Thursday, September 30, 2010

BBA: Italian Bread

The fifteenth bread of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge is Italian Bread.
This bread begins with a biga that is made the day before. That biga is mixed with flour, salt, yeast, sugar, olive oil, and water to make this delicious bread. I didn't have any malt powder so I omitted it.

I hearth baked again by spraying the walls and with my pan of water. I didn't like hearth baking at first, but I can now get a sense of how much it does and I think I prefer hearth baked breads now.
I preferred this bread to the French bread I just made. Part of what I liked was the shaping. I'm finding I prefer batards to baguettes. I like the doughy middle and with baguettes you get lots of crust.

This bread was fantastic. I ate about five sliced warm with butter on it after it came out of the oven and then shared the rest at dinner. A definite repeat!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Modern Baker: Breads Recap

The Modern Bakers have finished up the Breads section and are moving on to the Yeast-Risen Specialties: Sweet & Savory. I fell way behind on bread making. It was summer. I have two small kids. And, I am also doing the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. We had lots of bread around the house. We sort of got breaded out by the end of the summer.
On to the next section! My official post will be the Pecan Stickies Buns!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Easy Roasted Tomato Sauce

We had some extra tomatoes and garlic from our CSA so I made a super easy tomato sauce. I used about 8 tomatoes, and eggplant, and two heads of garlic. We love garlic in this house!This made enough for dinner, lunch, and two bags of frozen sauce for another time. Yum! I'm thinking lasagna.
Easy Roasted Tomato Sauce
From: Sarah
Printable Recipe

Tomatoes, however many you've got
Basil, large bunch
Eggplant (optional)
Garlic, 1 head or more
Olive Oil

Set oven to 400. Oil baking sheet. Set bunches of basil leaves on sheet. Top bunches with whole tomatoes. Tuck basil under tomatoes the best you can. Peel garlic and sprinkle on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and lightly salt.

Pop in the oven to roast for 25-35 minutes or until the tomatoes are wilted and roasted. The basil should be steamed. Chop eggplant and roast on an oiled pan for 20 minutes. Pour everything (including juices) into blender and puree or use immersion blender.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Decorating Sugar Cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

This month's challenge was based on the theme September. September to me means football! The University of Oregon Ducks are currently ranked #4!!!
The cookies came out okay. I really think I need to change my blog name to Distracted Baking or something. I didn't put in enough butter- by about half. Eek! No wonder my dough was all weird. No wonder the cookies were bland and dry. My stepmom and dad were polite when eating them, but my husband sure let me know they were "suck the moisture from your mouth dry".
Decorating was tons of fun though!! The only issues I had was that sometimes making an "O" on a cookie turned out looking a bit more like an Easter egg than an "O" and my consistency wasn't perfect for writing although doing all the other decorating went great. I used the "same consistency" method to save on time and bags. The cookies are super cute and a blast to make- even if they were a taste flop.
Basic Sugar Cookies
Printable Recipe
Makes Approximately 36  4" Cookies
½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1. Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture. Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their shape.
2. Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms. Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
3. Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
4. Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins. Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.
5. Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife. Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour. Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
6. Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
7. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.

Royal Icing:
2½ - 3 cups Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar, unsifted
2 Large Egg Whites
2 tsp Lemon Juice
1 tsp Almond Extract, optional
• Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined. Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites. Tip: I’ve listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.
• Beat on low until combined and smooth.
• Use immediately or keep in an airtight container as royal icing starts to harden as soon as it's in contact with air.

The Same Consistency Method
• Mix your royal icing according to the recipe/instructions
• Drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing and count to 10
• If the surface becomes smooth between 5 & 10 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency
Tip: If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, do the 10 second test, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc.
Tip: To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 10 second test
Two Different Consistencies Method
• Mix your royal icing according to the recipe/instructions.
• Separate into 2 different bowls, one lot of icing for outlining, the other for flooding.
• For the outlining icing, drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing.
• If the surface becomes smooth at around 10 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency.
Tip: If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, count to 10 seconds, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc.
Tip: To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 10 second test.
• For the flooding/filling icing, drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing.
• If the surface becomes smooth at around 3-4 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency.
Tip: If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, count to 3-4 seconds, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc.
Tip: To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 3-4 second test.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Modern Baker: Cinnamon Raisin Breakfast Ring

I'm jumping into the next Modern Baker section a couple days early. We officially start into the Yeast-Risen Specialties in October. My game plan for the next section of recipes was to go through the chapter and mark the recipes that jumped out at me. I'd bake those first and then if I had time I'd go back and readdress the others. This recipe did not jump out at me. I had no plan to bake it. Then I started planning the Coffee Cake Showdown and I kept thinking about this recipe. On the spur of the moment I decided to go for it and bake it.

This became coffee cake #4. It only received 1 vote, but it wasn't because it was bad. It just isn't a classic coffee cake so people voted for other cakes.
It was fun to make! Malgieri says to prepare the brioche dough through step 6, but that's after the braiding. I'm betting he meant step 4 because why would I braid the dough and then form it back into a ball and refrigerate it? Watch out for this if you're going to make this one.
I pressed out the dough, spread on the cinnamon sugar filling, raisins, and pecans. As most of you know, I hate fruit- particularly raisins- in my bread. Since I was making this for a party I decided to keep the raisins in. Perhaps my guests would like them.
I love pictures in cookbooks. They help me understand what to do. I had to reread step 6 three times and then I called my husband in to help walk me through it. (I'm not always the best as reading spatial instructions.) A few pictures there really would have helped me. Luckily, my husband is good at spatial instruction. I think I did it right.
The final rise took quite a long time- over 2 hours. It was a hectic day so it wasn't a huge deal that it didn't go in the oven until 8:30pm (it was meant for the next day anyway) but you know how a watched pot doesn't boil- well, watched bread doesn't rise! I wonder if my yeast went bad or something because it just sat there forever.

There was plenty of butter in the ring! Check out the edge of my baking sheet after baking.
Final verdict? I liked it but didn't like the raisins (you're shocked, I'm sure), my father in law loved the raisins. It had too many pecans for one of my brother in laws. I happened to like all the nuts. My other brother in law wouldn't stay away from it and happily took the rest of it home with him. Definitely a success!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Coffee Cake Showdown Winner

I am so excited to report that with this coffee cake baking behind me I have officially completed Goal #2 of my new years resolution, which was the reason I started this blog in the first place! I have now completed all recipes in my recipe box that I had never tried before!!

Which coffee cake won?

Well, first off, you may notice four coffee cakes on the table. I had a last minute addition. (Tune into tomorrow for that one.) It's a Modern Baker recipe. I wanted everyone to try it and enjoy it, but it wasn't as officially in the running.

Coffee Cake #1, the cake we usually make, did dismally with only 1/2 a vote. (Yes, my voters couldn't make up their minds and started doing 1/2 votes.)

Coffee Cake #2 received 5 votes and Coffee Cake #3 received 5 1/2 votes. Coffee cake #2 was the favorite classic coffee cake. It is quick and simple and tastes great. Coffee cake #3 tasted great too and was fun and different. In some ways it's unfair to compare the two. I'm calling it a draw. However, I'm sure my grandma up in heaven is enjoying that her Hungarian coffee cake took home top prize! A 1/2 a vote counts!

There is a fourth cake and it received 1 vote. It's not that it wasn't liked. It was just that it was less a traditional coffee cake. Check in tomorrow for more.

Want a little peak into my life- here's my kitchen in the midst of baking 4 coffee cakes. Seriously, this just doesn't capture the chaos.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Coffee Cake Showdown: Coffee Cake #3

This coffee cake recipe is also from my grandma and it is one my mom remembers her making especially for company. My mom said it's the perfect football party coffee cake and that my grandma made it often for football games (Go Navy!). We'll see what the taste testers think.

It's a very different coffee cake as it uses yeast and the dough is made into individual balls that are coated in butter and then a cinnamon sugar nut mixture. The dough then rises together and is baked. My grandma used an angel food pan to bake it in. My mom also said that grandma would sometimes form it into a tower.
It was not complicated, but it was time consuming. Next time I'll put a cookie sheet under the pan when cooking so any spillage doesn't hit the oven floor. Time to clean the oven again!
Coffee Cake #3
From: Grandma Goodwin
Printable Recipe

1 c milk
2 ¼ oz pkg active dry yeast
½ c sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, well beaten
4 ½ c flour
½ c vegetable oil

  1. Scald milk; cool to 105-115 (till finger is comfortable).
  2. Sprinkle yeast over the warm milk; sit in sugar and salt; let stand about 10 min.
  3. Add eggs. Beat well. 
  4. Add ½ of flour; beat until smooth for several min.
  5. Add oil. Beat well. 
  6. Add remainder of flour, beat thoroughly- dough should be soft and workable.  (I dump it on lightly floured board and roll and knead until the dough can be picked up without sticking to the hands.  Be careful not to add too much flour.) 
  7. Shape into a ball; place in greased bowl; cover and allow to rise until at least double in bulk.  (45min-2 hrs, depending on warmth in house- it will rise-just give it time. Can be placed in warm sunny window, or set in front of heat vent in winter Forcing in the oven I have never done successfully)
  8. While dough is rising prepare:
½ c butter, melted
1 c sugar
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 c finely chopped nuts
½ c raisins (optional)

  1. Use angel food pan (I prefer) or springform pan. Grease generously. 
  2.  Punch dough down; form into balls the size of walnuts.
  3.  Roll each ball in the butter. Then into a mixture of sugar, nuts, and cinnamon (use two spoons- 1 in butter, 1 in sugar, helps the mess) 
  4. Place one layer of balls in the pan so they barely touch.
  5. Sprinkle with raisins.
  6. Add another layer of balls, adding more raisins.
  7. Cover; let rise until light (at least 45 min and should be twice the original size)
  8. Bake 35-40 min at 375. May test for doneness by lifting one ball sticky, cook longer (I’m speaking of the dough not the mixture—it is sticky anyway)
  9. Cool about 10 min.  loosen around sides with spatula. Invert quickly onto the serving plate and move as little as possible; it will fall apart if handled too much while it is warm.
Freezes well after it is baked; freezing the raw dough kills the yeast and it will not rise. If frozen, it can be inverted while frozen and put back right side up again. If possible, put on plate you plan to serve it on—heat in 300 oven until warm—20-30 min; Break off pieces to serve. Twelve servings.

This sounds complicated—it is not, but it is time consuming.  A good thing to make on a day you’re home doing other tings.  Don’t worry about letting it rise too much—it just makes a lighter dough. Not rising enough is worse.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Coffee Cake Showdown: Coffee Cake #2

This coffee cake is credited to my grandma, but it was my mom who made it often. My older sister and brother used to spend every other weekend with my parents. Yes, I'm from one of those complicated divorced families. My mom would begin making this when my dad left to get them and there would be warm coffee cake when the kids arrived for the weekend.

I know this recipe must be old because of ingredients like "fat" and directions like "cook in a moderate oven". It's very similar to the first coffee cake recipe, but this batter what much thicker- more like brownie batter- whereas yesterday's batter was more like cake batter.

Coffee Cake #2
From: Grandma Goodwin
Printable Recipe

2 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
3 Tbs melted fat (butter)
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 c sugar
1 c milk

Topping: Double Topping highly recommended
3 Tbs butter, melt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c nuts

Mix cake and put in large baking pan. Put topping on top. Slit thru the batter to allow the topping to seep in. Bake in a moderate oven for 15-20 minutes. (More like 45 minutes.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Coffee Cake Showdown: Coffee Cake #1

It's time for another Showdown! My cheesecake showdown was so much fun that decided I wanted to do another one when the opportunity presented itself. I'm nearing the end of my recipe box and I noticed two coffee cake recipes. I already have one recipe I made often, but which ones is the best? I invited family and friends over for a tasting party. Let the showdown begin!
I've had this recipe in my recipe box as long as I can remember and I've made it many times. I'm not exactly sure who I got the recipe from, although I do know it was from the 1977 Betty Crocker Cookbook. 1977 was a good year. (I was born that year.)

I had a bit of trouble with the crumble topping this time. It all just seemed into the middle of the cake! After talking to my stepmom who is a great pie maker, I discovered I need to work on my "crumble making technique". 

Coffee Cake #1
Adapted From: Betty Crocker Cookbook 1977
Printable Recipe

1/4 c shortening
3/4 c milk
1 egg
1 1/2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375. Stir together shortening, milk and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and blend this mix into the other ingredients.

1/3 c brown sugar
1/4 c flour
3 Tbs butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Mix with a fork until crumbly.

Place in a greased pan (8'' or 9'' square). Bake 25-30 minutes or until tooth pick comes out clean.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Modern Baker: Elegant Dinner Rolls

I wanted to get in one more bread recipe before the Modern Bakers move onto the next section. October-December will feature Yeast-Risen Specialties: Sweet & Savory. Stay tuned because there are some yummy looking things to come!
The Elegant Dinner Rolls were the perfect match with dinner tonight- soup. Soup for all the runny noses and hacking coughs at our house. Welcome to cold season.
Instead of mixing the dough in a food processor, I used my KitchenAid mixer and then used the dough hook to mix it further for 4-5 minutes. From there I put it in an oiled bowl and let it rise. The dough doubled and I shaped the rolls. I've discovered that I do a lot better with pictures. Malgieri's description of how to form the balls was confusing to me so I just winged it and I think they turned out just fine.
They were delicious and easy to make. I can definitely see myself making them again although they really are best the first day so don't make too many extras.

Friday, September 17, 2010

MSC: Applesauce-Spice Cupcakes

These cupcakes were made before I joined the group. I had two last jars of homemade applesauce and I thought I'd give these cupcakes a try. I made minis because they're so much fun and you don't feel guilty eating more than one. I've enjoyed most of Martha's cupcakes, but I wasn't wild about these. There wasn't anything wrong with them, I would just prefer something more desserty. The brown sugar cream cheese frosting was pretty good and did pair nicely with it. I think if you're a carrot cake lover, you'd be a big fan of these.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

MSC: Cookies and Cream Cheescake Cupcakes

Nina from Nina's Cupcakes chose the September cupcake. These little cheesecakes have a whole oreo as the crust on the bottom and extra oreo chopped up in the chessecake mixture. I bought double stuf oreos- seriously, who still buys original?
These cupcakes were super easy to put together and sure tasty! I actually enjoyed them more on day 2. I can't say about after that since the batch didn't last past day 2.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Food Preservation- Blackberry Freezer Jam

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.
I have aspirations for learning to preserve. I love jam. My mother in law makes jam all summer long and one of these years I'm going to learn!

This challenge was very exciting. I decided to do freezer jam. Everyone says it's super simple. Nicole at Pinch My Salt's strawberry freezer jam was so easy she didn't even include a recipe. She just followed the directions on the package. I can do that!
We picked blackberries. I bought some freezer jar containers and followed the directions on the Ball Instant Fruit Pectin package.
Five lovely jars of freezer jam and one small container of leftovers for eating right away. I tried it on my pancakes the next morning. Delicious!!

Maybe next year is my year to learn real canning with cooking, glass jars, and special seals! For sure I'll be making more freezer jam again!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

My Kitchen, My World: Morocco- Moroccan Stew

Ready to Globe-Trot? My kitchen is.

I love to travel and I miss it. I've traveled around the U.S. and been to Europe five times, including one summer when my husband and I spent 92 days traveling by train. I'm now a mama to two adorable girls and I want to share my love of travel with them. However, traveling with toddlers simply isn't in the cards right now and when we do travel I'm thinking the happiest place on earth- Disneyland- will be the perfect destination.

So, because I can't travel, my kitchen will! Pack your bags and grab your passport!!

I read about My Kitchen, My World on my friend Katye's blog. Each month they pick a new destination and everyone makes a dish relevant to that country. I'm excited to finally join. I might make a few of my own side trips from time to time, but I eager to see where we're off to each month.

And, my first passport stamp is from.... Morocco!
Moroccan Stew. Yum!
As we entered into the month of September and the weather has cooled, soup has made it's way back onto the menu. I found this stew recipe at Smitten Kitchen and it sounded perfect for this challenge and this week.

I stuck pretty close the recipe, although I opted not to hunt down the preserved lemon or brined green olives as they weren't at the first grocery store I shopped at so I listed those as optional ingredients. The squash was great (even the baby liked it) and I loved the flavor the cinnamon stick gave the stew. Recipes like this a great even with a toddler and baby because we just modified how we served it to them (i.e. as chunks not soup) and they ate it right up.

This was also the first time I've steamed couscous. It felt like a lot of work while I was doing it, but now having done it it seems pretty easy. I'd love to add couscous as a regular part to our menu, even though it goes everywhere when two kids eat it with their hands!
Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew
Adapted From Smitten Kitchen
Printable Recipe

1 Tbs unsalted butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, small dice
4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tsps ground cumin
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb butternut squash, large dice
3/4 lb red potatoes, large dice
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juices
Pinch saffron (optional)
1 cup brined green olives (optional)
Fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, for garnish (optional)
Toasted slivered almonds, for garnish (optional)
Plain yogurt, for garnish (optional)
Steamed couscous, for serving

Heat butter and olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, cumin, and cinnamon, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until spices are aromatic and onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add squash and potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, stir to coat, and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Add broth, chickpeas, tomatoes and their juices, and saffron, if using. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until squash is fork tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in preserved lemon and olives. Serve over couscous garnished with cilantro, almonds, and yogurt.

Steamed Couscous
2 cups couscous

Place couscous in a fine strainer and rinse under cold running water. Dump couscous onto a sheet pan, sprinkle with salt, and let stand until grains swell, about 10 minutes. Break up lumps with your fingers.
Partially fill a large steamer pot with 1-inch water. Bring water to simmer. Place damp tea towel or cheesecloth in steamer or colander and add couscous. Fold towel over couscous. Steam, covered, over simmering water for 15 minutes.

Pour couscous onto large, rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/2 cup cold water. Toss with slotted spatula until cool and the water is absorbed. Spritz hands with olive oil and spread out couscous, breaking up any lumps as you go. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Refill pot with enough water to make 1-inch again. Return couscous to colander or steamer and steam, covered, for 10 minutes.
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