional Christmas cookies. My family has been making them ever since I can remember (and long before that). These Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas cookies are the ultimate holiday cookie. Buttery shortbread-style crust with a luscious caramel, chocolate and pecan topping. What isn’t there to love about these? The festive star-shape makes them a Christmas cookie you will want to make on repeat at your house every year. 

Jump to Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas Cookies Recipe

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas Cookies: The History

When my mom was little, she would make Christmas cookies with my grandma. I don’t know if she just liked these cookies the best or if they won out over all the cookies my grandma made but for whatever reason (and good reason in my opinion) this was THE cookie. Originally many cookie cutters were used to cut out the dough for these cookies but the star-shape always turned out the best. From then on, my family made hundreds of these cookies every Christmas. Truth be told, I didn’t even know people made many different kinds of cookies. This chocolate caramel pecan cookie is the one cookie you will want this Christmas too!

Buttery Shortbread-Style Cookie Dough

This dough is a dream to work with. It rolls out beautifully (just add a tiny touch of flour to the rolling pin if needed) and is so easy for little fingers to cut and help shape. I always make a little extra dough (double the recipe) and pull out my cookie cutter collection so they can make whatever shapes they want. We bake them up and the kids love eating them plain or decorated. While they are occupied, I go to town rolling the dough and cutting the star-shaped ones to give away to friends and neighbors. I’ve found rolling the dough to about ¼ inch thickness and using a 3-3.5 inch star-shaped cookie cutter (affiliate link) works best for these cookies. This recipe will give you 24 beautiful star cookies.

Baking Time

The cookie bases bake for about 10-12 minutes depending if you use convection or regular on your oven. I’ve waxed poetic about convection ovens before, so you know my preference but I’ve made them for years before having a convection oven and in many different countries with different ovens and they always turn out amazing. Be careful on the time as you bake these because these cookies are really divine if you don’t over bake them. They will puff up just a little bit but keep their star-shape. If you let them go too long or have rolled them out too thin, the edges will start to brown just a bit and you will know they went a little too long in the oven. Still delicious, but much better without the browned edges.

Caramel, Chocolate and Pecans

The toppings are what really set this cookie apart. Caramels are melted down (I use the microwave but you could also do this on the stove if you watch very carefully) with butter and evaporated milk and then stirred with sifted powdered sugar and chopped pecans to give the most amazing caramel topping. The pecans help the caramel to set up to a little ball on top of the cookie which makes the perfect base for the thick chocolate topping. I love the richness the semi-sweet chocolate chips bring to this cookie and any extra topping we have from these cookies we save to eat on ice cream or…by the spoonful. It is so good. A whole pecan tops the cookie for a finished look.

Sift. Sift. Sift that Powdered Sugar

One note about sifting. Please, please, please sift your powdered sugar. One year when I was a college student, I was making these Christmas cookies (yes, I made these every year…even while I was in the midst of college finals, they are that nostalgic for me). I decided to forgo the sifting and it was a BIG MISTAKE. I had chunks of powdered sugar all throughout my caramel sauce. Even though I did everything I could to get those chunks combined, they just wouldn’t combine well. My caramel still tasted okay but it didn’t look very good with little white chunks throughout what should have been a smooth caramel. So learn from my mistake and get yourself a sifter if you don’t have one. 

Gluten-Free Option

If you need to make these cookies gluten-free, good news. They are absolutely amazing gluten-free. My sister eats gluten-free and makes them every year with Cup4Cup flour (affiliate link). It is really hard to tell the difference between the gluten-free version and the regular version. Just sub the flour in the cookies for the Cup 4 Cup flour and they should turn out amazing.

A Cookie Job For Everyone

I make over 200 of these cookies every year for Christmas. This is our family tradition. We spend a few days doing the entire process. One day baking the cookies. One day making the toppings. One day assembling everything. When we finally get to the assembly portion, everyone has a job to do. My kids have now graduated to being able to help put on the caramel and chocolate toppings. The youngest in our crew is usually relegated to “pecan sorting” and putting nuts on top of the cookies. I love that these cookies have a job for everyone. We have such fun every year blasting Christmas carols, making cookies and sneaking a cookie or two.

Caroling and Cookies

The cookie bases freeze well (actually the whole cookie does) and it makes it easy for us to make plates of cookies to deliver to friends and neighbors. We love caroling, bringing along our Christmas card and a plate of these cookies. It’s a tradition that began when I was a kid and has continued on with my family and the families of my siblings. And after all the deliveries…we get to enjoy eating our star-shaped cookies. The funny part is that if you ask each of us, we all have a different way to eat the cookie. Some of us eat off all the star points first leaving the gooey middle. Others pull off the pecan and eat off all the topping first. I love having these fun traditions to look back on every year 

I love all cookies. Chocolate chip, candy jar, gluten-free oat cookies, but these chocolate caramel pecan Christmas cookies are a standout favorite. Full of nostalgia, lots of butter, chocolate and caramel, they are the ultimate holiday dessert. Whether you are looking for cookies to give, cookies to eat or cookies to leave out for Santa, these chocolate caramel pecan cookies are the perfect indulgent holiday cookie. I wish I could bring you a plate! From my family to yours…Merry Christmas!

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas Cookies

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas cookies are the ultimate holiday cookie. A star-shaped buttery crust with a luscious caramel, chocolate and pecan topping. They will be on repeat at your house every Christmas.
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 10 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 24 cookies

Ingredients
  

Cookie Base

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour

Caramel Topping

  • 8 oz caramel candy Kraft caramels are the ones we traditionally use
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar sifted
  • 1 cup pecans finely chopped

Chocolate Topping

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar sifted

24 whole pecans

    Instructions
     

    Cookie Base

    • Using a stand mixer or a handheld mixer and large bowl, cream together the softened butter and powdered sugar until thick and creamy.
    • Add vanilla extract, evaporated milk and salt. Mix well until completely incorporated and creamy.
    • Add the flour and mix gently until combined. Be careful not to over-mix the dough, but you do want it to be fully incorporated.
    • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees convection or 325 regular and place parchment paper on two large baking sheets.
    • Separate the dough into two portions and roll the first ball of dough out on a lightly floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick.
    • Use a star-shaped cookie cutter about 3-3.5 inches to cut out the stars from the dough. Transfer the cutouts to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
    • Bake for 10 minutes convection or 12 minutes regular until just baked. Watch the cookies so they don't brown. The bottoms of the cookies should still be light.
    • Cool the cookies completely. At this point you can move forward with topping the cookies or freeze them to top later.

    Caramel Pecan Topping

    • Combine unwrapped caramels (or kraft caramel bits), evaporated milk and unsalted butter in a microwave-safe bowl.
    • Microwave in 1 minute increments, stirring with a spoon. Alternate stirring and microwaving until the caramels are completely melted and mixed together. This can take upwards of 10 minutes.
    • Sift in the powdered sugar and stir until completely incorporated.
    • Finely chop the pecans (I pulse them a few times in the blender) and add them to the caramel topping. Mix.
    • Set the caramel aside while you make the chocolate topping. At this point you can also refrigerate the caramel for up to a week before using.

    Chocolate Topping

    • To a microwave safe bowl, add the chocolate, butter and evaporated milk. Microwave in 30 second increments. Alternate stirring and microwaving until the chocolate, butter and evaporated milk are melted and combined.
    • Stir in the vanilla extract. Sift the powdered sugar into the bowl and mix until completely combined. Set aside the chocolate topping to assemble the cookies. You can also refrigerate the topping for up to a week before using.

    Assembly

    • Lay out all the cookies on a flat counter space.
    • Place a dollop of lightly warmed caramel topping on the center of each cookie (about 1 Tablespoon).
    • Place a smaller dollop of lightly warmed chocolate topping on top of the caramel (about 1 teaspoon).
    • Add a whole pecan on top of the chocolate quickly before the chocolate hardens.
    • Let the cookies cool completely before moving to a cookie tray, sharing with friends and neighbors, freezing or setting out for Santa on Christmas Eve. Enjoy!

    Notes

    Freezing Tips: These cookies freeze very well. The fully assembled cookies can be frozen after the toppings have cooled and pulled out to thaw when needed. The process can also be split into multiple days; making the bases one day (then freeze them) and the caramel and chocolate topping a different day. 
    Sifting: It is really important to sift the powdered sugar into the caramel and chocolate. If you don’t, the caramel and chocolate will have tiny lumps of powdered sugar in them that won’t fully incorporated. They will taste okay but not look as good.
     
    Keyword caramel, chocolate chip cookie, Christmas cookies, cookies, pecan

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    The Great Family Bake Off: Reunion-Style

    One of my guilty pleasures that I enjoy sharing with my kids is the show, “The Great British Bake Off.” You can check it out on Netflix if you haven’t watched it yet. My kids absolutely love it and we often spend evenings folding laundry and watching the latest episode of “Bake Off” (or the Great British Baking Show as they call it here in the U.S.). It is equal parts funny, challenging and just endearing. We love it. During March and April of this past year, I surprised my kids with their own “Great Family Bake Off” where they completed three challenges and were judged on what they made. You can check it out here. My kids loved it so much that they begged to do it again. And again. And again. Until I finally agreed and decided to make it a larger “reunion-style” family affair.

    Reunion-Style Bake Off

    That’s how “The Great Family Bake Off–Reunion Style” was born. This past summer we drove cross country to be with my parents and siblings for about a month of our Covid-style summer. I planned out a “Reunion-style” bake off and paired the kids up with adults who wanted to participate (those who chose not to participate in the cooking still participated as judges). This entire day was such a hit and so much fun that my family has asked to do it every year.

    Three Rounds

    An episode of Bake Off takes you through three rounds. A signature challenge, a technical challenge and a show stopper challenge. Our Reunion-style Bake Off took us through these three challenges: Cookies for the Signature, Rice Krispy Treats for the technical and Pie for the show stopper. We drew names for teams a few days before the competition and gave the teams time to brainstorm for their signature and show stopper challenges. Ingredients were purchased and imaginations ran wild. This was almost as much fun as baking everything!

    Choosing Teams

    We chose teams about a week in advance to give them time to brainstorm and collaborate. You can print the planning worksheet below to help you out. Teams were selected somewhat randomly (drawing names out of a hat) but we did pair up the younger bakers with an adult because this bake off called for more intricate recipes.

    Signature Round: Cookies, 1 hour

    We gave each team one hour to make and bake their best cookie recipe. Cookies were judged on presentation, uniformity and taste. One of our teams was dairy free and gluten free and had no trouble coming up with delicious recipes. We tasted super creative cookies this round: gluten free sandwich cookies, salted caramel cookies, “lolipop” cookies and mint oreo cookies. All were stellar and hard to choose a winner!

    Technical Challenge: Rice Krispie Treats, 30 minutes

    One of my sisters is gluten free (and she was dairy free at the time due to a nursing baby) so I picked rice krispie treats for the technical challenge as it is easily gluten and dairy free. Portion out the butter, marshmallows, rice krispies, salt and vanilla into the number of teams you have. Give everyone their own ingredients and this “recipe.” The “contestants” have to follow the recipe and figure it out without any help from you. This challenge is also judged “blind,” so the judges can rank them in order from best to worst. 

    Show Stopper Round: Pie, 2 hours

    The pie challenge requires a bit more time. The pies should be properly baked (or chilled) and mostly cooled within the 2 hour time period. We had four very different pies: a candy pie, a charcuterie board of mini pies, a pizookie pie and a potato pie. All of the pies were amazing, but the potato pie was gobbled up (probably because we had been taste-testing sugar all day). Contestants can make any kind of pie they want: sweet, savory, mini pies…the sky is the limit! 

    Judging

    After each round of baking, bring the judges in to judge the round. This is a lot of fun for the other family members who are not participating in the competition. Make sure to have some small plates, forks and napkins for the judges as needed. At the end of the entire competition judges can award “Star Baker” to one team or judges could come up with different awards to give to each team who participated. Depends on how “competitive” you want this experience to be.

    Our Experience

    This was such a fun day for a family reunion. The groups were so creative. Everyone shined in the show stopper round and they are still talking about this fun experience…six months later. No one in our group ended up winning (you can watch the video and see the shoutouts given to each group) but I think we all came out winners with extra treats to eat throughout our reunion and memories to last a lifetime. 

    You can Watch our Bake Off Here

    Please share this post if you enjoyed it. If you plan to host your own “Great Family Bake Off” we’d love to see it! Tag me @amybakesbread on Instagram or share your video clip in the comments section.

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    Homemade Snow Day Donuts

    Back when I first started this blog…almost ten months ago (crazy!), I wrote about one of my favorite kid traditions on a snow day. Snow Day Donuts are the donuts that I make just about once a year. I don’t own any fancy donut equipment or even a deep fryer, so these donuts can be made using the things that I have in my own kitchen. Typically on the first snow day of a year when school is cancelled and there is palpable excitement in the air…we play in the snow, drink cocoa, make donuts and share with our friends and neighbors.

    Jump to Our Favorite Snow Day Donuts Recipe

    A Weird Year

    This year, thanks to COVID, the kids are doing virtual school and we aren’t having friends over right now. This would have been one of those easy traditions to by-pass…but the fact that our first big snow landed on the 1st of December was too magical to miss. We mixed up our donut dough, welcomed our Elf on the Shelf, went sledding, ate far too many donuts and fit in our virtual classes for the day. Whew! And I’m glad we kept the tradition alive this year, even if it wasn’t quite the same.

    Plan for about 3-4 hours

    This donut dough is very good. It is light, airy and easy to work with. It does take time for the dough to rise, and the frying process takes a little extra involvement too. Plan for about 20 minutes to mix up the dough, then a rise of 1-1 1/2 hours. Cutting out the donut shapes takes another 20 minutes and then another hour rise before frying. I usually whip up the dough while the kids are putting on their snow clothes and let it rise for our first venture in the snow. Then I’ll come back in and cut out the shapes with whoever has had enough of the cold for the time being. All the kids come in for frying/topping. I have actually been eyeing a donut recipe that refrigerates the dough overnight, which I think would give an even better-tasting donut. With that said, I never know if we are going to have a snow day…it’s usually not called until the morning of, so those recipes wouldn’t work well for our snow day tradition. Instead we stick with this recipe, our tried and true favorite that is ready to fry when the kids come in from playing in the snow.

    Use What You Have

    I am a big proponent of using what I have in the kitchen and not buying a new appliance unless I really think I’ll use it a lot. In the case of donuts, I just don’t make them all that often. I typically make donuts about once a year…on the first snow day of the year. So I don’t have a fryer or donut cutters. I’ve found that plastic tops to water bottles work really well for cutting out the center of the donuts. I also use the lid of a canning jar to cut out the donut shape. Round cookie cutters work well too. Just make sure to press down hard.

    Donut Holes, Filled Donuts and Apple Fritters

    Once the dough is rolled out, it shouldn’t be re-rolled. If you want to make filled donuts, I take a little bit of the dough, roll it up into a ball and let it rise. Once it is fried, we fill them with frosting, jam or any creamy filing you want. When cutting the donuts out, cut as close together as possible to use up all the dough. I use a large cap to cut out donut holes from the scraps of dough, and when there is no more dough to cut out, with just scraps left over, I cut up an apple and make some apple fritters. The process for this is pretty easy:

    1. Break the scraps of dough into small pieces (using a knife or pulling pieces apart with your fingers so there aren’t long stringy pieces).
    2. Dice an apple (I like Granny Smith) and add it to the scraps of dough along with some brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and a touch of lemon juice.
    3. Scoop handfuls of the mixture together and squeeze together, forming a ball-like shape.
    4. Set aside to rise a bit.
    5. After you have fried all the donuts, fry the apple fritters (invariably apple pieces will get into the oil).
    6. Cover with glaze after they cool just a bit.

    Frying Donuts

    I don’t fry very many things and guess what? I don’t use a thermometer to check the temperature of the oil. This goes back to using what I have. Instead I like to heat my oil up to medium heat, throw in a little donut hole and watch it. That donut hole will tell me if my oil is hot enough and ready for my donuts. It will also tell me if I need to turn the temperature up or down a little bit. If the donut hole takes forever to turn brown, turn the heat up. If it browns too quickly, turn it down. The donut hole should sizzle with little bubbles forming around it and take about 30-45 seconds to brown on one side. Once that happens, I know I can start frying my donuts. Donuts take about 2 minutes per side, then flip to cook on the other side. Be careful about adding more oil to your pot or skillet. If you add more oil, it will cool down your oil and you will need to re-heat it to the correct temperature before continuing to fry your donuts.

    Glaze and Toppings

    My kids’ favorite part of making donuts is the toppings. We set up different glazes and sprinkles and let the kids go to town! I have recipes listed for a traditional glaze, chocolate glaze and a maple glaze. All are wonderful on their own and all are great topped with sprinkles. I’m dreaming of topping the maple donut with crispy bacon, that glaze is so good! However you top them, these donuts are best eaten warm. For donuts that are made the same day…these can’t be beat. I hope you enjoy them on a snow day or any day that calls for a homemade donut.

    Snow Day Donuts

    The perfect donuts to share with friends on a snow day. Light, airy, fluffy and sweet. These donuts hit the spot with a cup of cocoa and are perfect to pile high with glaze and toppings.
    Prep Time 30 mins
    Cook Time 3 mins
    Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
    Cuisine American
    Servings 30 donuts/fritters

    Ingredients
      

    Donut Dough

    • 1 3/4 cup milk, warmed to the temperature of baby's bath water
    • 2 Tablespoons instant yeast
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/3 cup shortening, melted or unsalted butter
    • 5 1/2 – 6 cups all purpose flour

    Frying

    • 48 ounces vegetable oil shortening works well here too

    Apple Fritters

    • Scraps of Donut Dough
    • 1 Granny Smith apple chopped
    • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

    Powdered Sugar Glaze

    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1/3 cup heavy cream or milk thinned to your liking
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Chocolate Glaze

    • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted semi-sweet is my favorite
    • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • 2 teaspoons corn syrup
    • 2 teaspoons water
    • pinch of salt

    Maple Glaze

    • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
    • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon maple extract
    • pinch of salt

    Toppings

    • various sprinkles

    Instructions
     

    Donut Dough

    • Warm the milk (it should be the temperature of a baby's bath water) and pour into a stand mixer. Add the yeast and sugar. Smell for the yeasty smell that tells you your yeast is active.
    • Next add the salt, eggs and melted shortening (make sure it's not too hot so it won't kill the yeast).
    • Add one cup of flour and turn the mixer on. Continue mixing while adding flour a cup at a time until you've added 5 cups of flour total. Reserve the last cup of flour to add as needed.
    • Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes until it is slightly tacky to touch but clears the sides of the bowl. Check out this post for tips on how to know when the dough is ready. Add extra flour as needed (you may need up to 6 cups of flour but you may also be fine with 5 1/2 cups).
    • Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover it and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
    • On a very lightly floured surface (you may not need any flour at all), dump the dough out and roll out until about 1/4 inch thick.
    • Use a circle cutter or the top of a mason jar or bowl to cut out donuts. Cut out a small circle in the center of the donut and transfer to a baking sheet to rise.
    • Cut out donut holes and make apple fritters with the donut scraps if desired (instructions for the apple fritters are in the blog post).
    • Let rise again until puffy and almost doubled in size.

    Frying Donuts

    • Heat 48 ounces of oil in a large pot or skillet. Keep the temperature steady and around medium heat.
    • Toss a small donut hole into the oil when you start to see bubbles and watch how long it takes the donut hole to fry. If it starts sizzling, bubbling and takes about 30-45 seconds to brown on one side before flipping it to the other side, your oil is ready to fry donuts in. If you add more oil, that will change the temperature of the oil and you will need to use another "donut hole tester."
    • Fry the donuts a few at a time for about 2 minutes per side until golden brown.
    • Remove donuts from the hot oil onto a baking rack. Let cool for a few minutes before dipping in glaze, toppings and sprinkles. Enjoy warm!

    Glazing Donuts

    • For the glaze, melt together the ingredients and whisk together. If the glaze hardens before or during the process, thin out with a bit of water.

    Notes

    Recipe Notes:
    *Donut dough should not be re-rolled to form more donuts. Instead use the scraps to make donut holes or apple fritters.
    *Donuts should be glazed after they’ve had a few minutes to cool so the icing doesn’t run right off them.
    *Once the donuts are fried, the oil should not be poured down your sink drain. Instead, pour it into a container with a lid and dispose of it in the trash. 
     
    Keyword donut, doughnut

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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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    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