the baker upstairs: May 2012

5.24.2012

black bean burgers with oven fries

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When you're trying to eat meatless, black bean burgers are a great choice! The burgers were very quick to throw together, especially since I had some of my favorite french bread rolls in the freezer. The oven fries were a little complicated and annoying (what with the soaking, the flipping, and a little sticking to the pan) but once I tasted one, I knew all the effort was totally worth it. They were so good! We topped our burgers with some fresh guacamole, and with canteloupe on the side it was a perfect summer meal!
Black Bean Burgers
Annie's Eats

¾ cup panko
3 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. olive oil, divided
2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed, divided
2 large eggs
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely diced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 shallot, minced

Place a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Combine the panko with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil and mix with a fork to blend. Add the mixture to the skillet and toast the panko, stirring frequently, until light golden brown. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Place 2½ cups of the beans in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher or a fork until mostly smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, 1 tablespoon of the oil, cumin, salt and cayenne. Whisk to blend. Add the egg mixture, toasted panko, the remaining ½ cup beans, bell pepper, cilantro and shallot to the bowl with the mashed beans. Stir together until evenly combined.

 Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions, about ½ cup each. Lightly pack into 1-inch thick patties. (At this point the patties can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours before cooking.) Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Carefully lay half of the patties in the skillet and cook until well browned on both sides, about 8-10 minutes total. Transfer the cooked burgers to a plate, tent with foil, and repeat with the remaining oil and bean patties. Serve warm.

French Bread Rolls
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 1/2 cups warm water
3/4 tablespoon instant yeast (or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour, give or take a few tablespoons

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl by hand, combine the warm water, yeast, sugar, oil, salt and 2 cups of the flour (if you are using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, let the yeast proof in the warm water and sugar for about 3-5 minutes until it is foamy and bubbly before adding the oil, salt and flour). Begin mixing and continue to add the rest of the flour gradually until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Judge the dough not by the amount of flour called for in the recipe but in how the dough feels (see a tutorial on working with yeast here). The dough should be soft and smooth but still slightly tacky to the touch. Knead the dough in the stand mixer or by hand until it is very smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes in a stand mixer or 8-10 minutes by hand. Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it has doubled (this usually takes about an hour).

Lightly punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly greased countertop. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and form the dough into round balls. Place the rolls on a lightly greased or silpat-lined baking sheet about an inch or two apart. Cover the rolls with lightly greased plastic wrap taking care not to pin the plastic wrap under the baking sheet or else the rolls will flatten while rising. Let the plastic wrap gently hang over the sides of the pan to fully cover the rolls but not press them down. Let the rolls rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through.

Baked Oven Fries
Annie's Eats

3 russet potatoes (about 24 oz. total), peeled and cut lengthwise into even sized wedges
5 tbsp. vegetable, canola or peanut oil, divided
¾ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

Preheat the oven to 475˚ F. Place the potato wedges in a large mixing bowl. Cover with hot water; soak for 10-30 minutes. Put 4 tablespoons of the oil onto a heavy, rimmed baking sheet. Tilt the sheet side to side to evenly coat the pan with oil (a pastry brush can also help with this). Sprinkle the pan evenly with the salt and pepper. Set aside.

Drain the potatoes. Spread the wedges out on layers of paper towels or on clean kitchen towels. Pat dry with additional towels. Wipe out the now empty bowl so it is dry. Return the potatoes to the bowl and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Arrange the potato wedges on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 5 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the bottoms of the potatoes are spotty golden brown, 15-20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 10 minutes. Using a metal spatula and tongs, flip each potato wedge keeping them in a single layer. Continue baking until the fries are golden and crisp, 5 -15 minutes. Rotate the pan as needed to ensure even browning. When the fries are finished baking, transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain some of the grease. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

thai peanut stir fry with seitan

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So... guess who's going to be vegan for a few weeks to see how it goes? It's kind of a long story, but the gist of it is that I'm probably going to be posting mostly vegan recipes for the next while. Anyway, this dinner was all kinds of tasty, not to mention quick and easy. I can't believe I have never tried seitan before! It was totally delicious. It would have been perfect with some peanuts or cashews sprinkled over the top, but we didn't have any, so we made do. Geoff pronounced it awesome, and couldn't wait to eat the leftovers for lunch. All in all, a great success!
Thai Peanut Stir Fry with Seitan

1 tsp olive oil
1 small to medium onion, diced
3/4 cup baby carrots, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
2 cups broccoli florets, cut into bite sized pieces

Sautee onion and carrots in olive oil until carrots are slightly softened. Add broccoli and zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add seitan. When seitan is warmed through, add peanut sauce (recipe below) to taste. Serve over rice.


Peanut Sauce
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons peanut oil or canola oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add water until desired consistency is reached (I added about 1/4 cup).

5.15.2012

popcorn!

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We all love a good bowl of popcorn around here, but I get really tired of the microwave kind. It's fake and salty and makes me feel gross. So I've been looking for a good way to make popcorn without a popcorn maker, and I finally found one!It's really more of a method than a recipe, but I've made it twice so far and both times it has been perfect. We usually top it with a little melted butter and salt, and then enjoy!
Stovetop Popcorn
Simply Recipes

3 Tbsp canola, peanut or grapeseed oil (high smoke point oil)
1/3 cup of high quality popcorn kernels
1 3-quart covered saucepan
2 Tbsp or more (to taste) of butter
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan on medium high heat. Put 3 or 4 popcorn kernels into the oil and cover the pan. When the kernels pop, add the rest of the 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels in an even layer. Cover, remove from heat and count 30 seconds. This method first heats the oil to the right temperature, then waiting 30 seconds brings all of the other kernels to a near-popping temperature so that when they are put back on the heat, they all pop at about the same time.

Return the pan to the heat. The popcorn should begin popping soon, and all at once. Once the popping starts in earnest, gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner. Try to keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release (the popcorn will be drier and crisper). Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid, and dump the popcorn immediately into a wide bowl. With this technique, nearly all of the kernels pop , and nothing burns. If you are adding butter, you can easily melt it by placing the butter in the now empty, but hot pan. Salt to taste.

p.s. Every time we say the word popcorn, Geoff and I think of this old SNL sketch:


Seriously, Tina Fey is the funniest person ever.

fresh salsa

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I think this might be the best salsa I've ever eaten. I love how fresh it tastes, and the texture is perfect. I made it for Abby's fifth birthday party on Saturday, and it was universally loved by the crowd. Add in that it took only about five minutes to make, and it's pretty much the perfect food! I halved the recipe (I only had one smaller can of diced tomatoes) and left out the vinegar and lime juice (probably because I was just sort of flying by the seat of my pants and not actually looking at the recipe). This salsa is going to be making frequent appearances on our table all summer long. Yum!
Fresh Salsa
Annie's Eats

2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and very coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, halved
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes
1 (28 0z.) can diced tomatoes (drained or not, depending on how much liquid you want in your salsa)
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. cumin
1/2 sweet yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
juice of one lime

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the jalapenos and garlic. Process until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add all other ingredients to the food processor. Pulse in very brief pulses until the vegetables have reached the size you desire (it does not take many pulses so don’t overdo it). Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to blend.

5.11.2012

orange creamsicle cookies

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I made these cookies last week as a thank you for some friends after their dinner party. While they're not much to look at (they're kind of boring and pale) they were really yummy to eat. I think that next time I make them, I will amp up the orange flavor even more with a little orange extract. They were pretty great with just the orange zest, though. Almost enough to make me love cookies again. :)
Orange Creamsicle Cookies
The Girl Who Ate Everything

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons orange zest
2 cups white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture until combined. Stir in orange zest and white chocolate chips. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8 - 10 minutes or until golden brown around edges. Cookies will be plump. Cool for several minutes on cookie sheets before transferring to rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

5.10.2012

peanut butter stuffed hot fudge cupcakes

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A few weeks ago, Geoff's assistant (I like to call him his minion) moved across the country for a new job. We were sad to see him go, since he's been a good friend to our family for several years now, and I decided it was the least I could do to make a great dessert for his going away party. The only problem was that I forgot about it until the night before. Luckily these cupcakes were pretty easy and quick to make, and the taste was to die for. I don't think I've ever made a more indulgent cupcake. They were definitely rich enough that one was enough, but that one was quite an experience.

I've never stuffed cupcakes before, and it ended up being much easier than I had imagined. The peanut butter buttercream was light and fluffy and so delicious, and the fudge on top just rounded everything out nicely. I will definitely be making these again, especially since Geoff couldn't get enough of them!
Peanut Butter Stuffed Hot Fudge Cupcakes
How Sweet It Is

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes:

1 1/8 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup homemade fudge sauce (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk egg and sugar until smooth and no lumps remain. Add milk, cream, butter and vanilla, and mix until combined. Stir in sour cream. Sift dry ingredients together and add to wet mixture. Mix until batter is smooth, then swirl in fudge sauce. Line a muffin tin with liners and using a 1/4 cup measure, add batter to each cup. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Let cool before frosting.

Peanut Butter Buttercream:

1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup peanut butter
3-4 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons of milk
pinch of salt

Cream butter and peanut butter together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add powdered sugar with mixer on low speed and gradually add milk and vanilla extract. Mix until frosting is smooth. If too thick, add more milk; if too thin, add more sugar. Frost cupcakes as desired.

Dark Chocolate Fudge Sauce:

1 cup sugar
1 cup dark cocoa powder
2 tablespoons flour
pinch of salt
1 cup boiling water or scalding milk
1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Combine sugar, cocoa, salt, and flour in a bowl or pot over a double boiler. Bring water or milk to a boil. Gradually add hot liquid to sugar mixture. Stir constantly until mixture thickens. Once it has reached the desired thickness, remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Drizzle over cupcakes and store the rest of the sauce in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

5.09.2012

mexican stuffed shells

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I made these a few weeks ago and totally forgot to post about them. They were yummy and something a little different. I kind of like the idea of mixing Mexican food and pasta. I followed the recipe pretty closely, except that I added a can of black beans and some frozen corn to the meat mixture because I only had 1/2 pound of ground turkey. I think next time I will use enchilada sauce instead of taco sauce, because it was a little strong for me. They were still great though, and tasted even better the next day.

Mexican Stuffed Shells
The Girl Who Ate Everything


1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 package low-sodium taco seasoning
4 ounces cream cheese
20 jumbo pasta shells
1 1/2 cups salsa
1 cup taco sauce
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup Monterrey jack cheese

For toppings:
3 green onions
Sour cream

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350°.

In a pan brown the ground beef; add taco seasoning and prepare according to package directions. Add cream cheese, cover and simmer until cheese is melted. Stir together and mix well. Set aside and cool completely.

While ground beef is cooking, cook the pasta shells according to package directions; drain. Set shells out individually on cutting board or baking sheet so that they don’t stick together.

Pour salsa on bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Stuff each shell with 1-2 tablespoons of the meat mixture. Place shells in 9×13 pan open side up. Evenly cover shells with taco sauce. Cover dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add shredded cheese and bake for 10-15 more minutes with the foil removed. Top with green onions or olives if desired. Serve with sour cream and/or more salsa.

5.08.2012

chocolate peanut butter rice krispy treats

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While I am pretty good at cooking almost everything, Geoff is the undisputed king of two things at our house: eggs and rice krispy treats. I'm not a huge fan of breakfast foods, but Geoff makes the best eggs I've ever had... scrambled eggs, fried eggs, breakfast sandwiches, they are all delicious. And his rice krispy treats? Totally awesome. Apparently he made them for his family every Sunday when he was growing up, so he's had a lot of practice. We like to come up with new variations (we even tried Trix krispy treats this week) but I think our favorite so far has been these chocolate peanut butter treats.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Krispy Treats

4 T butter
1 10 ounce package marshmallows
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips
6 cups rice krispies (more or less as desired)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan, and add marshmallows. Stir until marshmallows are melted, then add peanut butter and chocolate chips. Stir until melted and consistent throughout, then add rice krispies to taste. Press into a 9 x 9 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray and allow to cool.

So simple and so delicious!

5.07.2012

tostada pizza

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I've made this variation of pizza before, but my pictures were so crappy that I decided it was time to update them! I also changed things up a little this time, so here are some newer instructions. I used my favorite crust recipe and made just one crust instead of two, so the crust was thicker and chewier. I brushed the crust with a little olive oil, then topped it with bean puree and cheddar cheese. We have so many canned beans that I've just been pureeing them in the food processor whenever we need refried beans (for nachos, tostadas, etc.). I throw in a can of beans, a little garlic, and a touch of olive oil, and then puree until smooth. The puree is super tasty! After baking, I threw on some chopped lettuce, olives, sour cream, ranch dressing, and tortilla strips. It was so delicious! Long live pizza night.

Easy Pizza Crust
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 1/4 cup warm water
1 T yeast
1 T honey or sugar
1 tsp salt
3 cups flour

Preheat oven (with baking stone) to 500. Mix together water, yeast, sugar, and salt, then add flour. Knead until smooth. Let dough rest 10-15 minutes, then roll out into two crusts. I usually shape my crusts on the preheated pizza stone (sprinkled with cornmeal) or on a sheet of parchment paper. Add desired toppings, then bake on pizza stone for 8-9 minutes.

5.03.2012

double chocolate mint chip cookies

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I posted the following on Facebook several weeks ago:
I can't believe that I made cookies tonight, ate 2, and then didn't want any more. Ever again. What is the world coming to? I don't know how to define myself without cookies. 
At the time, I thought it was temporary. Well, my friends, my indifference toward cookies seems to still be going strong. It's not really that I hate them, I just get no joy from them, however perfect and tasty they are. If you knew me when I was in nursing school, then you would know that this is actually a genuine tragedy for me. I used to bake cookies 3-4 times a week when I was in school. On a particularly difficult day, I might drive home from school and make cookies on my lunch hour. Each step of the process (making, sharing, eating) made me happy. And now, it all feels hollow. How sad for me.

In any case, don't let that stop you from enjoying these lovely cookies! The texture was perfect, a little crisp on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. I love that the recipe is so good that I can make substitutions and still have the cookies come out perfectly. If only I could enjoy them the way I used to! Sigh.

Double Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies
adapted from How Sweet Eats

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) of salted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup mint chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix the flour and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix the butter and sugars until they are combined (and look like the first picture above). Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and stir until mixed. Gradually add flour and mix until a dough forms – it will look crumbly at first, but it will come together. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Divide the dough how you choose (1/4 cup portions for 18 large cookies or 2 tablespoon portions for 36 smaller cookies). Shape each portion into a ball with your hands then pull each ball into two equal pieces. Turn each half so that the rough side of the half (what used to be the inside of the ball) faces upwards and then squish both halves together. Place the dough rough-side up on a baking sheets. If you’re doing large cookies, I’d leave about 2 inches in between each.

Bake for 12-15 minutes (large cookies) or 8-12 minutes (small cookies) or until the edges are slightly brown. The centers should be soft and puffy. Do not over bake.

slow cooker chicken caesar sandwiches

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After making the greatest french bread rolls ever, I needed something wonderful to top them, and decided to try out these chicken caesar sandwiches. The verdict is mixed. Geoff said they were the best sandwiches ever and was only disappointed that I didn't make two for him. Both of my girls ate theirs, Elizabeth even going as far as to lick her high chair tray. And I have to say, my sandwich was pretty tasty. Still, there was just something a little off about it to me. (Maybe it was that I had to scrape all the nasty chicken fat off the cooked thighs.) I'm planning to make it again with chicken breasts and see if I like it better. I think part of the problem also was that between using chicken thighs, bottled caesar dressing, and parmesan cheese, the chicken ended up being too salty. It's a great idea, though, and one that is certainly worth perfecting to my taste! I'm sure I'll be back again with round two.

Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Sandwiches
The Girl Who Ate Everything

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/2 to 1 cup of your favorite Caesar dressing (I like Cardini's and Brianna's Asiago Caesar)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley (if you don't have fresh use around 2 teaspoons of dried parsley)
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
12 slider buns or 4-6 regular sized hamburger buns

Place chicken in a 3-4 quart slow cooker with 1-2 cups of water, cover and cook on low heat for 4-6 hours. Remove chicken from cooker using a slotted spoon and drain the water from the slow cooker. Place chicken on a cutting board and pull chicken into shreds, discarding any fat.

Place chicken back in the cooker and pour dressing, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and pepper over the top. I really make sure that I discard any fat pieces so by the time I was done I only used about 1/2 cup of dressing but you make need more if you have more chicken. Stir until mixed evenly. Cover and cook on high heat for 30 minutes or until mixture is hot.

Spoon 1/4 cup mixture onto each slider bun if you are making sliders or more for regular sized buns. Top with extra shredded Parmesan cheese and lettuce to serve.

french bread rolls

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I love these rolls. I love bread. I love how whenever I'm having a bad day, just baking some bread seems to turn things around. I also love that these rolls are easy and quick (under two hours to make) and consistently turn out perfectly. I also love that for a few pennies worth of flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and oil, I can make rolls at home that are a million times better than any hamburger buns I could buy. Take that, poverty!

French Bread Rolls
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 1/2 cups warm water
3/4 tablespoon instant yeast (or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour, give or take a few tablespoons

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl by hand, combine the warm water, yeast, sugar, oil, salt and 2 cups of the flour (if you are using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, let the yeast proof in the warm water and sugar for about 3-5 minutes until it is foamy and bubbly before adding the oil, salt and flour). Begin mixing and continue to add the rest of the flour gradually until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Judge the dough not by the amount of flour called for in the recipe but in how the dough feels (see a tutorial on working with yeast here). The dough should be soft and smooth but still slightly tacky to the touch. Knead the dough in the stand mixer or by hand until it is very smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes in a stand mixer or 8-10 minutes by hand. Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it has doubled (this usually takes about an hour).

Lightly punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly greased countertop. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and form the dough into round balls. Place the rolls on a lightly greased or silpat-lined baking sheet about an inch or two apart. Cover the rolls with lightly greased plastic wrap taking care not to pin the plastic wrap under the baking sheet or else the rolls will flatten while rising. Let the plastic wrap gently hang over the sides of the pan to fully cover the rolls but not press them down. Let the rolls rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through.
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