Back to Basics: Taking Care of Cast Iron

When I left for college I “liberated” many things from my mom’s (sorry Mom!), but the one thing I always wished I grabbed was her cast iron skillet. Cast iron is one of the best things to cook with. It cooks evenly, holds heat very well, and (if properly cared for) will last forever!

Well, since I did not manage to grab my mom’s skillet, I’ve begun to build my own cast iron collection and strongly suggest that you do too. So far I’ve gotten a skillet and a dutch oven. I picked this particular dutch oven because the lid can double as another skillet.

As I mentioned, just having the cast iron is not enough, you have to properly take care of your cookware and that begins the minute you get it home from the store. BEFORE YOU COOK ANYTHING IN YOUR CAST IRON YOU MUST SEASON IT. A little extreme with the caps there, but I think I’ve gotten my point across. So, how do you season it, you ask? Well, that’s what I’m here to tell you.

Ingredients

  • Oil* (I used canola because that’s what I had on hand.)

*Note: You can use any kind, but keep in mind that some oils have a lower smoke point meaning that it takes less heat for the oil to start smoking. Vegetable oil is good for this project.

  1. Begin by hand washing your cookware. It is okay to use water to clean your cast iron as long as you completely dry it immediately after you finish washing. The last thing you want is for your cookware to rust. I don’t think that would add good flavor to any dish. 🙂 You want to do this even if your packaging says your cookware has been “pre-seasoned.” I don’t trust anything unless I’ve seen it done or done it myself.
  2. Next, pour 1-2 tbsp of oil into your cookware and spread it on every.single.part of the cookware. Inside and out. (I don’t know why, it’s just how it’s done.)
  3. Finally, put your cookware in the oven at 375 degrees for an hour.
  4. After an hour, remove your cookware from the oven and let it cool to the point it can be handled easily, but not to the point that it is cool. Pour a little more oil and spread all over the cookware and put it back in the oven for another hour. Repeat one more time, so your cookware is coated a total of three times. 

Congratulations! You now have the best piece of non-stick cookware known to man. It will be easy to clean and a wonder to cook with.

Cinnamon Rolls

I’m back! Hope everyone had a nice holiday because I know I did. So, one thing I’ve always wanted to make are cinnamon rolls, but since it’s just two of us in my house and a typical cinnamon roll recipe yields 8-12, it was not feasible for me to try. But this week I got the opportunity to make breakfast for a larger group so I took the plunge and made the rolls! I think they turned out well, there are a couple of tweaks I might make next time, but overall they were exactly what you expect ooey, gooey, cinnamon-y deliciousness. As an added bonus, the rolls were good with our without the glaze. I tried them both ways so that I could give you a complete idea (the things I do for this blog. ;-D).

Complete Brunch

A couple of notes before we start.

  1. This is a very messy recipe. You will be sprinkling flour all over the place to make sure that your dough can move.
  2. This is the type of recipe that could kill a hand mixer, so if you have a stand mixer (or know a friend who does) use that.
  3. You need to have at least 3 hours so that the dough can proof (or rise).
  4. This is a very stubborn dough. I would recommend a marble rolling pin because of it’s weight. If you have an IKEA near you, go and pick up this beauty for only $16! If not, try this one (shorter) from Bed Bath & Beyond or this one (very expensive!) from Willams-Sonoma.

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Roll Ingredients

 

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients for Dough

  • 1 cup of milk (I used 2%)
  • 3 tbsp of unsalted butter (cold)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 1/2 cups of flour (I used all-purpose; seperate 1 cup of flour)
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp of salt

Ingredients for Cinnamon Layer

  • 4 tbsp of unsalted butter (melted)
  • 3/4 cups of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp of cinnamon

Ingredients for Glaze

  • 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream
  • A healthy splash of milk
  • 1-2 tsp of vanilla

Directions

  1. Begin by measuring your milk into a microwave safe cup or bowl. Add the butter and microwave until the mixture is 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit or 48-54 degrees Celsius (this took about a minute and 15 seconds for me). Pour the mixture into your mixing bowl.
  2. Add the yeast, egg, salt, sugar, and the 1 cup of flour you separated from the rest. Mix until combined. Slowly add the remianing 2 1/2 cups of flour until combined. Once all of the flour is combined, your dough should be pulling away from the sides of your mixing bowl and should not be sticky. If your dough is still sticky add more flour, 1 tbsp at a time, until it is not.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, knead your dough until it is smooth. I did a couple of minutes in my stand mixer with the dough hook and then (because the dough kept climbing the hook like it wanted to be out of the bowl) finished it by hand.
  4. Spray a clean mixing bowl with non-stick spray and put your dough into the bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Place your bowl in a warm draft free place until it doubles in size.
    Dough Before

    Dough Before

    Dough After

    Dough After

  5.  After your dough has risen, on a lightly floured surface (I know, I didn’t say this was a clean recipe) and roll it out into a rectangular shape.
  6. Spread your melted butter on your dough stopping about an inch before you get to the edge. SpriCombine the sugars and cinnamon and sprinkle on the butter.IMG_0314
  7. Starting with the edge closest to you, start rolling tightly. Then, seam side down, cut your log into 1-2 inch pieces and place in a single layer in a baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. I got about 14 pieces and two ends from my roll.
  8.   If you are planning to bake the rolls right away, let them rise again for 45 minutes and then bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes (or until golden).
  9. If you are prepping your rolls the night before, cover them with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge. Remove the rolls from the frigde 1.5-2 hours before you plan to bake them and then bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes (or until golden).
  10. To make the glaze, mix all the ingredients together and wisk until combined.

So that’s it. It’s time consuming (and very messy) but oh so worth it. Unfortunately, the only thing I cannot tell you is how they taste the next day because there were none left!

Cinnamon Rolls Complete

Final Verdict: Delicious

Freshman Friday: Breakfast Burritos

Welcome back for another edition of Freshman Friday, a weekly installment using only kitchen appliances that can be used in a dorm and food stuffs that can fit in a mini fridge.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, which means it is the meal I eat least frequently and when I do, it’s not always healthy. But this, should solve that problem. In about 30 minutes, I had enough burritos for two weeks worth of breakfasts. And I understand that you can’t have hot plates in a dorm room, but most dorms (I think) have a communal kitchen that you can use as long as you clean up behind yourself. So grab your pans, print out this recipe, and head on down!

Breakfast Burritos: Adapted from Add A Pinch

Yields 12 burritos

Ingredients

Breakfast Burrito Ingredients

  • 3  cups of  liquid egg whites
  • 12 tortilla shells (I used soft taco sized shells, you can go larger for fewer burritos, but I would not suggest going smaller.)
  • Various fillings (I used mild Italian sausage, onions, green chilies, spinach, and cheese, but the possibilities are endless. I ended up not using the bell peppers pictured because I was not sure how they would freeze/thaw.)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Freezer plastic baggies

Directions

  1. Cook your meat, if you’re using any. As I said, here I used the sausage because that’s what I had on hand, but you could also use bacon, ham, or keep it meatless and use Boca crumbles, mushrooms. Possibilities=endless. I sauteed my onions, then added my meat to brown, and then mixed in the green chilies. I also added some garlic powder and pepper to taste.
  2. Cook your eggs. I decided to just cook the eggs to make sure that they were fully cooked.
  3. Prepare the assembly line. Lay down squares of foil and place a tortilla on top. Layer you ingredients using 1-1.5 oz. of each ingredient. Try to keep your filling in a line down the center of the tortilla, it will make rolling much easier. Breakfast Burritos Assembly Line
  4. Now, I used to work at Subway, so I got pretty good at rolling wraps and now I share this knowledge with you. Pick a side, any side and fold over the filling. Try to get as much of the filling under this flap. Next, fold the ends into the burrito and roll to meet the opposite end of the tortilla. If done correctly, your burrito should resemble a restaurant burrito. It’ll be a little more difficult if you add to much filling, but hang in there, you’ll get it!
  5. Finally, roll the completed burrito in the foil and put in a baggie labeled with the date and the contents. I’ll be making more with different fillings so it will be nice to have the burritos labeled without having to label each individual burrito. Breakfast Burritos Bagged

So, I made the burritos (and wrote the post) on Sunday. During the week, I tried a couple of different methods to heating the burritos. The best way I’ve found is to let one defrost in the fridge overnight and put the burrito (completely wrapped) in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. If you like a crispier tortilla, like I do, open the foil and put the burrito back in the oven for another 2-5 minutes.

I tried the straight from frozen technique and it works, but it’s not my cup of tea. If you’ve forgotten to take a burrito out the night before, put the burrito (co in the oven at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Next time, I make these, I will try some different meats, different vegetables, and add a sauce (oooh country gravy sounds really good right now). The possibilites for these butrritos are endless, so go wild!

Final Verdict: Delicious

Product Review: Fat Daddio’s Silicone Baking Mat

All it takes is one batch of cookies sticking to the baking sheet or parchment paper to make a baker (novice or otherwise) want a silicone baking mat. When most think of silicone baking sheets, they think of Silpat. These are the best of the best, so of course, they are the highest priced. Since I’m recovering from getting through law school, I don’t have a lot of disposable income, so I wanted to find a less expensive (but equally effective) alternative. Enter Fat Daddio’s. I saw the silicone pastry bag while taking a macron class at Sur La Table, so I checked them out on Amazon and found a half sheet (11 5/8 Inch x 16 1/2 inch) for $14.99. Ten dollars less than the Silpat. Add in free two day shipping and I was sold.

So onto the review.

Pros:

  • I baked three different types of cookies in the sheet and not one cookie stuck. All I needed was a good, quick shake to slide them off.
  • The sheet was very easy to clean, a couple of swipes with a sponge and I was good.

Cons

  • There is no holder to store the sheet. But that is easily solved with a used paper towel roll.

Verdict: Buy. I’m going to buy another. The half sheet size fit my largest baking pan (17.25 x 11.25).

Reasoning: This product did what it was supposed to do (kept things from sticking) for a reasonable price.

Millionaire’s Shortbread

Okay, so I have to admit, before I found this recipe, I did not know what millionaire’s shortbread was, but now that I do I’m not sure I could go back to regular old shortbread! And the addition of the orange zest in this recipe makes the shortbread base so do it. Do it! Also, you could probably use store bought caramels for the caramel layer, but the caramel is so easy to make, I dare you not to try. So onto the show.

Cookie Selection

Ingredients for Shortbread Layer

  • 10 tbsp. of butter, softened (I used unsalted and left the butter on the counter while I was at work) 
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. of salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 2/3 cups of flour, sifted (I used all-purpose)
  • Zest of 1/4 to 1/2 of an orange

Ingredients for Caramel Layer

  • 14 tbsp. of butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 3/4 cups of corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. of sea salt

Ingredients for Chocolate Layer

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips (I used about 1/3 of a cup each of semi-sweet, milk chocolate, and Special Dark chips because I’m a chocoholic, I’ve got the patch, but those things never work.)
  • 3/4 tbsp. of Crisco
  • Sea salt (for finishing)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Begin by lining an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper. I found that the best way to get the paper to stay down in the dish was to make a small tear at each corner. Make sure that you have plenty of parchment paper hanging over two sides of your baking dish so that you can use them as handles to get the finished product out. Lightly spray with cooking spray. Baking Dish with Parchment Paper
  3. Shortbread: In a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Creaming just means to beat the two together until they are smooth. Next, add your egg and orange zest and mix throughly. *Tip: You don’t need to buy a separate zester, just use the small holes on your cheese grater.* Finally, add your flour about a 1/3 of a cup at a time. If you’ve never made it before, shortbread is a crumbly dough. Pour the dough into the prepared dish and use your hands to flatten. Bake for 22-25 minutes (until the shortbread is lightly browned). Shortbread-Prebaked
  4. Caramel: Start the caramel after the shortbread has been in the oven for about 10-12 minutes. In a heavy bottomed pot, combine all of the caramel ingredients, except for the vanilla. Wisk until all the sugar is dissolved. Boil until the mixture reaches 235 degrees. Once the correct temperature has been reached, remove the pot from the stove top and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour onto cooled shortbread.
  5. Chocolate Ganache: Using a double boiler (or putting a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water like I do) combine the chocolate chips and Crisco and stir until smooth. Pour on top of the caramel and let cool for a couple minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt and let cool overnight.
  6. The next day, grab the “handles” that you have created and pull. You may have to give it a good yank, but it will come out. Shortbread Completed
  7. Using a large knife, cut the shortbread into strips and then squares. Try to keep your hands as far away from the chocolate as possible so as not to melt or smudge it.

I was amazed at how easy it was to make caramel. It was soft and chewy and delicious and I will be doing it again.

Final Verdict: Delicious