Baking Homemade Hamburger Buns

When I started thinking about preparing a Fourth of July meal for my folks, I figured I’d try my hand at making my own ketchup (post coming soon). While the wheels turned about that one I had a thought pop into my head wondering, “Hey, how do you make burger buns?” I went to Google and found one on Taste Of Home called 40-Minute Hamburger Buns. I don’t do a lot of baking, but since I started making most of the pasta I use, I’ve gotten more and more okay working with dough, so it wasn’t too scary.

This particular recipe appealed to me because it’s so simple. You’ve got seven ingredients, most of which I already had on hand, so I decided to try it out a few days in advance. The process itself wasn’t hard at all, but I will say that the 12 buns I got that time would have worked for sliders, but not full-sized burgers. With that new knowledge, plus the idea that you’ve really got to pat down the dough so you don’t get those crazy outgrowths, I gave them another shot, this time breaking the dough into 6 buns, which you can see in that last photo. Still, if you’re looking for rolls or slider buns, go with the dozen.

I should also note that I made these two different ways. The first time was with the mixer and the second was just by hand in a big bowl. Both worked really well. I’d probably go with the bowl just because it makes fewer dishes, really. Anyway, these buns turned out so good in both forms that I had trouble keeping everyone away from them so we could have burgers on them. They’re just so light and airy with a bit of sweetness that makes for awesome rolls or buns. In fact, as you can see in the following images, they also make great rolls for mini breakfast sandwiches if you’ve got some spare eggs, cheese and ham/bacon/sausage around! IMG_7192

Philly Bonus Food Pics: Pastrami Cheesesteak, Sushi & Dinic’s Roast Pork

pastrami cheesesteak Well gang, I think we’re pretty far past apologies for a lack of posting. A lot of things went down in the past few months that prevented me from posting here on MATK, but I’m really hoping to make a big push for more posts. I’m even circling around to recipes I made months ago that I never posted about so they can be refreshed in my brain. Anyway. I’m kicking this week off with a series of food pictures I took while hanging out with some college friends in Philadelphia a few weekends back (for more details on the weekend, check out the 35th episode of my podcast over on PopPoppa.com). kinish Above you can see the lunch we had at a place called The Famous 4th Street Delicatessen which had wonderful service and gigantic portions. My wife and I split a pastrami cheesesteak which was certainly filling. I also got myself a   blintz. I honestly wasn’t quite sure what a blintz was, but I enjoyed the sweet cheesy insides as well as the fried crust.

While looking for a place that could serve a fairly large dinner party, we stumbled upon Kabuki Sushi. The positives were that they took reservations and weren’t too far from out hotel. Oh, that and the food. I can’t quite remember what rolls I got, but both of them were super tasty. I also tried our friend Heather’s fried tofu which reminded me of fancy carnival food. As you can see, Lucy also had a roll which she seemed to like, though she basically just took the chicken out and ate that. dinic's roast pork Finally, before heading to the Please Touch Museum and heading back home, we went over to the awesome Reading Terminal Market and got Dinic’s roast pork sandwiches for breakfast. My wife remembered seeing these sandwiches on a food show and we were familiar with the market from previous comic convention-related visits to Philly, so we each had one. I’m not sure if I prefer these to cheesesteaks, but I will say that, while I’ve had plenty of crummy cheesesteaks, I’ve only had one awesome roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe, so that’s something!

Bonus Food Pic: 2 Alices’ Iced Coffee & Homemade Pop Tart

2 alices homemade pop tart

Anyone who knows me or reads Monkeying Around The Kitchen on a regular basis already knows that I’m not a big fan of dessert or sweets. I’d rather eat an appetizer or more of my entree than save room for dessert. That’s just how I’m built. But, there are a few sweet treats I just can’t resist. Pop Tarts are on that list. But, because I’m an adult who knows how bad they are for you, it’s been ages since I bought any for myself.

A month or two back, I stopped into my beloved 2 Alices in Cornwall. This is the place I used to go and work to get out of the house before we had our daughter. Their coffee is some of the best I’ve ever had, but they do have a variety of bakery treats on display as well. I was surprised and intrigued when I first saw the Homemade Pop Tarts. I wasn’t in the mood at the time, so passed it up. Another time, I saw they had the regular ones as well as cinnamon — my favorite take on the Pop Tart theme — but again, I didn’t partake.

Last Friday, however, Lu was in day care so I could do an interview with comic book legend Stan Lee. I decided to finish my work for the day at the coffee shop and indulged myself in a few of their iced coffees and one Homemade Pop Tart. Man, it was great! They nailed the icing the filling was even better than the overly processed thing that lives inside the brand name counterpart. Also, not for nothing, it was about two-to-three times bigger than your average Pop Tart. It wound up being the perfect combination of sugar from the treat and caffeine from the coffee to get me through my work, pick the kid up, get home and make a dinner of Giada De Laurentiis’ Chicken Saltimbocca and Couscous-Stuffed Peppers With Basil Sauce for my parents who had driven in from Michigan.

Pretzels, Pretzels Everywhere

Guys, I love pretzels. Hard, soft, full of cheese, covered in eggs, I’m all-in for all the options. As you’ve probably noticed if you watch even the slightest amount of television, we’re in a kind of pretzel renaissance these days. Sure, you can still get all shapes, sizes and flavors in the snack aisle of your grocery story, but the concept of pretzel dough and bread is moving out of carnivals and sporting events to a good deal of fast food joints.

My wife and I first encountered the widespread nature of pretzel bread while on a trip to Michigan from New York. We love stopping at Sheetz and they have a full line-up of pretzel bread sandwiches, which I indulged in on both the way there and back. They were great, with that hint of pretzel flavor without being overly salty. I didn’t snap a picture because I was driving and eating already, but they were great.

wendys pretzel bread burger

When we got home, we started seeing pretzel bread everywhere, specifically at Wendy’s which is another big chain making a similar push. Last week we both got these burgers and I’ve got to say, I wasn’t very impressed. I thought Sheetz did a much better job of capturing the pretzel bread flavor while Wendy’s was overall pretty bland (it didn’t help that the burger was overcooked and a little cold).

homemade pretzelsThe biggest pretzel revelation in recent memory, though, came when my wife decided to MAKE OUR OWN SOFT PRETZELS. I was super excited, thinking back to my childhood and wondering what Young Me would have done had I presented him with something like Alton Brown’s recipe for  soft pretzels. Would I have jumped in the kitchen immediately and started making one of my favorite snacks by hand or would I have said “Cool,” and continued eating frozen ones because they’re easier?

Seeing as how I haven’t mastered time travel (yet) that’s neither here nor there. What is here AND there is that fact that these pretzels were fantastic. She made something like eight and then also made herself a bagel dog using Brown Eyed Baker’s take on Brown’s recipe. I regret not asking for one myself. Still, I’ve been enjoying the light, buttery, salty goodness of these tasty snacks for the first half of this week and am already thinking of ways to incorporate this delightful food into our regular rotation.

Belated Bonus Food Pic: Fiddlestix’s Irish Lunch

fiddlestix st patricks day

I can’t believe this picture is almost a month old at this point. Sorry about the lack of posts the past few weeks, hoping to get back on the horse. Anyway, even though I had this fantastic plate of Fiddlestix food on St. Patrick’s Day, I can still remember how fantastic it was. If memory serves you’ve got corned beef, braised cabbage, mashed potatoes (possibly with horseradish?) and Irish soda bread that was quickly cooked or warmed on the stove. I can’t remember exactly how it was prepared, but there was something special about the corn beef. Maybe it had Guinness involved? I think that might have been it. Anyway, this is what I think of when I think of amazing corned beef. I’d love to see this meal on the regular menu which is made all the better by that delightfully crisp soda bread!

Making Nigella Lawson’s Toad In A Hole

How can you not at least stop and read a recipe called Toad In The Hole? That’s what happened to me while looking through Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Kitchen and landed on page 452 (you can also check it out on her website here). I saw the picture of an overflowing bread-thing, then read the name and was already in even before I discovered the main protein in the dish is sausage!

The beauty of this recipe is how simple it is. You mix up the batter ingredients and then cook the sausage. Instead of getting sausage in cases, removing them from the cases and then making patties, I simply bought the loose variety and cooked it without forming in the pan. Once that was all done, the batter got poured in and the whole pan went into the oven. Bingo bango.

While that cooked, I whipped up an onion gravy the recipe of which was on the same page but doesn’t seem to be on her site. All you need to do for this is cook two finely sliced onions in oil for 10 minutes before adding two teaspoons of sugar and letting cook for another 3 minutes. At that point, add in four teaspoons of flour, two cups of beef broth and a few glugs of red wine (I had merlot).

As Lawson says in the intro to the recipe, this makes for a perfect weekend meal because it doesn’t take too much work and it’s super filling, rich and tasty. I liked how the loose sausage really integrated into the entire bread aspect of the dish and would recommend going for that if you’re trying the recipe. I like sausage patties for breakfast, but if you want the best distribution, try loose.

Baking Birthday Cake For My Lady

Sunday was my wonderful wife’s birthday. The one thing she asked for was for me to make her favorite cake with her favorite icing. That happens to be the batter recipe for Betty Crocker’s Sour Cream Chocolate Cupcakes with Martha Stewart’s Fluffy Vanilla Frosting (Cupcakes page 302). As I’ve said before, I’m not much of a baker because I don’t like sweets or deserts too much, but of course I’m going to do my best to make her birthday a happy one.

I got the cakes going in the morning which was as simple as popping all the ingredients into the mixer in the proper order (everything up to and including the baking powder). The only changes I made (as noted in my wife’s printed out copy of the recipe) were using hot water and vegetable oil instead of shortening. Then I mixed in the eggs and popped the baker’s chocolate into the microwave for 2 minutes and then into the mixer. Done. Those went into heart-shaped pans with Crisco and some flour and then into the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Later on in the day, I made the icing, which also was pretty simple. Again, it’s a lot of putting things into the mixing bowl, but my wife did suggest I sift the powdered sugar which took the most time. To add a little pizzazz I used some pink food coloring and as you can see, it came out a nice shade of neon pink.

The last part was icing the cake and that’s where I ran into some trouble. I’m more of a “it needs to taste good, not always look good” kind of people, so the first draft of the icing looked pretty crummy. Em came in and finished it up, which is good because otherwise it would have looked like an anatomical heart cake and no one really wants that in that shade. As far as I know, it turned out pretty good. Of course, it only mattered if Em liked it and she did, so there you go. Happy birthday!

New Hampshire Bonus Food Pics: Steak Bombs, Cinnamon Buns & Breakfast

Two weekends back, we headed to New Hampshire to attend the surprise birthday of my wife’s long time friend. While there we hit up a few restaurants and ate some food I just had to brag about.

Just take a second to behold the glory that is a New England steak bomb sandwich. I don’t even know what’s in it, but I love it and want to eat one every day of my life, a life that would probably be all the shorter for such an experience. Anyway, this particular sandwich of the gods came from a place near my inlaws’ house called Giovanni’s and I highly recommend getting this food in your face if you can. Even after sitting in a bag on the way home, this was still a wonderful, cheesy thing of goodness.

Before heading home on Sunday, we went to breakfast at my inlaws’ favorite place, Janie’s. We’ve been there lots of times and I like that they always have a list of specials in addition to their regular menu. This time I got a bratwurst and sauerkraut filled omelet that was pretty tasty, but probably could have used more kraut. The real spotlight of the meal for me was that giant cinnamon roll I only ate half of so I could eat the rest for breakfast the next day. Man, I really need to get my oven fixed so I can figure out how to make these things, they’re my one real dessert weakness.

Cooking Baked Haddock & Vegetables

Hey gang, sorry about the incredibly long delay in posts. Two weeks back we headed back home for a wedding and vacation with my folks. I set up a few posts to go live then, but not a ton. We got back last week, but I was swamped with work, meaning the blogs fell to the wayside a bit. But I missed it and you dear readers, so here I am, back in action. I’m hoping to make up for lost time this week with a few extra pieces.

Anyway, I was looking for a fish recipe and came across one for Baked Fish & Vegetables in Best of the Best Recipe Hall of Fame Fresh From The Market Cookbook on page 150 in the book. It was hot and I didn’t want to do a lot of work, so this recipe was pretty perfect. For the fish, I went with haddock and got to work.

The majority of the work on this one is spent cutting up carrots, green onions and celery, cleaning mushrooms and then mixing up a combination of pepper, paprika, oregano and thyme. After getting everything ready, you clean off the fish, put it in a baking dish, mix in the herbs and vegetables and pop in a 450 degree oven. What 45 minutes and you’re ready to eat.

I’m a big fan of mushrooms and soups, so I loved how this fish smelled when it came out of the oven. I was a really delightful smell. I think when I mixed the herbs in, I had put the veggies in first and it didn’t quite get to the fish which was a little bit of a bummer. However, the vegetables were flavorful and partially made up for it. I think if I make this again, I’ll use some more fresh herbs and maybe a few other spices, but it’s a great base for a simple fish dinner.

Baking Peanut Butter Banana Bread

I don’t do a lot of baking. For one thing, my wife is a killer baker, so I don’t feel the need, but I’m also not that big on sweets. Never have been. But, we had a trio of rotting bananas sitting in our fruit bowl and I figured I’d give banana bread whirl. I don’t believe I’d ever cooked it before, but I know it’s a pretty basic baking thing, so I said I’d try. My wife suggested using a recipe she had for peanut butter banana bread. I have no idea where this recipe came from, it’s just printed out in her cooking binder, but it was pretty simple and I got to work.

First I greased the loaf pan with Crisco, set the oven to 325, got my 1/2 cup of butter softening and started measuring things. I got a cup of sugar, 3/4 cup of peanut butter, 1 3/4 cup of all purpose and 1 teaspoon of baking soda (combining those last two in one bowl). After smashing up the bananas, I broke out the mixer and mixed the butter and sugar–which is apparently called “creaming”–then added a pair of eggs, beat that, then mixed in the peanut butter, bananas, flour and baking soda until it was all mixed together.

That went into the greased loaf pan which went into the oven for 70 minutes and we had some tasty bread. I was worried that it hadn’t cooked long enough because the center was kind of mushy, but it turns out that I like banana bread with some mushiness in the middle. Overall, this was really simple and I like how baking is more of a science with exact measurements and the like. You don’t have to think as much when making simple things like this, which was perfect at the time.