Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Twist on Cinnamon Twists

One of my FB friends (Alaska Bob, who not only has a site for his stunning photography, but also shares desserts to die for) posted this dessert cinnamon twists and the other day, I was feeling a need to create it. Or recreate, as the case may be! To fully follow the directions, one should probably visit Lauren's page and go that route. I, however, didn't want to keep running back and forth from the kitchen to the computer in the dining room and determined I'd not forget anything important! (I did run back and forth a few times.)

The dough I made in the bread machine was a little interesting. I wish my aged skin was as supple and willing to go back to its original elasticity. Eventually, I was able to get the stuff to the rectangle specified in the directions. Sort of. 
I am pretty sure I over drenched the twists in the butter mixture and I'd do this differently next time. I did,
however, like how mine were smaller than the ones pictured in the directions. I think they were a bit easier to handle. 
 Twists are difficult sometimes to work with because what is twisted can untwist. But, I prevailed and managed to get them on the pan.
 Because my family prefers chocolate over any other flavor, I did fill a few twists with mini chips. This is something I will adapt into these twists if I make them again.

 After raising for 30 min or so, I popped them in the oven. For much longer than the directions suggested, but ovens are all a bit different and so are the doughs one can use.
 Once they were baked, I drizzled the glaze on top and they were ready to be tried!
 And they were absolutely delicious. I must admit, however, that the chocolate ones were liked more than the plain cinnamon ones by the guys. There are still many 'plain' ones left and I made them several days ago. Jon did wonder why they were so sticky-He thought the glaze would be more akin to the stuff on a Krispy Kreme.
So, thank you Alaska Bob (Alaskan Photos ), these were a great deal of fun to make!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

When You Go Postal

     When you have loved ones far away, you naturally want to share the bounty of home with them. In 2007, Tony joined the army and ended up in Iraq. I quickly learned a great many things about mailing stuff. I have sent dozens of boxes every year via the USPS to several lucky (or unlucky) recipients and thought I'd pass on my knowledge to others. This is by no means a definitive essay on mailing goodies. It is written strictly from the observations I have made. I realise others might have learned something else and I would appreciate comments pertaining to their experiences. One of the things I've tried to do when I send a box is get comments on how things shipped. Mailing and commentary works.

     One of the first things I learned is how to NOT package cookies. And what kinds of cookies to mail. Cookies are easy to make and fun to send. However, not every cookie or method works efficiently. For instance, NEVER EVER EVER seal cookies into those clever seal a meal bags. They look great until they are opened. Once the seal is broken you discover all the cookies are also broken. I was told this isn't too bad since you can add milk and have your very own home made cookie crisp cereal. I,  however, think it is sort of sad. When I send a cookie, I want them to be eaten as cookies, not crumbs! 
     The best way to package these things is to place them back to back inside a cleaned Pringle's container or plastic frosting tubs. Drop one cookie in, bottom down, next cookie goes in top down, next cookie bottom down, and so on. (so back to back isn't exactly accurate) After they stack (note: when placing them in the Pringle's containers they can slip sideways, which is a pain in the butt.) it is a good idea to seal the top with plastic and tape it and then tape the lid on. I used to just package cookies in packets of 4 wrapped with plastic wrap, but sometimes those cookies also became crumbs. It all hinged on what else I put in the box. 
      Sturdy cookies like PB, snickerdoodles, oatmeal, and other drop cookies mail the best. (No Bakes do not mail well to warm climes, nor do Oreos) Not all sugar cookies are meant to be sent. Decorated cookies (frosting) may look pretty when packaged, but they do not always look good when opened at the end. Brownies, gingerbread, sweet breads, and muffins also pack well. Sometimes you can pack these sturdier shapes alone in the box. However, when you have other objects in the box that may move during shipping (and believe me, things do move around no matter how tight you think they may be packed!), it is best to box them. I've read numerous posts about taking stuff from boxes in order to pack so the flat rates can hold more. And I've done it as well. Which resulted often in crumbs from cereals to crumbs that ended up inside the package itself! (mom, those muddy buddies...they are all over the living room floor and now I really need to get a vacuum!). It is a good idea to take the boxes, open them and add TO them. Pop Tarts boxes can actually hold more tarts than packaged and they are good for sending wrapped square treats in. When sending the square treats, also place them back to back before wrapping them. If you want to send brownies and slap in some frosting between the layers, that works very well! For those small VHS sized flat rates, slabs of sturdy sheet cakes, gingerbread, and brownies are GREAT things to mail. Just wrap in double layers and fill the box.

     Filler items for packages are always fun to send. Socks were a bonus for military boxes-much easier to wear and toss instead of trying to wash socks covered in you name it, but don't cuz that is really gross! Halloween candy is a fun way to fill boxes. Be aware, however, that if you mail a box to a warm area overseas, the candy may melt. (fruit snacks also can melt) Any smallish sorts of treats make awesome fillers. In some posts you may see using popcorn as a filler. Popped popcorn. I didn't do this for two reasons. 1-everything in the box and around the box and near the box smells of popcorn (not always a bad thing, but still) and 2-stale popcorn is nasty. With the advent of microwaves, microwave popcorn is better to send. Since the singles are somewhat sturdy, they are good to place on the edges of boxes.
    Cakes. Everyone always wants to send cake. First, you can bake cakes in jars (glass isn't a good idea to send thru the mail unless wrapped very well in bubble wrap) or metal containers. Be aware of mold issues. Sending a moist treat to a warm climate can result in incredible scientific experiments. I know others have mailed cakes before. Me, I go with the store bought angel cake that fits perfectly in a large flat rate box and comes in its own packaging. You can stuff an amazing amount of things around and on top of this odd shape. (single serving juice packets, small Lego kits, stuffed animals, gum, decks of cards, squeezable frosting and jelly--overseas, jelly was a win!--and so on).
    When you get your package together, close it and shake it. Open it again and see what shifted and adjust accordingly. Do NOT work on making it look pretty. Make it secure. If you want pretty, send a plastic plate and let the recipient set the treats on it after the box arrives.  Shredded paper, plastic grocery bags, and crumpled comics are awesome ways to  help secure contents. Bubble wrap is always good and provides additional entertainment in many forms. Aforementioned socks and underwear work well, too. (remember to add a note in the top of the box mentioning underclothing as boxes are often opened up in groups of excited people and Hello Kitty panties might prove embarrassing.--especially since said Kitty is actually a girl, but I digress)
   On the fabric. Many of us have sealed foodstuffs in plastic bags, but this can also be done with fabric. I recently managed to get a double layered full size fleece blanket inside a large flat rate box...along with a XXXL bag of m&ms and packages of almonds. (this also is handy for packing stuff in luggage or boxes to move) Put item in plastic grocery bag and squish out the air, when small enough, seal firmly and send it off!
   I believe I've rambled on long enough. Hope some of it helps you as you compile stuff to send off to your family, friends, and favorites. Now, it is your turn. What worked and didn't work for you?