Holiday Pecan Rolls

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If you’re looking for a decadent treat to make for your New Year’s Day brunch, look no further! These Holiday Pecan Rolls will make you look like a baking superhero, but really are deceptively easy to make.  You only need about five minutes of assembly time just before bedtime.  These rolls rise overnight, ready to be effortlessly tossed in the oven when you start your morning coffee.  Enjoy!

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Pecans and frozen roll dough layered in a WELL GREASED Bundt pan

Ingredients (Makes 12 rolls)

12 frozen, unbaked rolls

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 small box “cook and serve” butterscotch pudding mix

1 stick butter (please use real butter for this!)

1/2 cup brown sugar

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Butterscotch pudding mix and cinnamon sprinkled over frozen roll dough

3/4 cup shelled, unsalted pecans

Directions

Step 1) Grease a Bundt pan really, really well! Wrappers from sticks of butter work well for this.

Step 2) Sprinkle pecans evenly on bottom of greased Bundt pan.  Place frozen roll dough on top of pecans.

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Roll dough topped with sugar/butter mixture, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.

Step 3) Sprinkle pudding mix and cinnamon on top of frozen roll dough.

Step 4) Combine brown sugar and stick of butter in a microwave safe container. Microwave until butter is melted; stir until butter and brown sugar are well combined.

Step 5) Pour butter mixture evenly over contents of Bundt pan. Wrap Bundt pan tightly with plastic wrap and allow to sit on counter (away from any cold drafts) overnight.

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Risen, unbaked rolls just before going into the oven in the morning

Step 6) In the morning, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic wrap from Bundt pan and bake (not too close to the top of the oven!) for 20 minutes.

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Baked rolls coming out of the oven… the pecans and caramel goodness are hidden on the bottom of the pan!

Step 7) Remove pan from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Gently slide a butter knife around sides and middle ring of pan to loosen the rolls. Invert pan onto a large serving platter. Spoon any pecans left in Bundt pan over rolls. Serve immediately!

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Happy New Year!

 

 

Yes, you CAN make a gingerbread house!

gingerbread house

Why people think that gingerbread houses need to be made before Christmas is beyond me.  If you celebrate Christmas, you probably had a three hundred item list of things to accomplish before December 25th, and first have a chance to catch your breath right about now… unless you have school age children… who are HOME this week and are BOUNCING off the walls. Am I right?

If you can relate to this scenario, now is the time to turn off the TV and make a gingerbread house with the kids. As your children get more flour on the floor than in the mixing bowl, and gleefully lick frosting right off of the kitchen table, you can savor the innocence of childhood while wondering why elementary school teachers are not sainted millionaires.  I digress.

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Decorations (These were purchased in Germany)

 

Before we get to the recipe itself, here are a few tips for making your gingerbread house-building experience fun:

1) Small houses are easier to build than large houses.  Don’t get carried away… if you’re feeling ambitious, I recommend a village of tiny houses rather than one big castle!

2) You don’t need Royal Icing, really. Stiff buttercream frosting will do the job. Heck, you could even buy a little tub of ready-made frosting from the baking aisle of the supermarket (I won’t tell), and just stir in about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar to make the frosting extra thick.

3) Frosting fixes everything. If a wall or roof piece breaks, just “glue” it back together with frosting and hide the repair with candy decorations. Nobody will ever know.

Ready… Set… Go!

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Shopping for baking ingredients in Germany was a bit of a challenge… the little bottle of “caramel color” was purchased by mistake!

Ingredients (Makes 1 small gingerbread house)

1/2 cup softened butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg white

2 heaping tablespoons speculaas or pumpkin pie spice

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Decorations (small candies, raisins, nuts, dried fruit bits… use your imagination!)

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Orange Buttercream Frosting Ingredients

Orange Buttercream Frosting:

1/4 cup softened butter

2  1/2 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons orange juice

Directions

Step 1) Cream together butter, brown sugar, molasses, and egg white in a large bowl.

Step 2) Add dry ingredients and mix to form a stiff dough… mixing with your hands works best.

Step 3) Refrigerate dough, covered, for 1 hour.

Step 4) Roll dough into a rectangle approximately 1/3 inch thick on a floured surface.  Cut 2 4×6 inch rectangles (sides), 2 4×6.5 inch rectangles (roof), and 2 front/back pieces that look like a 4 inch square topped with a 2 inch tall rectangle.

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Baked Gingerbread Pieces (the tiny extra piece is a door)

Here is a link to a template, if you prefer.

Step 5) Bake gingerbread pieces on a parchment lined baking sheet in a preheated 375 degree oven for 12 – 15 minutes. The pieces should feel and look like slightly overbaked cookies… you need the pieces firm and a bit crisp for assembly!  Allow to cool completely.

Step 6) While your gingerbread cools, mix together your butter, powdered sugar, and orange juice to make frosting. Remember, the frosting should be stiff!

Step 7) This is the fun part! Pick up marble size pieces of frosting with your fingers, and use it to “glue” the corners and sides of your gingerbread house together.  There’s no trick to this – just work slowly and use as much frosting as you need to make the four sides stand upright. Attach the roof pieces last.

Step 8) Use more frosting to attach your decorations… the more, the merrier! Set your gingerbread house on shaved coconut for “snow,” or perhaps a piece of leaf lettuce for “grass.” Have fun, and take pictures!

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So much fun!

 

 

Canning 201: Make Your Own Pectin

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36 “ice cubes” of homemade pectin worth approximately $40 in store bought pectin!

If you’ve been following Crowded Earth Kitchen for a while, you know we like to save money (and make great gifts!) by canning and preserving delicious, seasonal recipes. For the past year, the canning tab at the top of the screen has provided basic, easy to follow instructions for cooks who are new to canning but willing to give it a try. Today, we’re going to up our game a bit and make our own pectin! Making pectin is easy, and will allow us to save even MORE money in the coming year… saving money is a great New Year’s Resolution, don’t you think?

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Save $$ by canning fresh, seasonal ingredients to use throughout the year!

Now that the holiday season is winding down, why not slow down a bit and make your kitchen smell wonderful by simmering a big batch of cran-applesauce or apple fritters.  Then, save your apple cores… we’re going to cook the pectin right out of them, and freeze the pectin to add to jams and jellies later on!

WIN_20140928_120721Ingredients (Makes 36 pectin cubes; feel free to use fewer apple cores for a smaller batch!)

50 apple cores, cut in half crosswise so that seeds are visible

Water

(Seriously, all you need are apple cores and water… so why is store-bought pectin so darn expensive??)

Directions

Step 1) Place apple cores in a stockpot and cover completely with water.  Bring to a boil.

Step 2) Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for one hour.  Stir occasionally to prevent apple cores from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Step 3) After one hour, remove stockpot from heat. Line a large colander or strainer with cheesecloth or a clean towel. Place strainer over a very large bowl (or a second stockpot).

WIN_20140928_140919Step 4) Pour or ladle apple cores and water into the strainer, carefully saving ALL of the liquid (that’s where the pectin is!).  Gently press down on the cooked apple cores to capture as much liquid (and pectin!) as possible.

Step 5) Place apple cores in your compost bin, and pour the saved cooking liquid back into the stockpot.  What you have now is diluted pectin… there’s still too much water for the pectin to be useful in setting jams and jellies, so we need to boil away some water!

Step 6) Bring stockpot to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently, uncovered, until the volume of liquid in the pot is reduced by half. Be patient – don’t try to save time by boiling at a very high temperature, or you could burn your pectin.

Step 7) Here’s an easy way to test whether your pectin is sufficiently concentrated: pour about 1/4 cup of cold rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) into a small disposable container.  FOR PETE’S SAKE, PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT RUBBING ALCOHOL IS POISONOUS… keep this out of your kitchen! Then, gently pour about 2 tablespoons of your pectin mixture onto the rubbing alcohol. If you are able to “lift” gelatinous pectin from the container using the tines of a fork, your pectin is ready. THROW AWAY the rubbing alcohol container.  If the pectin slides through the tines of the fork instead of sitting on top of the tines, your pectin needs to be concentrated a bit further.

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Pectin!

 

Step 8) Once your pectin is concentrated, remove from heat and allow to cool. Ladle into ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, remove pectin cubes and store in freezer bags in your freezer.  Each pectin cube is equivalent to 1 ounce of liquid pectin in canning recipes!

 

Cookies for Santa

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Merry Christmas, Everyone! As I wait for my little ones to fall asleep (Are those jingle bells they hear? Could those be reindeer hooves?), I’ll share a last minute cookie recipe with you. And really, I do mean last minute.

I have been baking cookies ALL throughout December. The problem is, my loyal cookie tasters have been working overtime EATING cookies all throughout December. This morning, amidst the exciting bustle of Christmas Eve morning, one of my tasters decided to try his luck:

“Can I have cookies for breakfast? It is Christmas Eve…”

“Nope, sorry kiddo. You already ate them all.”

“But we have cookies for Santa, right?”

“Uh…”

“RIGHT?”

Sigh. Never fear, I’ll just take off my Mom hat, tie on my superhero cape, and conjure up a few cookies for the big man in the red suit. They actually turned out very well! So, here you have it – Cookies for Santa.

WIN_20141224_121045Ingredients (Makes about 5 dozen cookies – plenty for Santa, the reindeer, and a bunch of elves)

1 cup of softened butter

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons molasses

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon ground mace (or 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg)

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup diced candied fruit

Directions

Cream together wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake in a preheated, 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Book of the Month Nomination – Please Vote!

We’re pretty excited here at Crowded Earth Kitchen today!

Carly Ellen’s food fiction novel, How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé, has been nominated at Goodreads for the January Book of the Month Read in the “Free Pick” category!  If you could take a moment to click on this link and vote, that would be fabulous!

Thank you for supporting Indie Authors!

How to Bake a Chocolate Souffle Blue Cover

Simple Cran-Applesauce

 

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The holiday season is full of complicated, high sugar foods… this dish is neither. Simple to make and low in added sugar, Cran-Applesauce makes a great breakfast, easy dinner buffet side dish, or festive gift when canned in pint size jars (for canning, simply add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to each jar and process in a water bath for 10 minutes).

Here we go!

WIN_20141113_185022Ingredients (makes about 6 pints)

3 pounds fresh cranberries, rinsed

3 pounds fresh apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup water

WIN_20141113_185532Directions

1) Simply cook all ingredients in a large stockpot over low heat with frequent stirring. If the bottom of the pot begins to stick, add more water (1/4 cup at a time). If the sauce is too tart for your liking, add a little more sugar. Sauce is done when cranberries have popped and apple chunks lose their shape.

2) Can as directed above, or simply refrigerate for up to one week.

Breakfast Cake (Frühstückskuchen) in Fehmarn, Germany

If there is any such thing as a perfect day, I may very well have stumbled upon it the day I first baked this cake. Last summer in northeast Germany, I enjoyed an early morning slice of warm Frühstückskuchen with a mug of strong, black coffee while watching my children play outside in the land of their great, great grandparents.  For an American intent on reconnecting with her German ancestry, it was an amazing moment.

It’s time to bake another Frühstückskuchen and reminisce!

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Bridge to Fehmarn Island

Ingredients (makes 1 9″ x 13″ cake)

2 cups grated carrot

1 cup peeled, chopped apple

3/4 cup real applesauce (no corn syrup)

1/4 cup canola oil

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

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Fehmarn Lighthouse (One of several, but the only one open to the public)

 

Directions

Step 1) Grease and flour a 9″ x 13″ cake pan.

Step 2) Combine carrots, apple, applesauce, oil, eggs, and sugar in a large bowl.

Step 3) Combine spices, baking powder, baking soda, and flours in a second large bowl.

Step 4) Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined.

Step 5) Spread batter into the pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick

inserted into the center comes out clean.  Check after 35 minutes; do not overbake.

Step 6) Let cool slightly before cutting.  Serve with fresh fruit and a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar, if desired.

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Roses bloomed everywhere on the island!