The Baker Upstairs: 2019

3.18.2019

No-Knead Cheddar Artisan Bread

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This no-knead cheddar artisan bread is perfect for beginners, and tastes amazing! It has a chewy crust, a tender middle, and an amazing cheddar flavor!

This no-knead cheddar artisan bread is perfect for beginners, and tastes amazing! It has a chewy crust, a tender middle, and a fantastic cheddar flavor!

One of the games my kids love to play is to ask each person in our family about their favorites. Favorite song, favorite movie, favorite color, favorite food, etc. It's always fun to listen to my kids' favorites change over time (for example, my older daughter LOVED pink and purple when she was six, and now as a nearly 12 year old, she wouldn't be caught dead in pink). I always seem to get stumped when they ask me what my favorite food is, though! There are just too many delicious foods out there to choose only one to be my favorite. After much reflection, I've narrowed it down to two main categories that encompass most of my favorite foods: bread and cheese. This cheddar artisan bread is the perfect combination of both categories! It has a great cheddar flavor, but is still tender and chewy. The best part is that it's really easy to make, and requires almost no effort on your part!

This no-knead cheddar artisan bread is perfect for beginners, and tastes amazing! It has a chewy crust, a tender middle, and a fantastic cheddar flavor!

If you haven't made no-knead artisan bread before, you are definitely in for a treat! It's as simple as stirring a few simple ingredients together, letting it sit for a long period of time (12-18 hours) and then baking it into a delicious crusty loaf. It really could not be simpler to make, and it tastes like bread from a fancy bakery! I've made the basic version of this bread many times, and it's always delicious, but adding the cheddar to the bread really boosts the flavor. It's perfect for sandwiches (I made a turkey BLT with it that was to die for!) and makes an amazing grilled cheese. It's also great as an accompaniment for tomato soup or broccoli cheddar soup

This no-knead cheddar artisan bread is perfect for beginners, and tastes amazing! It has a chewy crust, a tender middle, and a fantastic cheddar flavor!

This bread is definitely best on the day that it's baked, but you can stretch it for another few days if you're making it into a grilled cheese or panini. It also makes fantastic homemade croutons! This is a great recipe for beginning bread makers because it's so simple and easy, but it's still totally delicious!

This no-knead cheddar artisan bread is perfect for beginners, and tastes amazing! It has a chewy crust, a tender middle, and a fantastic cheddar flavor!
No-Knead Cheddar Artisan Bread

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add the water and stir until a soft and sticky dough forms. Stir in the cheddar cheese. Cover and let rest 12-18 hours. After the dough has rested, preheat the oven to 450 with a dutch oven inside. When the oven has heated, heavily flour your hands and your work surface and shape the dough into a ball. Place the ball of dough into the preheated dutch oven, cover, and return it to the oven. Bake 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Enjoy!
This no-knead cheddar artisan bread is perfect for beginners, and tastes amazing! It has a chewy crust, a tender middle, and a fantastic cheddar flavor!

3.12.2019

Mini Pretzel Dogs

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These adorable and easy to make mini pretzel dogs are the perfect appetizer!

These adorable and easy to make mini pretzel dogs are the perfect appetizer!

Okay, friends, who else is struggling with the time change? It's one of my least favorite times of year, and I am totally exhausted. I'm a terrible sleeper at the best of times, and any little thing that throws off my rhythm just exacerbates all of the problems I had in the first place. Every year it seems to take me several miserable weeks to adjust to the time change, and I turn into an irritable, exhausted zombie. Ugh! I do love that there's more daylight in the evenings now, and that it's starting to feel like spring. I just wish I didn't have to be so tired for several weeks in order to have more light!

One of the positive things about this time of year is that I'm starting to plan out our yard and garden for this year, and I'm so excited! We bought our house last summer, and we were so focused on fixing up the interior of the house that we did basically nothing to our outdoor spaces last year. This year, I'm excited to plant a garden in our raised garden beds, and I've even got big plans to paint our deck and pergola to make the space brighter and happier. It has been a long dreary winter, and it makes me feel much more hopeful now that the days are getting longer and spring is coming!

Since we're still in that in-between period where half of the days are rainy and cold and dark, and half of the days are sunny and warm, how about a delicious appetizer to cheer everyone up? These mini pretzel dogs are so fun and adorable, and they taste amazing. They remind me of warm summer days at the ballpark, but they're easy to make at home in the oven. They work great as an appetizer or snack, and my kids love it when I add them to their school lunches. They're totally delicious!

These adorable and easy to make mini pretzel dogs are the perfect appetizer!
Mini Pretzel Dogs

3/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 package Lil' Smokies sausages
1 large egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water, whisked together
coarse salt (I used Jacobsen salt because it's my favorite)

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the warm water and sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let stand five minutes, until foamy. Add the flour, salt, and butter, and mix until combined. Knead 5-10 minutes, until smooth and pliable. Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner, and spray with cooking spray. Heat the water and baking soda to boiling. While waiting for the water to boil, gently punch down the dough and divide it into 3 equal-sized balls. Roll each ball out into a circle that is approximately 12 inches in diameter. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut each circle into twelve wedges. Place a sausage at the wide end of each wedge, and roll the dough around it, pressing with your fingers to seal the end. Place the wrapped dogs a few at a time into the boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then remove to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the top of each dog with the egg wash, then sprinkle with salt. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove and let cool slightly before serving.
These adorable and easy to make mini pretzel dogs are the perfect appetizer!

3.04.2019

Shamrock Shake Cupcakes

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These shamrock shake cupcakes are so adorable, and perfect for St. Patrick's Day!

These shamrock shake cupcakes are so adorable, and perfect for St. Patrick's Day!

Can you believe it's March already? We've had a few sunny days in Portland this week, after a long and dreary winter, and it finally feels like spring is on the way! This is our first spring in our new house, and it has been really fun watching the bulbs push up in my backyard over the last few weeks. The previous owner of our house was quite the gardener, and so far we've identified tulips, crocuses, and daffodils peeking up. I can't wait for warmer days, fresh air, and sunshine!

St. Patrick's Day always feels like the beginning of spring to me. My family didn't do much to celebrate when I was a kid, but after I got married, my husband and I decided to make it a special (albeit low key) day every year. We always cook a fun Irish dinner together (this Guinness beef stew and split pea and bacon soup are two of our favorites), and make a delicious Irish dessert like this Irish lemon pudding or Irish apple cake. We usually buy each of our kids a new green t-shirt or dress, and if I'm feeling extra energetic, sometimes I hide some gold coins somewhere in the house and tell them a leprechaun stopped by. It's fun to add a little extra celebration to an otherwise ordinary day!

These shamrock shake cupcakes are so adorable, and perfect for St. Patrick's Day!

I made these shamrock shake cupcakes for our St. Patrick's Day dessert last year, and my whole family loved them! Just like their namesake, they're basically vanilla flavored, with just a hint of mint, and some green food coloring to make them festive. I used my favorite light and airy marshmallow frosting to top them, and then added some festive sprinkles and a little striped straw to make them extra adorable. They turned out so cute! 

These shamrock shake cupcakes are so adorable, and perfect for St. Patrick's Day!
Shamrock Shake Cupcakes

for the cupcakes:
3/4 cup cake flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, cold
2 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
green food coloring

for the frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
7 ounce container marshmallow cream
3 - 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
paper straws

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl or a the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Grate the cold butter into the bowl, and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the sour cream, vanilla, and mint extract in a measuring cup, and add about half of the sour cream mixture to the flour mixture. Beat until well blended and smooth. Add the other half of the sour cream mixture, and beat until smooth. Add 4-5 drops of food coloring to turn the batter a pale green. Fill the paper liners 2/3 full and bake 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the tin for a few minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat together the butter and marshmallow cream until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar,and vanilla, and beat until light and fluffy. Add additional powdered sugar or milk as needed to make a smooth, pipeable frosting. Frost cupcakes as desired and top with sprinkles. Add half of a paper straw to each cupcake for decoration.
These shamrock shake cupcakes are so adorable, and perfect for St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

1.30.2019

Instant Pot Garlic Mashed Potatoes

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These delicious instant pot garlic mashed potatoes are a quick and easy side dish that goes with everything!

These delicious instant pot garlic mashed potatoes are a quick and easy side dish that goes with everything!

Who else is an Instant Pot fan? It has been 2 1/2 years since I bought my Instant Pot, and it has definitely become one of my favorite kitchen tools! I use it almost daily, for everything from boiled eggs to soup to staples like rice. It has honestly changed my cooking for the better, and makes it so much easier to get dinner on the table at a reasonable time! I read an article recently that claimed several things about the Instant Pot, including 1) that it doesn't actually change your life, and 2) that it's contributing to us as a society losing our traditional cooking methods.

I can't help but disagree with both of those statements! First of all, it actually has changed my life. It means that when it's five o'clock and I haven't done anything to get dinner ready, I can still have a delicious and healthy dinner ready by six, with minimal effort on my part. It means that we eat out less, that we use up the food that's in our fridge and pantry more often, and that we save money. If you are more organized than I am, and you can remember to prep food for the crock pot in the morning so you can have a delicious dinner later, then that is awesome! Since I am nearly always running behind and flying by the seat of my pants, it makes life easier for me to throw everything in the Instant Pot and have it ready in 30-60 minutes, instead of 6-8 hours.

As far as losing our traditional cooking methods, well... what does that even mean? (It's probably true that if you gave me a cast iron pot and expected me to cook everything over an open fire, it might be a struggle for me, at least at first.) The truth is, I know how to do a slow braise, or how to simmer a spaghetti sauce on the stove for hours. I know how to make a bread recipe that takes 24+ hours, and I know how to roast a chicken in the oven. And when I have time, I do all of those things, and enjoy them. And when I don't, I just throw things in the Instant Pot and dinner is quick and easy.

The first Instant Pot recipe I ever made was these mashed potatoes, and they are still one of my favorite recipes. I honestly don't think I will ever make mashed potatoes another way. They are so easy, and have the perfect consistency every time. I thought it would be fun to add some different flavors and change up the recipe a little bit this time, so I added a bunch of garlic (both fresh and powdered) and they turned out so good! They're just as thick and creamy as the original recipe, but with a nice mellow garlic flavor. They are so delicious!
Instant Pot Garlic Mashed Potatoes

3 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed clean
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup half and half
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cut the potatoes into fourths. Add the potatoes and garlic to the pot, and pour the chicken broth over the top. Place the lid on the Instant Pot and set to high pressure for 8 minutes. Let naturally release for 5 minutes, then quick release the pressure. Mash the potatoes and garlic with a potato masher to desired level of smoothness. Add the butter, half and half, garlic powder, and salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add additional half and half as needed to thin out the potatoes. Serve hot.
These delicious instant pot garlic mashed potatoes are a quick and easy side dish that goes with everything!

1.27.2019

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

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These light and tender blueberry buttermilk muffins are the perfect way to start the day!

These light and tender blueberry buttermilk muffins are the perfect way to start the day!

I don't know what is up with me, but I have been on a total muffin kick lately! I've made these blueberry buttermilk muffins every Saturday this month, and I never get tired of them. I know blueberry muffins are not really anything groundbreaking, but these ones are pretty great! They're light and tender, have the perfect amount of sweetness, and are loaded with juicy blueberries. Best of all, they're easy to make, and perfect for a lazy Saturday morning (which all of my Saturday mornings seem to be). I'm not usually one for making breakfast (that's usually my husband's department) but these are definitely worth making. Every Saturday, apparently!

These light and tender blueberry buttermilk muffins are the perfect way to start the day!
Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons coarse sugar

Preheat the oven to 400. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners or spray with cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the oil, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries. Scoop into the prepared muffin tin, filling 3/4 full. Sprinkle the coarse sugar over the tops of the muffins. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.
These light and tender blueberry buttermilk muffins are the perfect way to start the day!
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