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By Ann Marie Craig 05 Dec, 2017
Oh yeah. They're good. 

There is nothing like the early morning scent of cinnamon and chocolate to make me want to get out of bed in the morning. In the case of yesterday morning however, I was the one getting everyone else going. I needed some comfort food in the form of sugar and yeast, so I looked up a story I wrote nearly a year ago for the Washington County Insider . I knew I'd find the recipe I'd created for these amazing rolls - thank goodness, because I had forgotten to save the recipe in my computer. Ha! Try them and let me know what you think; they take some time, but really are not difficult to make and are worth the trouble. Trust me on this.

Swirly Chocolate Cinnamon rolls with Whiskey Vanilla Buttercream
This makes a HUGE batch of rolls, so plan to make them when you're expecting a crowd, or make ahead and freeze in smaller packets for a month of Sunday mornings. Or just make half the recipe. 
Time to create: Overall, about 3 hours, but each step is done in just a few minutes and then the dough rests. Just stick around the house so you can check up on things every once in a while and can move things to the next step when ready.
Time to bake:
20-25 minutes at 400 degrees F.


What you’ll need to make them really tasty:

For the sweet roll dough:

2 ½ t. yeast

4-5 cups of flour, plus more for dusting

2 c. water

4 T. butter

¼ c. sugar

¼ c. powdered milk

1 T. salt

2 eggs

 

For the filling:

1 c. sugar (I use Turbinado sugar. Plain sugar is fine.)

¼ c. unsweetened cocoa powder

2 t. cinnamon

½ t. espresso powder (optional – the espresso makes the chocolate flavor pop!)

3 t. melted butter

 

For the frosting:

2 ½ c. powdered sugar

1 t. cinnamon

2 T. Whiskey or whiskey vanilla …. Or just plain old vanilla….

1 T. milk or cream or half & half

2 T. softened butter


Here we go:

Heat the water until just a little too warm to the touch – about 105 – 110 degrees F., place the 4T butter in the warm water to melt or melt it separately. Place the yeast and 2 cups of the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the sugar, powdered milk, and salt and stir together with a wire whisk. Pour in the warm water and melted butter and beat the mixture with the whisk until well blended. Add the eggs and beat it for about a minute, or until the eggs are blended in well and the mixture looks slightly bubbly.

Add 1 cup of the remaining flour, stirring it in with a wooden spoon- then add more flour, about a half-cup, just enough to create a shaggy, sticky mass of dough. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it rest for about ½ hour to allow the flour to absorb some of the moisture from the dough.

After 30 minutes, stir in enough of the remaining flour to create a slightly firmer dough – soft, but not too sticky. Sprinkle flour on the dough and begin to knead it right in the bowl, adding dustings of flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the sides of the bowl, but don’t add a lot of flour at this point as the dough will get too stiff. Knead about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is slightly soft, not sticky, and is smooth and lightly dimpled. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise until doubled in size – about 1 hour. It may take longer if your kitchen is a little cool. *a trick for rolls with chewier texture is to mix this at night and allow the dough to rise in your refrigerator while you sleep!

Once the dough has risen, punch it down to release air bubbles, divide it in half and place one of the halves on a flour-dusted board or dough cloth. Roll into a flat rectangle about 1/8 inch thick with a rolling pin. While the dough was rising, you were of course mixing up the dry ingredients of the filling so it would be ready when you are – which is right now! Brush the rolled out dough with melted butter, and spoon-sprinkle half of the dry filling ingredients onto the dough, spreading out to within about ¼ inch of the edges. Starting from the shorter end of the rectangle, roll the dough tightly to create a log. Brush the other short edge of the dough with a little water and use your fingers to stick it to the main log to keep it from unrolling as you cut it. Now, you can cut it into 1 ½ inch pieces with a knife, or you can use my little trick of sliding a long piece of dental floss (center it under the log at the place you want to cut) under the log and criss-cross the ends of the floss tightly together to swiftly cut the log into round, swirly slices. Place the slices cut side down (and up!) in a buttered 13 X9 inch pan or large baking pan with sides. Do the same with the remaining half of that dough, and when you’ve filled up the first pan, fill another, smaller greased pan with any remaining slices you might not have room for. Cover the pans with a towel and allow them to rise for another hour until doubled. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden brown. If they brown very quickly, cover with foil part way through the baking time.

Allow to cool, then frost – or not!

 

Whiskey & Cinnamon Frosting:

Put all the ingredients except the softened butter into a medium sized mixing bowl. Stir until the sugar and the liquids create a very thick ball. If the ingredients seem to dry to create the ball, add more whiskey vanilla to the bowl ½ t. at a time, stirring the thick mixture until it creates a stiff ball. Add the butter and work it into the stiffened ball of sugar, then stir it quickly to create a smooth buttercream frosting. Once the buttercream has been made you can thin it a little with milk or cream to make a glaze if you’d like. The rolls in the photo are frosted with the thicker buttercream. Frost the rolls and enjoy!

Yum.


How to make Whiskey Vanilla:

Ingredients: 

1 vanilla bean for every half-liter of whiskey (or other alcohol, such as vodka)

I like to make this in a canning jar, then decant to a pretty bottle when ready. You can make it right in the whiskey bottle if you'd like.

 Split the vanilla bean(s) lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Place the bean(s) into the whiskey, replace the cover, and shake vigorously. Allow the bottle to sit on the counter - more to remind you to give it a good shake every day than anything else - and shake it daily for about three weeks. Decant to a pretty bottle. The vanilla makes a wonderful gift, and is used as you would use commercial vanilla extract in baking and cooking. 
By Ann Marie Craig 20 Nov, 2017
Cranberries are the mainstay of our fall table: cranberry bread, cranberry & apple jam, cranberry juice, cooked cranberries, and fresh cranberries with oranges. The uses of those little red berries to brighten up the table or a lunchbox are endless. I want to share my favorite - and the most easy - recipe for cranberry salad. I make this at least once a week as long as I can get my hands on fresh cranberries. And oranges. And sugar. That's all, folks!

But before I go into all of that, I learned something a few years ago. Cranberries grow in bogs, and there is an area in West Bend, of all places, where cranberries used to be grown. There is not much written about the bogs, but if you wander off of the Ice Age Trail just north of the University of Wisconsin - Washington County campus, you can see the remnants of bogs; the low-lying, rectangular fields where cranberry plants were flooded and harvested, and which now are pretty grown over with prairie plants and small trees. I didn't know that West Bend had a cranberry history, did you? I will see if I can find out more info for a future blog post. Just because I am interested in it. 

OK! Here's the scoop on how to make this crunchy, sweet, cranberry freshness: 

Ingredients:  For every 12-oz. bag of fresh cranberries, you will need 1 - 2 oranges and about 3/4 - 1 cup of sugar. 
Equipment: You will need a bowl, a spoon, a paring knife, a colander, a food-processor, &  measuring cup

Rinse the cranberries in the colander and allow to drain for a few minutes. Place the fine-chopping blade on the food processor and begin to chop the cranberries, a few handfuls at a time. Peel the orange(s) - I like to use the back of a spoon to do that; it is so much easier! Roughly chop the oranges into about 1-inch pieces and also put them into the food processor, chopping the chunks into tiny pieces as well.

Now, pour the chopped fruit into a large bowl. Remove larger orange pieces that did not chop finely. These can be cut up finely with a knife, or eaten by the cook, or discarded. Whichever you choose!

Next, add the sugar. If you used two oranges, you can use a little less sugar, and of course, you can add more or less to the overall recipe as your tastes desire. Stir the sugar in thoroughly. Refrigerate at least one hour. Serve slightly chilled. This salad will keep for at least a day, so you can make it ahead of a big dinner, such as Thanksgiving, and give yourself a break! Unless of course, you have to "taste" it a lot. Then you just have to make more. 

This salad is wonderful with the traditional chicken or turkey dinner, but it will brighten a sandwich lunch or a simple soup supper. Yum.
By Ann Marie Craig 27 Oct, 2017
Company is coming for supper tonight. 
When Mr. Century Farmhouse was teaching at a small village school quite a few years ago, he and two other teachers began meeting for breakfasts every three months or so. They gathered at each other's homes or occasionally treated themselves to breakfast out on the town. Those little gatherings evolved into inclusion of spouses and families and now are not just for breakfast anymore. It is our turn, and I am cooking dinner tonight.

The menu:
We'll start with Apple Slices dipped into homemade caramel sauce a lá Pioneer Woman and goat cheese with homemade Rosemary & Garlic Breadsticks. I was bored last night, so I made some before I went to bed. Ha.

The Main menu:
Pork Roast cooked slowly with apples, onions, garlic, homemade sauerkraut, and garden thyme.
Baked Potatoes with sour cream & garden chives
Roasted Applesauce with Raisins and Ginger
Chunky Roasted Butternut Squash with our own maple syrup &  garden sage
Roasted Beets
cherry tomatoes, pepperoncini, etc......

The Dessert:
Roasted (I love to roast, don't you?) Peaches with Whiskey Vanilla and whipped cream
Sugar Cookies edged with cinnamon-sugar 

With all this yumminess we'll have local Wisconsin wines and coffee. 

It is going to feel like Thanksgiving and Christmas wrapped into one fabulous meal shared with fabulous friends. 

Why don't I share that Breadstick recipe with you? Who knows? You might decide to make some too! 

Rosemary & Garlic Breadsticks with Sea Salt
I have had this recipe for years and have used it to make a crispy pizza crust once in a while too. 

Ingredients:
1 pkg dry yeast (or 2 1/2 tsp. yeast)
2 T. butter or oil of your choice - Olive oil is a good substitute
1 1/4 c. water
3-3 1/2 c. bread flour
1 1/2 t. salt
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 t. fresh rosemary, chopped finely - or 1/2 t. dried rosemary
Egg wash:
1 egg white
1 T cold water
Topping about 1T. total:
Sea Salt, crumbled fine-medium texture
Fresh Rosemary, chopped (dried rosemary is fine here, too).

Heat the water and butter until the butter is melted. Allow to cool enough that you don't burn your finger testing the temperature, but it is still pretty warm.

In a large bowl, combine 2c. of the bread flour, salt, yeast, garlic, rosemary bits and the warm water. Mix thoroughly. I use a heavy wire whisk to do this and I mix for about 2 minutes, stopping to rest and to watch the suspenseful parts of Antiques Roadshow on PBS. You can use a dough hook on your mixer if you'd like. The dough should look like wrinkly skin or orange peels at this point. Sprinkle it with a little flour, cover the bowl with a towel and watch the rest of Antiques Roadshow for 1/2 hour or so. 

Knead in the flour sprinkles and add more flour, kneading it in to create a dough that is elastic and smooth, but not stiff. Place in a greased bowl, cover it, and allow it to rise to double in size - about an hour. Perhaps an episode or two of This Old House or Inspector Lynley will get you through this time.

Now comes the fun part! Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F (very hot!). Grease a large cookie sheet or two or cover with parchment. Punch down the dough and divide it into 4ths, and form a roll, cutting that into equal pieces about 1/2- 1 inch wide. With floured hands, roll each piece into a long breadstick that is no wider than 1/2 in diameter. Place them on the cookie sheet. 

Mix the egg wash in a small bowl and the rosemary & sea salt in another small bowl. Use more rosemary than salt if salt is an issue and you love rosemary. If you are not a big rosemary fan, use a little more salt. Whatever, the breadsticks will be yummy!

Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash on each breadstick and sprinkle on the sea salt and rosemary mixture. Pat it gently into the breadstick. Bake for 15 - 22 minutes until the breadsticks are golden brown and a little dry. Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container or freeze. Before serving, pop them back into a hot oven for a few minutes to crisp up. 

Voilá!  
Bon appetit!




By Ann Marie Craig 23 Oct, 2017
The TV is reverberating with cheering crowds while a football is being tossed hither and yon on the field. Or is it a player or two being tossed? Never mind. Mr. Century Farmhouse's family is visiting from The Dakotas, it is a glorious fall day in Wisconsin, and a pot of soup is being built while the game is on and the family is gathered in our kitchen. After a trip to the Farmers' Market this morning and an afternoon walk in the woods on the farm - accompanied all the while by one of the kitties - it is time to make the soup we've been talking about all day. Well, I've been talking about it anyway. I love this soup and I plan to share the recipe with you as it is a winner! I always consider a recipe just a plan, so use whatever veggies you have if you don't exactly have what I list below. The soup will still be pretty fabulous. Here you go:

Vegetable Beef Soup a la Century Farmhouse
This recipe makes a BIG pot of soup. Feed a family. Leftovers for the week will taste divine. Enjoy!

About 2 lbs. stew meat
3 T. butter or oil
1 large onion, chopped in 1/4 inch - 1/2 inch pieces
5 cloves of garlic, pressed or chopped finely
1 large green pepper chopped into 1/4 inch - 1/2 inch pieces
1 large red pepper chopped into 1/4 inch - 1 /2 inch pieces
3 - 4 large carrots, quartered lengthwise and chopped 
3 medium potatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
3 ounces tomato paste
6 cups roasted tomatoes (directions below), or two 28 oz cans of your favorite roasted and diced tomatoes
5 cups beef broth
1 T. sea salt
1 t. ground black pepper
2 T. fresh flat Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
1 t. fresh oregano, coarsely chopped
1 t. fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/2 t. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 splashes (about 2 T) white vinegar
extra salt & pepper to taste

*Roasted tomatoes: At this time of the year, I always have an overabundance of fresh tomatoes, so whipping up a pan of roasted goodness takes only a little effort and a bit of extra time.   Once roasted, the tomatoes can be used in sauces or soups and can be frozen or canned in jars according to safe canning standards. Butter or oil a flat pan (13 X 9 works well). Wash and roughly chop up fresh tomatoes to generously fill the pan. Sprinkle with a little sea salt. Roast for about 2 hours at 400 degrees F. until the tomatoes are very soft and the tops of some are a little charred. There you go!

Let's make soup!
Melt 2 T. of the butter (or warm 2 T. of oil) in a large soup pot.  Add the stew meat, sprinkle with a pinch or two of sea salt and brown the meat for about 10 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan, pour the remaining pot liquor into a bowl and reserve it for the moment. Add the last T. of butter or oil to the pot and begin to brown the onions and garlic. While they are starting to cook, cut the meat into smaller, bite sized pieces if they are larger than about 3/4 inch square. Set aside. 
When the onions and garlic are becoming translucent, add the chopped peppers and allow them to cook for a minute or two. Add the potatoes and carrots. Return the meat to the pot and stir it all around; now add the tomato paste and stir it into the veggies and meat to coat them. Add the sea salt and the ground pepper. Stir it all up! Pop the tomatoes, the reserved pot liquor, and the broth into the pot and let it all begin to simmer on the stove. 
This is the point at which I step outside to my garden to gather some of the last of the summer's herbs to enhance the soup. For this soup I picked a handful of flat Italian parsley, a few stems of thyme and rosemary, and a few more of oregano. After washing them, I chopped them roughly into tiny pieces and added them to the pot, and oh my, did the kitchen smell heavenly! Of course you can use fresh herbs or dried herbs - if dried is what you have, use about half of the amounts listed above. Splash in the vinegar and let the soup simmer for about an hour. Check the taste of the soup and adjust the salt and pepper/herbs seasonings.
This soup is rather rich and thick in the bowl - not stew thick, but this is a substantial soup - not brothy and thin. If you'd like a thinner soup, add another cup or two of beef broth or water as it is cooking.

Make the meal:
I like to serve this Vegetable Beef soup with crusty bread or corn muffins and a salad. We had some lovely roasted peaches flavored with whiskey vanilla for dessert, and I added some homemade sugar cookies to the table as well. Serve with a dry red wine or beer if you'd like. And trust me, the leftovers of the soup will be even better the second time around.....


By Ann Marie Craig 11 Sep, 2017

This recipe is easy! You can use the tart/pie crust of your choice, top with blueberries or any subtly-flavored fruit or jam. 

Serves 8 generous pieces.

By Ann Marie Craig 11 Sep, 2017
Before you start, whirr a little more than 1 Tablespoon culinary lavender (we use organically grown Royal Velvet lavender) with the 3/4 cup granulated sugar in a food processor. This step is not completely necessary, but the bits of lavender are smaller and the cookies will take on a slightly lavender tinge of color. You can also make extra and save it in an airtight jar to sprinkle on muffins and cookies or even on chilled fruit such as watermelon balls.
By Ann Marie Craig 11 Sep, 2017
This recipe is easy! You can use the tart/pie crust of your choice, and for variation, top with berries or pineapple, or any light-flavored fruit or jam. Serves 8 generous pieces.
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