mexicansweetbread18_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris-Brady

Last weekend was graduation party #1 – a group of close friends for dinner and a board game tournament night. It was a big success, but with a dozen teenagers I was worried about having enough food. As I told my son, it’s the way of my people to worry about having enough food. Seriously, running out of food is probably our worst nightmare.

So, even with a taco buffet and four different kinds of mini-desserts I felt like I needed more. I needed a big batch of Mexican sweet bread. If you buy this at a Mexican grocery you probably know them as conchas. The commercial variety tend to be drier inside, and great for dunking in coffee. The homemade ones are tender and delicious, with a fine crumb.

This recipe comes from My Sweet Mexico by Fany Gerson. We’ve tried different recipes, but the topping has never been quite right until we found this one. You want a topping that is crunchy, and spreads out while baking – but not too much. When you are mixing the dough, think of how we did the brioche earlier. That’s the technique.

You have to start these the day before, but if you time it right your house will be blanketed in a heavenly combination of cinnamon and vanilla right when your guests arrive.

Mexican Sweet Bread (Conchas), Makes about 24 4″ conchas

For the bread:

  • 1-1/4 c. whole milk (I used evaporated milk.)
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 T. yeast
  • 3/4 c. soft butter

For the topping:

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 c. soft butter
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2 t. ground cinnamon

Scald the milk and cool to room temperature. Add the sugar and the eggs.

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Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl and add the yeast.

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Add the flour and put on the dough hook.

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Mix until you get an elastic dough, about four minutes.

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Add the butter, four tablespoons at a time, and beat until the dough comes back together. It might take a while but keep going. Eventually you’ll end up with a shiny elastic dough.

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Let it rise until doubled.

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Then flip it over, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it overnight. The next day, when you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 and make the topping.

Combine everything but the flavorings in a mixing bowl and beat well. Conchas typically have a bright topping so I divided mine in half. I flavored one half with vanilla and added three drops of yellow food coloring.

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I kneaded cinnamon into the other half.

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Turn the dough out.

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You can flour the surface lightly, but the dough isn’t very sticky at this point. Grease your baking sheets and divide the dough into golf-balls.

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Divide the topping into large gumballs and flatten them in your palms. Put one on each roll.

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Score them with a knife or a concha stamp. (I use an Ateco stamp.)

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Let them rise until doubled and bake 35-40 minutes.

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The topping will get crackly, and inside…

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Is a beautiful fine-grain. These reheat and freeze well. Store leftovers wrapped at room temperature for up to three days.


Three years ago: Hot Fudge Sauce
Two years ago: Aebelskiver
One year ago: Chocolate Quinoa Scones


candycake7_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris Brady

This cake is something you’re going to want to bookmark for the times you need to throw a dessert together in a hurry. The recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax. It’s an amazing book and the fact we lost Richard Sax at such a young age is a huge loss to those of us with a passion for cookbooks.

I had to tinker with the recipe, because I didn’t have the chocolate, Grand Marnier, or jam on hand he called for in the original. But it still turned out great. I served it with lightly sweetened whipped cream and strawberries on the side, but it’s very versatile. The flavor is actually better the next day.

Quick Chocolate Candy Cake, About eight generous servings

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 T. apricot preserves
  • 1 T. Grand Marnier
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 c. almond flour
  • Zest from one orange

1/4 c. soft fresh bread crumbs (regular or gluten free)

Preheat the oven to 375. Butter the sides of an 8″ round pan. Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the jam and Grand Marnier with one of the eggs.

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Then beat in the remaining two eggs, followed by the melted chocolate, almond flour and bread crumbs.

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Lastly, add the zest.

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Spread the batter into your pan and bake about 25 minutes.

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The center should still be a bit shiny.

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Serve warm or at room temperature.

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I cut this slice after the cake had been out of the oven for about 30 minutes. It was still warm.

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Serve with whipped cream, berries or both. The cake keeps several days covered at room temperature.


Three years ago: Fresh Ginger Carrot Muffins
Two years ago: Quick Caramel Apple Cake
One year ago: Chocolate Cake-Truffle Petits Fours


cheesecakebars11_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris-Brady

Thanks for sticking with me gang, while I get this off-to-college/graduation business sorted out! Here is a nice, quick little recipe that would make a lovely Mother’s Day dessert to have with tea or coffee. It’s super easy, a great one to do with the kiddos.

You can vary the flavors with this to suit, I used orange flavoring and mini-chips but you could use citrus or almond as well. This comes from Maida Heatter’s Book of C0okies, and they freeze well if you want to make them ahead. It’s tempting to cut them in larger squares, but the smaller 2″ squares seem just right.

Cheesecake Bars, Makes about 16 2″ squares

  • 1/3 c. butter, softened
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 8 oz. 1/3-less-fat cream cheese at room temp.
  • 1/4 c. granulated sguar
  • 1 t. flavoring (vanilla or other)
  • 1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the butter, brown sugar, flour and oatmeal. Blend until well mixed.

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Set aside a cup of the mixture and press the rest into a lightly greased 8″ square pan.

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Bake for 15 minutes. While the crust is baking, cream the egg, sugar, flavoring and cream cheese together well.

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Pour it over the hot crust.

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I added a few mini chips here to compliment my orange flavored filling.

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Top the cheesecake with the rest of the crumbs.

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Return it to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes.

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Cool thoroughly and then refrigerate for at least an hour. Cut it into squares with a sharp knife and serve.

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Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

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pbcookies4_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris Brady

Thanks for sticking by me everyone – it’s going to be a rocky road until June I’m afraid post-wise, as I mentioned earlier I have a son ready to fledge and we are going through all the college signups at the moment with graduation hot on its heels. I do think of you every day, regardless, and wonder what amazing things you are cooking up!

These little cookies are like a Reese’s in reverse, crunchy-tender peanut butter cookie with a center of dark chocolate. They are great on their own, or with milk. It’s worth noting I only use natural peanut butter, the ingredients on the label should say Roasted Peanuts and that’s it.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies, Makes about 36 3″ cookies

  • 10 T. softened butter
  • 1 c. light brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 3/4 c. peanut butter
  • 2-3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. dark chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 60%)

Preheat the oven to 350. Cream the butter and the sugars, then cream in the eggs one at time, followed by the vanilla and peanut butter.

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Beat in the flour. Beat for about two minutes, until the flour is hydrated and the batter goes back to being more creamy.

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Drop tablespoons onto a greased cookie sheet.

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Criss-cross them with a fork, and push two-three chips into the center of each one.

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Bake for about 10-12 minutes.

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Three years ago: Lemon Curd
Two years ago: Charred Asparagus
One year ago: Butter Pecan Banana Cake


croissants23_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris Brady

I’ve attempted croissants a few other times and I’ve always been disappointed. But I decided to give them another go, thanks to the beautiful cookbook I got for Christmas – The Art of French Pastry. Apparently a large part of the problem is that I had been using American butter, which has a higher water content compared to European butter.

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You can use Plugra but I found that Kerrygold also works. (This isn’t a sponsored post, I just happened to buy it because it was on sale – probably for St. Patrick’s Day.)

This is a two-day project – good for a cool weekend, so if you start tomorrow you can have fresh croissants for Sunday brunch. To save room I’m not giving you instructions for the poolish temperatures, because most yeast is flexible and most houses are warm enough these days that rising dough isn’t a problem.

Kerrygold Croissants, Makes about 10 large croissants

Poolish

  • 3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. minus 1 t. water, lukewarm
  • 1-3/4 t. dry yeast

Dough

  • 1-3/4 c. plus 1 T. bread flour
  • 2-1/2 T. granulated sugar
  • Scant 1/4 c. water
  • 2 medium eggs, well beaten
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • 1 oz. European style butter (82% fat)
  • 5-3/10 oz. European style butter (82% fat) – set aside

Make the poolish. Combine the yeast and and the water in a dish. Cover with the flour and let stand until you see cracks in surface.

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Combine the dough ingredients in a mixing bowl and put on the dough hook. Stir for a minute or so on medium, make sure all the dry flour from the bottom gets picked up.

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Then mix for another 45 seconds.

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Set the dough in a cool-lish place to rise.

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Let the dough double in bulk.

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Gather the dough into a ball, wrap it and put it in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.

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Take 5-1/3 oz. of butter, cool but pliable and position it on a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold the wrap over the top.

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Roll the butter out to a 8″ x 10″ rectangle. Chill it for 20 minutes.

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Roll the chilled dough out to a 10″ x 20″ rectangle. Position the butter on the left side. Fold the right side of the dough over to completely cover the butter.

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Roll 1: Roll the dough back out to a 8″ x 20″ rectangle. Work quickly, and make sure the dough doesn’t stick to the counter.

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Fold 1: Fold the right side to the middle and then fold the left over, like so. Brush off the extra flour.

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Cover the dough with plastic wrap and put the book into the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Repeat roll 1 and fold 1.

Day Two

Take the chilled dough book out of the refrigerator. Repeat roll 1 and fold 1 for the last time.

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Roll it out into a rectangle about 10″ x 20″.

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See the layers of butter and dough?

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Cut the dough into 10 V shapes, give them a tug to stretch them out, and roll them up starting with the wide end.

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Let rise for 90 minutes on a greased cookie sheet. You can add an egg wash if you like, but I think it seals the flakiness down a bit.

Preheat the oven to 375 and bake until brown.

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These are best fresh, but will keep several days at room temperature if covered.


Three years ago: Cream Scones
Two years ago: Dulce de Leche Banana Cake
One year ago: Spring Lemon Cookies


applecoffeecake_little-house-dunes14

by Heather Harris Brady

This is a great recipe from The Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas. I made a small change, adding a cinnamon swirl batter under the apples. It’s quick and easy to make but it looks very finished, it would be great to take to a brunch or tea. It also keeps well, if you like to bake things ahead for company.

You can use a deep-dish pie pan or a deep springform pan. Look for well-flavored baking apples to use in this recipe. I used Jonamacs.

Danish Apple Cake, Makes one 9″ cake – eight generous servings

  • 1/2 c. softened butter
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 1-1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 3 baking apples, peeled, split in half and cored (let stand in acidulated water)
  • 2 T. melted butter
  • 2 T. granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 375. Combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Cream well.

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Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

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Then alternately add the milk and the flour in two parts, beating well between each addition.

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Spread 3/4 of the batter in a greased, 9″ deep dish pie dish.

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Stir the cinnamon in the remaining batter and spread it across the top. Slice each apple half not quite through in 1/4″ slices (Hasselbeck-style).

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Press the apples cut side down on top of the batter.

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Brush them with the entire surface with the melted butter, then evenly sprinkle it with the sugar.

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Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the center is cooked through.

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This has a great flavor and a texture that is somewhere between a dessert cake and a coffeecake.

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It keeps well at room temperature and slices nicely for serving.

applecoffeecake_little-house-dunes11

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Three years ago: Chocolate Pudding
Two years ago: Austrian Carnival Doughnuts
One year ago: Bran Muffins


raspchocolatepie4_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris Brady

Since we’re on the eve of the Oscars, and in the interest of giving you a way to quickly find some of the most popular recipes on this site I’m going to start doing some “Top Ate” posts every once in a while. I’m using the number of reader likes as the rating system. Today’s category – pies!

8. Key Lime

keylimepie10_little-house-dunes

7. Peach Melba

rasppeachpie13_little-house-dunes

The next three are in a three-way tie:

6. Fresh Peach

peachpie12_little-house-dunes

5. Mixed Berry

mixedberrypie7_little-house-dunes

4. Rhubarb Streusel

rhubarbpie3_little-house-dunes

3. Sweet Potato Pumpkin

swtpotatopumpkinpie7_little-house-dunes

This one’s a little bit of a stretch, but these were really popular and some places call them hand-pies, so…

2. Quick Fruit Turnovers

peachturnover_little-house-dunes

And the Oscar award for most popular pie goes to:

  1. Apricot Crostata!

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My grandpa would be so proud, apricots were his favorite fruit and we always had a tree in our yard throughout my childhood😉


Three years ago: Buttermilk Biscuits
Two years ago: Chocolate Cupcakes (Vegan, Lactose Free)
One year ago: Steamed Custard Buns


puffs16_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris Brady

It’s no exaggeration to say I’ve had this recipe in the back of my mind for years. When I first read it, in my vintage 1959 copy of The Blueberry Hill cookbook by Elsie Masterston, it jumped out at me. The ingredient list was simple, which leaves space for magic to happen – as writer types say. And magic they are – rising triple or even quadruple in size to puffs of buttery crumb under a veil of more butter and cinnamon sugar.

I made these last Sunday morning for my valentines, and I spread the batter in cute little mini-doughnut pans. If you don’t have those mini-muffin pans would work.

French Breakfast Puffs Blueberry Hill, Makes about 24 mini puffs

  • 1/3 c. soft butter (softened to the consistency of mayo)
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 6 T. melted butter
  • Cinnamon sugar: 1/2 c. granulated sugar mixed with 1 t. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the butter, sugar and egg in a mixer bowl.

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Stir the flour and baking powder together.

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Beat the egg, butter and sugar together well.

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Alternate adding the flour mixture with the milk, 1/3 of each at a time. Beat well after each addition, until its all incorporated.

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Add the vanilla and beat for another minute to a thick creamy batter.

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Grease your baking tin and add the batter. As you can see these little muffin tins are barely 1/2 full.

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Put them in the oven and bake about 20-25 minutes. You might want to watch because it’s pretty amazing – this tin below is the baked version of the above!

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Have your butter and sugar standing by when you take them out of the oven. Loosen the cakes and dunk them, one side at a time, in the butter and then in the sugar.

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Take them straight to the table for a few minutes of silent bliss. The outside is buttery and slightly crunchy from the sugar, while the inside is light and velvety.

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I covered a few in chocolate just to see what would happen. They were, as one might expect, good that way too.

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These aren’t meant to keep, so make them close to breakfast or teatime and invite some friends if you need someone to save you from eating them all. I have teenagers, so… there wasn’t a crumb to be had even 10 minutes later.

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Three years ago: Champagne Sabayon
Two years ago: Chard Quiche
One year ago: Buttermilk Cupcakes


spinachpie12_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris Brady

I was in Greektown recently and it reminded me that’s it’s been a long time since I made a spinach pie, so when I saw the large boxes of spinach on sale I pounced on them. This is a great meatless entree in larger portions, and a lovely appetizer in smaller slices.

Spanakopita – Greek Spinach Pie, Makes one 8″ pie (about eight servings)

  • 11 oz.  baby spinach
  • 1/2 c. minced onion
  • 1 t. minced garlic
  • 1 t. fresh ground pepper
  • 1 t. dill weed
  • 6 oz. feta cheese (I used the tomato/basil flavor)
  • 10 oz. cottage cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 20 sheets of filo dough
  • 1/3 c. butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350. Wash the spinach.

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Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and add the fresh spinach. Saute for two-three minutes, tossing, until it’s wilted and bright green.

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Transfer the spinach to a bowl and add the seasonings.

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Then the cheeses. If you prefer a drier filling you can drain the cottage cheese ahead of time.

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Beat the eggs, pour them over the top and mix it all together.

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Lightly grease your pie dish and drape four filo sheets over the top. Brush them with butter and drape four more sheets over that layer, in the opposite direction. Brush those with butter and lay two more sheets over the middle of the dish.

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Pour in the filling.

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Fold the filo edges over the filling and lay two more sheets over the top. Tuck in all the edges and brush it all with butter.

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Continue layering two sheets at a top, brushing each set with butter, until you’ve used them all.

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Put the pie in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, until the center is set.

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If the outside is browning too much for your liking you can finish it off in the microwave.

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Cut into wedges and serve hot or warm.

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Store any leftovers in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap. Rewarm them in the oven if you want to preserve maximum crispness.


Three years ago: Gougeres
Two years ago: Brown Butter & Sea Salt Rice Krispie Treats
One year ago: Burmese Chicken Soup


butterscotchpie12_little-house-dunes

by Heather Harris Brady

This pie was something of a revelation for me, because I decided to apply my “browned butter makes everything better” theory. And you know what? So far, browned butter does make everything better.

In this case, I used it in the crumb crust. Normally I find crust a little ho-hum, to be honest, but with the browned butter the crust became one with the pie and it was amazing!

Butterscotch Banana Cream Pie, Makes one 8″ pie

Crust:

  • 1 pkg. vanilla wafer cookies
  • 5 T. butter
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar

Filling:

  • 2-1/2 c. whole milk
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 3 T. cornstarch
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 large banana

Put the cookies and the sugar in the food processor and pulse to fine crumbs. Set aside.

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Put the 5 T. butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until brown:

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Spread the cookie crumbs in your pie dish and mix in the browned butter.

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Pat the crumbs around the dish in an even layer and put the crust in the refrigerator.

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Combine the cornstarch and brown sugar.

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Put the milk in a saucepan over medium heat.

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Whisk in the cornstarch and sugar mixture, cook until thickened.

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Beat the egg yolks in a bowl, stir in some of the hot filling, and return it all to the pan. Whisk quickly until it comes back to boil and remove it from the heat. Stir in the 1 T. butter and the vanilla.

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Slice the banana over the crust.

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Then cover it with the filling.

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I saved a few crumbs for the top.

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The pie will cut into neater slices if you can refrigerate it overnight, and the flavors have time to blend that way too. To serve top it with fresh banana slices and a dollop of whipped cream.

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Store any leftovers covered in the refrigerator.


Three years ago: Preserved Lemons
Two years ago: Soft Buttered Pretzel Bites
One year ago: Skinny Brownies


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