Churro Chips

IMG_2469Vegan Stoner is a fabulously named food blog I discovered via Pinterest. According to the site, they were “created under the premise that vegan cooking can be made without extensive ingredient lists and involved recipes.” Their blog is chock-full of whimsically illustrated (and simple) recipes. I decided to make their Churro Chips to round out my cinnamon-themed February.

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Traditionally, churros are a deep-fried pastry popular in Spain and Latin America, as well as the U.S. and other countries where people love their fried things. What appealed to me about this particular riff on churros was its simplicity. Unlike the churro, these chips aren’t deep-fried. To be honest, being doused with cinnamon sugar is the the only quality which makes them churro-like. Visually, they resemble those Taco Bell treats from my youth, Cinnamon Crispas, which were deep-fried and crispy and greasy and were so, so ridiculously good. Sadly, I hear they’re long gone from the Taco Bell menu so I can’t stage a taste comparison.

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Tortilla triangles oiled and sprinkled and ready to go in the oven

The Churro Chips recipe is super simple. Cut flour tortillas into small triangles. Brush both sides with oil (I used canola), then sprinkle both sides with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 400° F until lightly browned, especially on the edges (the recipe says 5 minutes; I found it was more like 10). Voilà! Yummy, crispy, cinnamon sugary treats.

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Vegan Stoner includes a recipe for a dip to accompany the chips — a mixture of vanilla pudding and soy milk, which didn’t really speak to me this morning. I much prefer having them alongside the more traditional churro sidekick — hot chocolate. I bought some Equal Exchange Spicy Hot Cocoa Mix with chili and cinnamon at our church fair last fall and it’s just sublime. Just add hot milk, or hot almond milk as I prefer… so good. The pairing made for a terrific send-off to this week (and to the month of February).

For you foodie historians,  you can read more on churros here.

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Alice Medrich’s Snicker Doodles

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We’ve been having fun in our winter home-away-from-home spot in the beautiful and very snowy Berkshires this week. When I say “fun,” I do not include the ill-advised attempt I made to drive up an especially steep and unplowed road in Stockbridge during a freak storm one afternoon. I suppose I should’ve heeded the SUV that was curiously “parked” in the middle of a 4-foot snow bank at the bottom of the hill I was attempting to scale. Fortunately, in spite of not having any clear idea of where the edges of the road were or much of a clue in general, I somehow managed to get myself back down the hill and facing the appropriate direction, through a combination of driving in reverse, spinning and a significant amount of pleading with the Universe. It was almost enough to make me lose sight of how breathtakingly gorgeous the falling snow was.

The snow was absolutely beautiful. This was the view from the Norman Rockwell Museum.

This week’s cinnamon offering is from another oft-neglected cookbook I own: Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich. (What can I say? I’m overly practical when it comes to baking. If I find a recipe that works well, I tend to stick with it and cease experimenting any further.) This is a terrifically comprehensive book, with chapters broken down into the chewy, gooey, crispy, crunchy, or melt-in-your-mouth categories listed in the title, as well as sections on chunky and flaky cookies. The snickerdoodles are in the crunchy portion, and they are as promised. You can find the recipe here, at the Toronto Star’s site (please note that there’s a small error in their version: per Medrich’s book, the cinnamon sugar for rolling the cookies should be 1 tablespoon sugar to 1 teaspoon cinnamon).

In case you are unfamiliar with them, snickerdoodles are an old-fashioned sort of sugar cookie. As mentioned above, the cookies are rolled in cinnamon sugar before they are baked, but they have an additional ingredient which makes them rather unique: cream of tartar. This in combination with the baking soda in the recipe lends a distinctive taste which many describe as a “tang.” I’ve noticed with other snickerdoodle recipes that if they contain too much cream of tartar, this comes off as a kind of fuzzy feeling in one’s mouth, which I don’t enjoy at all.  Alice Medrich’s recipe apparently contains just the right amount of cream of tartar for me as I don’t experience that fuzzy mouth sensation when I eat these. If the idea of possible unusual mouth sensations doesn’t appeal to you, there are some nontraditional snickerdoodle recipes which do not contain the cream of tartar-baking soda combo, but instead use baking powder as the leavener.

You can read more about snickerdoodles here:

Cinnamon Spiral Bread

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We’ve had a lot of snow days here in New England this winter. This isn’t really unusual, but somehow every year around this time, I’m newly weary at the weekly occurrence of a school closing. This winter we’ve been fortunate: until today, the superintendent has called off school the night before, so we’ve had the luxury of going to sleep knowing that the alarm clock doesn’t need to be set.

I really didn’t expect us to have a snow day today though. Most of the forecasts say we should get a 3 to 6 inches over the course of the day, which really isn’t noteworthy as far as storms go. So I was startled when my slumber was broken by the relative clamor of the phone ringing in the middle of the night. OK, it was 5:40 am, so I’m being overly dramatic, but it really felt like the middle of the night. And it was a particularly unwelcome sound as my older son is away at college some 200 miles away; my first thought was of him when it rang. Oddly, the robocall was not from our school superintendent but rather the district’s director of operations and finance, which seemed so bizarre and atypical that it left me feeling like I had dreamt the whole thing when I returned to bed.

The upshot of this is that we were able to leisurely enjoy the Cinnamon Spiral Bread that I baked yesterday afternoon with our coffee as the snow began falling.

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The recipe is from my seldom used copy of King Arthur Flour Whole Grain BakingI have a million little post-its tucked in its pages for recipes I want to try but seldom reach for it for some reason. Maybe it’s because the other (younger) folks in the house love their white flour too much. At any rate, I have whole wheat flour and oats taking up valuable freezer and pantry space so I thought maybe a whole grain baked good which employed copious amounts of sugar might have a greater chance of being eaten. Oh, who am I kidding — I prefer my whole grain baked goods with lots of sugar too.

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This recipe uses a preferment, a simple starter prepared the night before mixing the dough, which imparts flavor and increases the shelf life of the bread. You can read more about different types of preferments here.

As promised in the recipe’s introductory notes, the Cinnamon Spiral Bread really does resemble an oversized cinnamon roll, albeit a rather lumpy and bumpy looking one, thanks to the whole oats. It’s fairly dense but moist, and is only slightly sweet in spite of the honey in the dough, the different sugary coatings the dough is rolled in and topped with, and the icing. We’ll see if my white flour lover will sample a piece if he ever rises from his self-indulgent snow day snoozefest.

[Whoops! When I originally posted, I mistakenly referred to this as Cinnamon Swirl Bread. The correct name is Cinnamon Spiral Bread, as I’ve updated.]

In The Kitchen

This morning, I’m busy doing what I do best: using up old ingredients. For the month of February, I’ll be baking and blogging about goodies which feature cinnamon, and today I’m mixing up a whole grain sweet bread. It’s said to be like a giant cinnamon roll. I thought it would be perfect for using up some of the whole wheat flour that’s been sitting in my freezer for, like, forever. Stay tuned.