How to Make Doughnuts at Home

Whether you crave a bit of sweetness or would like to enjoy an easy sweet treat project with your children, why don’t you consider making doughnuts? Homemade doughnuts are not only inexpensive and tasty to make, but also open the doors to many different possibilities. Below you will find a quick and easy recipe, as well as a handful of ways to sweeten your treats:

Super Easy Doughnuts

Ingredients

  • Tube of refrigerated biscuit dough
  • Powdered sugar
  • Oil

Directions

1. Open a tube of refrigerated biscuit dough (like Pillsbury) and separate. Lay the biscuits flat on a cookie sheet.

2. Cut a hole in the middle of each biscuit by using a small glass or cookie cutter. You can save the round doughnut centers to cook later as “doughnut holes.”

3. Heat oil in a pan over a medium high heat. Remember to use clean oil.

4. Add dough to the pan and cook – flipping over the doughnut when one side has become light brown in color. Allow the other side to cook. Do not overload the fryer – cook only three to four doughnuts at a time.

5. When doughnuts are a light golden brown color, remove from the pan – allowing excess oil to drip off.

6. If making sugar doughnuts, lightly press into a bowl filled with granulated sugar or powdered sugar. One of the easiest ways to coat a doughnut in sugar is to add a sugar or cinnamon sugar mixture to a paper lunch bag. Place a warm doughnut in the bag and shake.

Other ways to serve your homemade doughnuts is to:

  • Coat with melted chocolate (with or without sprinkles)
  • Dip in honey
  • Spread on a fruit glaze
  • Drizzle warm cake frosting or icing
  • Roll in chopped nuts after adding a glaze

Freeze Your Treats

Another advantage to making doughnuts at home is that they can be frozen for later enjoyment. For the best results, place unglazed donuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Thoroughly freeze, and then transfer to a Ziploc bag before returning to the freezer. When you’re ready to eat, heat the frozen doughnuts in an oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.

10 Tips for Baking Brownies

Brownies became a favorite treat of the United States and Canada during the first half of the 20th century. With a texture resembling a cross between a cake and cookie, the brownie has come a long way from the first example to appear in public. A chef at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, Illinois created the sweet treat using walnuts and an apricot glaze. The original recipe is still being served at the hotel. When you wish to create your own brownie magic, consider the following tips for baking brownies.

1. Even-Textured Brownies

If you want to make brownies with an even texture, use the correct sized pan stated in the recipe. If you use a different pan, the brownies will form a different texture.

2. Moist and Chewy Brownies

If you over-bake your brownies, they will become dry. Make sure to follow the recommended baking time listed in the recipe to enjoy moist and chewy brownies.

3. Mixing Your Brownies

For better results, it is suggested to hand-mix your brownies and avoid using an electric mixer.

4. Easy Cleanup

To minimize the amount of clean up after making your brownies, line your pan with aluminum foil. Once the brownies have cooled, they will lift straight out of the pan, which makes it easier to cut into uniform squares.

5. Avoid Crumbly Brownies

Not only are crumbly brownies messy, but they also lessen the overall appearance of a fresh plate. To prevent crumbling, completely cool your brownies before cutting into squares.

6. Smooth Sides

To make brownie bars with smooth sides, make sure your treats have thoroughly cooled before cutting with a plastic knife.

iconicon7. Brownie Toppings

To add a little something extra to your brownies, there are many different toppings to consider. For starters, you can sprinkle powdered sugar on unfrosted brownie bars. Chocolate curls on top of frosted bars add a hint of elegance. Other toppings for brownies include mini chocolate chips, nuts, and colorful sprinkles for kids.

8. White Chocolate Brownies

If you’d like to make decadent brownies for your next get-together, combine 1/3 cup of coarsely chopped white chocolate and two teaspoons of vegetable shortening in a small, heavy saucepan. Melt the ingredients over low heat – making sure to constantly stir. Drizzle over your brownies.

9. Blonde Brownies

Use brown sugar and no chocolate to create a ‘blondie.’

10. A la Mode Brownies

A popular dessert offered at restaurants is brownie a la mode, which means that your treat is warmed and served with ice cream topped with whipped cream.

Ideas for Pomegranate Desserts

Native to the Middle Eastern region, the pomegranate is a colorful bush fruit grown in California and similar climates. In recent years, the growing trends to stay healthy and embrace more “exotic” fruits and vegetables have seen an upswing in pomegranate-flavored snacks, juices and desserts.

A pomegranate is about the same size as an orange. In the beginning, the pomegranate is a yellowish fruit that turns a rich shade of red when it becomes mature. The husk is inedible, but the seed kernels situated in individual cells are. A sac filled with juice surrounds each seed, which is pressed out when the fruit is processed to make a fruity, sweet liquid.

If you are interested in incorporating the fruit into your diet, perhaps you will enjoy the following ideas for pomegranate desserts:

Pomegranate Parfait

When properly served and garnished, parfaits make an elegant dessert for get-togethers and romantic nights in. Ingredients to make a pomegranate parfait may include 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin, 1 cup sugar, 3 eggs (separated), 3/4 cup water, 1 cup pomegranate juice, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, and 1 cup whipping cream.

In a heavy saucepan, mix the gelatin and sugar together. Set aside so that you can whisk together egg yolks and water that is stirred into the gelatin mixture. Cook the ingredients over medium-low heat, making sure not to boil. You should constantly stir until the gelatin and sugar dissolve, which should take about five minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the pomegranate and lemon juice. Place the pomegranate mixture into the refrigerator. You should occasionally stir the dessert until the mixture slightly mounds when dropped from a spoon. This process will take about 2 ½ hours.

When the pomegranate mixture is ready, beat egg whites until stiff (but not dry). Thoroughly fold the egg whites into the pomegranate mixture. Set aside. Beat the cream until soft peaks form, and then carefully fold into pomegranate mixture. Chill the dessert in parfait glasses for at least four hours. A garnish for this pomegranate dessert includes whipped cream, chopped pistachio nuts, and of course, pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranate Syrup

To liven up a dessert, consider drizzling on pomegranate syrup – perfect for cheesecake.

A typical recipe calls for 1 cup of pomegranate juice and ½ cup sugar. Fresh pomegranate juice at home is as easy as adding 1 ½ to 2 cups of pomegranate seeds to a blender, which yields 1 cup of juice. Blend the seeds until liquefied. Pour the mixture through a sieve or fine strainer.

To make the syrup, combine the sugar and pomegranate juice in a 1 to 2 quart pan. Boil the ingredients over high heat – stirring until the sugar completely dissolves. Boil the mixture for one minute, remove from heat, and then allow to cool. Cover the syrup and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

Other ideas for a pomegranate dessert include:

Pomegranate Mousse – made with powdered sugar, mascarpone cheese, egg whites, and crème fraiche as some of the ingredients.

Pomegranate Yogurt Dip – made with chilled plain yogurt, finely chopped scallions, pomegranate juice, fresh cilantro, and pomegranate juice.

Pomegranate Muffins – made with pomegranate seeds, milk, one egg, butter, baking powder, flour, sugar, salt, and grated lemon peel.

8 Tips for Cheesecake Makers

The history of cheesecake is one traced back to ancient Greek times before the Romans embraced the dessert after their conquest of the city. Over the years, the sweet treat comprised of soft, fresh cheese has been sweetened and topped with sugar, nuts, fruit, glazes, and chocolate sauce. If you wish to enjoy cheesecake in the comforts of you own home – perhaps the following tips can ease the process and improve the outcome:

1) Testing for Doneness

Avoid overbaking your cheesecake by testing it for doneness at the minimum baking time range. To test for doneness, do not insert a knife because the hole left behind could turn into a large crack. Instead, gently shake the cake. If it jiggles, return the cheesecake to the oven for more baking.

2) Prevent Cracking

To prevent cracking, there are a couple of things to do. After adding eggs to the filling, gently beat, and then stir in the remaining ingredient by hand. If you beat too vigorously, too much air will cause the cheesecake to “puff up,” fall, and then crack. When baking, situate a pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven to prevent cracks in your cheesecake.

3) Low-Calorie Cheesecake

If you’d like to make a cheesecake with fewer calories, use light cream cheese instead of regular.

4) New York Style Cheesecake

If you are interested in making a New York-style cheesecake, expect a dessert with a lot of heavy cream. Typical ingredients include cream cheese, eggs, and egg yolks, which add richness and smoothness to the filling. It is typical to bake the cheesecake in a special springform pan measuring 5 to 6 inches tall. To vary the texture and flavor, consider using cottage cheese and lemon. Other suggestions include adding strawberry sauce or chocolate sauce to a basic cheesecake recipe.

5) Is It Done?

It’s OK if the center of your cheesecake is soft when you first remove it from the oven. This is normal and as the dessert chills, the center will become firm.

6) Cutting Cheesecake

Use a wet knife to better cut cheesecakes and make sure to clean the knife after each cut.

7) Storage

Cheesecakes will keep for up to three days if they are covered and refrigerated.

8) Freezing Cheesecakes

If you are unable to eat all of your cheesecake, you can freeze leftovers in an airtight container or heavy foil. Plan on eating a whole cheesecake within one month or consume individual slices within two weeks. When serving frozen cheesecake, loosen the covering and thaw a whole cheesecake in the refrigerator for 24 hours or allow slices to thaw at room temperature.

What is Fondant?

Fondant is the smooth, near perfect icing used to decorate the majority of today’s wedding cakes. There are different types of fondant, including the kind that drapes over an entire cake. You may also pour the liquid form over cake or roll out to make impressive decorations. The benefits to using fondant in cake making are to display a more professional look, create a distinct texture, and to keep the cake moist for a longer period of time.

Fondant is typically difficult to make from scratch, as the sugar mixture needs to be heated and cooled in a precise manner. For example, tiny crystals form as the fondant cools. If the sugar is heated at too high of a temperature, the fondant becomes dull and gritty.

What Can I Do With Fondant?

One of the most common ways to use fondant is to cover an entire cake to create an elegant, smooth appearance. Many fancy, highly decorated cakes are made with fondant to achieve this look. Fondant also allows cake makers to create stunning displays, as it can be kneaded by hand into a workable, edible decorating element. Shaped into flowers, ribbons, and other finishing touches – fondant is quite versatile. There is no limit to what you may create.

Homemade Fondant
One of the easiest ways to make fondant is to use a recipe that includes marshmallow. An example of a homemade fondant recipe is below:

Ingredients

  • 16-ounce bag of marshmallows
  • 2-pound bag of powdered sugar
  • ½ cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon flavoring (such as clear vanilla, orange, or peppermint)

Instructions

1. Empty bag of marshmallows into a glass bowl. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.

2. Microwave the mixture until a smooth consistency is reached – in 20 to 30 second increments, making sure to stir between times.

3. Remove the bowl from microwave. Stir in half the bag of powdered sugar.

4. Wipe your kitchen counter clean. Pour the remaining powdered sugar on the counter.

5. Pour the marshmallow mixture on the powdered sugar pile.

6. Add flavoring to your marshmallow mixture.

7. Knead the remaining sugar into the dough. Make sure to keep your hands covered in powdered sugar.

8. When you reach the point where you think no more sugar can be incorporated, keep kneading.

9. Add in small amounts of the remaining water.

10. The fondant is ready when you have a smooth, elastic ball. If the dough breaks when stretched, add a bit more water.

11. When not in use, double wrap the fondant.

12. If the dough is too stiff after being refrigerated, place in the microwave for 15 to 30 seconds on defrost.

What is a Chocolate Truffle?

What is a box of assorted chocolates without a truffle? This tasty confection is traditionally filled with chocolate ganache and coated with chocolate or cocoa powder. Truffles are usually shaped like a sphere and can have other centers besides ganache, such as caramel, nuts, nougat, toffee, mint, marshmallow, berries, and even liqueur.

Different Types of Truffles

The credit for creating the first chocolate truffle goes to M. Dufour of Chambery, France in 1895. However, recognition of the sweet treat didn’t truly spread until the establishment of the Prestat chocolate shop in London, which to this day, still sells the original recipe for ‘Napoleon III’ truffles. Today, you can choose from three main types of chocolate truffles in the world: American, European, and Swiss.

The “American truffle” typically uses a blend of dark or milk chocolates with butterfat. It comes in a half-egg shape coated with chocolate. In Canada, graham cracker crumbs and peanut butter are added to what is called the “Harvey truffle.”

Cocoa powder, milk powder, fats, and other ingredients are paired with syrup to create the “European truffle.” At least 10% of the truffle should include butter, which is then mixed with ganache cream. Butter creates an enhanced flavor and a melt-in-the-mouth experience.

Melted chocolate combined with a boiling mixture of dairy cream and butter creates the base of the “Swiss truffle.” The mix is then poured into molds to set. A sprinkling of cocoa powder finishes off the confection. It is a must to eat this kind of truffle within a couple of days.

Ways to Vary Your Truffles

If you are interested in making chocolate truffles from scratch, there are plenty of ways to spice up your recipe. Add Frangelico to your chocolate and cream mixture to create a hazelnut-flavored truffle, and then coat with chopped hazelnuts. Truffles with a coffee flavor are achieved with the addition of one tablespoon of espresso powder into heated cream, and Kahlua to the truffle mix. Adding two tablespoons of fruit puree or jam to a recipe will make fruit-flavored truffles.

7 Tips to Making Better Cut Out Sugar Cookies

When it comes to holiday sweet treats, sugar cookies are a popular choice. Whether unfrosted with colored sprinkles or covered with icing, these seemingly simple treats don’t always turn out as planned. Sugar cookies are also a favorite because it gives people the chance to make use out of their cookie cutters, and the variety of shapes are neverending. To make sure you serve the very best holiday treats, consider the following tips to making better sugar cookies.

1. The Recipe

Let’s say you want to dust off some of your Christmas cookie cutters. One of the first mistakes many people make with their sugar cookies is with the recipe. There is a difference between a “sugar cookie” and “cut out sugar cookie” recipe. The average recipe for soft and chewy sugar cookies will not produce the type of cookies you seek. Before starting out, make sure you are following a “cut out sugar cookie” recipe, which creates sturdier results.


2. Temperature of Dough

Before rolling out your dough, it must be cold – especially right before you pop them into the oven. After they have rolled out their dough, some people will wrap it in parchment paper and place in the refrigerator for two hours to chill. Even after cutting out your shapes, it is suggested to place the cookies in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

3. No Grease

There is no need to grease your cookie sheet. Refrain from using any butter, oil, cooking spray, parchment paper, or silicone mat on the sheet.

4. Cookie Sheets

Do not place your sugar cookies on a warm baking sheet. The heat will start to melt your dough before it’s even placed inside the oven.

5. Icing

Before icing your sugar cookies, make sure that they have completely cooled off.

6. Colored Icing

If you would like to color your icing, add food color to your recipe, but keep in mind that the colors will dry slightly lighter. Select icing colors that are a bit darker.

7. Cookie Decorating

Allow your iced cookies to completely dry for about four hours before you attempt any design work. If you try to decorate while the icing is still wet, the colors will bleed.

International Sweet Treats: Russian

Whether you enjoy international holiday customs or like discovering the sweetness of another culture, Russia is certainly a prime candidate for sampling unique desserts. A great deal of Russian desserts display influences from Western European countries – a trend jumpstarted during the 18th century by Peter the Great’s affection for the history of the Dutch, Germans, Swedes, and the French.

Paskha

Served during the Easter season, Paskha is a traditional dessert comprised of soft cheese and dried fruit. The whiteness of the soft cheese is used to symbolize the purity of Christ and the Pashal lamb. Other ingredients added to the dessert may include butter, eggs, sour cream, almonds, vanilla, raisins, spices, and candied fruits.

Vareniki

Baked desserts are also popular in Russia. Vareniki are small sweet pies and dumplings filled with preserved fruit (or tvorog – a dry soft cheese). Vareniki are often served as a sweet luncheon dish or as an accompaniment for afternoon tea. It is suggested to serve this treat with sour cream and sugar.

Vatrushka

A ring of dough offers the shape of a cake called vatrushk, which possesses a center made out of tvorog (cottage cheese). Sometimes, raisins or small pieces of fruit are part of the ingredient list. The cake can measure from around five inches to two and a half feet in diameter.

Blini
Blini. Photo credit: Andrevan
Blini

Also called a “Russian pancake,” blinis are a thin creation that looks much like a crepe. However, yeast is used to make blini, whereas crepes do not possess this ingredient. Traditional Russian blini use yeasted batter, which is left to rise, and then later diluted with cold or boiling water (or milk). The pancakes are then baked in an oven or pan-fried. The pancakes are often served with sour cream, jam or condensed milk.  An example of fried blini is shown above.

Syrniki

Another fried pancake dessert in Russia is called syrniki (also referred to as “tvorog burgers”) because they are made of tvorog cheese, and then fried in a saucepan – like a hamburger. Sometimes, raisins are added to the cheese mixture for extra flavor. Syrniki is usually paired with honey, sweet dressings, apple sauce, or jam.