Another Loaf: Apricot

I have not written nor baked in a while. We have been eating ordinary meals. You know, baked frozen fish, grilled chicken or burgers, frozen vegetables, scrambled eggs with onion and peppers, and open-faced grilled cheese with tomatoes. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in a pinch! Sometimes I just do not feel like cooking, so when Hubby comes home he throws something together. The open-face grilled cheese with tomatoes are one of his specialties.

At my last camping weekend I brought along the Settlement Cookbook to look through. There are some bread recipes that looked good. Simple and straightforward breads, quick and raised. My mother had given me a paperback Settlement Cookbook when I got my first apartment. I knew how to bake but not how to cook. This book was my guide to cooking meat and vegetables. I remember making biscuit dough cinnamon rolls from this book. Unfortunately like most well-used cookbooks it fell apart and eventually I could not justify saving the torn thing. 😦

At a tag sale (yard sale, garage sale, depending on what region of the country you hail from) there was this newly revised Settlement Cookbook. So I bought it for sentimental reasons. This edition was published in 1965, 1976.

I was originally looking at the banana bread since I had extra ripe bananas in the house. But I froze those so the pressure was lessened. I had some dried apricots so the apricot bread was my choice for the afternoon. I figure I have to bake while the weather allows.

Alterations to the recipe as pictured above are as follows:

  • why would one grind the dried apricots? I roughly chopped them.
  • I used 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour; to be healthy.
  • I did not have to strain the orange juice because the juice I like does not have pulp.

The batter smelled quite orange-y. The loaf came out very nicely colored and crunchy on the outside. The inside is quite nice with the squares of apricots and nuts throughout. For the future I might add a teaspoon of ginger and/or cinnamon for added kick!

I suppose spreading it with apricot preserves might be a bit too much!

Chocolate Chip Walnut Loaf with Craisins, and some thoughts

Here are some thoughts…

  • Sometimes I think that there are no more unique recipes or ways to prepare ordinary food. And then I read food blogs…
  • I have too many cookbooks so I get stymied in my search for cooking and baking. Too many choices.
  • I was standing over the compost bucket disassembling a k-cup having images of my mother putting all the food scraps in a coffee tin to throw into the garden. She did not have the luxury of a compost service like I have. But there I was “channeling Mom”.
  • How does one simplify the kitchen supplies without giving away something I will need later?
  • Sometimes I don’t feel like cooking even though I am home from work a full hour or more before Hubby. I would like to take a weeknight or weekend afternoon to cook for the week. But I am concerned that I would then not want to eat what has been prepared! And camping season is arriving so my weekends should be spent camping.
  • I need to get three years of pictures off my phone and computer. And organize them in some way. I can’t always remember how to get to the “cloud”.
  • I want to get back to writing my memoirs and organizing them so that my kids can have my thoughts for posterity someday in the future, a long way into the future, when I am gone.
  • Writing is a creative outlet that I need to discipline myself to fit into my daily or weekly schedule. And regular exercise, and meditation, and prayer, and reading, and sewing, and all sorts of things I want in my life…!
  • I also am thrilled that there are those of you out there who read what I write!

Now for cake. This is a recipe that I found in one of my UK published cook books. I made it once before and it broke apart coming out of the pan. The recipe instructed to grease the loaf pan and sprinkle with sugar. Just so you know this does not work well with a stoneware loaf pan. This time I greased the pan, floured it, and put a rectangle of parchment paper in just to be on the safe side. I am pleased to say that the loaf came out of the pan in one piece. Yay!

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The recipe:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • grated rind of one lemon (I used a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract because I did not have a lemon on hand. I did use the zest in the first loaf I made.0
  • 2 Tablespoons currents or raisins (I used Craisins.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 Tablespoons chocolate chips

Sift the dry ingredients together. Cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time beating after each one. To this I added the vanilla and lemon extracts. Add the dry ingredients in three batches. Do not over mix. Then fold in the goodies. I used a combination of the three to an equal of one cup, so a little more than what is listed.

Spread in prepared loaf pan, 9 x 5 inch. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before turning out of the pan onto a wire rack.

I never let something like this cool before cutting and eating. It is quite tasty and not too sweet.

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Lemon Tea Bread

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I came home from work one day this past week and wanted to make something in a loaf pan. I took a handful of cookbooks outdoors and sat at the patio table looking through them to find something to make. I know that a traditional pound cake is a loaf cake but I wanted something else. This recipe is from my KitchenAid cookbook published in 1992. It is the larger cookbook, spiral bound, and not the one that comes with the mixer. I have that one as well but my sister said this larger one does not have all of the recipes from the smaller one, so I kept them both.

I have two lemons that need to be used. I have buttermilk but this recipe did not call for that. After deciding on this recipe I find a similar recipe using buttermilk on the back of the walnut package. Oh well, maybe next time.

I actually did a mise en place. Even chopping the walnuts and zesting the lemon before starting to make the batter. Highly unusual for me with baking in that I always assume that I have everything I need.

This is a tasty and moist bread. It is very nice to have with morning coffee. It would be nice with afternoon tea.

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup milk; I used vanilla almond milk.
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel; I zested one medium sized lemon and juiced it for the lemon glaze (see below).

Put butter, sugar, and eggs in the mixer bowl and beat for one minute at speed 6. I was amazed at how this higher speed creamed everything together so much nicer that using the lower speeds. Combine dry ingredients and add alternating with the milk, ending with the flour. Stir in the zest and the nuts.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake at 325 F for 55-65 minutes. Brush with Lemon Glaze and cool in pan for 15 minutes; remove and cool on wire rack.

Lemon Glaze: 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice and 3 tablespoons sugar. The recipe says to bring to a boil over medium heat and stir until slightly thickened. Well, I put the juice and sugar in a small microwave safe bowl and nuked it for about 90 seconds in 30 second intervals. I poured this over the warm bread.

I had just read that breads and cakes made with citrus zest supposedly taste better the next day after the flavors permeate. I sent a piece to work with Hubby the next day and he reported that this is so.

Pi day

March 14th is pi day. “The number π is a mathematical constant, the ratio of a circle‘s circumference to its diameter, commonly approximated as 3.14159.” The definition here is from Wikipedia. Two years ago it was a more authentic pi day!

In honor of scientists and mathematicians everywhere I have baked a pie.

What pie did you make? I made my “go-to” Betty Crocker pumpkin pie.

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This is similar to the recipes one finds on the backs of cans of pumpkin:

  • Prepare pastry for 9-inch pie
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1 teas cinnamon, 1/2 teas ground ginger, and 1/4 teas ground cloves)
  • 1 2/3 cup evaporated milk

Mix all ingredients and pour into pie shell. Bake 425 F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F for 45 minutes. Test for doneness by poking the near middle with a knife. It should come out clean.

Let cool and eat. Top with whipped cream if desired.

Ginger Cake

We are expecting a blizzard. I’ve already been given a snow day from work. Hubby will work from home so he’ll be no fun at all!

My kitchen is a mess; I wish I had a housekeeper every other week to do the baths, the kitchen, and the floors. Would be nice; not going to happen! Meanwhile it is good that we are not allergic to dust or pet hair. We will do a super cleaning when the grand-kids are coming down.

Dog doesn’t like his standard dog food anymore. He used to like it just fine. We buy his dog food at the pet store. It is for the mature dog. We made the mistake once of buying a specialty human grade dog food. Now he’s trying to hold out for the good stuff!

So after taking our cable box back to the cable store and coming home with a new one (but less monthly cost!) we spent three hours setting this thing up. And we now only have 45 channels but we don’t miss many of the previous 300+ channels we had. So we found a few things to watch and are being careful not to binge watch too much because when all the episodes are gone, they’re gone. Then what will we watch?

But that is not what this essay is about.

There was plenty of time during the rest of the weekend to putter around the kitchen but I did not. It is cold out there, my kitchen, and I do have heat in my house. I heated water for tea, took a beautiful teacup down from the shelf above the sink, and poured in the water. Hubby heard the fine porcelain crack from across the room and then the water came pouring out. Oh no! So learning my lesson, today I have warmed the teacup before making the tea. And a nice cup of hot tea with lemon goes very nicely with ginger cake.

By the time dinner time on Sunday rolled around and Hubby was fixing twice baked potatoes and in charge of cooking the salmon, I needed something to do. I flipped through one of my UK published baking books and found this ginger cake that I had been wanting to bake. It is entitled Preserved Ginger Cake but I did not have a jar of preserved ginger. I have crystallized ginger and since that is for the garnish I figured it would be just fine.

This is baked in an 8 inch round pan, not a 7-inch square pan that the recipe called for. Be sure not to use a 9 inch pan or it will be as flat as a pancake. Prepare the pan with parchment paper and cooking spray. Preheat oven to 325 F.

  • 4 ounces butter
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour; make this by using 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder per 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk; I used half-and-half.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in the mixer bowl. Soften the butter for 30 seconds in the microwave. Mix butter with the dry ingredients. Put the eggs, corn syrup, and milk in a separate bowl and whisk together. Mix everything together until smooth. Spread in the prepared pan. Bake 45 minutes. Let cool a little and then turn out onto plate.

For the topping I used 1/4 cup powdered sugar and a tablespoon of lemon juice to make a small amount of glaze. I let the cake cool some but not completely. I poured on the glaze and then snipped a piece of crystallized ginger around the top. Warm ginger cake was a nice treat.

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Not as pretty as the picture in the book.

Four Leaf Clover Rolls (KAF)

Today is a good baking day. It is at least 20 degrees cooler than yesterday. Saturday was an out of doors kind of day: picked up dog poo, unwrapped the camper trailer, fixed bicycles, got out the lawn chairs and table, and had lunch outside. Truth be told, Hubby did most of the work. I made the lunch and brought it outside. The poor dog; he did not know what to do with himself at first. He does not seem to like laying on the lawn or sitting on the patio. By patio, I mean a section of concrete squares that surround the basement bulkhead, nothing pretty and designed.

Again I am making something from King Arthur Flour. Their catalog comes in the mail trying to sell me all sorts of baking items and has these few recipes in it. For this recipe they want you to use an Irish-style flour and some baking papers. Well, I used whole wheat flour (Bob’s Red Mill) and a jumbo muffin pan and two  8-ounce ramekins. I used raisins because I did not have currants, and I did not toast the walnuts.

The recipe link is here: the recipe.

My ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour; I always use unbleached but differing brands.
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt; I use kosher salt because I used to watch Alton Brown and i think he always used it.
  • 2 tablespoons honey; remember to spray your spoon with cooking spray first and it will slide right off; I forgot.
  • 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
  • 1 cup lukewarm tap water
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1//2 cup raisins

20170226_192341860_iosThe instructions are simple and fabulous: Mix and knead all the ingredients until the dough is smooth and elastic. This took just over two minutes in the Kitchen-Aid stand mixer with the bread hook. Grease the bowl, cover, and let rise until puffy about 60-90 minutes. I let mine rest for about 75 minutes.

This makes eight large rolls so I used the jumbo muffin pan and needed two more spaces so I used two 8 ounce ramekins. I sprayed these with cooking spray.

After the first rise, gently deflate the dough. Ha! Mom always called this “punching down the dough. Divide this into 32 pieces. So divide the dough into eight pieces. I like to use a bench cutter/scraper. Cut each of those pieces into four and roll each piece into a ball and place four in each cup. Cover and let rise until they crest over the rim. (I could not find the height of the special papers that KAF was promoting so I figured 60 minutes was in between the 45-75 minutes in the recipe.

Bake in 350 degree F oven for 25-30 minutes. Mine took 27 minutes. Brush with 1-2 tablespoons melted butter, if desired. I desired. And rolls for dinner.

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I think one of these with a cup of yogurt and fruit would be a fabulous on the go breakfast too. They taste sort of like a yeasted Irish soda bread with a touch of whole wheat. Gotta be healthy, right?

Cranberry-Pecan Quick Bread

This turned out to be a bit of a labor intensive “quick” bread but lovely to eat. But first a few thoughts.

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Clearly, this is not a picture of the bread!

We are having a major snow storm so I did not have to go to work this day. It is a wonder to be “non-essential” and yet so much expectations and pressure at work to do more with less as each day goes by.

It will be a good day to try a new recipe or bake something yummy. But I have not been too inspired lately. The political situation has taken over my brain!!

In honor of the Anheuser-Busch Super Bowl commercial celebrating immigrants I got out my Anheuser-Busch Great Food Great Beer cookbook to find something to make. I could cook or bake. There are some great recipes in there! But I did not have one or two essential ingredients for some of the main dishes. What? You say. When did that ever stop you? What can I say? There was a lovely gingerbread cake recipe but it called for 1 1/2 cups of butter and I thought that was a lot of butter when trying to lose some weight.

So, it being winter in New England, I got out my The New England Table cookbook to find something. There’s a lovely lemon pudding cake and a cranberry-pecan quick bread. Guess which one I chose? Although I may bake the other as well. Wait and see!

I had everything for this recipe except the buttermilk. But it is so easy to make your own sour milk. And just because I had no milk doesn’t stop me either. I used diluted half-and-half. I also thought I would make it healthier by substituting half the flour with whole wheat pastry flour. I also toast the pecans in a dry skillet on top of the stove instead of in the oven. And I got to use my mortar and pestle to grind cardamom seeds. And that aroma was heavenly!

  • 2 cups flour; I used 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1 cup unbleached all-purpose
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom; this was two pods
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk; I put a teaspoon of lemon juice in the measuring cup (you can also use vinegar), added 1/3 cup half-and-half, and added water to the 2/3 cup mark
  • finely grated zest and juice of one large navel orange; I zested a fresh orange but used 1/4 cup prepared orange juice; I wanted to eat the orange for my morning snack!
  • 1 extra large egg; mine was just large
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries; oops! the recipe calls for these to be coarsely chopped; I put them in whole
  • 3/4 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped; I did remember to chop these

The labor intensity of this quick bread comes about for toasting the pecans, grinding the cardamom seeds, and making the buttermilk. Okay, that may not sound like a lot, but I did not read the entire recipe ahead of time and so scrambled to get these things done while putting together the batter.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or butter a loaf pan, standard size of 8 1/2 x 4 inches, and dust with flour. (My standard loaf pans are actually 9 x 5 inches).

Sift or whisk the first 6 dry ingredients together and set aside. Mix the egg with the sugar until it is thick and yellow. Mix the butter, buttermilk, orange zest and juice in a small bowl. (This I forgot to do and had to scramble to put these in together but not as a mixture). Blend this mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. Then add the flour just til combined. Stir in the cranberries and nuts. Spread in prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes. My oven took only the 55 minutes. Test bread with toothpick or cake tester.

Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out of pan onto wire rack to cool.

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I, of course, did not wait for this to cool completely before trying a slice. When cutting warm bread remember to hold the loaf and gently cut with a serrated bread knife.

This was yummy. Not so good for a reduced calorie count for snacking as it is hard to eat just one slice!

Just because baking is a science, doesn’t mean that substitution and innovation results in disaster. Once you know how to bake you can have the confidence to change things up a bit. That may be ingredients but also technique. Happy baking to all!