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Cinnamon Raisin Bread: A Strange Experience December 31, 2006

Posted by Sarah in Baking.

On Wednesday this week, I got the urge to bake bread. Last Christmas, my dad gave me Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. When I got it, I wasn’t really that interested in it. However, in the past year I have rediscovered it and finally made my first recipe out of it. The picture of Martha’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread was almost too much to take. I had to make it.


However, it was one of the weirder bread recipes I have made. Mostly just because of the method of making the dough. Every other recipe I have made has you gradually add the flour in, but this recipe did not. Basically, it had you combine the warm milk and yeast and then put all the other ingredients in the mixer and mix it up. The dough turned out really heavy. It was big, heavy dough. I had a hard time getting it to rise, but eventually it did.

Martha’s finished product had a few air gaps in her cinnamon swirl and so did mine. However, some of the gaps were pretty big. In one loaf, it was cavernous! However, the bread was delicious. The filling caramelized and was gooey. Make sure you actually put the baking sheet under the loaves or you will end up with caramelized filling burning on the bottom of the oven. This recipe makes two soft and tasty loaves.

Cinnamon-Raisin Bread

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

Dough Ingredients

1 envelope active dry yeast

2 cups warm milk (110 degrees)

2 lbs. 2 0z. all-purpose flour (about 6 1/2 cups) plus more for dusting

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces.

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/4 cups golden raisins

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Filling Ingredients

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg


In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk. Whisk to combine. Add the flour, butter, sugar, 2 eggs, and salt. Attach bowl to mixer fitted with dough hook. Mix on low until all ingredients are combined, about 3 minutes. Raise the speed to medium-low, and continue to mix until dough is uniformly smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes more. Add the raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix until combined. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Return the dough to the floured surface, and pat into a round. Fold the bottom third of the dough up, the top third down and the right and left sides in, tapping the dough after each fold to release excess flour and pressing down to seal. Return the dough to the bowl, seam side down and let rise again until doubled, about 40 minutes. (I am not sure why you are supposed to do all that folding but I did it anyway. If anyone knows why, I’d love to know…)

Grease to 9×5 (I used 8×4 and was okay) loaf pans. Make the filling by combining sugar and cinnamon with 2 tablespoons of water. Return the dough to the floured surface and divide in half. Roll the dough into a 12 by 10 inch rectangle. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle half the filling on top. Spread the filling evenly.

With the short end of the rectangle facing you, fold in both long sides of the dough about 1 inch. Then, roll the dough toward you, gently pressing as you go to form a tight log. Gently roll the log back and forth (or pinch it) to seal the seam. Place in the prepared pan seam side down. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Cover the pans loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until dough rises just above the rim of the pan, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Brush the tops of the loaves with the beaten egg and put the sheets on a parchment or foil lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, about 45 minutes. (If the tops brown too quickly, cover them with aluminum foil.) Turn the bread onto a wire rack and let cool before slicing. The bread can be kept, wrapped in plastic, at room temperature up to 4 days.


Truffles: Take Two December 26, 2006

Posted by Sarah in Candy/Snacks.

After my first truffle making episode, I couldn’t fight back the urge to create more. After my first attempt at a basic truffle, I wanted to take a few more steps out there and do something more. When I was looking at the Sugar High Friday round up there were a lot of great entries to provoke my sweet tooth. However, one caught my eye and inspired me… and that was Nemisbéka’s Triple Chocolate Truffles. I really wanted to make those … but I also wanted to make other kinds. It was so perfect! So, I made the Triple Chocolate Truffles, but made extra ganache of each chocolate to make Milk Chocolate-Cashew Truffles, White Chocolate-Nutmeg Truffles, and Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffles, too!

I have to say that they turned out quite well. I think my biggest problem was that the white chocolate ones were not as firm as I would have liked, making them very difficult to coat in chocolate.

Here they are in all their glory!


This is the Triple Chocolate one that I rolled in crushed chocolate wafers.


That was a yummy first bite!


Here is the Milk Chocolate Cashew…


And that fussy White Chocolate-Nutmeg…


It is always important to make sure there are no holes in your dipping or that ganache will try to find a way to escape… and it isn’t very pretty!


And, last but not least, the Raspberry-Dark Chocolate Truffle! For some reason, my camera didn’t want to capture the true beauty of this truffle, but it was very fine looking. This was the one that most people said they liked the best. In second place was the Triple Chocolate ones. Third, was the White Chocolate-Nutmeg and fourth was the Milk Chocolate Cashew. I loved them all!


It took me part of Saturday the 16th and most of Sunday the 17th to make these beauties, but they turned out great! People loved them and I truly have plenty to give out as gifts. I made well over 100!


Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffles

2 lbs quality dark chocolate, finely chopped

1 2/3 cup heavy cream

2/3 cup seedless raspberry jam, melted until pourable

1 tablespoon raspberry liquor

1 lb. dark chocolate chopped, (reserve 1/4 of a pound un-chopped for tempering)

Directions: Place finely chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Heat cream until it boils. When it starts to boil, pour it over the chocolate. Stir until all the cream is incorporated. Add melted jam and liquor. Stir. Chill overnight or until firm. Scoop the truffles and roll to make a nice ball. Temper the chocolate and dip your truffles (see tips on how to do this from the last time I made truffles or by reading about it in The Joy of Cooking or another trusted source). This time, I dipped the truffles twice and it made a huge difference. I didn’t think it would, (or maybe I was too lazy…) but it really made them a lot nicer. There was an excellent snap to the chocolate and just created a better finished product.

White Chocolate Nutmeg Truffles

2 lbs. quality white chocolate, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

freshly grated nutmeg (I didn’t measure but you could start with 1 teaspoon and go from there)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1-2 lbs. white chocolate, reserving 1/4 lb. for tempering

Directions: Place finely chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Heat cream until it boils. When it starts to boil, pour it over the chocolate. Stir until all the cream is incorporated. Add the vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir. Chill overnight or until firm. Scoop the truffles and roll to make a nice ball. Refrigerate while you get the chocolate ready, if the ganache is too soft. Temper the chocolate and dip your truffles (see tips on how to do this from the last time I made truffles or by reading about it in The Joy of Cooking or another trusted source).

Milk Chocolate-Cashew Truffles

2 lbs. finely chopped milk chocolate

1 2/3 cups heavy cream

1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups finely chopped cashews

1-2 teaspoons salt

Place finely chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Heat cream until it boils. When it starts to boil, pour it over the chocolate. Stir until all the cream is incorporated. Stir in vanilla. Stir. Chill overnight or until firm. Scoop the truffles and roll to make a nice ball. Mix together the salt and cashews. Roll the truffles in the cashews to coat.

Triple Chocolate Truffles

(see Nemisbéka’s site for the recipe)

Restaurant Review: The Spice December 15, 2006

Posted by Sarah in Ames Restaurants.
1 comment so far

Well, unfortunately it has been awhile since I have blogged. This is mostly due to the fact that first I got injured and then I got sick. I am active in Taekwondo and I was testing for my black belt two Saturdays ago. I had an excellent testing until the end. I was sparring (fighting) and basically got kicked in the leg pretty hard. This injury rendered me unable to walk for two days and left me hobbling for a week. This made cooking hard and I really didn’t feel like blogging since I couldn’t cook. Then, just as my leg was starting to get better I got sick with whatever is going around and that really didn’t put me in the food blogging mood.

Even through all this, some exciting things have been happening. The women in my family all got together and baked cookies. It was great fun, but I was still recovering so I didn’t really take pictures or get recipes.

But, there will be more baking to come. I have a lot of plans to make cookies to give as gifts and for a cookie exchange. I am planning on making truffles again (maybe raspberry chocolate truffles…) to give out in the exchange. I know they aren’t cookies, but a lot of people give caramels and fudge so I think truffles will work well too.

I have kept this restaurant review in a file for awhile. I intended to do this a couple weekends ago, but never got around to it with the whole testing preparation, injury and illness thing. So … here it is… better late than never…

The Spice

One of Ames’ other newest restaurants is a place called The Spice. It is located at 402 Main Street. They serve Thai cuisine in a somewhat upscale environment. This is definitely a place you could take a date. Their presentation is excellent and their food is very flavorful.

What they offer

The Spice offers Thai cuisine for dine in. Their menu includes all Thai entrees as well as a decent selection of appetizers, drinks and desserts. They are open Mon-Thu 11am-2:30pm, 5pm-9pm; Fri-Sat 11am-2:30pm, 5pm-10pm. They also accept reservations!


The Spice is tastefully decorated with good lighting. There are booths and tables you can sit at and the booths are very nice and intimate. The music in the background is not distracting and fits the ambiance well.


The service I have received there has always been excellent. Our waiters are always very attentive and keep us up to date on the status of our food. There can be quite a wait on busy days at the Spice, but they do take reservations, which is excellent.


The first thing I always order when I go to the Spice is a mango smoothie. They have the best mango smoothies ever. They cut up real mangoes and blend it up and serve it nicely garnished in a pretty glass.


The other thing I like to order is the Chicken Pad Thai. I have not had Pad Thai very much in my life, but I really like this dish. They sprinkle ground peanuts over it and it has a delicious mildly sweet flavor. The chicken is cooked correctly goes well with the rest of the dish.


This past visit to The Spice, we actually ordered dessert. This was a fantastically plated hazelnut mousse tart. Three of my girlfriends and I shared it together and it was divine. It was rich, with a deep dark chocolate flavor. They also served it with some raspberry sauce and a small fork that was perfectly sized for eating such a rich dessert. It was well worth the price paid.


Paying, Price, and Portion Size

Unfortunately, it has been a couple weeks since I have been to The Spice and my copy of the receipt has disappeared. So, next time I go, I will update this section with pricing. In general, I would say for the amount of effort they put into presentation, and their use of quality ingredients, that the price is fair. In terms of price, this is not on the same level as most Asian restaurants in the area. It is slightly higher but well worth it. In terms of portion size, I think they are excellent. They give you just enough food to make you comfortably full. Light eaters will probably be able to take some home and heavy eaters will still be able to eat an appetizer and a dessert with their meal.

I really think The Spice is worth trying, even if you are wary of Asian cuisine. They have a variety of dishes (curries, noodles, etc.) and present them well. The environment is relaxing and well-lit and the prices are fair. The food is tasty and offers some new flavors to the Ames dining scene.

Italian Wedding Soup December 1, 2006

Posted by Sarah in Dinner.


One night, a couple of weeks ago, I had a craving for Italian Wedding Soup … or at least the version of Italian Wedding Soup that I know and love. When I searched the Internet to try to find a recipe that matched my idea of Italian Wedding Soup I only found ones that had a wide variety of ingredients. No two were alike and none of them fit my idea of the soup I wanted to eat.

So, I decided to come up with my own. My only problem was finding pastini or any other small pasta. I’ve seen such small pasta before, but for some reason when I was shopping for this soup there was none to be found. So, I used the smallest I could find, something called rosemarina pasta. It worked out pretty well, though it was a little big for my idea of pasta in Italian Wedding Soup. I also didn’t have garlic on hand at the time so I ended up using garlic powder. This worked out fine as well. The meatballs are a little spicy (I’m kind of a wimp though) so use your discretion in terms of spice. I hope you enjoy my version of Italian Wedding Soup!

Italian Wedding Soup


1 pound 85% ground beef
1 pound pork sausage
1 cup dry bread crumbs
3 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 t. dried basil
1 t. dried parsley
1-2 tsp.red pepper powder

10 cups chicken broth
1 pkg frozen spinach
8 oz pastini or small pasta

garlic powder (or fresh garlic if you have it)

parsley, basil, pepper, salt


Put meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Fry a little piece in some oil (or microwave it) and taste it to check the seasoning. Roll the meatballs to your desired size. I preferred those 1/4 – 1/2 inch in diameter. You can make them bigger or smaller to your taste.

Before rolling the meatballs, heat the chicken broth to a simmer and add the garlic powder, parsley, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Add your desired amount of meatballs to the simmering broth.

Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Defrost the spinach and squeeze the excess water from it. Add the pastini and spinach. Stir. Cook an additional 10-15 minutes. Taste and check the seasonings. Adjust seasonings as needed. Serve with salad and crusty bread.

Note: Depending on how big or small you make your meatballs, you may have a lot of meatballs leftover, unless you want a meatball heavy soup. I chose to freeze the rest to save for the next time I make the soup.